B's powerless with the man advantage . . . again

559792.jpg

B's powerless with the man advantage . . . again

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. It wouldnt have felt right if the Bruins power play caught fire and dominated their first game against former defenseman Tomas Kaberle in his new Carolina digs.As it turns out, they didn't have anything to worry about.

Kaberle was the quarterback on the worst power play in the modern history of the Stanley Cup playoffs while with the Bruins last spring, and -- in perhaps a tribute that only the Hurricanes defenseman could love -- the Bs PP teams went 0-for-5 Wednesday night in their 3-2 loss to the Canes at the RBC Center.

The futile power play this season has an eerily familiar feel - if in results mostly -to a Bruins team that ranked in the bottom third of the NHL inpower-play success last year, and was even worse during the postseason. Fact is, the Bruins probably would have won Wednesday night if they had a power play humming at close to full efficiency. Admittedly the puck movement and offensive chances for the B's man advantage has been better this year with Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Joe Corvo helping move the puck more crisply and creatively. But the results still aren't there yet.Its a little bit of everything. Patience is one thing and you can only go with patience for so long, said coach Claude Julien, who is not looking forward to answering questions about the power play's lack of production again this season. But Im certainly not going to go there this year and start chirping about the power play all year long. We certainly want to make it better . . .

Our best players arent at the top of their games. The last thing you want to do is push power play troubles on these guys . . . Weve got to find a way to break that cycle.

Despite new personnel on the power play and a change in formation during the man advantage, the emotional focus has been inconsistent at best. It appears that, with only one goal in 18 attempts so far this year, the players are beginning to press, just as they did last year.

So what to do about it?

Many critics of the Bs coaching staffs including NBCs Mike Milbury during the intermission report feel there isnt enough movement among players with andwithout the puck. That'snormally an indictment of a power play without enough creative offensive players, or a group of PP players that are battling with their confidence.Given some of the offensive talent on the B's man advantage, it would appear to be the latter more than the former. The movement issues seemed to be addressed during one stretch midway through the game, but, in true Black and Gold fashion, something went wrong on the power playWednesday night when Johnny Boychuk tried to create some offense by cutting toward the back door.

Instead of executing an offensive play that might have helped them win the game or quiet the growing power play peanut gallery, Boychuk misfired on shooting the puck while speeding toward the slot and was called for goaltender interference once he collided with Carolina netminderCam Ward.

Pretty indicative of the first four games for the Bruins this season as no good deed is going unpunished for Boychuk and the Bruins.

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

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.