BOSTON – The Bruins power play has been the NHL’s worst pretty much all season, but their much maligned man advantage dropped to new lows against the Rangers on Saturday night.
Some of it was about being a bit too over-aggressive and some of it was attributable to the pure speed of New York’s penalty kill that was attacking them, but the Bruins allowed a pair of unforgivable shorthanded goals in 5-2 loss to the Blueshirts. Combine a power play goal allowed to the Rangers with the two shorties given up by the struggling B’s power play unit, and it was a special teams implosion dooming the Bruins against their Eastern Conference rivals.
RANGERS 5, BRUINS 2:
- Backes knocks off the rust in return to Bruins lineup
- Rangers score two shorthanded goals, beat Bruins, 5-2
- Highlights: New York Rangers 5, Boston Bruins 2
- Talking Points: Rough night defensively for David Krejci
With each passing day that the special teams are a problem for the Black and Gold, it becomes more and more a point of frustration.
“We weren’t executing and we were missing some plays. We were overaggressive maybe on. . . we were obviously [over-aggressive] by giving up odd man rushes like that. So, we’ve got to play our position and I don’t think we did that on all the power plays tonight,” said Patrice Bergeron of a PP unit that’s 3-for-38 on the season for a grotesque 7.9 percent success rate. “We wanted to build from the Tampa game. I thought Tampa was the way we want to execute on the power play. Tonight we missed a few chances, but still we gave up two goals. It’s not even close to what we can accomplish. It’s actually hurting the team right now. It’s about us finding a way and being better.”
Things were actually pretty good for the Bruins during 5-on-5 play against the Rangers, and the first half of the first period was strong for the Black and Gold hot on the heels of their season-high three game winning streak. But things began going off the rails for the Bruins shortly after they were awarded their first power play, and Michael Grabner made a momentum-shifting play sparking an odd-man Rangers attack.
That was followed in the second period by the real back-breaking shorthanded score dropping just a couple of minutes into the middle period. Torey Krug missed on a wide open net chance that was bothered a bit by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, and then moments later a Patrice Bergeron shot off the glass turned into a 3-on-1 breakaway with only Krug left to try and stop things. It looked like Austin Czarnik was caught a little too deep in the offensive zone once the puck took a wilder bounced off the end board glass, and that allowed Kevin Hayes to beat Rask five hole with a shorthanded snipe that effectively punched the B’s in the gut.
In both shorthanded goals there was a bit of a bounce that went against the Bruins, but it was all about Boston’s power play groups not being prepared enough for the Rangers speed coming at them on the penalty kill.
“I think it’s coming from a good place of wanting to capitalize on the power play, and maybe leaning a little bit too far on the offensive side of things. But they’re a team that…they look for those opportunities. They look for that loose puck, and the other guy’s already taking off, and it’s two shorthanded goals for them,” said David Backes. “I think they had another two-on-one and another breakaway that Tuukka [Rask] stopped.
“So you certainly don’t want your special teams to be losing games for you, especially on the power play giving up shorties. It’s a focus area that we need to be better in as a whole group, and that needs to be something that strikes fear in an opponent when we get a power play. They need to not be taking liberties, or they need to be worried about taking penalties, because our power play is a threat to them. Right now I don’t think that’s the case, and we’ve got to turn that tide and make it so.”
So what can be done to fix things outside of trading for a puck-moving, power play quarterback like Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues, for example?
The Bruins have to hope that Backes will be a puck-retrieving beast in the offensive end for power plays once he knocks the rust off, and that players like Krug and Krejci begin producing at their customary levels on the man advantage. But Saturday night was also a good reminder that the Bruins need to guard against giving opponents Grade A chances while operating shorthanded, and need to balance that with the requirement they start living up to their power play potential offensively.
“It’s not realizing that you still have to defend when you don’t have the puck and you can’t get lackadaisical. I think we did that tonight,” said Claude Julien. “I don’t know if I want to call it sloppy – it definitely hurt our game tonight and our chances -- but that was probably in my mind the biggest issue for a hockey game when we talk about what happened [against the Rangers.]”
So much of success in the NHL these days is based on healthy, strong special teams units. The Bruins will have a difficult time winning if they can’t start finding ways to build positive momentum, and pop in a few power play goals, when the calls are going their way.