Bruins

Notes: B's attempt to cure ailing power play

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Notes: B's attempt to cure ailing power play

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the pass-happy antidote for what ailed the Bruins' power play once Marc Savard was down and out with another concussion.

Sure, it was solving the power-play problem with a player who was very different from Savard, but what could go wrong?

By removing a power-play specialist like Savard running things along the side of the formation and replacing him with a true power-play quarterback from the point spot, the Bruins were going outside the box a little bit.

Kaberles power-play track record was unquestioned, and it appeared hed form a dream team up top with Zdeno Chara for a series of blistering one-timers opening up chances for the forwards working around the net.

Instead its been exactly the opposite. The forwards have relaxed on the man advantage and perhaps put too much reliance in the KaberleChara connection. Ever since PK units started taking away Charas big shot, the Bruins' power play has sputtered to a stop.

Its a problem neither the coaches nor the on-ice personnel have been able to solve, and its beginning to look like a fatal flaw if they cant start figuring it out.

The Bruins are 0-for-11 in three playoff games on the power play, and Boston is a pitiful 7-for-77 on the PP since Kaberle arrived in Boston 27 games ago in a deal that sent Joe Colborne, a first-round pick and a conditional draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thats a 9 percent success rate . . . or a 91 percent failure rate, if youre a pessimistic voice around the Bs brigade.

There have been whispers the 33-year-old Kaberle didnt arrive in Boston in the greatest conditioning shape, and he certainly hasnt done anything to quell criticism of game since he donned a Black and Gold sweater.

General manager Peter Chiarelli was asked point blankWednesday morning if Kaberle and the newly constructed Bs power playhave been disappointing since Kaberle's February arrival, and the GMwasnt pulling any punches.

Has he been a disappointment? He hasnt played up to the level that we expected, said Chiarelli during a radio interview with 98.5 the Sports Hubs Toucher and Rich Show. There have been parts of his game where he hasnt played in the playoffs for a while, and some of those bad habits have stuck with him. We expected better.

If Montreals penalty-kill unit has managed to squelch the Kaberle-to-Chara connection then that should create plenty of room for the rest of the new-look first power play unit.

But that hasnt happened at all.

Its a lot of everything. Weve just got to move the puck a little better and a get a little less predictable, said coach Claude Julien. I say that all the time. If were standing around then we get very easy to defend against.

The guys have to be moving a little bit more and create a little bit more insecurity for the PK. Right now we havent been doing that well enough. If they want to take away the Chara one-timer then other options should be opening up. Its up to us to make them work.

During Wednesday's practice, Julien and power-play architect Geoff Ward opted to insert Patrice Bergeron as a gritty, active body down low near the net along with Milan Lucic as David Krejci moves it off the half-wall. Bergeron called it a tune up for the man advantage after practice, but it was more than that.

Perhaps it was the sweet Bergeron-to-Krejci connection for Bostons first goal in Montreal in Game 3 that inspired the change, or simply that Bergeron is winning battles all over the ice. Either way it means Nathan Horton is off the power play, and the rest of the Bruins are given the task of creating more chances around the net with their skill forwards.

Bergeron has been Bostons best forward over the first three games, and its high time they get his hands, strong stick and fearlessness onto the power play team.

Its the same old thing. Youve got to get ugly. We see the video. We see what theyre doing and now weve got to execute, said Recchi, who skated with the second power-play unit along with Michael Ryder, Brad Marchand, Rich Peverley, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference. Weve got to shoot it at the right time, and weve got to pass it at the right time. Youve got to have support all over the ice, and all it takes is one ugly goal to really get things going. Hopefully things will turn for us."

The playoff familiarity means opponents have scouted the power-play formations and know a teams predictable patterns, but that also means a team like Boston can cross the Canadiens up with something out of the ordinary. Something as simple as point players slipping toward the net on a backdoor play, or forwards rotating spots down low could give a penalty kill unit that little bit of needed uncertainty.

I dont play with him very much with Chara because Im on a different unit, but they really do try to take away that one time shot for the most part, said Recchi. That means there are 4-on-3s everywhere else on the ice. With movement youve got to be able to 2-on-1 people all over the ice and youve got to go at people creating 2-on-1s.

If you do that then youre going to be better off. Eventually those things open up. Zee opens up for the shot and its there, but youve got to show them you do other things before theyll start respecting it. Then youll start finding shots all over the ice.

The only positive: The Bruins and Kaberle cant get much worse on the power play than theyve been during the first three games against Montreal.

Also, the Bruins are not allowing the Canadiens to score on special teams, either.

Chara indicated that hes feeling much better when he was asked multiple times about his health and the virus that caused him to suffer from severe dehydration prior to Game 2 in Boston. The big defenseman played 26-plus minutes and took advantage of a pair of days between games to gather strength and ready himself for a dramatic Game Four at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Its always a physical game, said Chara. The playoffs are always physical. You have to find the balance between being relaxed and finding your focus in Lake Placid.

The Bruins left the Olympic Center at Lake Placid following Wednesdays practice and rolled up Route 87 via bus for the two-hour ride back to Montreal, and Julien said he felt the team had accomplished all it had hoped for. While the Bs considered Burlington, Vermont and several Canadian outposts before opting for the Lake Placid locale, the ultimate choice by Julien, Chiarelli, Cam Neely and the rest of the Bs front office was a wise one.

What we wanted to accomplish was to come down here, get a little rest and have a quality practice and then head back to Montreal, said Julien. I saw guys walking around yesterday and they seemed really relaxed. Thats the best way to keep yourself fresh for the playoffs. We enjoyed the few days we spent here. It was a positive trip.

Horton feels like hes calmed down a bit after getting a couple of playoff games under his belt, and notching the goal in Game 3 has certainly helped him. There was some thought Horton hurt his collarbone area at the end of the game, but said he was fine and ready to go.

Its exciting for us and exciting to be a part of, said Horton. Were looking forward to the challenge of Game 4.

We played at times the way we wanted to play, and sometimes we let off. You can tell when were playing good and playing with confidence and playing relaxed. Its about putting pucks in the right places, and thats how we want to play.

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

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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