Bruins' up-and-down power-play ends on high note

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Bruins' up-and-down power-play ends on high note

BUFFALO It appeared that Sundays road game against the Sabres was going to become another cautionary tale of woe and lost opportunities for the Boston power play.

The Bruins had been 0-for-3 through the first two periods of play on the man advantage, and hadnt generated much offensive juice despite some new combinations on the two PP units.

Even worse the Bruins gagged on a power play late in the second period after Chris Bourque had drawn a tripping penalty near the blue line on Mike Weber. The Bruins didnt finish with a single shot on net during the two minutes of PP time and allowed the Sabres to hem them into the defensive zone. Twenty seconds later Buffalo had capitalized on the momentum-changing special teams play and Tyler Ennis had a game-tying score on a couple of plays where Dougie Hamilton looked like a 19-year-old rookie.

But the good news for the Bruins and their put upon power play is that Patrice Bergeron hit pay dirt with a power play game-winner in the third period that led the Black and Gold to a 3-1 victory at the First Niagara Center. As futile as the special teams unit appeared in the first 40 minutes, they cashed in and executed when they had to in the final period.

It was nice to get a goal there, said Brad Marchand. Weve been struggling a little bit lately on the power play and weve been working hard on it the last few days. It really paid off in the third period.

Bergeron won an offensive zone face-off and Rich Peverley worked the puck over to Chris Bourque at the high point. Bourque fired wide left with a shot that bounced off bodies in front before kicking left of the net, but the puck bounced hard off the end boards back to Bergeron as he crashed down on the net.

The Bruins two-way center fired to beat Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller from the slot, and Boston had that elusive power play goal. The Bruins went into Sundays game ranked dead-last in the NHL with a power play that was scoring only 8.8 percent of the time, and hope that a good bounce can change their fortunes a bit.

The Bruins players knew that finally converting on the power play was the only way to erase the bad vibes their special teams units created in the middle 20 minutes of the hockey game. It was also the merciful ending they were looking for on a power play that had gone 0-for-17 and hadnt produced a goal since a Jan. 28 road win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Its going to hit a stick or its going to hit a body . . . something, said Bergeron. Yeah, we know that we need to be better on the power play. But it was good to get a lucky bounce, so well take it.

We need to get momentum and we didnt do that in the first two periods. We had to get momentum in the third period and even thought it wasnt the prettiest goal we found a way.

Julien admitted that the power play can look disorganized at times, but things come down to player execution at the end of the day.

I dont think all power play goals are beautiful goals, said Julien. Weve had our chances and we havent capitalized on them. At the end its nice to get that break. We needed that one. I guess thats what were trying to get out of our power play this year . . . some timely goals.

It certainly could be a long time before anybody calls the Bruins power play a beautiful work of hockey art, but the Boston coaching staff will settle for clutch and timely if it leads to wins as it did on Sunday night.

Chara: 'A great honor' to be nominated for Masterton Trophy

Chara: 'A great honor' to be nominated for Masterton Trophy

It takes only the highest levels of perseverance and dedication to the game to log over 1,300 NHL games and to play past your 40th birthday. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has both of those qualities in overflowing amounts as the fourth oldest player in the league behind Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, Arizona Coyotes forward Shane Doan and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cullen. Chara is also the second longest tenured captain in the league behind Doan, who has been the captain of the Coyotes since 2003.

For all those reasons and more, Chara has been voted by the Boston Chapter of the PWHA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) as the Bruins nominee for the Masterton Trophy given to the player that best exemplifies “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

The Bruins captain has also been the embodiment of good sportsmanship in his 11 years as captain of the Black and Gold while leading teams with his steady, hard-working hand through both epic highs and lows. Chara is always at the forefront of the Bruins charitable efforts and has shown his dedication to the game by nearly always participating for his Slovakian homeland whether it’s world championships, the Olympics or the World Cup as the setting for the International tournament.

It all comes back to Chara’s love for the game, his dedication to setting an example as a professional and his enjoyment of the hard work required to play in the NHL for 18 plus seasons.

“From my first day in the NHL until today it is an absolute thrill to play in the league,” said Chara. “It’s a great honor to be nominated. I always take a lot of pride in doing my job as a professional, and doing it right. Doing all of my work on and off the ice. I’ve always felt really humble about being a part of this league and this game. It’s a game that gives you so much in life, and helps you become a better person and a better hockey player each day.

“I’m just enjoying my time with team and my teammates, and cherish the memories of winning. I just try to work every day on my game and improve. I enjoy every day whether I was 20 years old or 40 years old. I love the game, and I love everything about it.”

Chara had missed only 41 games for the Bruins in his first 10 seasons with the team in a remarkable show of durability and toughness while playing the role a physical defensive stopper. He's never shied away from the big hits, the big players or the big ice time totals. The veteran D-man is having a banner season as a 40-year-old that started out by leading Team Europe to the World Cup Final against Team Canada, and it’s continued with his season-long mentoring job helping develop 20-year-old rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Chara has changed a bit from his Norris Trophy days while adjusting his game to reduced levels of physicality and out-and-out dominance, but the ability to still call on both of those qualities at 40 years old is unique for an intimidating 6-foot-9 force out on the ice. Equally impressive is his standing as a No. 1 defenseman at this point in his 18-plus year career while constantly dedicated to improving himself, and learning, both on and off ice. Perhaps Chara’s most underrated quality is his ability to move the puck and chip in offensively, a set of skills that will see him pass the 600-point milestone this season after a career built in part on a big slap shot from the point.

It’s also a great example of Chara remaking himself into more of a puck-mover and power play point producer when he was projected to be a good defense/limited offense shutdown defenseman all those years ago working his way through the Islanders’ ranks.

Chara continues to be a strong lead-by-example personality within the Bruins dressing room, one who demands hard work and total dedication to both the game and the team concept when it comes to his Boston teammates.

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line.