Julien: Power-play critics need to 'take a breath'

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Julien: Power-play critics need to 'take a breath'

WILMINGTON, Mass. The streak remained alive Sunday as Claude Julien was once again asked about the struggling Bruins power play following practice on Ristuccia Arena. The Bs man advantage is now ranked 29th in the NHL after getting out to a 1-for-17 start, and is only behind the Los Angeles Kings that have started out a putrid 0-for-23 on the season.

The Bruins practiced with their top two PP units on Sunday before leaving on a flight to Carolina for the start of back-to-back games against the Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Dennis Seidenberg wasnt entered back into the mix on the second PP unit after coming back from injury Dougie Hamilton and Rich Peverley have been manning the points on the second unit for the last three games and Julien preached patience just one week into the season.

Given the Bruins track record with the power play crapping out in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, thats a pretty special request. David Krejci probably should have been credited for a power play goal but a video replay ruled no goal against the Rangers, and both Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin have clanged posts on power-play scoring chances.

But the Bruins have also had entire two minute power play possessions in the last two games where there wasnt a single fired at the net, and the enthusiasm seemed to be flagging within the units skaters.

I thought Id be able to get away for at least one day without a power play question, said Julien. The results havent been there, but Id say in three of the four games that we moved the puck well, we hit a post and we had a goal disallowed. A lot of stuff has happened.

I could throw a lot of things at you whether it was LA winning last year without a good power play or Tampa Bay not even practicing the power play this year because they know you cant win a Cup without strong five-on-five play. But I think people need to step back and maybe take a breath a little bit . . . and not make a mountain out of a power play. We want it to work well, but its not the end of the world. Were still winning hockey games.

Its true that the Bruins and Kings made it two straight Stanley Cup champs that survived the postseason gauntlet without a high-functioning power play, and whatever the Lightning are doing is working because theyve got five PP goals in 20 tries this season. But then again they also boast Steve Stamkos cranking one-timers from the face-off dot, so perhaps that makes practicing a little less important for their special teams unit.

But the expectation is that names like Tyler Seguin, Hamilton, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Krejci involved in the Bs man advantage will eventually perform up to their potential, and turn the bright scrutiny of the spotlight elsewhere.

We hope with time that well get some of the results that we havent received so far, said Julien.

For now the Bruins are hanging their hat on a perfect 17-for-17 mark in killing penalties as well, so one dominant special teams unit is covering for the other one while the PP performers get their swagger back. Unfortunately theres no telling when that will be for a Bs power play unit that doesnt get the benefit of the doubt after the way things have looked over the last two years.

Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

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Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

It’s not difficult to see why Austin Czarnik might have been a little overlooked headed into this Bruins training camp when forecasting favorites among the forwards to win a roster spot on the big club. After all he’s only 5-foot-9 and 167-pounds coming off just one very solid season at the AHL level for the Providence Bruins, and there are bigger, stronger forwards candidates that maybe rank a bit higher on the prospect list than him.

But the 23-year-old Czarnik put together an excellent training camp last fall before finishing with 20 goals and 61 points for the P-Bruins last season, and now he’s doing the exact same thing again this time around.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think we could have been a lot better in a lot of areas. Overall I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice,” said Czarnik, who along with Frank Vatrano was one of the real starts of camp last season. “You know that type of mentality and you know mistakes are going to happen, and you’ve just got to move forward from it so everyone’s happy to be back.”

The former Miami University star is clearly happy to be back, and it’s showing on the ice with each chance he gets to show his tenacity, withering fore-check and his willingness to crash the net despite his smallish stature.

Czarnik was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice for the Black and Gold in their preseason opener, and collected a key assist on Boston’s first goal of the game when he pushed a puck through the neutral zone before setting up on odd man rush for Jimmy Hayes and Jake DeBrusk.

This time around Czarnik scored the game’s only goal on a nifty rush during four-on-four play through the offensive zone by Ryan Spooner, who drew in the defense and dished to Czarnik for a wide open tap-in chance.

