The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It's an old — and cliched — adage, but one that continues to resonate with a Bruins team that, despite being buoyed by a potent power play for years now, just can't seem to translate those same quality looks over to 5v5 play.
Even-strength play has been a thorn in the side of Bruce Cassidy's clubs for years now, and has often served as one of the primary factors leading to an untimely end for multiple promising campaigns. Last season up in the Toronto bubble, Boston simply had no answer at 5v5 for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who outscored Boston, 15-5, outside of special-teams play during that five-game series.
A year prior to that disappointing end, Boston's 5v5 offense dried up in the Stanley Cup Final against St. Louis, with Sean Kuraly (five points) and Joakim Nordstrom (three points) serving as Boston's top scorers away from their prolific power play. The end result? Well, you know the story there.
Just days after Boston was sent packing from the 2020 playoffs, Bruce Cassidy acknowledged his club's deficiencies when it comes to generating consistent offense outside of its top line or man advantage , noting that certain adjustments would need to take place in order to get the gears on the O-zone — whether that be higher shot volumes from the blue line or more bodies in front.
“It’s a skill to get a puck through to the net,” Cassidy said back in September. “And that’s where we have to be next year, better. And we have to involve more of that. I guess when I first took over, I thought we needed to attack more, have that attack-oriented – I thought it worked well for us. Now we have to find a balance. It’s not like this was a revelation yesterday. It has been something we’ve been building in. And then you have to have the skillset to get a shot through. I think it’s one of the most underrated skillsets in the National Hockey League, is a defenseman’s ability to walk the blue line laterally and find a stick, get a puck through in time. Whether that is a half slapper, wrister, if you have time for a slap shot, to create offense. Obviously joining the rush. When D join the rush and it breaks down, there is probably something coming back at you.”
On Saturday afternoon in Newark, it appeared as though some of Cassidy's offseason message translated onto the ice, as the B's six starting blue liners combined for 18 shot attempts at 5v5 play against the Devils.