Bruins

Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

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Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

BOSTON – The Bruins have to hope the ugly look for their power play units ends up being a temporary phase.

The Bruins managed to put together just six shots on net in seven power play chances during Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, a situation that was just barely salvaged by a third-period power play goal. The score was a timely one on a connection from David Pastrnak to Brad Marchand that pushed things into overtime, but it did little to wipe out the monumental struggles earlier in the game.

The Bruins couldn’t cohesively get the puck in the offensive zone, and plenty of their team-high 22 giveaways in the game took place in the handful of instances they were rewarded with PP’s this season.

Couple that with the back-to-back shorthanded goals allowed in back-to-back games against Detroit and Washington, and there may be some issues to be straightened out on the man advantage.

“Early on, I thought the pressure in zone, we weren’t able to handle it. They were more aggressive on the kill than we were ready for, and we just did not handle it well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had a couple plays in mind we thought might work down low around the net. I think we forced the puck on those down by the goal line, so we spent a lot of time going back into our own end and breaking the puck out, which becomes frustrating.

“We tried to run a delayed play tonight; we were out of sync on it. So, there was problems getting into the zone and there were problems in the zone. There was problems, I mean, whoever watched the game clearly – I mean, we struggled on the power play. We’re not going to hide from that, but it got us a goal later, so we eventually kind of got it squared away but we certainly had opportunities early to take advantage and we didn’t.”

The overall performance during the month of December isn’t that bad for the Bruins, who are 6-for-26 (23 percent success rate) on the power play in the games played this month. They’ve been getting more production with better health, but they’re also playing a little too fast and loose with the puck management and decision-making on the ice.  

Brad Marchand admitted after Saturday night’s loss that it’s up to the Bruins players to start picking it up on special teams and make some better choices with the puck.

“It’s on us. We’re forcing plays when they’re not there. Maybe we need to realize we have an extra second, need to calm it down a bit. When we do that, we are at our best that’s kind of when things go well,” said Marchand. “When we take that extra second, we have good support and read off each other well. We aren’t doing any of that now, we are pressing a bit, but something we need to work on and get better at.”

Perhaps that Marchand goal can be the rallying point for the Bruins power play to move on and move out with all the proper personnel healthy and in place with Ryan Spooner, and just a good, old-fashioned confidence-booster acting as the only thing that can quickly lift the Black and Gold man advantage out of their current status in the dumps.

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Bruins call up Peter Cehlarik, could give him look on Krejci line

Bruins call up Peter Cehlarik, could give him look on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – After a night where Bruce Cassidy was mixing and matching forwards to try and find something workable on the second and third lines, the Bruins will turn to another young option on the wing. The Bruins called up Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik on Tuesday and the big winger practiced with David Krejci and David Pastrnak while Brad Marchand (maintenance), Patrice Bergeron (maintenance), Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Chris Wagner (under the weather) were missing from the practice ice at Warrior Ice Arena.

The 23-year-old Cehlarik has been on a scoring tear with the Providence Bruins, and has put together a solid season with 10 goals and 29 points in 37 AHL games while pushing for another look at the NHL level. Cehlarik had a strong training camp before falling short of making the big club while other young wingers like Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato ended up breaking camp with the team.

After switching all of those young wingers around looking for a permanent top-6 winger for the Krejci line and giving David Backes a chance over the last few games, now it’s going to be Cehlarik’s turn after waiting a half-season for it.

“The Cehlarik [move] is just a tweak of a guy playing really well in Providence that could fill that spot with Krejci,” said Bruce Cassidy, who pointed out puck management as the biggest area he’s needed to work on during his past call-ups with the Bruins. “So we’ll probably look at that, but other than that we don’t want to blow everything up [with our line combinations].”

Cehlarik has a total of a goal and four points in 17 NHL games with the Bruins over the last few years, and seems to be well aware that now is the time for him if he’s going to carve out a niche for himself in Boston. He’s expected to start aside Krejci on the second line, and that should give him a chance to succeed if he’s going to in his third stint with the B’s in three seasons.

