David Backes

AP

Bruins owner says decision to fire Julien was ‘overdue’

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BOSTON (AP) Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs acknowledged Tuesday that he might have held up the coaching change that helped the team turn its season around and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

But in his first public comments on the team since the fall, Jacobs expressed appreciation for general manager Don Sweeney’s decision to hire Bruce Cassidy as coach and the job Cassidy did after taking over for Claude Julien on an interim basis on Feb. 7.

The Bruins were 26-23-6 when they made the switch and went 18-8-1 under Cassidy. Sweeney removed the interim tag for Cassidy and made him the full-time coach last week.

“The decision was very much made here in Boston and the leadership here,” Jacobs said during a news conference at TD Garden. “My own impression was it was overdue, we were a little late. Maybe I precipitated part of that in having misplaced loyalty in that sense. But it was the right move. …

“It was a very prudent move and it was a prudent hire. Under those circumstances I would say that Don did a terrific job in selecting him and motivating him and motivating the team.”

Read more: Neely defends David Backes contract

The Bruins lost their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Ottawa Senators, their first playoff appearance since 2014, in six games. All six games were decided by one goal, including four overtime games. The Bruins gained postseason experience and several younger players took strides in their development.

It’s been two seasons since the Bruins made the change from Peter Chiarelli to Sweeney in the GM’s chair, and Jacobs believes that the results of 2016-17 and the influx of younger talent has proven that the move was the right one.

“I think we had a successful season because of what evolved, the changing of the guard … in our coaching ranks and I think our leadership showed itself very well,” Jacobs said. “I think hope springs eternal. … I think the direction is good and I think we did a tremendous job once we had Butch in place. So I’m happy with where we are and I’m happy looking at the next generation of players coming into this organization.”

In some regards, this season resembled 2008, when the Bruins under first-year coach Julien went to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and pushed the Montreal Canadiens to seven games before succumbing. Three years later, the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.

“It remains to be seen, but I think it’s beneficial,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “For players that hadn’t played in the playoffs before to really get an understanding of what playoff hockey’s all about is what you want for your team.

“Now we’re not satisfied with losing out in the first round and winning two games. But it was a series we felt could’ve went either way.”

If competing for the Stanley Cup, or winning it, again takes three years, Jacobs intends to be around for the run. Jacobs, who passed the role of CEO to son Charlie Jacobs in January 2015, just completed his 42nd season of ownership. He doesn’t expect to relinquish his current role in the near future.

“This is a wonderful property that my whole family has enjoyed and it should be preserved for the next generation,” the elder Jacobs said. “I’m hopeful that that’s the way it goes. It’s obviously out of my hands at some point. But I think the next couple of years is predictable for me. Beyond that I don’t know.”

Neely defends Backes contract, which still has four years left

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David Backes put up some decent numbers this season, scoring 17 goals with 21 assists in 74 games.

He had a decent postseason as well, with one goal and three assists in six games.

But at 33 years old, Backes’ game is not what it used to be. And with four years left on a $30 million contract, it’s possible the Bruins could end up with an anchor on their payroll.

Today, B’s president Cam Neely was asked what he thought of Backes’ first year in Boston.

“David had a hard time adjusting,” said Neely. “He mentioned that at the end of year. It was more of a challenge for him to come to a new city and a new team, to get to know 22, 24 other players. That took a while for him to get adjusted.

“I feel like David is really built for the type of playoff hockey you have to play to go deep. He’s a great leader. He’s helped the young kids a ton. If he could pick up a little bit of a step in his game, which he’s going to work on in the offseason, I think that would be beneficial for him and us.”

Read more: Blues explain letting Backes go

It remains to be seen if Backes can find a way to get faster this summer. Getting slower typically goes hand-in-hand with getting older, and with 801 NHL games on his odometer, plus 55 more in the playoffs, Backes has skated a lot of hard miles in a very tough league.

“I like his physicality,” said Neely. “I like the fact that he’ll stand in front of the net and pay the price to be there. I think, offensive-wise, we got kind of what we expected from him. Would we like a little more? Yeah. But I think all the things that he brings, that whole package, was a welcomed addition.”

Related: Sweeney shares offseason plans for Bruins

Bruce Cassidy officially named head coach of the Bruins

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Bruce Cassidy wanted it, and now he’s got it.

On Wednesday morning, Cassidy was officially named the 28th head coach of the Boston Bruins.

He really helped turn Boston’s season around after taking over for Claude Julien, who was fired on Feb. 9. Cassidy led the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record in 33 games behind the bench.

Despite being without a number of key players like Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, David Krejci and others, Cassidy’s Bruins managed to push the Senators before eventually being eliminated in six games in the opening round of the playoffs.

“Obviously we’re talking (the players) about pretty much everything when we’re out shooting the bull, and a lot of guys liked him,” forward David Backes said on Tuesday, per NESN. “He was put into a tough situation — being out of the playoff race, maybe just chasing at the point he takes over to try to take a team and get in … and you figure the way the business works, that he’s probably coaching for his life to make a splash and show that he can be a difference-maker or else who knows what the future holds for him? I think he did a heck of a job, and his results are what a coach should be judged on.”

Cassidy did some impressive work over the final three months of the campaign. Under his watch, the team finished first in goals-per-game (3.37), first in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in wins (18), tied for second in power play percentage (27.8), tied for third in goals allowed per game (2.30), and they ranked sixth in takeaways (229).

Prior to joining Julien’s staff as an assistant at the start of the 2016-17 season, Cassidy spent five years as head coach of Boston’s AHL team in Providence.

This is the second head coaching job for the 51-year-old at the NHL level. He previously served as head coach of the Washington Capitals for parts of two seasons (2002-03 to 2003-04).

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins continue push for playoff spot against Stars

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Boston Bruins host the Dallas Stars at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

With six games to go, the Bruins are in a decent spot when it comes to making the playoffs, but they’re far from a lock.

They currently sit three points ahead of Tampa Bay in the chase for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Bolts have a game in hand.

Boston got off to a great start when they named Bruce Cassidy as Claude Julien’s replacement. They cooled off considerably (they lost four in a row) in the last couple of weeks. Now, they head into tonight’s action having won each of their last two games.

“I don’t have the reason why it wasn’t there for maybe a three-game stretch there,” said David Backes, per the Boston Globe. “But the fact that it’s back, and we’ve got our legs under us and we found that winning way again . . . hopefully, lesson learned.”

The good news for them, is that they can still move up the standings too. The Bruins are one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are third in the Atlantic Division. Finishing in the second Wild Card spot means likely playing Washington in the first round, while finishing third in the Atlantic would mean possibly playing Ottawa.

After tonight’s game against the Stars, the Bruins will play four of their last five games (Florida, Tampa, Ottawa, Washington) at the TD Garden. Their only road game will be in Chicago. So they’ll face some pretty good teams, but at least they’ll do so on home ice.

Last week, the Stars were officially eliminated from the playoff picture, which wasn’t exactly surprising.

Dallas was hit hard by the injury bug, as they lost Mattias Janmark, Ales Hemsky early on, while Valeri Nichushkin bolted for the KHL.

So with the playoffs out of sight and out of mind, the Stars can focus on getting their young players some more ice time over the last two weeks of the regular season.

Players like Julius Honka, Curtis McKenzie, Remi Elie and Jason Dickinson should all get an extended look.

“We’re in a place where we need them to play important roles,” coach Lindy Ruff said of his young players, per the Dallas Morning News. “and we need them to play well.

“We need to finish hard and play hard. I think we’re all focused on being professional and giving our best effort.”

 We’ll find out if they can play spoiler in Boston tonight.

Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

“Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.