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Coaches Cassidy, Berube to meet in Stanley Cup Final

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St. Louis Blues' Craig Berube gives instructions from behind the bench during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 16 in Pittsburgh. [AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File]
St. Louis Blues' Craig Berube gives instructions from behind the bench during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 16 in Pittsburgh. [AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File]

Bruce Cassidy has come a long way from writing his first NHL practice plan on a napkin.

Craig Berube hasn't changed a bit from the moment he was fired from his first NHL head coaching job.

Two roads diverged in a crazy world of hockey and brought them to this Stanley Cup Final. Cassidy has guided the Boston Bruins to this point a decade and a half after a disastrous tenure in Washington. Berube took the St. Louis Blues from worst to their first final since 1970 several years after a short stint in Philadelphia.

One of them will become the sixth coach in 12 years to lift the Cup in his second stop as NHL head coach and reward an organization and countless people for giving him another chance.

"The guys that are good in this business, they learn a lot along the way and just continue to improve," said Vegas general manager George McPhee, who hired Cassidy with Washington in 2002, had Berube as a player and then interviewed him for the Capitals' coaching job in 2013.

Cassidy's former Capitals players couldn't be sure he deserved another chance after benching respected veteran defenseman Calle Johansson in his last game with the team in 2003. Goaltender Olie Kolzig said Cassidy had "a lack of professionalism on and off the ice" at the time, which ultimately led to his firing 25 games into his second season.

McPhee wonders aloud now if he put Cassidy in a difficult spot coaching a veteran team featuring established star Jaromir Jagr. Looking back, Kolzig believes Cassidy actually did a fairly good job his first season.

Nicknamed "Butch" after the infamous outlaw, Cassidy rehabbed his reputation with a season as a Chicago Blackhawks assistant, two in junior and then an eight-year run as an assistant and head coach with the Bruins top AHL affiliate in Providence.

Nicknamed "Chief" for his First Nations heritage, Berube has earned a solid reputation — from his career of more than 1,000 games and 3,000 penalty minutes as a team-first role player to his first head job with Philadelphia when he took over three games into the 2013-14 season.

His former teammate and close friend, Keith Jones, remembers beer and chicken wing nights on the road with Berube and Dale Hunter during their playing days. They would watch and talk about hockey and subconsciously prepare to stay in the game after hanging up their skates.

Jones said Ron Hextall's worst move as Flyers GM was firing Berube after his first full season because it looked as if he had what it took behind the bench.

Flyers players respected Berube's no-nonsense attitude and simple approach of playing smart, defending well and working as a team.

"It's a very straightforward approach, which I think a lot of players could learn something about that," said Scott Hartnell, who played for Berube's Flyers teams.

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BLUES VS. BRUINS

What: Game 1 of Stanley Cup Finals

When: 7 p.m., Monday

Where: TD Garden; Boston

TV: NBC (Cox 4/HD 704, Dish 4, DirecTV 4, U-verse 4/1004)

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