Changing on the Fly: Power play needs overhaul

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Changing on the Fly: Power play needs overhaul

The Bruins are a team without many glaring weaknesses.

After all, you dont win the Cup without considerable strengths that are able to overshadow every little point of weakness on a hockey club.

But the Bs power play is no longer a puny little weakness. A huge, gaping hole and profound problem would be better ways to describe a special teams unit that continues to fail the Black and Gold when it matters most.

Its a major problem to be reckoned with this summer by the Bs decision-makers.

Its also one of the single biggest reasons the Bruins playoff bubble burst after losing four one-goal games in an incredibly tight seven-game first round series. The Bruins were 2-for-23 on the PP during this years battle with the Washington Capitals, and are an obscenely bad 2-for-44 in the first round over the last two years.

Thats a grotesque 4.5 percent success rate that even Ripley wouldnt believe if werent unequivocally true.

Bruins President Cam Neely admitted the need for a change in philosophy when it comes to the power play next season. That includes adjustments from the coaching staff and the players, and more importantly results.

We got away with it last year as everybody knows. This year, it kind of bit us in the butt. We really need to have a philosophical difference in how we look at the power play. I dont just look at the percentage of the power play, I look at when we get power plays, what the score of the game is, and what time of the game isthats important, said Neely. Maybe more so important than what the actual percentage of the power play is. I think we have the personnel that we can improve on the power play. There are some things well certainly discuss in the offseason about what we can do differently with the power play. I think its an area that absolutely needs improvement and we will improve on it.

Neely wants more movement and more life to a power play that becomes all-too predictable when it simply revolves around generating big shots from Zdeno Chara at the point. There isnt enough of a Marc Savard-like presence off the half-wall that can shoot, create offense by rushing the net or pass with the kind of lethal scoring ability that can keep opposing coaches up at night.

Its something were going to keep internal right now, but I just know it can better, said Neely when asked whether it was the coaching or player personnel he held as the culprit behind the power plays struggles. The player personnel is strong. Dont get me wrong. Its an area where we were okay during the regular season, but we started to fall off in the players and couldnt right the ship.

Its an area where players have to take responsibility as much as the coaching staff because its a privilege to be on the power play. Its certainly an area of the game that can make a difference between winning and losing. I watch a lot of hockey and a lot of power plays. What I see is a lot of movement. Obviously its about getting pucks down low, but its also about getting that puck movement and making the penalty killers work hard. When I look at good power plays thats what I see coming out of it.

Savard averaged 37 power play points a season for the Bruins during his first three years in Boston.

The leading power play guy this year for the Bruins was Zdeno Chara with 18 points, and Nathan Horton ranked third on the team in power play goals despite missing the final 36 games of the season.

Its one area where David Krejci has been a disappointment since first cracking the NHL despite a skill set that seems made for it.

Krejci appeared ready to replace Savards magical touch on the man advantage when concussions finally got the better of him, but that hasnt happened in three years. The Bruins PP has been run-of-the-mill at best, and an anchor dragging them down at its worst moments.

Perhaps it will be Tyler Seguin that finally breathes life into the unit with a versatile, elite set of offensive skills and the burgeoning experience and confidence needed to be a power play ace. Or maybe the Bruins can bring in an outside free agent influence like Zach Parise or Ryan Sutter to perk up the Bs man advantage.

Parise would have led the Bs with nine power play goals scored during the regular season, and Suters 25 points for the NHLs top-ranked power play unit blew away anybody on the Black and Gold.

But its not a difficult trick to make the Bs power play look so bad.

The challenge this summer is to make it something that will win the Bruins a playoff game or two next time around, and that will be doubly difficult if its the same group of players manning the unit next year.

Sweeney on lack of B's deals: "I wasn't trading David Pastrnak"

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Sweeney on lack of B's deals: "I wasn't trading David Pastrnak"

BUFFALO – A year ago Don Sweeney traded away one of his talented young players for pennies on the dollar when he shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for three draft picks, and it would appear he’s learned from that experience. While the Bruins general manager admitted he was desperately in search of some defensemen help this weekend, Sweeney said the prices were too high to get a deal done on Friday night at the First Niagara Center.

