Bruins

Morning Skate 525: Chara finds power in front

Morning Skate 525: Chara finds power in front

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comTAMPA The Bruins have been in a power play funk for the entire postseason, and it hasnt been any better since the Bs took the ice against Tampa Bay Lightning while mired in a 2-for-19 funk against the Bolts.The Bruins penalty kill has bailed them out in the series, but its needed to be brilliant in order to offset the PP.The Bruins cant set up, they have no speed through the zones to throw Tampa Bay on their heels and their PP entries are stale, predictable and playing into a forward group not working hard enough for the puck. It makes little sense that puck retrieval is more of an issue during the PP than on 5-on-5 play, but thats exactly whats happening with the Bruins right now.There is no set up for Tomas Kaberle to distribute the puck and not enough chances for Zdeno Chara to wind up and blast away with his 105.9 missile. All of this really comes as an indictment on both the players and coaches designing and executing whats become a special teams debacle. Pretty much everyone inside and outside the organization has had suggestions or bright ideas to great creative with a status quo that clearly isnt working but nothing has worked for PP architect Geoff Ward and the rest of the Bs coaching staff struggling for PP answers.So the Bruins finally deployed their secret weapon and broached their last PP frontier in Mondays Game Four when they plopped Zdeno Chara in front of the net. The 6-foot-9 Captain will usually venture closer to the net during the final 60-90 seconds of a game with the goaltender pulled and the Bruins are trailing and has been used to mix things up on a stale power play from time to time in seasons past.The Bs finally brought out the secret 6-foot-9 weapon on Monday night, and theres a good chance more will be up-coming tonight in an elimination game.Claude Julien said the Bruins would possibly employ that strategy again in Game Six against the Bolts, but there needed to be a better work ethic by the rest of the PP unit to take advantage of it. Forwards need to start hunting pucks and winning one-on-one battles for anything else to matter.I think I liked what he did last game in front of the net, said Julien. But hes only going to be useful in front of the net if we put him there, if we get control of the puck and if we get some shots on net. The first few power plays we didnt really get control of the puck and it didnt mater who was in front at that point. I didnt mind what he did and I think we need to see how this game unfolds. But its certainly a possibility.Chara didnt really camp his big body down low near the net until the conference finals this season, but its been a welcome sight for the Bruins. Mike Smith admitted after Game Four that Chara is a tall drink of water while blocking out vision lines for the goaltender, and it cant ever make life easy for goaltenders of all shapes, sizes and preferences.He is a tall drink of water, said Smith. Obviously he is there for a reason, to try and get in my face and not let me see it. You have to fight and battle to find the pucks.Its pretty simple: you cant stop what you cant see, and theres a lot that goaltenders cant see when Chara puts his mind to screening things. That will be Dwayne Rolosons challenge in Game Six after the Bruins couldnt capitalize on the man advantage Monday night while Chara was blocking out the sun by the goal line.That is provided they can execute just a little better on the man advantage this time around.On to the links:The Senators Extra blog says that the jury is still out on who won the Dany Heatley deal between San Jose and Ottawa. I would have guessed the team that made the playoffs versus the team that didnt but thats just silly old me.A top 10 video list of Tim Thomas saves throughout his career thats required viewing for any Bruins fan.Pierre Lebrun sets the scene in the San Jose losing locker room after the Sharks truly put it all out there in the postseason, but still couldnt find a way into the Stanley Cup Finals.Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov might be packing up and headed back to the KHL according to this Russian report. Warning: Google translator is a must on this one.USA Todays Kevin Allen writes that Lightning ownership has led the way to their franchises return to the respectability and later on to the playoffs.Sporting News scribe and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance gets a hold on the new compensation adjustments for offer sheets submitted toNHL restricted free agents with a quality crop hitting the market this summer.The Globe and Mail has the story of the Vancouver Canucks opening up their arena for Stanley Cup Finals viewing sessions when their team is on the road. Wouldnt it be cool if the TD Garden could do the same?SI.coms Stu Hackel says that Bostons special teams are making the difference against the Lightning, and hes absolutely right. Its just perhaps not the special teams that you thought it might be.A good look at the 1991 Stanley Cup champs in Pittsburgh that marked the end of an era in the NHL and gave Mark Recchi his first taste of championship glory.The Edmonton Journal is weighing its options when it comes to Sheldon Souray and his albatross of a contract that the team is still paying off.

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

GOLD STAR: Who else but Anton Khudobin? The Bruins backup netminder improved to 6-0-2 on the season and upped his NHL-leading save percentage to .938 while making 40 saves in a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. Khudobin was outstanding stoning players like Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman on breakaways, and stood tall in the third period while the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and ended up tying the game. Even better Khudobin was super-competitive in the shootout where he was challenging shooters, and even stared down Hischier after he poke-checked the puck away from him on his attempt. The Bruins don’t win Wednesday night’s game without Khudobin playing the way he did, and that should pretty much guarantee that he plays again on Friday afternoon against the Penguins.

BLACK EYE: One shot and one hit in 8:28 of ice time for Jimmy Hayes in his first game against his old Bruins team, so pretty much par for the course from the underachieving big guy. Hayes has scored a couple of goals for the Devils this season, but he’s been mostly the same as in the past with sporadic scoring, intermittent tough guy play in the danger areas and then long stretches where you don’t even notice the 6-foot-6 guy out on the ice. Of the two ex-Bruins forwards going up against their old team tonight, Drew Stafford was by far the better of the two with three shots on net and at least one pretty decent scoring chance among them after stealing a puck from Frank Vatrano.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins set things up for their shootout win with a strong opening first period when it came to finishing off plays. Yes, they were outshot by a 15-10 margin, but they also made two big plays with Jake DeBrusk scoring a goal and then David Pastrnak setting up Patrice Bergeron for his fifth goal of the season. Beyond that Anton Khudobin also stopped 14 pucks in the first period that included a number of scoring chances for the Devils, and it showed what the Bruins are capable of when they’re on the right side of some key plays early in the game. Sure, the Devils clawed their way back in, but the Bruins felt like they had the game in control because of the work they put in during the first period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy led all skaters with a game-high 27:04 of ice time, and played a strong game while totaling three shots on net and three blocked shots. But he saved the real good stuff for the 11th round of the shootout when he threw a nifty stick move at Cory Schneider, and then roofed a backhanded attempt in tight and close to the net. The McAvoy shootout move begged the question why it took so long to get to him, but also mercifully closed out a shootout session that felt like it could have gone on forever between the Bruins and Devils. The finishing move from the 19-year-old was pure, unadulterated skill with the puck.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first NHL career point for Matt Grzelcyk arrived in the first period when he picked up an assist on a lead pass off the boards that freed Jake DeBrusk up for a goal-scoring rush.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the end of a road trip, so give the guys credit. They dug down deep and found a way to get the two points.” – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy,  

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