Bruins

Boston, we have a power-play problem

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Boston, we have a power-play problem

NEW YORK – One byproduct of the massive amount of injuries that have removed three of the Bruins top offensive options up front: Their high-powered power play is hitting hard times with new personnel at a time when the B's need it to come through more than ever.

The Bruins power play went 0-for-4 in the 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and is now 1-for-13 in November with David Backes, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner missing from the PP units.

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Clearly, the Bruins are trying to make the adjustment to different personnel, but losing some of your best finishers is going to show up in the results for any team’s power play. It’s forced the Bruins into giving a player with zero points (Matt Beleskey) the sixth-most PP time in the game vs. the Rangers, and another player who's only played four games with the Bruins (Jordan Szwarz) over a minute of PP time as well.  

Compounding that was Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron passing up clear shots at the net to make the extra pass. That’s something the Bruins shouldn’t be doing on the PP right now.

“It’s not perfect, and it’s not pretty for sure. But we’ll work on that, for sure, and as we build that chemistry we’ll start making those pretty plays. But for right now we need to get back to the basics and out-working a group of four. We have the extra guy, so we should always come up with loose pucks and things like that,” said Torey Krug. “You’re missing [Ryan Spooner], who calms it down and you’re missing [Brad Marchand], who wins a lot of those battles to hold onto pucks.

“They’re two important guys, but we have guys that are capable of filling those spots. We just need to get back to how it was working well.”

The problems haven’t always been the same for Boston’s man-advantage. Against Washington, it was the zone entries that were a major problem and contributed to the B’s wasting a key four-minute power play in the third period. Against the Rangers, it was both a lack of finish and an inability to consistently win puck battles while keeping possession down low.

All of that takes the pressure off opponents’ penalty-kill units and takes away plenty of the precision and pop from a Boston man-advantage that is still ranked sixth in the NHL with a 23.5 percent success rate.

“You want to get results on that, and right now we’re not getting it,” said Bruce Cassidy of the PP, which couldn’t cash in on a pair of PP chances in the third period against the Rangers. “Not scoring is frustrating, but we’ve got to keep pushing. Getting one on special teams probably would have got us a point tonight.”

So what can the Bruins do about it?

It’s probably about a change in mindset until the healthy, skilled bodies get back into the lineup. That means simplifying and scoring by any means necessary, whether it’s crashing the net or using tips and redirections to better effect.

“It comes back to playing simple hockey. I think we’re looking for the perfect play, and an effective power play is just finding a way to score a goal. It doesn’t matter how it [is scored],” said Patrice Bergeron. “Right now if it’s to keep things simple and go to the front, and have more bodies to find the rebounds then so be it. I think we have to take it upon ourselves to just simplify things and go from there after that.”

It is easier said than done with the injuries Boston is fighting through right now, but the Bruins will need to find a way with a “we are what we are right now” group, according to Cassidy. 

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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