Bruins power play not looking for repeat performance

576568.jpg

Bruins power play not looking for repeat performance

WILMINGTON The Bruins arent sensitive about many topics.

But the power play just might be the soft white underbelly for the Big Bad Bruins, and its something they worked on diligently during Tuesdays day of practice at Ristuccia Arena.

The Bruins ended the regular season in the middle of the NHL pack with a 17.1-percent success rate on their man advantage, but they also finished the season in a 2-for-21 rut as they readied for the playoffs. It certainly wasnt the eyesore that last years power play was, but it didnt exactly register as a certifiable team strength, either.

It definitely was frustrating when there were times last year when we couldnt even gain the zone on a power play, said Milan Lucic. It kind of sucks the life out of the team and you get into a lull right afterward. Hopefully we can rectify it this year and it wont be the problem that it was last year.

Whats the key to turning things around during this years postseason rather than going 2-for-37 on the man advantage as they did during the first two rounds against the Habs and Flyers last season?

Not waiting until the Cup Finals, said Claude Julien, who saw his team pull out a seven-game series against the Habs despite going 0-for-21 on the man advantage. That would be one key. Its a little bit of a touchy subject for everybody for quite a while. We finished 15th, so we finished middle of the pack this year. But when you look at our team you see weve got one guy with 29 goals and one guy with 28. Our scoring is spread out.

We dont have those Stamkos kind of guys. A lot of our goals are about that were a grinding team vs. a highly skilled team. Just because of that it makes it a little harder for us to score the amount of goals that certain other teams do.

But Julien said even if the Bruins dont light it up when they go offense on special teams, its all about keeping things close to even. If their PK unit can beat down the other teams skill players on their power plays, then a high-wattage Bs power play unit becomes much less required.

Last year if I look back at the Finals we ran into the No. 1 power play, but they ran into a gritty group of penalty killers. At the end of the day we were able to win that matchup. It goes hand-in-hand, said Julien. We work on it every day because we know its an area that becomes a challenge for us. But if you look at the final stats of teams there are a lot of teams below us in power play success rate that you would expect to be above us.

This year I found our power play to be better when it came to bringing it up, breaking in and spending time in the offensive zone. The biggest issue our team faced in the playoffs is the finishing. You look at the scoring chances at the end of the night, and our power play did everything but score. Its not as bad a situation as many people think, but at the same time we would like our power play to finish a little better in the playoffs.

All that being said, though, the Capitals were 21st in penalty kill percentage during the regular season, and should be weak enough to be exploited.

It appears that Joe Corvo is going to get the call for the Black and Gold as one of their top six defensemen in place of the injured Adam McQuaid, and hell man the right point spot opposite Zdeno Chara. David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brian Rolston were the three forwards down closer to the net on the first power play unit.

Meanwhile Dennis Seidenberg and Rich Peverley were the point men on the second power play team with Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand rounding out the power play quintet.

Seguin was a big difference-maker with the second-most power play points (15) on the Bs behind Zdeno Charas team-best 18 points and eight power play goals. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron all scored five or more power play goals, but they will miss the PP production of Nathan Horton. The right wing had six power play goals in only 46 games, and was a legit weapon for rebounds and tips right around the net.

We just need to do whatever we can to create shots, make crisp passes and find options when theyre there, said Lucic. More than anything else we just need to bear down and score when the chances are there. Its all a mindset. That has to be our mindset going into it.

So they will rely on the balance, depth and grinding grit that symbolized the Bruins way of playing hockey. It wont be pretty, finesse special teams work.

But it was good enough to win them a Cup last season while crapping out most of the time, and that cant happen two years in a row.

Right?

Report: Cubs, Yankees agree on Aroldis Chapman trade

yankees-aroldis-chapman.jpg

Report: Cubs, Yankees agree on Aroldis Chapman trade

By Bill Baer, NBCSports.com Hardball Talk

Update (12:28 PM EDT): CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports that 22-year-old outfielder Rashad Crawford is also headed to the Yankees. Crawford is not ranked among the Cubs’ best prospects. This season, at Single-A Myrtle Beach, he has hit .255/.327/.386 with 29 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 59 runs scored in 370 plate appearances.

*
The deal between the Cubs and Yankees involving closer Aroldis Chapman, first reported on Sunday, is complete according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports' Today’s Knuckleball. The Cubs will get Chapman while the Yankees will receive infield prospect Gleyber Torres, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, pitcher Adam Warren, and one more as yet unnamed player. Despite what yesterday’s report indicated, there is no contract extension for Chapman, so he can become a free agent after the season.

Torres, 19, is rated the Cubs’ #1 prospect and #24 overall in baseball by MLB Pipeline. The shortstop has spent the season with Single-A Myrtle Beach, batting .275/.359/.433 with nine home runs, 47 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 409 plate appearances. The Cubs, however, already have Addison Russell at shortstop and have middle infield prospect Ian Happ.

