Bruins search for a power-play solution

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Bruins search for a power-play solution

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER The murmurs have amplified through the playoffs, and are getting more difficult to ignore.

The Bruins' power play has been impossibly bad.

The B's are 19 games into their playoff run and are now battling the best team in the NHL in the Stanley Cup Finals, so perfection is something they need to aspire to. But even something far less than perfection -- just occasional success -- would be a welcome change for the Bruins' man advantage.

Their power play is now running at a 7.5 percent success rate in the postseason and is as unsightly as it is ineffective. The Bruins did rifle off 12 shots on net in their six power plays during Game 1 and didnt lose any momentum when they activated the power play, but thats really just a consolation prize because consistent goal production on the PP seems like a distant fantasy.

With the power play continuing to struggle, coach Claude Julien tinkered with the personnel in Game 1 and went with Tyler Seguin at spots in the first couple of periods without any tangible results on the scoreboard.

But at least the coach was trying something different. Hell need to continue those outside-the-box efforts on his special teams until they break through.

One change Julien should seriously consider: Removing Mark Recchi from the power-play units.

Rex is the ultimate pro, a gamer, a future Hall of Famer and both a gentlemen and excellent leader of men. But hes also 43 years old, and has logged 100 regular-season and playoff games over the last 10 months.

The Bs winger has no points in 19 games on the Boston power play during this playoff run, even though only Nathan Horton and David Krejci have logged more power play time than Recchis 49:28 during the postseason.

Statistically, Recchi has come up short on an unproductive power play, and there is no crispness or quickness with the puck when it comes to his side of the ice during the man advantage.

The bottom line: Puck movement slows down demonstrably when Recchi is out with the power-play unit, and he makes it much easier to defend.

Recchi said his nonperformance had nothing to do with his energy level because the Bruins had a significant break prior to the start of the Cup finals.

I feel great. I feel good. I had lots of energy in Game 1, said Recchi. I would expect the entire thing to last for the whole series.

Recchi didnt feel like changes needed to be made to the special teams units despite the 0-for-6 performance in Game 1 against Vancouver. But he said its always up to the coaches to decide who plays on the power-play units.

I think the groups were good. I think the groups were fine yesterday and we had a lot of opportunities, said Recchi. I dont know what youre going with this right now, but whatever. Thats up to the coaches to decide. I like the way it worked and well see what happens on Saturday. Thats up to the coaches.

Recchis teammates didnt buy into the theory that he should be off the ice on the power play, of course, and linemate Patrice Bergeron felt like Recchi's experience and calming influence on the ice is a vital piece to everything Boston is doing.

Hes fine. He has been around the block more than once, said Bergeron. His experience helps everyone on the ice so much. We're just happy to have a guy like him on our team.

Julien had a chance to relieve Recchi of his power-play duties temporarily in the first period when he inserted Seguin into the man-advantage unit, but instead pulled off Michael Ryder . . . even though Ryder finished tied for the most power-play goals on the team during the regular season.

We have to find a way to score more goals," said Bergeron. "On the power play is the area we need to fix and be better, especially having a five-on-three and a four-minute five-on-four, you have to find a way.

There is, of course, some level of futility in pinning an entire power-play units faults on the back of one player, and Andrew Ference was quick to point that out when asked about Recchis goose egg during the playoffs.

Does anybody on our team have a lot of power-play goals? Ference asked. Its not just one person or one thing with the power play. Its about all of the guys on both units and its different at different times that have been presenting challenges. I think everybody felt pretty good about the power play in the last game, but its always about production at the end of the day.

The ratings for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in the United States were big for NBC, and they certainly caused more than a ripple in the local Boston market.

Boston was the top-rated market in the country with a 25.5 overnight rating for Game 1 . . . which was actually better than the 19.9 rating for Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers series in the NBA Finals last year.

In addition, Providence was the second-highest market in the country with a 16.7 rating.

The overnight rating nationally for Game 1 was a 3.2, the best for a Stanley Cup Final game since 1999 and a 14 percent increase over last year.

I think its great news. It's awesome, said Bergeron. To be honest, back home we could feel it. The whole city was really behind us. They still are behind us throughout the playoffs and the season. It means a lot to us. Obviously we want to do it for them. But we can feel all the support and that's something great.

Canucks coach Alan Vigneault wouldnt go into deep details on Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis other than to say hes day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Hamhuis injured himself throwing a hip check at Milan Lucic in the second period, and appeared to get the worst of the collision before limping back to the dressing never to return.

Tim Thomas was asked how 23-year-old Tuukka Rask had been handling more of a spectator role during the playoffs, and the Bs goalie was effusive in his praise for his Finnish understudy. Rask was among the most animated celebrants after the Game 7 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has been unflinchingly supportive of the team goal over his own personal preference to play.

He's handled it great. He's been a great partner for me, supportive the whole way. I respect that, said Thomas. I was trying to do the same thing myself last year when Rask was the No. 1 goalie in the playoffs. It's not always easy because you want to be the guy who's playing. We wouldn't have got to this level if that wasn't the case.

But he's just been awesome. We've had a good relationship since we first met each other like six years ago. That's still carrying on.

Thomas was embroiled in a little bit of a war of words with the Canucks on Thursday as Vigneault insinuated the Bs goaltender sets up outside the crease area and soaks up penalty calls from the refs when contact occurs.

Julien wasnt having any of it.

That's his style. I mean, if he gets a chance to come out of the crease and challenge the shooter, he challenges. The rule is pretty clear, said Julien. You're entitled to your ice. If he steps out and he's got that ice, he's entitled to it. That's what he's done through the whole process.

"Now, we all know that goaltenders are to be protected. If you're going to say that if he's out of his crease when he comes out to challenge the shooter, he's fair game to be hit by the opposition . . . then that should be the same philosophy when the goalie goes behind the net to handle the puck.

"I think the league has ruled that the goaltenders need to be protected. If he's entitled to his ice, and he's got it, then afterwards I don't think people are entitled to run over those guys. If Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo comes out of his net, he's got his ice. It's his. It belongs to him. The rule to me is pretty clear, so I don't see any issues there.

From the Boston Bruins' P.R. department:

The Boston Bruins and the Boston Police Department want to remind fans to be wary of purchasing counterfeit tickets for the Stanley Cup Final. Fans are encouraged to only buy tickets from authorized ticket agencies. Purchasing from other sources is done at the buyer's risk. Officers want to proactively curb such activity and encourage buyers to only purchase from official vendors. The Boston Police Department suggests that fans guarantee authenticity by purchasing tickets through the Boston Bruins website, Ticketmaster.com, in person at the TD Garden Box Office or at any Ticketmaster outlet.

Purchasing via other means creates the potential for possessing either an invalid or counterfeit ticket. Individuals attempting to gain admission using fraudulent tickets will be evicted from the building and face the possibility of arrest.

If any community members have information about the selling of counterfeit tickets, you are urged to contact District A-1 detectives at (617) 343-4248. Individuals wishing to provide information anonymously may do so by calling the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS or texting the word 'TIP' to CRIME (27463). Individuals wishing to provide information anonymously are reminded that the Boston Police Department is ONLY interested in the INFORMATION you provide, NOT who YOU are.

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

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.