|Bruins trying not to get discouraged by power play||02.11.13 at 6:07 pm ET|
The power play has been so much of a challenge for the Bruins this season that it wasn’t much of a surprise to see them struggle to put the puck in the net when working on the man advantage in Monday’s practice.
Making the power play work has long been an issue for assistant coach Geoff Ward and the Bruins, but for the past three seasons they have been able to win without one.
On the season, the Bruins are 4-for-39 on the man advantage, with one of the goals coming in the form of a Tyler Seguin empty-netter against the Hurricanes. They are 1-for-18 on the power play over their last five games, but those ugly numbers have been accompanied by a pretty record. With the 4-for-39 mark comes an Eastern Conference-best 8-1-1 record, and with the 1-for-18 clip comes a 4-1-0 record.
The Bruins have managed to be able to be the best team in the Eastern Conferece (they trail the Devils by two points for the top spot, but they’ve played 10 games to New Jersey’s 12) despite not manufacturing power play goals. Recent history shows that you technically don’t need a great power play in order to win the Stanley Cup ‘ the B’s were a respectable 5-for-27 against the Canucks in 2011, but they were 0-for-21 against the Habs in the first round, 2-for-16 against the Flyers and 3-for-24 against the Lightning. That made for an underwhelming 11.4 power play percentage for the postseason, which ranked 14th among the 16 teams in the playoffs.
Last season, the Kings followed the Bruins’ lead, putting up a 12.8 clip on the power play but winning the Cup and losing just four games all postseason.
Still, while there’s strong evidence that you can win a lot of games without a good power play, there’s no denying any team would be better if it would take advantage of other teams’ infractions. The Bruins finally did that on Sunday to break an 0-for-17 stretch when Patrice Bergeron got to a puck in front that had bounced off the end boards on a shot from Chris Bourque and sent it past Ryan Miller. Not only was the goal the game-winner in the team’s 3-1 win over Buffalo, it provided a bit of relief in a rather stressful area.
Prior to that goal, the B’s were 0-for-4 in the game. The power play actually proved disruptive to a strong 5-on-5 game the B’s had been playing. The second unit, which now features Bourque at the point with Zdeno Chara, with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley up front, saw to it that the team wouldn’t have its fifth straight game without a power play goal.
‘We’ve got to work on it,’ Bergeron said Monday. ‘We’ve got to make sure we get better. If you get discouraged, we’re obviously not going to improve. That’s the whole point, is to do the job and create some momentum and obviously score some goals.’
With Seguin getting Monday off for maintenance, the B’s moved David Krejci up and put Dennis Seidenberg on the point with Dougie Hamilton on the point on the first configuration. That likely won’t stick, but with the way the B’s have struggled on the power play as a whole, perhaps shuffling more personnel could be in the cards. The B’s have found a way to win without clicking on the man advantage, but if they ever could they would be even scarier.
|Shawn Thornton out 7-10 days with concussion||02.01.13 at 11:46 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Shawn Thornton will miss the next 7-10 days with a concussion, the Bruins announced Friday. Thornton suffered the injury in a first-period fight with Sabres enforcer John Scott on Thursday night, with Thornton leaving the game and not returning.
With Thornton out, Lane MacDermid could see more time for the B’s in the coming days. The 23-year-old had seven fights this season for Providence and played his first NHL game of the season on Thursday.
Thornton wasn’t the only absence from Friday’s practice, as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Daniel Paille also missed the skate. Paille and Bergeron were banged up in the third period of Thursday’s loss to the Sabres, though Krejci did not appear to suffer an injury in the game.
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|Bruins face big challenge vs. desperate Rangers||01.22.13 at 2:25 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — When the 48-game schedule came out following the lockout, one of the most interesting aspects of it throughout the league was that the Bruins and Rangers would play each other twice in the first three games. That meant that in a season that placed even greater emphasis than usual on strong starts, one of the best teams in the NHL could easily end up in an early season hole.
