B's looking to crowd the net to beat Bishop

B's looking to crowd the net to beat Bishop
October 19, 2013, 3:15 pm
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TAMPA – While the Bruins clearly aren’t irate about a 4-2 start to the season that has them in the middle of the Atlantic Division pack, they also know there are improvements to be made.

The Bruins are ranked second in the NHL in goals against and have the league’s second best penalty kill unit in a couple of developments that shouldn’t shock anybody. But they’re also middle of the pack offensively while scoring 2.5 goals per game, and rank 24th with a power play that’s succeeded only 13.6 percent of the time.

Key offensive players like Brad Marchand (1 goal in six games) and Jarome Iginla (no goals in six games) have struggled to produce while Loui Eriksson has been intermittently productive early in the season. Some of it is new players still getting into the swing of being a Bruin, although it hasn’t seemed to bother Reilly Smith much in a promising start for the Black and Gold.

A bigger element the Bruins are working on is the urgency in the offensive end of the ice, where their coach is calling for much more net-front presence and net drive needed for creating chaos in front of the net. Pouncing on rebounds, tipping pucks and consistently screening the goaltender the recipe for goals in the NHL these days, and it’s something the Bruins need more of.

“We’re trying to find some real consistency to our game on both defense and offense,” said Claude Julien. “We need to find a 60-minute game, and that’s what you need to demand when you feel you have a really good team. You can’t be satisfied. We want to be better all the time.

“[Bishop] takes up a lot of space in the net, so we’re going to have to do a better job around there. Not just taking his eyes away, but jumping on loose pucks and getting a little hungrier. That’s something we’re working hard on to improve right now.”

Reilly Smith’s game-winner from Thursday night against the Panthers was perhaps the best example of this: the 22-year-old hustled from behind the net after making a centering pass, and found the puck on his stick at the inside edge of the left circle for the late third period score.

“Winning battles around the net” is a well-communicated message that’s been received by the players, particularly those like Gregory Campbell that are adept at altering shots in front of the painted area. That’s something they’ll certainly need to do against 6-foot-6 goaltending giant Ben Bishop, who is 5-0-0 with a .943 save percentage and a 1.57 goals against thus far this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“It’s something we should try to do every night. Goalies are all good in this league. I understand [Bishop] has been playing very well, but net-front presence is something that’s a key to our success,” said Campbell. “We’re a big team, and if you look at most of the goals scored these days, they’re from around 15 feet and inward.

“Defensemen do a good job boxing out now too, so it’s critical to getting in there and taking away the goaltender’s eyes. That’s going to be a real key for us.”

Consistent shift-to-shift effort is also something the Bruins will be looking to master at this early point in the season, but perhaps it will be one department at a time for the Black and Gold with crowding Bishop as the first order of business.