Bruins

Bruins power play fix start with the letter 'D'

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Bruins power play fix start with the letter 'D'

The good news from Wednesday night is that when the Bruins needed a jolt, Claude Julian went gambling.

Before the 3rd period, he threw caution to the wind and broke up his long established top line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci on the fly. Claude grouped a slumping Tyler Seguin with Lucic and Krejci to spark a Bruins team that was struggling to create scoring chances. Juliens roster alchemy turned leaden legs to gold almost instantly as the aforementioned combination scored two quick tallies to lead the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the Habs in Montreal.

The bad news is the Bruins power-play is still sloppier than a Lena Dunham nude scene. Given the talent on this roster, even with the recent injuries, it shouldn't be a yearly crisis.
Luckily, this season, the answer to their man advantage woes are right under their nose and its not giving Chris Bourque and the High Glass line more minutes.

If Claude has the guts to put his best three forwards together to kick start the offense, he should have no issues rolling the dice by letting his best two defenseman direct the power play.

Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton are the key elements to turning around the Bruins man disadvantage, and they will be using a formula that is proven to work and easy to replicate.
Last year, who had the best power play in the NHL? Here is a hint; it wasn't the Penguins, Flyers or Canucks. It was the Nashville Predators.

They had a PP of 21.6, tops in the NHL. How can this be, given that Nashville had nobody in the top 50 in points scored last year, didnt have a 30-goal scorer, and that Nashville coach, Barry Trotz, looks like he just walked under a pile driver?

The answer is Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Last year Nashville had 54 total Power Play goals. Shea Weber was on the ice for 47 of those 54 and Suter was on the ice for 45 of them. With Weber's cannon and Suter's passing skills anchoring their power play, they took a group of forwards Trotz would be hard pressed to make (bleep) salad with, let alone a version with chicken, and turned them into man advantage assassins.

Patric Hornqvist 27 goals, 8 on the power play

Craig Smith 14 goals, 6 on the power play

Mike Fisher 24 goals, 5 on the power play

Colin Wilson 15 goals, 5 on the power play

David Legwand 19 goals, 5 on the power play

Martain Erat 19 goals, 5 on the power play

None of those players finished with over 60 points. Guys like Smith and Wilson couldn't even crack 40 points but on the PP they were just as deadly as Seguin, Bergeron and Marchand (all 5 PP goals) were last season and more than doubled the goals scored by a 60-point player like David Krejci (2 PP goals).

Barry Trotz doesnt look like he works in a think tank. He isnt a hockey genius and certainly isnt an offensive guru. But he is pragmatic enough to know he had a defensive team with no elite scorers. So he maximized his teams talent on the PP by keeping Weber and Suter, his two best players, out there as much as possible, to lift the play of his forwards. The results spoke for themselves.

The Bruins can replicate the simple success of last years Predators buy letting Chara and Hamilton run the power play.

Chara has every bit the bomb from the point that Weber does. Last season he had 8 power play goals, only two fewer than Weber, on a team that suffered from an inconsistent man advantage all season. With someone like Suter setting his plate, Z would be a terror weapon and the Bruins might actually have someone better.

Hamilton was a deadly PP Quarterback in juniors. He had 55 assists last season, 30 of which came on the man advantage, which lead the OHL. Hamilton also has a great shot, arguably one superior to Suters. He had 17 goals last season and nine came on the PP. He's the anti Kaberle; a point man who's a gifted passer with a shot that has to be respected. Simply put, Hamilton could be the best person to run the Bruins Power Play since Marc Savard was healthy.

Give those two the ice time to generate chemistry and mix in a better group of forwards than Nasville and this power play should no longer be a liability that makes Bruins fans wish they could decline penalties. Chara and Hamilton setting up Seguin, Lucic, Horton, Marchand, Krejci and Bergeron will finally fix a problem that's stretched multiple seasons.

The only question is will Claude let it? Chara is already leading the team in Power Play Time On Ice but he may need to stay out there longer. Right now Hamilton is 7th on the team in PP TOI. That will have to increase dramatically because he going to be joined with Chara at the hip.

Krejci is currently 2nd in PP TOI. Give Hamilton Krejci's PP minutes and let him and Chara develop into an elite power-play combination. If that means that Seidenberg, Boychuck, Ference and McQuaid need to pick up more even strength ice time then so be it because this team is not going to win another Stanley with a power play that works less than Windows 8.

Claude, who to his credit, is already way more trusting of Hamilton than he was with Seguin at this stage of his career. Now he needs to reward that trust with the responsibility to run the power play.

Dougie and Z have what it takes to make the power play work and after last night, Claude might actually take a chance and let them fix it.

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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