As it turns out, the Rangers face that prospect. The schedule-makers weren’t kind to John Tortorella‘s club early on, as the Rangers had to face the high-powered Penguins the day after opening the season in Boston. The results haven’t been good, as the Eastern Conference favorites followed Saturday’s loss to the B’s by dropping a 6-3 contest to the Penguins in their home-opener. Now, the team will need to beat the 2-0-0 Bruins to avoid starting the season winless through three games.
“You know that they’re going to be ready for that game,” Patrice Bergeron said after Tuesday’s practice. “Also, we beat them the first game, so you know they’re going to look for some revenge probably, so it’s going to be a tough one. We’re expecting the best out of them, and we need to make sure we bring our best game as well.”
It’s hard to call the third game of the season a must-win, but the value of two points is inflated in a 48-game season, and the Rangers have some stiff competition in their division (Penguins, Flyers) for one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference. The desperation should be there at Madison Square Garden, so the Bruins will need to be ready for it.
“I don’t think [they’ll come out harder]; I know they will,” Claude Julien said. “Certainly, when you’re put in that position and you’re the type of team that they are, we expect nothing but their best game out of them tomorrow.”
The Bruins welcome the test that will come with playing a desperate team. David Krejci even likened Wednesday’s game to a postseason contest in which a team trailing in the series makes a push to narrow the gap.
“I know there’s been lots of talk. They made some moves, they want to go deep in the playoffs so I’m pretty sure that’s not the start they wanted to have,” Krejci said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for us. We might be in the situation during the season or in the playoffs, that the team wants to come back and we have to show how to handle the situation. It’s a good challenge for us tomorrow and we’ll so how we can respond, but I’m sure we’re going to be ready for it.”
The Rangers went 3-1-0 against the Bruins last season, so the B’s have already matched their 2011-12 win total against Tortorella’s club. The games between the two teams were tight (three of their four matches were one-goal games, including one decided in overtime), so the Bruins aren’t expecting anything to come easy against them.
“I’m sure Nash will buy into their system and has,” Chris Kelly said. “They’re a hard-working team and that’s the way they’re coached. They play hard, they play everyone and everyone contributes. They had our number last year, and we came out and played hard in the opener.”
|Bruins improve to 2-0-0 with shootout win over Jets||01.21.13 at 3:54 pm ET|
The game could have easily ended in the Jets’ favor in overtime, as the B’s were shorthanded at two different points of the extra session. Johnny Boychuk took a penalty for high-sticking Bryan Little with 1:11 left in the third period, leaving the B’s shorthanded through the end of regulation and into overtime, but the Bruins were able to effectively kill it off. The B’s found themselves shorthanded in overtime once again when Zdeno Chara took down Blake Wheeler as he was driving to the net and was called for holding with 1:28 remaining.
The Bruins were forced to play without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who led the B’s in ice time in Saturday’s season-opener but was out Monday with a lower-body injury. The team announced during warmups that Seidenberg is day-to-day.
With Seidenberg out, Aaron Johnson made his Bruins debut and Claude Julien shuffled two of the defensive pairings. Though the Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid pairing was kept intact, Dougie Hamilton (Seidenberg’s partner on Saturday) was moved up to play with Zdeno Chara, while Johnson played with Boychuk.
The Jets got on the board in the first period when Chris Thorburn got to a rebound at the right circle and beat Tuukka Rask just 1:58 into the contest.
With the Bruins in a line change, the Jets tried to get the puck out of the zone, but Tyler Seguin raced from the bench to keep the puck in and sped down the lane. That got the attention of both Jets defenders and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who committed enough to Seguin that when the third-year player dished it to Brad Marchand in front, it didn’t take much mustard on Marchand’s part to easily put it into the open net.
Rask made 26 saves on 27 shots in the 65 minutes of play.
The Bruins will next have their first road game of the season as they head to Madison Square Garden to face the Rangers on Wednesday. The B’s beat the Rangers, 3-1, on Saturday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– That’s twice now this season that the Bruins have had to kill of a penalty without their best penalty killer in the critical moments of a tie game. Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly came up big on the 4-on-3 in overtime.