A source indicated to CSNNE.com earlier on Friday that All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk would end up with “the Bruins, Flyers or Rangers” this season, but it sure sounded like the St. Louis Blues were pricing themselves out of making any deals. According to Sweeney, other team’s managers were asking him to include both of his 2016 first round picks and more to swing a deal for a defenseman, and that young right wing David Pastrnak’s name kept coming up in these discussions.

That was far too steep an asking price in the rightful minds of Sweeney and Bruins management, so there were no defensemen that ended up getting moved on Friday night. Unfortunately, other NHL teams will keep asking about the emerging Pastrnak knowing full well that the Bruins are in a desperate position to repair their personnel on the back end. 

“In all honesty it would have taken both first rounders and then some…the acquisition cost was high. We want to continue to improve our hockey club with whatever we have to do, but it’s not unlike last year when it would have taken all three first rounders [to get a deal done]. There’s a balancing act there,” said Sweeney. “There was not a lot that moved around today. People have been laying foundation [for trades] for quite some time, but there are players that we’re just not comfortable putting into deals. I’m going to defend that. I’ll be honest with you that I just am.

“We’ve taken a position where we’re going to build this the right way. We want to be competitive and improve our team, and we’ll be active in the free agent market to fill holes while allowing our young players to push through. But I wasn’t trading David Pastrnak. We’ve been criticized, and rightfully so at times, for being impatient with our younger, skilled players. This represents a good opportunity that we don’t want to do that.”

Instead the Bruins selected Charlie McAvoy and Trent Frederic with the 14th and 29th overall picks in the first round, and they’ll start at the drawing board on Saturday while hoping to build toward a deal for a top-4 “transitional defenseman.” They’ll also do it knowing they made the right call in protecting the 14th pick where they selected a future transitional defenseman that will perhaps be a younger, cheaper version of Shattenkirk three years down the road. 

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Bruins select center Trent Frederic with 29th pick in 2016 NHL Draft

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Bruins select center Trent Frederic with 29th pick in 2016 NHL Draft

BUFFALO – The Bruins went off the board to make their second choice in the first round, and selected big, gritty center Trent Frederic from the U.S. National Team Development Program.  Frederic was ranked 47th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, and is ultimately viewed as a solid bottom-six two-way center with limited offensive ability.

A nice Bruins-style player to be sure, but also the kind of player that can easily be picked in the second, or third, round rather than with the 29thpick in the first round. It’s pretty clear the B’s were hoping to package up the 29th pick along with a prospect to acquire a top-4 defenseman, and that they didn’t have many designs on actually choosing a player.

That led to a surprised Frederic, who was happy to be a first round pick if not a little blown away by his good NHL fortune.

“I guess I was a little surprised. If you could hear my whole family's reaction then you get the gist of it,” said Frederic, who listed David Backes and Justin Abdelkader as the NHL players he most models his game after in his career. “They were pumped, and I am pumped. As a player I’m a two-way physical player that’s good with the puck.

“I’ve had some tournaments in Boston, and some family vacations there. I visited Boston University when I thought about going there, and I’ve been to Fenway Park and TD Garden. It’s one of my favorite cities.”

The Frederic pick might have been off the beaten path a bit, but it was a pretty special selection for a number of other reasons: Frederic was the record-setting 12th US-born player taken in the first round, and the fifth player taken in the 2016 first round from the St. Louis area. The Bruins have to hope that he develops into a more dangerous, effective player during his college hockey days at Wisconsin, and that he feels a little less like the Bruins reaching for players in the first round for the second draft in a row. 

Photo via Joe Haggerty

Charlie McAvoy tweeted he hates the Bruins 'so much' in 2013

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Charlie McAvoy tweeted he hates the Bruins 'so much' in 2013

Tweet hunters dug up an old message from a Charlie McAvoy proclaiming his hatred for the Boston Bruins. McAvoy, of course, was drafted 14th by the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The tweet read, "I hate the bruins so much" before it was quickly deleted.

I'm sure this will go over well for Bruins fans, even though you really can't blame McAvoy. He was just 15 at the time and a fan of the Rangers, who went down 3-0 in the playoffs against the Bruins.

As fans, we can all relate to that feeling.