Bruins still working out the kinks on power play unit


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.

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both. 


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?

While the good news is that it doesn’t appear that Tuukka Rask is dealing with a knee injury, there are still some significant muscular issues to work with concerning his left leg. 

According to former Bruins defenseman and NHL analyst Aaron Ward on CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast, the Bruins franchise goaltender has been dealing with a hamstring issue that’s also become a hamstring and groin issue as he tried to play through in the first week of the season. Rask clearly tweaked something in his left leg opening night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, missed the Saturday night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils. 

According to Ward, it’s hamstring and groin issues for Rask as the Bruins attempt to survive without him while potentially working toward a possible return for the Finnish netminder this weekend vs. the Red Wings. Rask hasn’t skated with the Bruins since finishing out the 2-1 win over the Devils last Thursday night, and tweaking the problematic left leg in the process. 

“What I was told is that it was left leg, and that at first it was hamstring and now it’s possibly hamstring and groin,” said Ward to CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty on the Great American Hockey Show podcast. “You’re always concerned when you’re a goalie and it’s your legs, right? It’s the push-off. The crazy part was watching it on video where the shoot came from the left side and went wide, and the next time he injures it shot comes from the same spot, misses it wide and [Rask] is in the exact same position wincing.

SUBSCRIBE Audioboom | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

“I think [the Bruins] are smart rather than trying to play a guy that’s 90, 80 or 70 percent, whatever it is, to just get it over with. Endure the short term pain to get the greater gain, and that’s having Rask in there. There’s no greater endorsement to keep him out than seeing the [bad losses without him] because you need a healthy Tuukka to let the rest of the team settle.”

It’s been disastrous without Rask, of course, as the Bruins have allowed 11 goals in back-to-back losses to the Wild and Rangers with rookies Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre between the pipes, and Anton Khudobin out for three weeks while sporting a cast on his right hand in the last B’s game at TD Garden. 

Meanwhile, Rask (3-0-0, 1.67 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage) is trying to heal and time it perfectly so he returns once he’s past the danger of potentially blowing out the muscles in his left leg and making the situation even worse than it already might be. 

Ward also discusses his relationship with "Toucher & Rich" and the "Cuts for a Cause" charitable event that he helped start.