– Though it didn’t produce a goal, David Krejci’s line was consistently strong for the Bruins, skating hard and yielding a number of scoring chances for Nathan Horton in particular. Krejci first set up Horton for a bid with a diagonal feed from the top of the right circle to the left dot, but Horton wasn’t able to get enough on his slapper to challenge Pavelec. Krejci then fed Horton in the second period from behind the net, but Horton was denied in front and was later stopped again from the right circle. Horton also drew the Jets’ only penalty of the game, a Mark Stuart interference call, while Milan Lucic was credited with nine hits in regulation.
Seeing Horton involved and getting chances this early is a very positive sign for the Bruins, as uncertainty surrounded the big winger as he went nearly a calendar year without playing in games due to concussion issues and the lockout.
– After switching Marchand and Chris Bourque for a couple shifts apiece midway through the second period, the Patrice Bergeron line really started buzzing when Marchand was put back with his usual line mates. One shift shortly after his return saw a couple of golden opportunities from Seguin (whose bid in front just missed the net) and Bergeron (who tried to send the puck off Pavelec from a bad angle beneath the left circle).
– In particular, Seguin showed off his speed and smarts but was also more aggressive than folks have been accustomed to seeing in the youngster’s first two NHL seasons. In addition to having his risk to race and keep the puck in the zone in the first period paying off, Seguin did a good job of keeping the puck in by batting it down in the second period on a play that ended with Marchand being denied at the doorstep.
– Though he could have prevented the Jets’ first goal (see below), Hamilton looked more comfortable as the game went on and was trusted with time on the penalty kill time in his second career game. Both shorthanded shifts came at the end of penalties, so he totaled 37 seconds on the penalty kill for the Bruins.
– The B’s lucked out on a couple of plays that could have yielded Jets goals and given them the lead in what was a 1-1 game. In the second period, Evander Kane took an easy wrist shot from a bad angle low on left circle, but it trickled through Rask. Fortunately, the angle meant it slid through the crease and not into the net. In the third period, Postma launched a snapshot from above the right circle that hit the left post.
– Not necessarily a positive, but an interesting note: With Kane’s third-period goaltender interference penalty, Bruins opponents have been called for interfering with Rask.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The defense wasn’t its sharpest in the first period, suffering multiple breakdowns early after playing tight defense against the Rangers Saturday. Thorburn’s goal was the result of Hamilton losing track of the puck in front following a Paul Postma shot. The rebound bounced to Thorburn, who sent a shot past Rask to give the Jets the early 1-0 lead.
Just a little over halfway through the period following a Pavalec save on a Nathan Horton bid, Kyle Wellwood split the defense of Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid to set up a breakaway that concluded with a big save from Rask. Though the other pairings may have had an excuse due to the shuffling caused by Seidenberg’s absence, the Ference-McQuaid pairing was unchanged from training camp and the Rangers game.
The Bruins’ blueline seemed to regroup in the second period with overall tighter play.
– They only got two opportunities, but the Bruins’ power play once again failed to produce. The first configuration with Horton, Seguin and Lucic had a solid chance in the second period with Horton being denied in front, but Monday yielded another contest without a power play goal. Adding that to Saturday’s 0-for-7 showing, the B’s are now 0-for-8 on the man advantage season.
|Bruins get to work on power play||01.14.13 at 10:23 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The second day of training camp meant addressing a common source of frustration for the Bruins, as they worked on the power play in anticipation of the upcoming season.
The B’s, who finished 20th in power play efficiency (scoring 16.2 percent of the time) in 2010-11 and 15th (17 percent) last season, used the following units, with Rich Peverley and Gregory Campbell mixing into the first unit:
Campbell rotated in for Lucic as a net-front presence, while Peverley would replace Krejci on the point. Krejci said that he played some point on the power play in the Czech Extraliga during the lockout.
After the practice, Bergeron spoke about the power play work, noting that the B’s will have to put Claude Julien and Geoff Ward‘s planning during the lockout to good use, and quickly.