McKinney, 21, is the Cubs’ #5 prospect and #75 overall in baseball. This season, with Double-A Tennessee, he has put up a .252/.355/.322 triple-slash line with 16 extra-base hits, 31 RBI and 37 runs scored in 349 PA. He suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee last year, which might explain why he’s been a bit lackluster with the bat this season.

Warren, 28, is a former Yankee as the club sent him to the Cubs in the Starlin Castro trade over the winter. He’s been unremarkable in one start and 28 relief appearances for the Cubs, posting a 5.91 ERA with a 27/19 K/BB ratio in 35 innings. Warren, earning $1.7 million this season, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining.

Since returning to the Yankees, Chapman has recorded 20 saves in 21 chances with a 2.01 ERA and a 44/8 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Andrew Miller will likely move into the closer’s role with Dellin Betances setting up the eighth inning for the Yankees.

Chapman, 28, served a 30-game suspension beginning at the start of the regular season due to an offseason incident during which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired off eight gunshots in his garage. The police didn’t file official charges.

Follow @Baer_Bill on Twitter. 

 

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: The Top 2

top_100_plays_1-2.png

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: The Top 2

We're down to the Top 2. 

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 2

THE YEAR: 2014

THE GAME: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

THE PLAY: Malcolm Butler picks off Russell Wilson at goal line to save Super Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Is it the biggest defensive play in NFL history? You’d have a tough time making a case for any play to be ranked ahead of it. The play itself – Malcolm Butler sniffing out a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette on second-and-goal from the 1 with 26 seconds left – was a singularly great football play. The historical importance of it to the Patriots franchise in delivering a fourth Super Bowl title and preventing a third straight Super Bowl loss is even more far-reaching. It’s a play that symbolized a lot of things the Patriots under Bill Belichick have been about. It symbolized that it doesn’t matter how you got to the Patriots, it mattered what you did when you got there. Butler, an undrafted rookie who made the team in a tryout the previous spring, was on the field because another undrafted player, Kyle Arrington was getting lit up. A bold move but one that had to be made. It symbolized preparation and attention to detail. During the week of practice leading up to the game, Butler arrived late when the Patriots scout team offense ran the play and Jimmy Garoppolo beat Butler with a throw to Josh Boyce. The play needed to be sniffed out – it was by Butler and Brandon Browner – then executed with a great jam by Browner and an unhesitating break by Butler. It symbolized maintaining poise, which the Patriots had to do after the ridiculous juggling catch by Jermaine Kearse put Seattle on the brink of victory. It symbolized a measure of risk-taking and coaching by feel, as Bill Belichick eschewed a timeout and let the Seahawks run the play. That the coaches locking brains at the point – Belichick and his predecessor in New England, Pete Carroll – added another chapter to the backstory. You could write a book about this play.  

PLAY NUMBER: 1

THE YEAR: 2001

THE GAME: Jets, Patriots

THE PLAY: Mo Lewis changes course of NFL history with sideline hit on Drew Bledsoe

WHY IT’S HERE: While the Butler interception at No. 2 cemented legacies and places in history, the play at the top of this list was the one that started it all. If you paid attention to what Tom Brady was doing in training camp practices and preseason games (30-for-51 for 390 yards) and contrasted it with Bledsoe’s performances (so underwhelming he played the bulk of the fourth preseason game and went 14-for-22), you could see the gap between $100 million franchise quarterback and sixth-round afterthought was closing. But even with the Patriots losing at Cincy to open the season and Bledsoe playing  poorly against the Jets, it was still going to be very difficult for Bill Belichick to press the eject button on Bledsoe. The team was building a new stadium and Bledsoe was the hood ornament for the franchise. With ownership trying to sell luxury suites and sponsorships, benching the only marketable player for the worst team in the league might not be prudent. Then Mo Lewis intervened. With 5:19 remaining and the Patriots trailing 10-3, Bledsoe was flushed to the right on a third-and-10 from the Patriots 19. As he neared the sticks, Bledsoe saw Lewis coming and slowed to go out of bounds, then seemed to remember it was third down and he needed to push forward. Lewis had all the momentum and his devastating hit sheared an artery in Bledsoe’s chest and gave him a concussion. It was a terrible injury that caused internal bleeding and put Bledsoe in some touchy moments in the hospital. And that’s what sucked. Here was a solid person of good character with a young family who’d given a lot for the franchise (albeit for a handsome paycheck) and now he was seriously hurt. But what happened in Bledsoe’s absence only confirmed what many suspected. He was an impediment to winning. It was that simple. I don’t doubt for a moment Brady would have eventually taken Bledsoe’s job even if the injury hadn’t occurred. It might have been that week anyway Bledsoe was so ineffective against the Jets. But the course of the 2001 season wouldn’t have been the same and almost certainly wouldn’t have ended with Bledsoe hoisting a Lombardi in the Superdome on Feb. 3, 2002.