Bruins special teams makes impact on both ends of ice

990365.jpg

Bruins special teams makes impact on both ends of ice

RALEIGH, NC After much power play bashing over the last nine days, the Bruins special teams units finally found wonderful, beautiful victory harmony in the Monday night win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked about the power play goal scored in Bostons 5-3 win over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena, and gently reminded his questioner that the Bs had actually scored two power plays in the win.

The coach was asking who was counting, to which he replied sharp as a whip: I am.

Zdeno Chara had taken a bit off his normally lethal slap shot from the point and feathered a wrist shot through a Milan Lucic screen for a first period PP strike, and Tyler Seguin capped off the victory with an empty net power play score in the closing seconds of regulation.

In between the Bruins generated seven shots in their four power play possessions above and beyond the two scores, and enjoyed good possession and momentum out of both units. They even managed to set up for a screaming Tyler Seguin one-timer from the left circle that Cam Ward got a piece of with his pads.

The two PP scores make the Bruins a much more respectable 3-for-21 on the season that puts them in the middle of the pack at a 14 percent success rate.

That said, the Bruins still want to get much more consistency on the man advantage.

Julien agreed that Monday night was their best power play work of the season, but cautioned there will be more ups and downs over the 48-game schedule.

It was a good night for special teams. Our penalty kill again was outstanding. They have a good power play with guys that can shoot, but our PK was very aggressive, said Julien. It was nice to get that early PP goal with a great screen by Looch and good wrister by Chara.

There are going to be nights where its going to look better than others, and there will be nights where its going to be a struggle. But I like what weve done so far with the results. In four out of the five games I feel like weve moved the puck pretty well and hopefully we keep getting results.

David Krejci picked up an assist on Charas power play goal in the first period, and appears to be settling into his role on the opposite point as the 6-foot-9 captain on the first PP unit.

It was good to see. Zee made a good shot but it wouldnt have been possible if Lucic wasnt in front of the net, said Krejci. After that we had pretty good looks and good chances. We have to be happy with getting some goals, but were going to keep working on it so its better and better with each game.

Ancient hockey wisdom dictates that a teams special teams play is acceptable if both the PP and PK units total up to 100 percent, and the Bruins have been well above that while working with a perfect penalty kill unit. The Bs shorthanded crew is now 23-for-23 in kills and finally kicked in with their first shorthanded goal of the season in the first period. Zdeno Chara fed Brad Marchand cross-ice for a one-timer from the right face-off dot, and the Nose Face Killah hammered a shot under the crossbar for a lightning quick score.

Monday night marked the first time since a February 11, 2012 game against the Nashville Predators that the Bruins got special teams scores from both the penalty kill and the power play, but they hope its not the last time this season as they keep digging to improve both units working together in concert.

Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

cp_morning_skate-.jpg

Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while putting the pieces together now that the hockey season is O-V-A-H here in Boston. 
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Arthur takes a look at the end of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who put on a good show with their young, talented crew. 
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here is this morning’s interview with Toucher and Rich where I talked about the Bruins taking a step forward despite their season being over. 
 
-- He might look and sound like a Bond Villain, but Guy Boucher was far from it in stopping to shake hands with Senators fans at the airport after their playoff win over the B’s. 
 
-- Interesting that John Stevens is named head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, since the change isn’t expected to be a big departure from what was already going on there. 
 
-- The San Jose Sharks are all done for this season, and one wonders if GM Doug Wilson is going to have to choose between Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau moving forward. 

 -- Speaking of the Senators, PHT writer James O’Brien has Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson making Ottawa’s playoff victory all the more emotional

 -- For something completely different: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming to a theatre near you soon, and here’s a review. I’m looking forward to this one.

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

BOSTON -- After the Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday, nearly every player was in agreement in identifying the turning point of the season:

The coaching change.

The B's went 18-8-1 in the regular season after Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien and rallied to make the playoffs after a late-season, four-game tailspin had them in danger of missing out for the third straight year. And despite being ravaged by injuries, they showed fight and spirit in pushing Ottawa to six games, including a road victory in a double-overtime, Game 5 thriller, before eventually succumbing in overtime, 3-2, on Sunday.

Certainly there were moments of sloppiness -- ill-timed penalties, moments when the Bruins simply couldn't bust through Ottawa's 1-3-1 trap -- but Boston's gutty playoff showing, coupled with the regular-season surge, makes it seem clear Cassidy deserves to be awarded the full-time head coaching gig. 

Several Bruins players voiced their endorsement of Cassidy on Sunday, lauding him for bringing energy, offensive thrust, and open-mindedness to using younger players. 

"The results speak for themselves," said David Backes, who played some of his best hockey in Games 5 and 6 once he was paired with center Sean Kuraly. "We were climbing uphill when [Cassidy] took over and we made our way [to the playoffs] . . . [He] certainly did a heck of a job."

And how does Cassidy -- who had gone more than 13 years since his last NHL head coaching job before replacing Julien on an interim basis, and spending the previous eight seasons at the AHL level in Providence -- feel? 

"Absolutely. 100 percent," said Cassidy, when asked if he wanted the Boston job on a permanent basis.

And if he got it, perhaps those improvements would continue.

"Maybe a full year with him, he changes a few things," said Backes.

"That will be determined going forward by management whether I continue to be the head coach, and what players will be here will [also] be determined by management," said Cassidy. "So it's a tough question to answer [on what improvements need to be made]. I think we scored some goals this year. We were good on the rush as well and the power play . . . and we were always a good forechecking team. This series took on a personality that we were going to have to score on the forecheck. 

"I thought that's why you see guys like [Noel] Acciari and Kuraly get into the lineup and really contribute. It's the strength of their game, and maybe less so from other guys that are more line rush guys. Don't forget, we had a lot of neophytes going into this series in terms of National Hockey League playoffs. So there's a learning curve for them and that's part of the growth process that we hope that, if we're sitting here next year at this time talking about advancing, that they learn something from this year. That's what every team goes through and the [David] Pastrnaks of the world, [Charlie] McAvoy . . . pick your players that are new to it, and [they] have to learn from [it]."

The decision to start Anton Khudobin in Brooklyn late in the regular season after the Bruins had lost four in a row was a turning point-type move, where Cassidy certainly pushed some buttons with No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask. And his insertion of Kuraly for Ryan Spooner in Game 5 worked on every level, and probably prolonged the series. So give him credit for both of those things along with the pumped-up offense he helped orchestrate in the final few months of the regular season. 

The Bruins won't be making any public statements or pronouncements on Monday, but one has to assume Cassidy holds the inside track on the job after guiding the team back into the playoffs for the first time in three years. Certainly there may be courtesy interviews for other candidates like Providence College coach Nate Leaman, but it's difficult to see anything else Cassidy would have to accomplish to be fit for the position. 

As Backes said himself, the results speak for themselves.