Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy has been to this dance before. His Golden Knights have cut through the Western Conference, defeating the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and Dallas Stars to earn the franchise’s second trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Golden Knights are still seeking the organization’s first championship.
Cassidy’s 2019 Boston Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final but discovered the hockey gods and destiny conspired against them as the St. Louis Blues hoised the Cup with little Laila Anderson in tow after a Game 7 win.
St. Louis caught fire in the second half of the season, as did goalie Jordan Binnginton and it all came down to a final game, which St. Louis won.
“I hope I learned something. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t (learn anything),” Cassidy said quipped when Vegas Hockey Now asked what he may have gleaned from his last appearance on this level.
Cassidy’s answer was vintage. The coach, who might be the most expressive and honest in a relaxed way in the league, opened up about what he took from that last opportunity.
To be 60 minutes away from your life’s goal only to deal with the sting of defeat probably taught a few lessons, but Cassidy focused on one specifically: time.
Time to decompress after games. Time to focus. Time to deal with additional demands.
“Yes, you learn how to manage your time. You learn the ups and downs, the demands of a Final. Everybody’s there, and it’s outside influences, as well as the hockey people. And I think those are the things you have to manage when you get to the Final,” said Cassidy. “And I think we should use our advantage that we may have with (Alec) Martinez, and (Alex) Pietrangelo, (Ivan) Barbashev, (Chandler) Stephenson, (Phil) Kessel, (Jonathan) Quick, guys that have been there and know what it’s about. So we have to make sure we tap into that.
Of course, those six players mentioned all have Stanley Cup rings. In fact, Pittsburgh fans and former President Barack Obama will tell you that Phil Kessel is a two-time Stanley Cup champ (and so are Martinez and Quick).
The Florida Panthers do not have the luxury of that experience. Kessel’s former teammate and fellow two-time Stanley Cup winner Patric Hornqvist has been out most of the season with a concussion. He won’t play in the Final.
Chris Tierney was part of the 2016 San Jose Sharks team that lost to the Penguins in 2016, but that’s the beginning and end of Florida’s Stanley Cup ties.
“So you’re learning to enjoy the moment. (On) off days, you’re allowed to think of the big picture of what’s at stake and then get down into the details. And I think that’s what I learned, is to use those days appropriately. They’re mentally refreshing.”
Cassidy coached Boston for six years, from 2016-2022. In three stops, including the Golden Knights and Washington Capitals (2002-2004), he has a winning playoff record, 50-46, and will coach his 100th playoff game in the Stanley Cup Final.
One thing Cassidy doesn’t do is hide the Xs and Os of the game. Separate from his playoff record is his openness with fans and media about what he’d like to see or what his team is facing.
In Cassidy’s off-day press conference, he ranged from topics of defending the Florida net-front attack to how Florida has become much better in the playoffs.
Game 1 is Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.