Bruins

Bruins search for a power-play solution

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Bruins search for a power-play solution

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER The murmurs have amplified through the playoffs, and are getting more difficult to ignore.

The Bruins' power play has been impossibly bad.

The B's are 19 games into their playoff run and are now battling the best team in the NHL in the Stanley Cup Finals, so perfection is something they need to aspire to. But even something far less than perfection -- just occasional success -- would be a welcome change for the Bruins' man advantage.

Their power play is now running at a 7.5 percent success rate in the postseason and is as unsightly as it is ineffective. The Bruins did rifle off 12 shots on net in their six power plays during Game 1 and didnt lose any momentum when they activated the power play, but thats really just a consolation prize because consistent goal production on the PP seems like a distant fantasy.

With the power play continuing to struggle, coach Claude Julien tinkered with the personnel in Game 1 and went with Tyler Seguin at spots in the first couple of periods without any tangible results on the scoreboard.

But at least the coach was trying something different. Hell need to continue those outside-the-box efforts on his special teams until they break through.

One change Julien should seriously consider: Removing Mark Recchi from the power-play units.

Rex is the ultimate pro, a gamer, a future Hall of Famer and both a gentlemen and excellent leader of men. But hes also 43 years old, and has logged 100 regular-season and playoff games over the last 10 months.

The Bs winger has no points in 19 games on the Boston power play during this playoff run, even though only Nathan Horton and David Krejci have logged more power play time than Recchis 49:28 during the postseason.

Statistically, Recchi has come up short on an unproductive power play, and there is no crispness or quickness with the puck when it comes to his side of the ice during the man advantage.

The bottom line: Puck movement slows down demonstrably when Recchi is out with the power-play unit, and he makes it much easier to defend.

Recchi said his nonperformance had nothing to do with his energy level because the Bruins had a significant break prior to the start of the Cup finals.

I feel great. I feel good. I had lots of energy in Game 1, said Recchi. I would expect the entire thing to last for the whole series.

Recchi didnt feel like changes needed to be made to the special teams units despite the 0-for-6 performance in Game 1 against Vancouver. But he said its always up to the coaches to decide who plays on the power-play units.

I think the groups were good. I think the groups were fine yesterday and we had a lot of opportunities, said Recchi. I dont know what youre going with this right now, but whatever. Thats up to the coaches to decide. I like the way it worked and well see what happens on Saturday. Thats up to the coaches.

Recchis teammates didnt buy into the theory that he should be off the ice on the power play, of course, and linemate Patrice Bergeron felt like Recchi's experience and calming influence on the ice is a vital piece to everything Boston is doing.

Hes fine. He has been around the block more than once, said Bergeron. His experience helps everyone on the ice so much. We're just happy to have a guy like him on our team.

Julien had a chance to relieve Recchi of his power-play duties temporarily in the first period when he inserted Seguin into the man-advantage unit, but instead pulled off Michael Ryder . . . even though Ryder finished tied for the most power-play goals on the team during the regular season.

We have to find a way to score more goals," said Bergeron. "On the power play is the area we need to fix and be better, especially having a five-on-three and a four-minute five-on-four, you have to find a way.

There is, of course, some level of futility in pinning an entire power-play units faults on the back of one player, and Andrew Ference was quick to point that out when asked about Recchis goose egg during the playoffs.

Does anybody on our team have a lot of power-play goals? Ference asked. Its not just one person or one thing with the power play. Its about all of the guys on both units and its different at different times that have been presenting challenges. I think everybody felt pretty good about the power play in the last game, but its always about production at the end of the day.

The ratings for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in the United States were big for NBC, and they certainly caused more than a ripple in the local Boston market.

Boston was the top-rated market in the country with a 25.5 overnight rating for Game 1 . . . which was actually better than the 19.9 rating for Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers series in the NBA Finals last year.

In addition, Providence was the second-highest market in the country with a 16.7 rating.

The overnight rating nationally for Game 1 was a 3.2, the best for a Stanley Cup Final game since 1999 and a 14 percent increase over last year.

I think its great news. It's awesome, said Bergeron. To be honest, back home we could feel it. The whole city was really behind us. They still are behind us throughout the playoffs and the season. It means a lot to us. Obviously we want to do it for them. But we can feel all the support and that's something great.

Canucks coach Alan Vigneault wouldnt go into deep details on Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis other than to say hes day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Hamhuis injured himself throwing a hip check at Milan Lucic in the second period, and appeared to get the worst of the collision before limping back to the dressing never to return.

Tim Thomas was asked how 23-year-old Tuukka Rask had been handling more of a spectator role during the playoffs, and the Bs goalie was effusive in his praise for his Finnish understudy. Rask was among the most animated celebrants after the Game 7 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has been unflinchingly supportive of the team goal over his own personal preference to play.

He's handled it great. He's been a great partner for me, supportive the whole way. I respect that, said Thomas. I was trying to do the same thing myself last year when Rask was the No. 1 goalie in the playoffs. It's not always easy because you want to be the guy who's playing. We wouldn't have got to this level if that wasn't the case.

But he's just been awesome. We've had a good relationship since we first met each other like six years ago. That's still carrying on.

Thomas was embroiled in a little bit of a war of words with the Canucks on Thursday as Vigneault insinuated the Bs goaltender sets up outside the crease area and soaks up penalty calls from the refs when contact occurs.

Julien wasnt having any of it.

That's his style. I mean, if he gets a chance to come out of the crease and challenge the shooter, he challenges. The rule is pretty clear, said Julien. You're entitled to your ice. If he steps out and he's got that ice, he's entitled to it. That's what he's done through the whole process.

"Now, we all know that goaltenders are to be protected. If you're going to say that if he's out of his crease when he comes out to challenge the shooter, he's fair game to be hit by the opposition . . . then that should be the same philosophy when the goalie goes behind the net to handle the puck.

"I think the league has ruled that the goaltenders need to be protected. If he's entitled to his ice, and he's got it, then afterwards I don't think people are entitled to run over those guys. If Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo comes out of his net, he's got his ice. It's his. It belongs to him. The rule to me is pretty clear, so I don't see any issues there.

From the Boston Bruins' P.R. department:

The Boston Bruins and the Boston Police Department want to remind fans to be wary of purchasing counterfeit tickets for the Stanley Cup Final. Fans are encouraged to only buy tickets from authorized ticket agencies. Purchasing from other sources is done at the buyer's risk. Officers want to proactively curb such activity and encourage buyers to only purchase from official vendors. The Boston Police Department suggests that fans guarantee authenticity by purchasing tickets through the Boston Bruins website, Ticketmaster.com, in person at the TD Garden Box Office or at any Ticketmaster outlet.

Purchasing via other means creates the potential for possessing either an invalid or counterfeit ticket. Individuals attempting to gain admission using fraudulent tickets will be evicted from the building and face the possibility of arrest.

If any community members have information about the selling of counterfeit tickets, you are urged to contact District A-1 detectives at (617) 343-4248. Individuals wishing to provide information anonymously may do so by calling the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS or texting the word 'TIP' to CRIME (27463). Individuals wishing to provide information anonymously are reminded that the Boston Police Department is ONLY interested in the INFORMATION you provide, NOT who YOU are.

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

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

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Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

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After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.