“You work your way back, and think about what you need to do to get back up here. I’m good to go now and I’m ready to go. There are things you need to do in order to stick around, you know?” said Cehlarik. “I need to be more consistent and stay healthy, and I think I’m in the right direction. I’m happy and excited to be here.

“Krejci wants to play with the puck and I love that. I love to play in the O-zone with the puck positioning, and trying to make plays. I really enjoyed my first year when we played a couple of games together. But it’s a new year and a new chance, and I want to be better than I was before.”

Perhaps the Bruins can strike lighting with Cehlarik, who is a bit of a different profile than Boston’s other young forwards with his 6-foot-2 frame, strong puck possession skills, and size/strength qualities to play a little more of the power forward game. But in all likelihood this is just the Bruins running through another organizational option before they need to turn outside the team for a trade solution to what’s been a roster issue for the last couple of seasons.  

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Bruins may target Blues' Brayden Schenn or Vladimir Tarasenko in trade

Bruins may target Blues' Brayden Schenn or Vladimir Tarasenko in trade

BOSTON -- Perhaps some of it was because the Bruins will be hosting their team at TD Garden on Thursday night. Perhaps some of it was about their scouting the Montreal Canadiens.

But whatever the reason, the St. Louis Blues had a group of talent evaluators at TD Garden Monday night for the Bruins-Canadiens game – vice president of hockey operations Dave Taylor, assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Billy Armstrong, and pro scout Kevin McDonald –- while the Bruins scouting staff has spent the last few days meeting in Boston as well.

Certainly the Blues -- second-to-last in the Western Conference and certain to be sellers at the trade deadline -- could be looking at both Bruins and Habs players, since both Boston and Montreal are jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. St. Louis is expected to make a number of veterans available ahead of the deadline, and several hockey sources say forward Brayden Schenn is someone who interests the Bruins. But perhaps the B's are aiming even higher, with Vladimir Tarasenko rumored to be available.

Schenn would undoubtedly be a versatile, rugged fit for the Bruins as a center coming off a career-high 28 goals and 70 points last season. He’s also a hard-nosed type who could add size, strength and versatility to Boston’s forward group.

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Tarasenko, on the other hand, would be a home run for any NHL team. He hasn’t scored fewer than 33 goals or 66 points in any of the last four seasons and would be the kind of game-breaker who could transform Boston’s second line into a bona-fide weapon. He'd immediately make the Bruins a much more serious contender.

It was apparent once again in Monday night’s loss that the B’s still are in need of another top-6 offensive forward. Despite Bruce Cassidy mixing and matching players on the second and third lines, the team still managed to scrape up only two goals on 43 shots.

The coach admitted after the loss he’s trying to find some high-performing forwards to pair with a motivated David Krejci, who has scored goals in three straight games and is poised for a big second half if the Bruins can provide him with wingers who'll finish off plays.

“I think [Krejci] has played really good hockey for us this year, whoever’s been on his wings, so you don’t want to lose him if, say, his linemates aren’t going well,” said Cassidy. “So we mix someone else in there. Then you get behind and you think, well, maybe you have to use [a] more offensive-minded [player], say [Ryan] Donato, who’s scored some goals, who . . . when [he] gets a chance can bury it.

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“It’s a bit of the thought process in there. And then if we feel like a guy’s just not committed, then that’s a message usually to a younger guy.”

Both Schenn and Tarasenko are signed beyond this season and thus would cost far more in trade assets than a rental. It remains to be seen what St. Louis would be looking for, beyond perhaps a first-round pick and B's prospect (and St. Louis native) Trent Frederic. It would make sense that either Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk could be available, as Urho Vaakanainen doesn’t appear too far away from regular duty in the NHL after a promising performance for Team Finland at the World Junior tournament.

We'll see if Bruins GM Don Sweeney changes course a little bit this season and gets aggressive with an early deal ahead of the rush at the deadline. But the big Blues presence is a sign they’re at least taking a closer look at an awfully big, and needed, upgrade.

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