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NHL - US Sports: Bruins appoint Montgomery - What to expect

The Boston Bruins have hired Jim Montgomery after surprisingly sacking Bruce Cassidy as Head Coach.

53-year-old Montgomery has been serving as the assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues for the past two seasons and is said to have beat off stiff competition to land the job.

Montgomery offered second chance

The Canadian was previously Head Coach of the Dallas Stars from 2018-20 going 60-43-10 before he was dismissed due to unprofessional conduct related to alcohol.

Montgomery has spoken publicly about his recovery from alcoholism and admits the Stars had every right to fire him.

With his past habit under control, Montgomery now has the opportunity to prove again that he can have success in the NHL with a team who always believe they should contend for the Stanley Cup.

The Bruins are +2500 to be crowned Stanley Cup Champions in 2022/23. That expectation brings with it pressure and little room for error.

Cassidy's surprise firing

Cassidy went 245-108-46 with the Bruins and qualified for the playoffs in each of his six seasons in charge. That included a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2019 when they lost to the Blues in seven games.

But yet, that wasn't enough for General Manager Don Sweeney who made the bold coaching decision before accepting a new multi-year extension of his own.

Boston went 51-26-5 last season and finished fourth in the Atlantic Division.

In the playoffs, Cassidy's side lost in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round with the home team winning each game.

A combination of slow starts, lack of scoring from their depth players and apparent challenged relationships with stars such as Jake DeBrusk were said to lead to Cassidy's firing.

The 57-year-old has since been appointed coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Montgomery's past success

Although his experience as a head coach in the NHL was previously short lived, Montgomery has proven that he can lead teams to silverware at the junior level.

In his debut season of 2010, Montgomery led the Dubuque Fighting Saints to the USHL championship, repeating the success two years later.

He was then hired by the University of Denver in 2013 and over five seasons guided the school to two Frozen Fours and a NCAA championship in 2017.

Montgomery was regarded as one of the hottest up-and-coming coaches when the Stars hired him, and despite his off-ice troubles, he still managed to earn Dallas a place in the playoffs which was their first appearance for three seasons.

Dallas beat the Nashville Predators in the first-round before losing to the Blues in seven games at the second-round stage.

Stars on board with Montgomery

Said by a past player that "guys will love playing for him", the hiring of the Quebec native appears to have appeased many in the Bruins changing room.

After hearing the news of Montgomery's hiring, forward DeBrusk rescinded a trade request which he submitted after being made a healthy scratch by Cassidy in November.

Losing DeBrusk would have been a big early blow to Montgomery's time in charge, especially considering how the Canadian finished the season with 25 points (16 goals, nine assists) in 39 games after the All-Star break.

There were also question marks surrounding Captain Patrice Bergeron's future following the recent campaign with the 36-year-old coming to the end of his contract. And whilst not yet announced, it's been widely reported that the five-time Selke Trophy winner will commit to at least the first season of Montgomery's project.

Powerplay set to improve

The Bruins ranked 15th in the NHL with a 21.2% powerplay success rate last season and that dropped even further to 20.7% in the playoffs, proving costly in narrow margin games with the Hurricanes.

Montgomery's expertise in this area may be one reason why he was hired over other candidates, and with the talent at his disposal in Boston, an improvement in their success with the man advantage should be expected.

With Montgomery responsible for their powerplay, St. Louis went from 10th in the NHL in 2019/20 (18.8%) to sixth (22.2%) in 2020/21 and finally to second last season (27.0%) behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Blues' powerplay also stood the playoff test, successfully scoring on an impressive 30.8% of their opportunities.

Home comforts to start

Montgomery and the Bruins will enjoy an extended home run to start the season which should help to alleviate the absence of Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk who are all expected to miss the start of the season through injury.

Six of Boston's first nine games will be played at TD Garden where they went 26-13-2 last season.

While clearly not universally popular with all of his players, Cassidy was certainly well liked by the Bruins fans and so a good start for Montgomery will be important to get them on side and help justify Sweeney's controversial switch.

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