Bruins power play not looking for repeat performance

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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?

OFFSEASON

Celtics interested in bringing back big man Kris Humphries

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Celtics interested in bringing back big man Kris Humphries

BOSTON – CSNNE.com has learned that the Celtics have had discussions about bringing Kris Humphries back to Boston for a second tour of duty.

No deal is imminent because the Celtics’ focus remains on trying to land at least one of their top three free agent targets – Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Atlanta’s Al Horford and Houston’s Dwight Howard.

Durant has a list of six teams that he will consider signing with, although all indications at this point see the perennial All-Star returning to Oklahoma City with a “1+1” deal which would give him the flexibility to opt-out of the second year and do this free agency process all over again.

Horford and Howard seem more realistic options for the Celtics, although Boston will face steep competition when it comes to signing either one of them.

With Humphries, the Celtics would add a familiar face to the roster who when he did play for Boston, was productive.

In his lone season with the Celtics (2013-2014), Humphries averaged 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game while shooting a career-high 50.1 percent from the field.

His play was strong enough to earn him a three-year, $13 million deal from the Washington Wizards.

During his time with the Celtics, Humphries was more than just a solid performer.

He was a veteran who was in and out of the lineup, but never grumbled about his inconsistent minutes.

But when the opportunity arose to play, Humphries was consistently ready to perform.

In practices, he would often stay after and run end-to-end sprints with the younger players.

It was the kind of stealth leadership that Brad Stevens needed from inside the locker room in what was Stevens’ first season as an NBA coach.

But the interest in Humphries now is two-fold.

First and foremost, he would provide some much-needed depth along the frontline. And with him being more of a stretch big now (108 of his 134 career 3s taken came last season), he fits the versatility mold that Stevens and the Celtics want from all their players.

And maybe just as significant, Humphries could provide talent while not necessarily needing a long-term deal to join the Celtics. Humphries was thought to have been a player who could command a deal starting at around $10 million.

But with some of the deals reportedly agreed upon just hours into the free agency period (Timofey Mozgov to the Lakers for four years, $64 million; Joakim Noah to New York for four years, $70 million), Humphries’ starting salary now will likely fall somewhere between $10-$15 million.And lastly, Humphries knows first-hand what it's like to play for the Celtics and the connection that players have with the team's fanbase.

And lastly, Humphries knows first-hand what it's like to play for the Celtics and the connection that players have with the team's fanbase.

"This is one of the best home crowds in sports, I would say," Humphries told CSNNE.com. 

OFFSEASON

Report: Knicks, Lakers among six teams interested in Evan Turner

Report: Knicks, Lakers among six teams interested in Evan Turner

Evan Turner revived his career with the Celtics the past two years and is now drawing plenty of interest around the league as free agency opens.

The unrestricted free agent averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4  assists as a sixth man last season with Boston. The Sporting News reports that the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, Pelicans, Mavericks and Grizzlies are looking to bid for Turner.  

Turner earlier expressed an interest in returning to the Celtics, who have their immediate focus on meetings with Kevin Durant and Al Horford this weekend and dealing with their other free agents Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and restricted free agents Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller, as well. 

NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports the interest between the Lakers and Turner is mutual. 

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.