So it’s a couple of big plays in each of the first two preseason games that led to goals, and a genuinely excellent level of play throughout both contests. It’s something the Bruins coaching staff has taken note of along with his skating speed and hardnosed mentality, and now they have to figure if it fits in with their other NHL pieces.

“We were just talking about it. Everybody has that same feeling. He’s playing well. He moves well. He’s on the puck. He competes, and that’s the thing you’re looking for really,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “Like right now, we know there’s going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones.

“We’re looking to see who’s got that competitive, you know, that competitive fire. [We’re looking for] who’s going to go out there and who can compete at a high level. I know he’s not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is. He’s had two pretty good games so far.”

Czarnik had a couple of good games early in B’s camp last year before flat-lining a bit at the end when the NHL jobs were seriously on the line, and the 23-year-old wants that story to change endings this time around. It remains to be seen where he’s going to fit as yet another center among Boston’s group of training camp players this month, but Czarnik might just force the Bruins to make a tough decision if he keeps playing at his current high level.   

Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

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Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

GOLD STAR: Take your pick: Steve Ott, Drew Miller and Luke Glendening torched the Bruins with veteran savvy and toughness against a very young defensemen unit trying to survive in the second preseason game. Ott and Glendening each scored a goal and finished with three points, and Miller finished with a goal and two points while all three forwards had a plus-3 rating for the night. All of their goals came off winning battles, crashing the net and taking advantage of defensive miscues. The goals provided a good lesson to the young kids that have a ways to go before they’re NHL ready at this point in their careers. It certainly must have been a kick to the stones to many Bruins fans when “Brave” Steve Ott was named the No. 1 Star of the game after it was all over, but that was certainly appropriate.

BLACK EYE: Adam McQuaid was the most experienced defensemen out on the ice for the Bruins on Wednesday night, and it was a rough night for him with so many young guys around him on the back end. McQuaid finished a minus-2 in 17:41 with a couple of hits and got a little better as the game was going on, but was on ice for two of the first three goals allowed to Detroit in a really lackluster middle section of the game. In general, it was about more than just one player, though. There were blown assignments in the D-zone and some really noticeable lost battles leading to scoring chances for a Red Wings group that aggressively took it to the Bruins. This is a game that will leave the Bruins coaches with plenty of video material moving forward.

TURNING POINT: The real slippage came early in the game when the Bruins failed to score on some good power play chances for Peter Mueller and Matt Beleskey, and then allowed two goals within 19 seconds of each other in the first period. The first goal was a PP one for the Red Wings with Ryan Spooner whistled for a face-off infraction, and the second was simply the Bruins falling asleep at the wheel just seconds after the first goal was scored. Lost battles led to a bang-bang play in front with Steve Ott scoring as Malcolm Subban was turned around looking for the puck, and the B’s were reeling headed into the first intermission. Only a Subban shoulder save kept it from being 3-0 at the end of the first, and that was something the B’s never seemed to rebound from.

HONORABLE MENTION: Austin Czarnik scored the B’s only goal off a nice play from Ryan Spooner driving toward the net, and continues to put together another strong training camp after doing the same thing last season. Czarnik finished with the goal, three shots on net and six shot attempts in 17:38 of ice time, and battled back from a rough start to go 6-for-12 in the face-off circle while centering an extremely young line with Sean Kuraly and Zach Senyshyn. While Czarnik might not have been a big name when talking about an open roster spot with the Bruins a couple of weeks ago, he’s pushed toward making himself a part the conversation with his heart-filled, high effort energetic performances for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-for-16 was the final tally for Ryan Spooner in the face-off circle as he continues to be a work-in-progress on the draw.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Maybe I was a little bit shocked first going out there. The speed of the game is noticeably faster, but I think as time went on I got more comfortable out there. Hopefully I can build off that moving forward.” – Bruins rookie D-man Matt Grzelcyk on his first NHL preseason game being a bit of a big wakeup call.