In his first postseason behind the Golden Knights’ bench, Bruce Cassidy has been basically flawless. From coaching decisions to motivation to game plans and preparation, Cassidy has had the answer to every question asked of the Golden Knights and it’s a huge reason they’re staring at a Game 4 in Edmonton that could see them seize control of the the second round.
It hasn’t been an easy road this postseason either for Vegas. The decision-making process had to begin with a tricky one heading into the very first game of the playoffs. With Mark Stone ready to return to the lineup, where would he slot into a group that had been playing great hockey.
Cassidy opted to create a balanced lineup with three sets of high-end pairs anchoring each line. To say it has worked would be a massive understatement. The Golden Knights have used the depth to the tune of 31 goals in eight games including an incredible 30 from forwards.
The paired off lineup has helped players like Brett Howden, Michael Amadio, and Ivan Barbashev make major contributions both on the scoresheet and defensively. Even the tweaks Cassidy has made along the way have worked with Barbashev moving down to the 4th line in the Winnipeg series where he had multiple goal contributions.
Then, another tough decision cropped up when William Carrier was ready to play. Cassidy did not hesitate in making the difficult decision to healthy scratch the NHL’s iron man, Phil Kessel, forcing him to watch his first NHL game from the press box since 2009.
Next, Cassidy’s game plans for each series have provided the Golden Knights a simple style of hockey that has helped them be effective against two excellent opponents. Even when games have not gone VGK’s way, Cassidy has stuck with the plan of dumping the puck in and forcing the opposing team to deal with a heavy forecheck. Each of Vegas’ two losses have been erased instantly the following game with night and day efforts to the previous game in terms of style.
There hasn’t been a shred of panic in the coaching room when games have gone haywire, instead he reiterated the same premise the team entered each series with and equipped the players with exact ways they can correct the last games’ mistakes.
Finally, he’s been impeccable with his motivational techniques.
Bruce always wants to challenge our group. That’s why we’ve had success this year. Whenever we haven’t played well he’s done a good job of challenging us as a team and we’ve responded well to it. Give the coaching staff a lot of credit. They’ve put a lot of effort into preparing us for hockey games and then it’s on us to go out an execute. I think you saw that tonight. -Jack Eichel
He’s been demanding but in a positive way that has always put the onus on the players to return to “their game.” Each time, it hasn’t taken long for the Golden Knights to execute on the coach’s vision and make losses forgettable quickly.
Even something as simple as pulling the plug on Game 2 of the Edmonton series was a stroke of genius for the head coach. With Adin Hill having seen limited game action in the past few months, Cassidy chose to put him in the game rather than stick with his presumed started, Laurent Brossoit, who was one of the few Golden Knights playing well. That paid off one game later when Brossoit went down with an injury and Hill stepped in amicably, giving partial credit to the shots he’d seen in the 3rd period the game before.
Yeah it definitely helped (to play in Game 2). I got hurt a little while ago and didn’t real have much game action other than a couple periods in Henderson so it was nice to get in there for that 3rd period the other day and kind of get a feel for the game and the speed you can’t simulate in practice. -Adin Hill
To win 16 playoff games on the road to the Stanley Cup, you need everything clicking during the whole journey. Bruce Cassidy has been pushing all the right buttons so far and there’s no reason to believe he’ll stop with 10 more wins needed.