“It’s a short season. We don’t have that much time, and we need to be prepared right away,” Bergeron said. “Special teams on both sides are going to be very important. The power play is no different. We don’t have that much time to work on it, so today was the perfect day to do that.”
The Bruins have been pretty forthcoming with their intentions to have Hamilton on the team this year, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he’s already being used on the power play. After all, the season is five days away, so cushiony period of easing him into scenarios doesn’t really exist. Bergeron thinks he’ll handle the challenge well.
“He looks good,” Bergeron said of Hamilton. “He seems to be pretty poised with the puck and making the right plays. It’s only his second practice ‘¦ but today I got the chance to work with him a little more and he seems to be a very good player, very smart. He doesn’t look like he’s 19 out there.”
Hamilton is an obvious choice on the power play, as the 6-foot-5 blueliner had 17 goals and 55 assists for 72 points in 50 games last season as the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman.
|Some more prepared than others as Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly and Patrice Bergeron return||01.09.13 at 2:00 pm ET|
Three of the Bruins’ leaders were back skating with their teammates Wednesday, as captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captains Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly joined eight other B’s on the ice at Agganis Arena after spending the lockout playing in Europe.
All three players spoke highly of their time in Europe, as Chara played for Prague Lev of the KHL and Bergeron and Kelly played in different leagues in Switzerland. Bergeron actually played right wing for HC Lugano of the Swiss-A league, but it wasn’t the strangest experience had by a Bruin in Switzerland. That distinction might go to Kelly, whose first game for HC Red Ice was a little more taxing than he expected.
“I think they thought I had just played in the playoffs and was swinging over there, but I hadn’t played a game in seven months,” Kelly said. “I think I played about 40 minutes that night, so the legs were a little tired. It went into overtime, so it wasn’t like you could kind of pick your shifts to catch your breath.”
Despite the first game catching him a bit off guard, Kelly called his month in Switzerland “a great experience.” Though he returned to North America (he spent the last month or so in Ottawa) in game shape, he was at least a little rusty when it came to packing his hockey bag for Wednesday. He took the ice in Tyler Seguin‘s HC Biel jersey, as he had forgotten socks and a jersey.
“It’s funny when you get used to having a jersey and socks in your stall and then you’ve got to scramble to find a jersey and socks, and asking guys if they brought an extra towel to shower with after,” Kelly said. “It will be nice having a towel at the rink.”
The Bruins had 11 players in Europe at one point or another during the lockout, something that Kelly feels should be an advantage from a preparational standpoint as teams get ready for the 48-game regular season.
“It was never about the money or anything like that or going over there of a vacation,” he said. “I know guys in this locker room extremely well, and if they went over to play, it was to play hard and help that team and play hockey.”
|KHL did not try to keep Zdeno Chara||at 11:48 am ET|
Speaking publicly for the first time since returning from the KHL on Tuesday and amidst speculation that KHL teams were making big financial pushes to keep NHL players from returning to their teams, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said Wednesday that he was not approached about staying in Europe.
“No,” Chara said after skating with teammates at Agganis Arena. “It was pretty clear in my contract that once the NHL is beginning or the deal [for a new CBA] is done, that I’m leaving. It depends on how the guys feel or how they want to decide what to do.”
Ilya Kovalchuk has been the most popular player whose future remains uncertain as the start of the NHL season draws near. Though he’s entering the third year of a 15-year, $100-million contract with the Devils, multiple reports have surfaced citing Devils sources who believe Kovalchuk will stay in the KHL. Islanders defensman Lubomir Visnovsky recently announced his intention to remain with HC Slovan Bratislava for the rest of the season rather than going back to the NHL.
“There’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but we’ll see,” Chara said of NHL players staying in the KHL. “I mean, what can I say? I can’t really make comments for them.”
Since forming in 2008, the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) has become the NHL’s primary competition as hockey leagues go.
“There are some really, really skilled guys there,” Chara said. “Players are very highly skilled as far as skating and handling he puck and making plays. I think it’s less physical, but skating-wise and skill-wise it’s a little bit different.”