Bruins

Bruins’ 3 Stars for 2016-17 season: Cassidy, Marchand and Pastrnak lead playoff return

Brad Marchand celebrates his game-winning goal with Bruins teammate David Pastrnak during the third period of a first-round of NHL Stanley Cup playoff game in Ottawa. Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press via AP

COMMENTARY

The 2016-17 season may not have ended the way they wanted, but the Bruins have to feel proud of themselves.

They reached overtime of Game 6 in a playoff series against the Senators in which they had to fight through everything from the injury bug to inserting players like Charlie McAvoy, Sean Kuraly and several others for their first postseason appearance. The fact that they even made it to the postseason when all looked lost after the firing of Claude Julien back on Feb. 7 is a testament to the Bruins’ resiliency.

The future looks a little brighter in Boston following the Bruins’ first postseason appearance since 2014. With that in mind, we’ll take one more look back on 2016-17 with the three stars of the year:

Bruce Cassidy

At the time that Cassidy took over for Claude Julien, the Bruins were on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. To earn one of the final postseason seeds in the Eastern Conference, Cassidy needed to right the ship and get the team to go on a significant run of success.

Advertisement:

That is exactly what happened. With an 18-8-1 mark in 27 games, the Bruins got on that run and earned the third seed in the Atlantic Division.

The task of overcoming significant injuries to Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid may be leaving some fans saying “what if” — especially since each postseason game was decided by just one goal. But make no mistake, Cassidy has given the Bruins some building blocks for the future, and he wants to see that come to fruition beginning next season.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said on wanting to become the Bruins’ full-time head coach starting next season. “One-hundred percent.”

No question about it. Cassidy should “absolutely” be given the full-time reigns behind the Boston bench.

Brad Marchand

Like the rest of the team, the ending to Marchand’s season wasn’t the way he envisioned.

Once considered a candidate for the Hart Trophy, Marchand’s uglier impulses got the best of him when he speared Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin. The incident earned him a suspension for the final two regular-season games of the season. Upon his return, Marchand would only score once in the six-game series as the Sens’ 1-3-1 trap stymied the Bruins’ top scorers, including David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron.

Advertisement:

Still, there’s no denying Marchand’s importance to the Black and Gold. In a year where he posted career highs in every major statistical category (39 goals, 46 assists, 85 points), Marchand carried the Bruins through the bumpy waters of the regular season at a time where they needed him the most.

With Marchand’s eight-year contract extension having an annual salary cap hit of $6.125 million set to kick in next season, this may turn out to be one of GM Don Sweeney’s better moves.

David Pastrnak

If there was one constant storyline throughout the year, it was the emergence of Pastrnak.

After battling injuries and bouncing back and forth between Boston and Providence during his first two seasons, the 2014 first-round pick came into his own in 2016-17. From his dazzling playmaking to his improvements in all three zones, the Czech winger had a fulfilling third season in a Spoked B uniform as he notched career highs all across the board (34-36-70).

With his entry-level contract set to expire, Pastrnak, despite having an up-and-down series against the Sens with four points (two goals, two assists) in his first playoff appearance, should be in for a nice raise. Like many of his fellow teammates and prospects in the system, Pastrnak’s future is a bright one with the Bruins.