Overtime: Bruce Cassidy’s Kryptonite

The Boston Bruins have played four overtime games this season and lost all four. The team’s lack of success in the three-on-three overtime period and the shootout is a troubling trend that certainly goes back further than the beginning of the 2019-2020 season.

The most recent loss was a 5-4 shootout defeat against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Once again, Bruins fans are left questioning the personnel rolled out by head coach Bruce Cassidy, both in the three-on-three period and in the shootout.

The overtime period started with the forward combination of Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom. While they are often counted on to start a regulation period to provide a spark of energy, these fourth liners are not known for scoring. With time at a premium in overtime, many felt two of the team’s first-line superstars should have been sent out in an attempt to score a quick goal.

Shootout Surprise

After neither team scored in the three-on-three period, the Bruins’ first shooter in the subsequent shootout was an even bigger surprise: fourth line winger Chris Wagner. While Wagner has shown surprisingly good hands on a few occasions of late, even he was probably surprised when his number was called in this instance.

Even more perplexing, Cassidy chose to use defenseman Charlie McAvoy a few minutes later in a score-or-lose scenario. McAvoy did not score, and the game ended with Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci not getting a chance in the shootout.

Cassidy said following the game that he chose not to use Pastrnak, who is currently leading the National Hockey League in goals, in the shootout because the Czech superstar has a tendency to deke too much. The coach said he felt the goaltender the Bruins were facing was more likely to give up goals to players with a more straightforward shooting style.

Looking For Answers

The question is, why do the Bruins struggle so mightily in overtime? The issue seems to have worsened to an extent that a loss seems almost certain when the score is tied at the end of regulation play. Since this is perhaps the time of a game when personnel decisions are the most crucial, a good part of the blame has to go to the coaching staff.

Of course, Cassidy has no control over an ever-growing list of injured forwards, and limitations are placed on the coaching staff when schedule constraints make practice time minimal. But it seems as though three-on-three play and breakaway shooting should be addressed given the lack of wins in extra time.

Understandably, the coaching staff needs to primarily focus on giving the team instruction for the best chance to win in regulation. And Tuesday’s game would not have gone into overtime if the Bruins hadn’t let their foot off the gas after jumping out to a 4-0 lead. However, overtime is going to happen. Right now, it seems like the Bruins just throw in the towel after the first 60 minutes. That is a bad look for a Stanley Cup-contending team.

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