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?

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.