Bruins special teams makes impact on both ends of ice

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Bruins special teams makes impact on both ends of ice

RALEIGH, NC After much power play bashing over the last nine days, the Bruins special teams units finally found wonderful, beautiful victory harmony in the Monday night win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked about the power play goal scored in Bostons 5-3 win over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena, and gently reminded his questioner that the Bs had actually scored two power plays in the win.

The coach was asking who was counting, to which he replied sharp as a whip: I am.

Zdeno Chara had taken a bit off his normally lethal slap shot from the point and feathered a wrist shot through a Milan Lucic screen for a first period PP strike, and Tyler Seguin capped off the victory with an empty net power play score in the closing seconds of regulation.

In between the Bruins generated seven shots in their four power play possessions above and beyond the two scores, and enjoyed good possession and momentum out of both units. They even managed to set up for a screaming Tyler Seguin one-timer from the left circle that Cam Ward got a piece of with his pads.

The two PP scores make the Bruins a much more respectable 3-for-21 on the season that puts them in the middle of the pack at a 14 percent success rate.

That said, the Bruins still want to get much more consistency on the man advantage.

Julien agreed that Monday night was their best power play work of the season, but cautioned there will be more ups and downs over the 48-game schedule.

It was a good night for special teams. Our penalty kill again was outstanding. They have a good power play with guys that can shoot, but our PK was very aggressive, said Julien. It was nice to get that early PP goal with a great screen by Looch and good wrister by Chara.

There are going to be nights where its going to look better than others, and there will be nights where its going to be a struggle. But I like what weve done so far with the results. In four out of the five games I feel like weve moved the puck pretty well and hopefully we keep getting results.

David Krejci picked up an assist on Charas power play goal in the first period, and appears to be settling into his role on the opposite point as the 6-foot-9 captain on the first PP unit.

It was good to see. Zee made a good shot but it wouldnt have been possible if Lucic wasnt in front of the net, said Krejci. After that we had pretty good looks and good chances. We have to be happy with getting some goals, but were going to keep working on it so its better and better with each game.

Ancient hockey wisdom dictates that a teams special teams play is acceptable if both the PP and PK units total up to 100 percent, and the Bruins have been well above that while working with a perfect penalty kill unit. The Bs shorthanded crew is now 23-for-23 in kills and finally kicked in with their first shorthanded goal of the season in the first period. Zdeno Chara fed Brad Marchand cross-ice for a one-timer from the right face-off dot, and the Nose Face Killah hammered a shot under the crossbar for a lightning quick score.

Monday night marked the first time since a February 11, 2012 game against the Nashville Predators that the Bruins got special teams scores from both the penalty kill and the power play, but they hope its not the last time this season as they keep digging to improve both units working together in concert.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.