Jim Montgomery took over a good Bruins team when he was hired to replace Bruce Cassidy.

He has made the Bruins a great team – at least until the spring comes and they have to prove themselves all over again in the playoffs.

Montgomery, who clinched an All-Star coaching position last week based on the Bruins’ winning percentage, will lead the Atlantic Division stars in Sunrise, Florida, next month. In a good argument for hiring coaches with a track record, Cassidy (Vegas Golden Knights) will be coaching the Pacific Division All-Stars, while the man he replaced, Pete DeBoer (Dallas), will be coaching the Central Division stars. Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour will coach the Metropolitan Division.

Montgomery has hardly been a caretaker for a Bruins team that won 51 games last year. He tweaked the team’s breakout and has gotten the defensemen much more involved in the offensive zone and off the rush. He is extremely proactive in changing his forward lines. And he’s simply brought a different approach, a new vibe, that may not be as confrontational as his predecessor’s but is one where his message gets across to players.

“You have a 107-point team and the coach gets let go and you’re wondering how can we improve. But he’s brought a level of enjoyment and energy to our room,” said Taylor Hall after Wednesday’s practice. “That was pretty obvious from Day One. I think we’ve been freed up offensively a bit. A lot of guys have been. That’s resulted in us scoring a ton of goals and defending with the same passion that we had last year – and getting great goaltending. If I would say one thing, it would be energy. He brings energy every day. It’s not always positive. But he brings that and it’s been great for our group.”

Some players who had their career arcs stall under Cassidy have been thriving with Montgomery. While he had begun to turn things around the second half of last year, Jake DeBrusk was on pace to break the 30-goal plateau before suffering a lower-body injury in the Winter Classic. Trent Frederic has already set a career high in goals. Brandon Carlo’s game has settled down and he’s breaking the puck out better than in the past, to go along with excellent defensive zone work, especially on the penalty kill.


“He’s very positive. He really makes a big effort in building relationships with guys and I think that allows guys to feel comfortable and confident in the room, in practice and on the bench,” said Brad Marchand. “But he’s demanding at the same time. And he’s very open about that. He has high expectations for our group”

Hall admits that the frequency with which he changes the lines both from game-to-game and in-game was an eye opener at first.

“At the start of the year, it was a little different because that hadn’t been the case previously, so it was like ‘Holy crap! He’s changing the lines again?’” said Hall. “But as the season’s wore on, we’ve all gotten used to playing with everyone and realizing just because he’s changing the lines, it’s not an indictment on you or your line. … We played with 11 forwards the other night in San Jose. That was fun. You play with different guys. It was almost a different line every time going over the boards. I think we’ve all got used to it. But at the start, it was a little bit of a change.”

If players had questions in the back of their minds, those questions didn’t manifest themselves into resistance.

“I know a couple of times players have said that they’d like to be given more opportunity. And you understand that,” said Montgomery. “But I think the more I do it, the more comfortable they get doing it. That’s the biggest reason behind a lot of what I do. Sometimes you’re rewarding players. But also sometimes you’re stale. Sometimes I do it because I want players to see how they play with other players, so when injuries come and it’s the playoffs and it’s a situation where someone’s all of a sudden gone for half a period because he’s on concussion protocol, I know who’s played well with whom and I can easily go to those former units that have had success.”

Montgomery is looking forward to meeting some of the top players in the league. He also gave a nod to his players who put him in that position.

“To me, I’m representing our group and what we’ve accomplished so far in the first half,” said Montgomery, who’ll be joined by goalie Linus Ullmark. “Unfortunately, we probably deserve to have six guys to be All-Stars, but with the way the game’s run now, it’s not like it used to be, so not as many guys get the opportunity.”

BECAUSE TOMAS NOSEK has an undisclosed injury that is currently preventing him from taking faceoffs, center Joona Koppanen was recalled from Providence and Chris Wagner was sent back down. Koppanen will center the fourth line, while Nosek will shift to right wing.

THE BRUINS have a tough couple of games this week. On Saturday, they face the second-placed Toronto Maple Leafs, but they cannot overlook Thursday’s opponent, the Seattle Kraken. In the second year of their existence, the Kraken are in a Western Conference playoff spot and are riding a six-game winning streak.

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