Neely: We need a philosophical change on the power play


Neely: We need a philosophical change on the power play

BOSTON -- If theres one specific topic of conversation for improvement when it comes to the Bruins, its the power play.

They finished middle of the road during the year in power-play percentage, but limped to a 2-for-23 performance in their first-round playoff loss to the Washington Capitals. This came on the heels of an 0-for-21 against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round last year, in spite of which the Bruins somehow managed to win in seven games.

Thats a 4.5 power-play success rate over the last two years in the first round. Excluding the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins are 7-for-84 (8.3 percent) over the last two years in the postseason, and Bruins management finally admits that something has to give.

We got away with an ineffective power play last year," said team president Cam Neely Thursday in management's postmortem with the media. "This year it kind of bit us in the butt.

"We need to have a philosophical difference in how we look at the power play. I dont just look at the percentages when it comes to the power play. I look at when we get them, when we score on them and what time in the game they are coming for us. I think we have the personnel to improve on the power play. There are some things . . . we can do different, but its an area that absolutely needs improving. Well be discussing that in the offseason.

Nobody was talking about pink slips for the coach designing Bostons oft-stagnant power play, Geoff Ward, or making wholesale personnel changes. But Neely indicated there absolutely will be internal discussions on the matter, with plenty of time in the spring and summer to discuss strategy.

Its something Im going to leave internally for now, but its something that can be better, said Neely. The player personnel, I think, is strong. You look at the regular season and it was an area that was okay. But at the end of the year we started falling off and we could never right the ship.

Its an area where the players need to take as much responsibility 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.

In losing seven one-goal games for the first time in NHL Stanley Cup playoff history this year, the Bruins now know exactly what kind of difference a fully operational power play can make.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally


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


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.