Bruins

Changing on the Fly: Power play needs overhaul

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Changing on the Fly: Power play needs overhaul

The Bruins are a team without many glaring weaknesses.

After all, you dont win the Cup without considerable strengths that are able to overshadow every little point of weakness on a hockey club.

But the Bs power play is no longer a puny little weakness. A huge, gaping hole and profound problem would be better ways to describe a special teams unit that continues to fail the Black and Gold when it matters most.

Its a major problem to be reckoned with this summer by the Bs decision-makers.

Its also one of the single biggest reasons the Bruins playoff bubble burst after losing four one-goal games in an incredibly tight seven-game first round series. The Bruins were 2-for-23 on the PP during this years battle with the Washington Capitals, and are an obscenely bad 2-for-44 in the first round over the last two years.

Thats a grotesque 4.5 percent success rate that even Ripley wouldnt believe if werent unequivocally true.

Bruins President Cam Neely admitted the need for a change in philosophy when it comes to the power play next season. That includes adjustments from the coaching staff and the players, and more importantly results.

We got away with it last year as everybody knows. This year, it kind of bit us in the butt. We really need to have a philosophical difference in how we look at the power play. I dont just look at the percentage of the power play, I look at when we get power plays, what the score of the game is, and what time of the game isthats important, said Neely. Maybe more so important than what the actual percentage of the power play is. I think we have the personnel that we can improve on the power play. There are some things well certainly discuss in the offseason about what we can do differently with the power play. I think its an area that absolutely needs improvement and we will improve on it.

Neely wants more movement and more life to a power play that becomes all-too predictable when it simply revolves around generating big shots from Zdeno Chara at the point. There isnt enough of a Marc Savard-like presence off the half-wall that can shoot, create offense by rushing the net or pass with the kind of lethal scoring ability that can keep opposing coaches up at night.

Its something were going to keep internal right now, but I just know it can better, said Neely when asked whether it was the coaching or player personnel he held as the culprit behind the power plays struggles. The player personnel is strong. Dont get me wrong. Its an area where we were okay during the regular season, but we started to fall off in the players and couldnt right the ship.

Its an area where players have to take responsibility as much as the coaching staff because its a privilege to be on the power play. Its certainly an area of the game that can make a difference between winning and losing. I watch a lot of hockey and a lot of power plays. What I see is a lot of movement. Obviously its about getting pucks down low, but its also about getting that puck movement and making the penalty killers work hard. When I look at good power plays thats what I see coming out of it.

Savard averaged 37 power play points a season for the Bruins during his first three years in Boston.

The leading power play guy this year for the Bruins was Zdeno Chara with 18 points, and Nathan Horton ranked third on the team in power play goals despite missing the final 36 games of the season.

Its one area where David Krejci has been a disappointment since first cracking the NHL despite a skill set that seems made for it.

Krejci appeared ready to replace Savards magical touch on the man advantage when concussions finally got the better of him, but that hasnt happened in three years. The Bruins PP has been run-of-the-mill at best, and an anchor dragging them down at its worst moments.

Perhaps it will be Tyler Seguin that finally breathes life into the unit with a versatile, elite set of offensive skills and the burgeoning experience and confidence needed to be a power play ace. Or maybe the Bruins can bring in an outside free agent influence like Zach Parise or Ryan Sutter to perk up the Bs man advantage.

Parise would have led the Bs with nine power play goals scored during the regular season, and Suters 25 points for the NHLs top-ranked power play unit blew away anybody on the Black and Gold.

But its not a difficult trick to make the Bs power play look so bad.

The challenge this summer is to make it something that will win the Bruins a playoff game or two next time around, and that will be doubly difficult if its the same group of players manning the unit next year.

Bruins take down Islanders, extend point streak to 15 games

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Bruins take down Islanders, extend point streak to 15 games

GOLD STAR: Who else but Patrice Bergeron? The Bruins center finishes with three goals and his second hat trick in a span of six games, and now has 11 goals scored in his last 11 games during a wicked goal-scoring spree. Bergeron clearly wasn’t just about the goals as he also finished with four shots on net and won 12-of-18 face-offs in his 15:39 of ice time, but it’s amazing how he’s been able to get into so many great scoring positions while always facing the other team’s best defensive players. It speaks to just how good he is when he gets those chances in the slot, and how good both Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are at getting the puck to him in the spots where he can do his offensive damage. Bergeron now has 19 goals on the season and continues to roll out some serious offensive numbers for a Bruins team that’s just destroying their opponents. Bergeron is the first Bruins player to score two hat tricks in the span of six games since Rick Tocchet did it in five games back in 1996 for the Black and Gold.  

