Bruins finally uncover some answers on power play in win over Sabres

Bruins finally uncover some answers on power play in win over Sabres

BOSTON – The Bruins have underachieved to massive proportions on the power play this season, and it was astounding that the B’s were ranked 29th on the PP among NHL teams entering Monday night’s game vs. the Sabres. Perhaps even more stupefying was the rock-bottom aspect of Saturday night’s loss to the Rangers when the Bruins allowed a pair of shorthanded goals to speedy New York attackers in a frustrating loss. 

Credit the buoyant Bruins with bouncing back from that ugly outing, and using three power play goals scored to guide them to a 4-0 win over the Sabres at TD Garden. The three power play goals matched Boston’s total seasonal special teams output in the first 11 games of the season, and gave the Bruins clear evidence of just how good they could be on the man advantage once the work ethic started matching the talented PP personnel. 


“In order to be successful, you have to outwork the penalty kill. That’s always been the case. We have a tendency sometimes on the power play to think, we’ve got the extra guy and we’ve just got to take it easy,” said Claude Julien, who also swapped Marchand down to the second PP unit and bumped massive power forward David Backes onto the third line. “But at the same time I think we did a better job of finding the seams and getting shots at the net and, you know, jumping on those loose pucks and rebounds. Those are the kinds of things that we need from our power play.”

The Bruins showed early on it might be a different kind of night when they managed four shots on net in a first PP possession that didn’t end up in a goal, and then they went out and proved it in the second period. Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak both crashed the net looking for rebounds, and Brad Marchand was able to shot a loose puck through a Beleskey screen blocking out Robin Lehner in the Buffalo net. 

Beleskey picked up his first point of the new hockey season for his efforts, and the entire unit’s energy levels energized both PP units. An extended 5-on-3 advantage set up the next scoring chance, and this was David Krejci one-timing a Torey Krug pass from the opposite point that somehow bounced past Lehner. 

It was Krejci’s first goal of the season, and another sign that some key performers on the B’s man advantage were starting to wake up. Now they just need to keep it going for some time while operating more efficiently and creatively in the offensive zone, and never going more than a couple of games without a power play goal if it can be helped. 

“We looked at some clips when we were doing fine, when we were moving the puck well and moving our feet. I thought that’s what we did today,” said Krejci. “We didn’t really just stand in one spot. We were moving all over the ice and creating some good scoring chances and we got three goals. That was a big power play night for us. Hopefully, we’ve got more in the bag, especially for [the next game vs. Montreal].”

There’s no reason to think the Bruins are as bad on the PP as they showed in the first 11 games of the season, and there’s also the plainly obvious fact that the man advantage isn’t going to supply three PP goals per game against other teams hungry for wins. So the newly healthy Bruins will instead return their full complement of goal scorers and PP playmakers in a hopeful bid to stay afloat with their special teams, an area where they’ll need greater production if the wins are going to keep following along. 

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.


Donato looks like impact player after 'dream' debut

Donato looks like impact player after 'dream' debut

BOSTON – It certainly looks like the Bruins have themselves another young impact player.

The only way it could have been more of a dream scenario for Ryan Donato in his NHL debut would have been if the Bruins won the game, but otherwise it was as good as could have been hoped with a goal and three points in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Donato fired off a one-timer missile from the right face-off dot for his first NHL goal, but also showed both tenacity in front of the net on the power play leading to Riley Nash’s goal, and playmaking in flipping a backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci for the tying goal in the third period. 

The highly skilled Harvard star didn’t end up finishing off the storybook opening with an OT winner, but he did more than enough in his first game to make it a living dream for himself.

“During warm-ups, actually, I was kind of taken away. I mean it kind of felt like a dream and I really didn’t even get that warmed up because I was too focused on everything else, and just kind of the whole situation,” said Donato. “At the end of the day it was an unbelievable experience and it was a blessing tonight.

“I mean, [the NHL] is so much faster than what I’ve ever seen but at the end of the day, it’s something that you can get used to. When you’re playing with great players like that it’s something that will come along fast as well.”

If there were a checklist of qualities that the Bruins wanted to see out of their 21-year-old prospect while jumping from college hockey to the pros, one could check off “high hockey IQ”, “natural goal-scoring shot” and “nose for the net” right off the bat.

Those are the kinds of qualities that could make Donato very effective for the Bruins down the stretch and into the playoffs if the youngster can harness them on a consistent basis. It also caps off a brilliant 2014 NHL draft for the Bruins, helmed by current Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Keith Gretzky, where their first four picks were David Pastrnak, Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork, a draft class that’s helped set the Black and Gold up for years to come.  

What about the combination of those qualities plus being able to do it in front of friends and family as the hometown kid for his father's old team? That takes a pretty special makeup to do as well.

“He’s on the puck, as advertised, in terms of his compete. [He] wanted to shoot the puck," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Early he was trying to make some plays and then realized, just play to your strength. [He] did a real good job. I didn’t notice anything away from the puck. I’m sure there’s a few teaching moments once you go back over the game tape and go from there. But, like I said, I liked him a lot. I’m sure Krech [David Krejci] did, as well. They seemed to have some good chemistry.

“This is one game, but some of the guys that come in...You saw that with [Charlie] McAvoy, just played his game. It would be great if he has similar success. Consistency is a big issue for first-year guys, and we all understand that. If he can string it together then we’ll make that comparison, but very impressed by that to be able to come in here [and make an immediate impact]. Especially your hometown, could be some jitters there, might be easier to do it on the road, almost. I’m not sure – to each his own in that area – but there’s a lot of people to, sort of, impress, and it’s a tough game, so good for him to be able to do it right here in his own backyard.”

There was certainly no hint of tentativeness or nerves sapping any part of his game while jumping into a Boston lineup that desperately needed a guy like Donato while beset with injuries. The B’s are down Patrice Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk and now Rick Nash for the time being, and the ability to plug another capable top-six, potentially high-impact option into the lineup just allows the Bruins to keep on running like nobody was missing.

“Ryan [Donato] played a good game. Good for his confidence to get the first one. That is always the hardest, but he’s got to keep playing the way he played [in his first game]. I thought he played well and he made some good plays,” said Krejci. “He easily could have got a couple of more, but that’s a good start for him. For me, just have to go out and try to do your best to help the team.

“He was battling along the walls, and he was making some good plays. Like I said, it was a good game for him. For a first NHL game, you can’t really ask for anything better than he did. So it was a good game and hopefully, he can keep it up.”

The challenge now is twofold for Donato and the Bruins. The first hurdle is for Donato to keep performing and producing with consistency as he gets everything tossed at him in his first NHL go-round. That will be a challenge enough.

There are many that can look like an impact player in the NHL from time to time, but few that can pull it off nightly as the speed and physicality take a toll over the course of a long season.

The second difficulty, honestly, will be finding enough room in the Bruins lineup for all these players of different shapes, sizes and talents once they're all healthy and potentially start rolling once they bust into the postseason. If Donato keeps up something resembling his debut performance on a nightly basis, then the rich just got even richer with a Bruins team already awash in exciting, talented young players up and down their roster.