Bruins' power play finally starts clicking

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Bruins' power play finally starts clicking

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA It took slightly longer than originally anticipated for the Tomas Kaberle Effect to start paying dividends on the power play, but theres certainly a better late than never vibe echoing through the Bruins dressing room these days.

The puck movement and the elite skill level were present on the PP as soon as the Czech Republic blueliner arrived from Toronto last month, though none of that mattered if the forwards werent scrapping and battling for inches of ice in the scoring areas.

Boston finally meshed both qualities together on Sunday night, and enjoyed its first two-power-play-goal night in more than two months to lock down an impressive 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The last time the Bruins scored two power play goals was in a triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes Jan. 18 at the RBC Center a span of 28 games over the course of two months where the special teams' well simply dried up.

The little Sunday night spurt lifted Boston from a 16.3 to a 16.9 percent power play success rate, and things could get much easier for the Black and Gold if the power play isnt an issue during their playoff sojourn through the Eastern Conference.

There are no guarantees things will go swimmingly for the man advantage once theyre in Stanleys tournament, but it wasnt lost on the Bruins players they clinched a playoff berth during their power plays best night since mid-January.

We scored on two power plays, which is good for us, said Kaberle, who has watched the Bs power play go 6-for-49 (12.2 percent) during his 17 games with Boston. Lately weve been a lot better moving the puck on the PP and were getting rewarded right now. We got a few shots and bodies in front of the net as well, and when you have bodies there youre going to get chances.

Why did the power play suddenly find its mojo?

The 2-for-3 Bs power play performance featured a pair of greasy man advantage goals that Danny Zuko and Pony Boy would have been proud of: a rebound Nathan Horton strike in the second period, and the game-winner from Brad Marchand while he was hanging all around Brian Boucher with 3:47 to go in the game.

The game-winning play in a nutshell: a Dennis Seidenberg blast bounced off Bouchers glove and grazed Marchands chest before dropping in front of him for a golden game-changing opportunity.

Marchand didnt miss, and had his 20th goal of the season after fighting through a 12-game goal-scoring drought that the 22-year-old admitted had him bouncing off the walls with frustration.

Its been a while. The power play is really coming along, and it really stepped up and got some big goals tonight, said Marchand. Theyre pretty tough in their own end. They all collapse, and we were talking about getting pucks into the net and getting guys in front of their goalie. We knew it was going to be a greasy one, and thats what it ended up being.

I kind of saw the lane and I knew Seidenberg was going to shoot. We made eye contact there. He made a great shot getting it through and creating the rebound. That was a great shot by Seidenberg.

Perhaps assuming the arrival of Kaberle would magically cure all of Bostons power play ills, there wasnt enough brute strength or blunt force coming out of the battle areas in front of the net. The forwards werent willing to pay the physical price for success, and in effect the power play never got to enjoy the spoils.

That started to change in wins over the Devils and Canadiens when the man advantage cobbled together power play goals in the consecutive victories, and thats allowed Bostons PP to go 4-for-15 (26.7 percent) over its last four games.

Both Bs power play units registered a goal against Philly, and kept battling after a first-period power play didnt really generate much in the energy or momentum departments.

Calling it a power-play fizzle might have been a kind compliment.

But thats all changed now, and allows power-play stalwarts like Kaberle and David Krejci to take credit for refusing to make wholesale changes just for the sake of it.

As long as the work ethic is present among the oversized group of forwards around the net, theres no reason to think the power play cant be a more consistent source of offense at the very least.

Its about time. Its about time, said Recchi of the power play. Its been a long haul and weve got a lot better at it in the last four or five games, and we showed signs of turning it around. Tonight you get a good opportunity late in the game to win, and those are the kind of things youre going to need from your power play if you want to have success in the playoffs.

The Bs PP squad only amounted to five shots on net in the victory over the Flyers, but the quality of shots expanded for Boston as the game went along.

The new composition of each unit has been a big reason for the PPs resurgence when it seemed nothing was working.

The first power-play squad is essentially Bostons top forward line paired with Zdeno Chara and Kaberle at the point spots, but Julien and assistant coach Geoff Ward have utilized a little creativity and imagination for the second power play unit.

Young forwards Marchand and Tyler Seguin have added some energetic pop to the second PP team along with points Patrice Bergeron and Seidenberg, and just about every one of the five players had heavy involvement in Marchands game-winning strike. There was a perfect example of Seguin's progress in the first period: he made a soft play on Boston's first PP that opened up a short-handed rush for the Flyers, but he responded by belting Scott Hartnell later in the game and finding a little snarl with Claude Giroux after a whistle later in the game.

The new blood has brought speed, skill and a slight level of unpredictably along with Marchands sandpaper, and the Bs have to hope that Sundays effort was the start of a bigupward power play trend.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.