Bruins

Managing younger players’ minutes continues to be arduous balancing act for Bruins

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Bruins’ locker room might be anchored by tenured veterans such as Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, David Krejci and others, but most of Bruce Cassidy’s tenure as bench boss has seen Boston welcome more and more fresh faces up into the NHL ranks.

The youth moment has been well underway since Cassidy’s appointment as Boston’s head coach a little over two years ago, with 12 different skaters making their NHL debuts under Cassidy’s watch since the tail end of the 2016-17 season.

Injuries and a lack of production this season has often forced the B’s to turn to young talent both currently with the club and down in the AHL ranks for some relief. Players such as Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork earned the first crack at holding onto a starting role, while prospects such as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic were later ushered in to give Boston another look — especially at third-line center, a spot where Boston has struggled to find some consistency.

Managing young talent is a facet of the job that Cassidy is more than familiar with — having spent five seasons as head coach of the Providence Bruins prior to his promotion up to the NHL. In some aspects, finding consistency can be even more of a challenge down in the minors, even with the current state of parity in the NHL.

“The thing you run into the American League is that you get young guys and you try to get them to play a certain way and become pros but there’s also the call-up factor. Here, we don’t lose players to call-up, it’s injuries,” Cassidy said. “We had our injuries. But generally, if you stay healthy. With our core group leading the way, I think we can be consistent, I think we have for the most part. We haven’t had any real losing streaks. What we haven’t had this year, maybe we had it last year, was that hot streak where we’ve strung together eight or nine (wins) in a row.

“We’ve done, four or five (wins), we just haven’t had that run that some of maybe the other top teams have gone one. Our consistency here has been pretty good, most of the year. Moving guys in and out of the lineup. And that’s a credit to the veteran guys, the stabilizers that are in the lineup every night. … The American League, I find, is much more difficult in that regard.”

Having those stabilizers such as Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnak has helped offset some of the growing pains that come with a 2018-19 B’s roster that opened the year with nine players aged 25 or under.

But even as Boston has managed to string together points in seven straight games and currently sit just two points out of second place in the entire Eastern Conference, Cassidy still has had to keep a close watch on his younger core of skaters — especially from the standpoint of minutes and shifts.