Bruins

Bruins' up-and-down power-play ends on high note

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Bruins' up-and-down power-play ends on high note

BUFFALO It appeared that Sundays road game against the Sabres was going to become another cautionary tale of woe and lost opportunities for the Boston power play.

The Bruins had been 0-for-3 through the first two periods of play on the man advantage, and hadnt generated much offensive juice despite some new combinations on the two PP units.

Even worse the Bruins gagged on a power play late in the second period after Chris Bourque had drawn a tripping penalty near the blue line on Mike Weber. The Bruins didnt finish with a single shot on net during the two minutes of PP time and allowed the Sabres to hem them into the defensive zone. Twenty seconds later Buffalo had capitalized on the momentum-changing special teams play and Tyler Ennis had a game-tying score on a couple of plays where Dougie Hamilton looked like a 19-year-old rookie.

But the good news for the Bruins and their put upon power play is that Patrice Bergeron hit pay dirt with a power play game-winner in the third period that led the Black and Gold to a 3-1 victory at the First Niagara Center. As futile as the special teams unit appeared in the first 40 minutes, they cashed in and executed when they had to in the final period.

It was nice to get a goal there, said Brad Marchand. Weve been struggling a little bit lately on the power play and weve been working hard on it the last few days. It really paid off in the third period.

Bergeron won an offensive zone face-off and Rich Peverley worked the puck over to Chris Bourque at the high point. Bourque fired wide left with a shot that bounced off bodies in front before kicking left of the net, but the puck bounced hard off the end boards back to Bergeron as he crashed down on the net.

The Bruins two-way center fired to beat Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller from the slot, and Boston had that elusive power play goal. The Bruins went into Sundays game ranked dead-last in the NHL with a power play that was scoring only 8.8 percent of the time, and hope that a good bounce can change their fortunes a bit.

The Bruins players knew that finally converting on the power play was the only way to erase the bad vibes their special teams units created in the middle 20 minutes of the hockey game. It was also the merciful ending they were looking for on a power play that had gone 0-for-17 and hadnt produced a goal since a Jan. 28 road win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Its going to hit a stick or its going to hit a body . . . something, said Bergeron. Yeah, we know that we need to be better on the power play. But it was good to get a lucky bounce, so well take it.

We need to get momentum and we didnt do that in the first two periods. We had to get momentum in the third period and even thought it wasnt the prettiest goal we found a way.

Julien admitted that the power play can look disorganized at times, but things come down to player execution at the end of the day.

I dont think all power play goals are beautiful goals, said Julien. Weve had our chances and we havent capitalized on them. At the end its nice to get that break. We needed that one. I guess thats what were trying to get out of our power play this year . . . some timely goals.

It certainly could be a long time before anybody calls the Bruins power play a beautiful work of hockey art, but the Boston coaching staff will settle for clutch and timely if it leads to wins as it did on Sunday night.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.