Bruins

Bruins' power play finally starts clicking

191545.jpg

Bruins' power play finally starts clicking

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA It took slightly longer than originally anticipated for the Tomas Kaberle Effect to start paying dividends on the power play, but theres certainly a better late than never vibe echoing through the Bruins dressing room these days.

The puck movement and the elite skill level were present on the PP as soon as the Czech Republic blueliner arrived from Toronto last month, though none of that mattered if the forwards werent scrapping and battling for inches of ice in the scoring areas.

Boston finally meshed both qualities together on Sunday night, and enjoyed its first two-power-play-goal night in more than two months to lock down an impressive 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The last time the Bruins scored two power play goals was in a triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes Jan. 18 at the RBC Center a span of 28 games over the course of two months where the special teams' well simply dried up.

The little Sunday night spurt lifted Boston from a 16.3 to a 16.9 percent power play success rate, and things could get much easier for the Black and Gold if the power play isnt an issue during their playoff sojourn through the Eastern Conference.

There are no guarantees things will go swimmingly for the man advantage once theyre in Stanleys tournament, but it wasnt lost on the Bruins players they clinched a playoff berth during their power plays best night since mid-January.

We scored on two power plays, which is good for us, said Kaberle, who has watched the Bs power play go 6-for-49 (12.2 percent) during his 17 games with Boston. Lately weve been a lot better moving the puck on the PP and were getting rewarded right now. We got a few shots and bodies in front of the net as well, and when you have bodies there youre going to get chances.

Why did the power play suddenly find its mojo?

The 2-for-3 Bs power play performance featured a pair of greasy man advantage goals that Danny Zuko and Pony Boy would have been proud of: a rebound Nathan Horton strike in the second period, and the game-winner from Brad Marchand while he was hanging all around Brian Boucher with 3:47 to go in the game.

The game-winning play in a nutshell: a Dennis Seidenberg blast bounced off Bouchers glove and grazed Marchands chest before dropping in front of him for a golden game-changing opportunity.

Marchand didnt miss, and had his 20th goal of the season after fighting through a 12-game goal-scoring drought that the 22-year-old admitted had him bouncing off the walls with frustration.

Its been a while. The power play is really coming along, and it really stepped up and got some big goals tonight, said Marchand. Theyre pretty tough in their own end. They all collapse, and we were talking about getting pucks into the net and getting guys in front of their goalie. We knew it was going to be a greasy one, and thats what it ended up being.

I kind of saw the lane and I knew Seidenberg was going to shoot. We made eye contact there. He made a great shot getting it through and creating the rebound. That was a great shot by Seidenberg.

Perhaps assuming the arrival of Kaberle would magically cure all of Bostons power play ills, there wasnt enough brute strength or blunt force coming out of the battle areas in front of the net. The forwards werent willing to pay the physical price for success, and in effect the power play never got to enjoy the spoils.

That started to change in wins over the Devils and Canadiens when the man advantage cobbled together power play goals in the consecutive victories, and thats allowed Bostons PP to go 4-for-15 (26.7 percent) over its last four games.

Both Bs power play units registered a goal against Philly, and kept battling after a first-period power play didnt really generate much in the energy or momentum departments.

Calling it a power-play fizzle might have been a kind compliment.

But thats all changed now, and allows power-play stalwarts like Kaberle and David Krejci to take credit for refusing to make wholesale changes just for the sake of it.

As long as the work ethic is present among the oversized group of forwards around the net, theres no reason to think the power play cant be a more consistent source of offense at the very least.

Its about time. Its about time, said Recchi of the power play. Its been a long haul and weve got a lot better at it in the last four or five games, and we showed signs of turning it around. Tonight you get a good opportunity late in the game to win, and those are the kind of things youre going to need from your power play if you want to have success in the playoffs.

The Bs PP squad only amounted to five shots on net in the victory over the Flyers, but the quality of shots expanded for Boston as the game went along.

The new composition of each unit has been a big reason for the PPs resurgence when it seemed nothing was working.

The first power-play squad is essentially Bostons top forward line paired with Zdeno Chara and Kaberle at the point spots, but Julien and assistant coach Geoff Ward have utilized a little creativity and imagination for the second power play unit.

Young forwards Marchand and Tyler Seguin have added some energetic pop to the second PP team along with points Patrice Bergeron and Seidenberg, and just about every one of the five players had heavy involvement in Marchands game-winning strike. There was a perfect example of Seguin's progress in the first period: he made a soft play on Boston's first PP that opened up a short-handed rush for the Flyers, but he responded by belting Scott Hartnell later in the game and finding a little snarl with Claude Giroux after a whistle later in the game.

The new blood has brought speed, skill and a slight level of unpredictably along with Marchands sandpaper, and the Bs have to hope that Sundays effort was the start of a bigupward power play trend.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

bruins-tuukka-rask-032316.jpg

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.

Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.

MORE:

The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.

“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”

Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Beleskey-Nash-Agostino
 
Chara-McAvoy
Miller-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid

Khudobin 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

column_bruins_peter_cehlarik_kenny_agostino_101817.jpg

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

MORE:

Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE