Bruins still working out the kinks on power play unit

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Bruins still working out the kinks on power play unit

WILMINGTON Bruins coach Claude Julien didnt visibly wince when the question arrived, but its clear the power play queries arent his very favorite.

Geez, it seems like every day the power play question comes up, lamented Julien with good-natured mock surprise when asked about it at Thursday's media session.

The questions shouldnt come as a surprise given the history of the Bs power play units over the last three years. After the Bruins managed to finish 15th in the NHL with their power play last season, the man advantage seemed to have at least moved away from being a clear-cut liability to simple mediocrity.

But then the Bruins man advantage struggled to a 2-for-23 stretch during their first round playoff loss to the Washington Capitals, and that was after somehow winning the Stanley Cup 12 months earlier with one of the worst PP units in Stanley Cup playoff history. With all that past power play baggage, the Bruins brain trust said they were stripping down the PP design over the summer and would return with a brand new plan, brand new personnel and hopefully bigger, newer, better results.

Unfortunately it hasnt gone down that way for the Black and Gold in the early going this season. The Bruins started off 0-for-11 in their first three games before Dougie Hamilton connected with Brad Marchand for a special teams goal in the second period of Wednesday nights overtime loss.

In all, Bostons misfiring PP unit is 26th in the NHL with a 7.1 percent success rate (1-for-14), and only The Kings, Flyers and Red Wings are in worse shape than the Bruins nearly a week into the regular season. The Bruins head coach equates the lack of production to the same general offensive rustiness he's seen from his team in five-on-five play. The hands aren't there for many of his players, and so it stands to reason the power play crispness wouldn't be there either.

The other day against Winnipeg our power play was better, but we didnt get the results, said Julien. I didnt think our power play was necessarily great against the Rangers, but we got a goal then. So it balances out in the long run. We had more chances in the Winnipeg game than we did against the Rangers.

It can certainly take the monkey off your back when you get the result. But weve got a long ways to go through a long season that the power play needs to be helping us out. Our results on the power play reflect the results that were getting five-on-five right now. Were not burying all the chances that weve had, but guys like Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand are starting to get results. The finish may not be there right now but it will come.

To put it in perspective the San Jose Sharks power play has already potted six power play goals on the season. Theres a very good chance the Bruins wont have six PP goals during the entire month of January, and that's a wide chasm in production.

The Marchand goal was part of a 1-for-5 night for the Bs power play unit against the Rangers, and displayed some good chemistry among the players on the second PP squad. But the first power play unit full of size, offensive skill and hockey smarts struggled mightily against the Rangers despite multiple chances, and needs to be sharper with the puck.

Julien did have one admission: he was less enamored with the work done by his PP units on Wednesday night than he was in the first two games on home ice. In the first few games both power plays were moving the puck with energy and generating scoring chances.

The top PP unit was deliberate, predictable and tentative about pulling the trigger on shots aimed at the opposing net. Prior to the season Julien said that Tyler Seguin was expected to be the power play quarterback and it made sense given all of the unique offensive skills the 20-year-old brings to the table.

But Seguin is averaging 3:39 of power play ice time coming off a four months of tearing up the Swiss League, and that has done little to rectify Bostons ongoing special teams issues. He has one assist in three games and hasn't jumped off to a blazing start offensively whether it be five-on-five or on the PP.

The problem was clear on Wednesday night: too much standing around and passing the puck without any attempts to actually make a play in the offensive zone. Some of that is a group of different Bs skaters getting used to one another on a newly configured power play unit.

There are obviously some great guys on that power play unit. Im not that familiar with them because we havent played together all that much on the power play, said Seguin. Weve got some good talent on there. I expect it to improve from what it was.

Even though we won the Cup that was probably the worst power play any team has had winning the Cup. Were already so good five-on-five that I can only imagine how good we could be if we finally have a good power play.

The new power play is designed to free Seguin up for one-timers from the left face-off circle as hes coming off the half-wall a la Steve Stamkos in Tampa, but circumstances have only allowed him to let loose with one teed up slapper over the first three games. That needs to become one of the certified weapons on the PP just like Zdeno Chara's 108-mph slap shot from the point. The Bruins now have David Krejci at the opposite point to help feed Chara and Seguin from the opposite side of the ice.

If anything there is too much unselfish play and an overabundance of deference on the Bs power play unit with players passing the puck rather than driving the net to create offensive mismatches.

Part of Seguins appeal on the half-wall is his ability to carry the puck to the net through traffic or fire accurate, dangerous shots from the face-off circle, but hes done neither of those things while routinely giving up the puck.

Its time for somebody to assert themselves on a power play thats screaming out for a skilled facilitator, and Seguin is the guy most qualified to fill that position during the NHL application process. The B's power play won't start producing on a regular basis until somebody steps up and takes control of a unit that looks far too passive right now.

