Bruins

Bruce Cassidy returns with ‘great memories’ to face Bruins

“I did good work in Boston. I’m proud of the work."

Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy is returning to face his former team. AP

Bruce Cassidy expected the pomp and circumstance saved for any returning fan favorite.

Heading into the 2022-23 season, little did he know, he’d be leading the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights in a matchup against a juggernaut known as the Boston Bruins — a team he’s quite familiar with.

“They have the best record in the National Hockey League. Your record is what your team is, right? So they’re the best team right now out there,” Cassidy said following Vegas’ morning skate at TD Garden. “Once the game is over, we’ll see where we need to be better and see where we’re good.”

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Indeed, Cassidy had this day circled on his calendar once the NHL released their 2022-23 slate.

Even after GM Don Sweeney decided to fire Cassidy, the former Boston bench boss still has fond memories of his time with the club. When he wasn’t game planning with the coaching staff over the last two days, Cassidy reunited with old friends and reflected on his run with the Bruins.

“Colder than Vegas,” Cassidy said of his first two days back in Boston. “But it’s been good. I have great memories from Boston, so that’s what it’s been. I’ve spent time with some friends. Great to be back at TD Garden, seeing some familiar faces, and doing the prep work that you have to do for every opponent — this one I know a little better obviously. So yeah, it’s been a good couple of days.”

Cassidy has moved on from the final days of his Boston tenure. His last season resulted in 51 regular-season wins and a first-round exit at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.

After over a decade between NHL coaching gigs following his two years in Washington in the early 2000s, Cassidy earned his stripes in Boston. His successful run with the Bruins helped him land the Vegas job.

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Cassidy hasn’t harbored any hostilities toward his former employer, taking pride in his accomplishments during his time in Boston. The Bruins never missed the playoffs and came within a game of hoisting another Stanley Cup before their bitter Game 7 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

“I did good work in Boston. I’m proud of the work,” Cassidy told reporters during the Golden Knights’ optional practice on Sunday. “I didn’t walk away there thinking I cheated the team or the organization. I gave it my all.”

Even with the pomp and circumstance surrounding Cassidy’s return — and even with Jack Eichel listed as questionable with a lower-body injury — the Golden Knights won’t feel overwhelmed when they enter hostile territory as they carry the league’s second-best road record at 11-2-1.

A return to old homes isn’t anything new for the guys inside the Vegas dressing room this season. They’ve thrived in previous scenarios, including Nov. 10 in Buffalo, where Eichel notched a hat trick in his first game in Buffalo following his tumultuous exit last season.

Under Cassidy, Eichel has thrived in his first year-plus with Vegas. Under Jim Montgomery, the well-rounded Bruins haven’t missed a beat. All 20 players on Boston’s roster have played a significant role in their historic start, including Jake DeBrusk, who endured a rocky relationship with Cassidy during their time together.

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Cassidy earned his share of respect within Boston’s locker room, especially with the leadership core. Some of the younger players at the time, like DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo, encountered an impatient Cassidy at times. Regardless, a confident Bruins squad enters Monday hoping to extend their home win streak to 15 before departing for a three-game road trip.

“Obviously, it’s going to feel a little weird at the beginning on both sides. But we’re playing against Vegas. We’re not playing against [Cassidy],” DeBrusk said following Boston’s 5-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. “It’s one of those things where we’re happy where our game is at. We’re happy with the changes that we made. Our record speaks for itself, and we’re just worried about ourselves. The home crowd has been pretty intense lately, and we want to keep this thing going.”

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