BLACK EYE: The Barclays Center shouldn’t be housing NHL hockey games, and thankfully won’t be in the near future when the Isles move out of Brooklyn. That being said, it had to demoralize whatever fans have made the move to Brooklyn to see so many Bruins hats get tossed on the ice from Boston fans after Bergeron scored his third goal of the game. The Islanders games have always felt like de facto home games for the Black and Gold given the huge contingent of B’s fans that make the trip to New York for these games. But it’s all the more of a gut punch when it turns into those road warrior Bruins fans loudly and animatedly celebrating goals, wins and hat tricks in front of the Islanders players and coaches. That’s a tough spot for them to be in during what’s supposed to be a strong home ice presence, but that’s life at a Barclays Center that makes me pine for Nassau Coliseum. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins gave up the first goal of the game on a bad Brandon Carlo turnover in the D-zone, and it could have gone against them in the second night of a back-to-back on the road. But the Bruins dug in, reversed the momentum and instead found the Bergeron line to lead the way with their first goal scored in the game. After that they just continued to pour on the hard work, the offense and the Bergeron goals as he scored three overall and the Bruins rode the momentum wave into five goals and a strong finish in the third period. In two straight games the Bruins have given up the first goal, and it doesn’t even cause them to bat an eyelash. 

HONORABLE MENTION: On the second  night of a back-to-back game Zdeno Chara logged 25:32 of ice time, blocked four shots including a couple during a penalty kill that left him shaking his right hand in pain on the bench and threw three hits while holding the high-powered Islanders to just a couple of goals in the game. It wasn’t a particularly dazzling night of work for the 6-foot-9 defenseman, but the Isles really had limited offensive looks thanks to Chara playing big, strong and powerful in the defensive zone. The big ice time number is perhaps most impressive of all coming after Chara also played a big role in Boston’s win over the Habs at the Garden on Wednesday night. We’re still a long way away from Chara proving he can do this kind of thing night after night in the playoffs as a 40-year-old, but he showed a little something on Thursday night. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of consecutive games with a point for the Bruins as they’ve posted an 11-0-4 record over those games, and matched a 15-game point streak from the 2011-12 season in the year after they won the Cup. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I like the way we closed out the game in the third period. In a back-to-back there were issues at the beginning and ending of the game, and we fought through it and didn’t let the game get away from us. In the third period in their building they were going to make a push, and I thought we were really, really good in terms of generating the offense and keeping the puck away from the front of the net. I was proud of the guys for that. That was a good, strong finish.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN postgame about what we liked most in the 5-2 win over the Isles. 

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Bergeron notches hat trick as Bruins defeat Islanders, 5-2

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Bergeron notches hat trick as Bruins defeat Islanders, 5-2

NEW YORK - Patrice Bergeron scored three goals to lead Boston to a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night, giving the Bruins at least a point for the 15th consecutive game.

Brad Marchand had a goal and two assists as Boston improved to 11-0-4 since its last regulation loss Dec. 14 against Washington - its best stretch since going 15-0-1 from March 2-30, 2014. Ryan Spooner had a goal and an assist, and Anton Khudobin stopped 22 shots.

Jordan Eberle and John Tavares scored for New York, which has dropped seven of 10 - with each of the losses coming in regulation. Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves while facing fewer than 35 shots for the first time in his last 11 games.

Bergeron completed his third career hat trick - just 12 days after a four-goal, five-point night at home against Carolina - when he took a pass from Marchand, spun and fired the puck in from the left circle at 3:45 of the third period. It was his 19th goal of the season.

Tavares pulled the Islanders within two with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining with his 25th goal. Marchand capped the scoring with his 20th with just over a minute to go.

Boston won for the second straight night after giving up the first goal of the game in the first period. The Bruins did the same thing in a 4-1 win at home against Montreal on Wednesday night.

In this one, they took control with two goals in the second period and sealed it with two more in the third.

Spooner put Boston ahead 2-1 near the midpoint of the second. Off a faceoff in the Islanders' zone to Halak's left, Spooner backhanded the puck past the goalie for his seventh at 9:47.

Just 15 seconds after New York's Anders Lee was sent off for tripping, Bergeron extended the Bruins' lead to 3-1. After Torey Krug's initial shot went off Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech's leg, Bergeron got the puck on the right side and beat Halak for his 18th of the season with 6:11 left in the middle period. Krug got his 200th career assist.

Eberle got the Islanders on the scoreboard 7:35 into the game. Mathew Barzal intercepted Brandon Carlo's pass in the Bruins' zone and passed to a streaking Eberle, who beat Khudobin from the inside edge of the right circle for his 15th. Barzal got his 32nd assist and 47th point - both tops among all NHL rookies.

The Bruins tied it with 6:19 left in the first when Bergeron took a pass from Marchand and fired it past Halak from the inside edge of the right circle.

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