Bruins release complete 2016-17 exhibition schedule

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Bruins release complete 2016-17 exhibition schedule

The Bruins got on with the rest of their hockey lives on Tuesday with most NHL eyes fixed on the Stanley Cup Final, and kicked off the important dates to start a 2016-17 season that they hope goes better than the last two years.

The Bruins will open rookie training camp on Thursday, Sept. 15, and one week later the main NHL camp will open on Thursday, Sept. 22. There will obviously be plenty of Bruins personnel missing, including head coach Claude Julien, from the first few weeks of camp with the World Cup of Hockey taking place at the same time in Canada.

The World Cup will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two-week tournament, featuring eight teams comprised of more than 150 of the best players in the NHL, will progress from the Preliminary Round to the Semifinals and ultimately the Final. 

That means somebody other than Julien will be calling the shots behind the Boston bench when the Bruins open up their preseason schedule at TD Garden with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sept. 26, and proceed to play a seven game schedule against the Blue Jackets, Flyers, Red Wings and Canadiens that concludes at home against Philly on Oct. 8.

The highlight of the preseason schedule is the Oct. 4 game against the Habs to be played at the new Videotron Centre in Quebec City, the first time both teams have played an exhibition game in the former home city of the Nordiques since 2009.

Here is the complete 2016 preseason schedule for the Black and Gold:

MONDAY, SEPT. 26 -- vs. Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 28 -- vs. Red Wings, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30 -- at Red Wings, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, OCT. 1 -- at Flyers, 7 p.m.
TUESDAY, OCT. 4 -- vs. Canadiens at Quebec City, 7 p.m.
THURSDAY, OCT. 6 -- at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, OCT. 8 -- vs. Flyers, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, May 31: Will NHL follow MLB's lead and retire O'Ree's number?

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Tuesday, May 31: Will NHL follow MLB's lead and retire O'Ree's number?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blaming both the zoo and the parents in Cincinnati. Is it okay to do that, or does everything in life have to be all or nothing?

-- Dan Rosen says Sidney Crosby has a twinkle in his eye as he returns for, and wins, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

-- Tim Panaccio has a few thoughts on the sad passing of Philadelphia Flyers legend Rick MacLeish at the age of 66.

-- It looks like Ken Hitchcock will be back once again as head coach of the St. Louis Blues despite their fall in the Western Conference Finals.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gives a number of scenarios for potential expansion, including waiting another year before doing anything.

-- A good Players Tribune piece on hockey dad Matt Cullen preparing with the family for the Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins.

-- Jacques Martin, currently serving as a member of Mike Sullivan's Pittsburgh coaching staff, is appreciating his first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

-- Joel Ward wants to see the NHL retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22, similar to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 permanently retired by all Major League Baseball teams.

-- Ken Campbell says that the San Jose Sharks won’t be in a panic after dropping Game 1 to the Penguins.

-- So Ulf Samuelsson will be a head coach in the AHL next season for the Charlotte Checkers. Teams might want to stock up on the foil

-- This goal call by Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi for Nick Bonino’s game-winner in Game 1 is pretty damned awesome.

-- For something completely different: Bernie Sanders attending the Warriors/Thunder Game 7 on Monday night, a week before the California primary, might qualify as a savvy political move, but it’s also pretty clear that he's a big basketball fan. Did you see footage of that textbook old-man jump shot while Sanders was waiting for primary results a few months ago? Ball don’t lie.

 

 

Report: Khokhlachev leaves Bruins, signs with Russian team

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Report: Khokhlachev leaves Bruins, signs with Russian team

Another once-valued Boston Bruins asset might be heading out the door with nothing coming back in return.

Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev has signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, according to a report out of Russia. The deal will become official after his entry-level contract with Boston runs out on June 30.

Khokhlachev, 22, was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft and spent the last three seasons as one of the Providence Bruins' leading scorers. In that time he appeared in only nine games in Boston, with no points and a minus-4.

At the start of last season's training camp, Khokhlachev said he’d never been given a legitimate chance by the Bruins at the NHL level. But “Koko” also never exactly crushed his chances in preseason, or during his regular-season stints with the parent club.

The belief is that Khokhlachev’s camp would have rather the Bruins traded him, as his family had settled in the Toronto area over the last few years. But he was, in essence, forced to go to Russia since the Bruins would continue to hold his NHL rights as a restricted free agent.

According to sources close to Khokhlachev, the last straw came when the Bruins signed a European free agent -- 28-year-old Finnish center Joonas Kemppainen -- before last season and gave him more than four months to prove himself at the NHL level. It was the kind of audition that Khokhlachev never felt like he received during his time in the Bruins organization, despite posting 59 goals and 168 points over the last three years in the AHL.

Clearly, there are still questions about whether the 5-foot-10, 181-pound center is a “tweener” -- not big enough or fast enough to score at the NHL level. And it looks like those questions will go unresolved as Khokhlachev returns to Russia for the foreseeable future.