BOSTON (AP) Bruce Cassidy knows how to handle the pre-playoff jitters this time.
Returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs as a head coach for the first time since 2003, Cassidy is trusting in his team to smooth over some of the butterflies he feels before the first-round series against Ottawa.
”I’ll have some nerves, but not a lot,” he said after practice Tuesday as his team prepared to travel to Ottawa. ”I feel good about our team.”
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Cassidy took over the Bruins on Feb. 7 when they fired Claude Julien- the winningest coach in franchise history, and the man who led the team to two Stanley Cup finals, including the 2011 championship. Boston won its first four games under the new coach and then added a six-game winning streak to clinch its first playoff berth since 2014.
In all, the Bruins have gone 18-8 under Cassidy, whose only other NHL head coaching experience was less than two seasons with the Washington Capitals in 2002-04.
”Bruce came in here and provided a fresh voice,” defenseman Kevan Miller said. ”We’ve played pretty well since he was the captain of the ship.”
Here are some other things to look for in the first-round series starting Wednesday:
REGULAR SEASON SWEEP
The Senators went 4-0 against Boston in the regular season – their first-ever season series sweep of the Bruins. (Boston has never been swept by Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.) In all, Ottawa has won six straight matchups between the two teams, but the Bruins say the losing streak doesn’t tell the whole story.
”I don’t think we’ve been outplayed by them,” Miller said. ”If anything, we’ve had a little bit of an upper hand the last couple of games.”
The Bruins lost 3-1 in their first meeting on Nov. 24 and 4-2 on March 6 – both in Ottawa. On March 21 in Boston, the Bruins outshot the Senators 36-22 and took a tie into the third period. Last Thursday at the TD Garden, the teams took a 1-1 tie into a shootout.
”I know we haven’t been Ottawa this year. That’s always in the back of your mind,” Cassidy said. ”You’re going to have to answer that question until you beat them. But I felt we played much better the last two games and the games could have gone either way.”
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy is expected to make his NHL debut in the series – perhaps even in a defensive pairing with 2009 Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara. The 19-year-old first-round draft pick played only four games in the AHL after his sophomore season at Boston University before signing a three-year deal with the Bruins on Monday.
Fellow BU product Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – who is going by the nickname JFK in Boston – made his debut in the regular-season finale against Washington.
Boston will be without defensemen Torey Krug (knee) and Brandon Carlo (possible concussion) for the start of the series, at least. Forwards David Krejci and Dominic Moore also skipped practice on Tuesday.
Ottawa’s two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson missed the last week of the regular season – including Thursday’s victory over Boston – with a toe injury. Forward Zack Smith and defenseman Marc Methot (finger) are also day to day.