Changing on the Fly: Power play needs overhaul

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Changing on the Fly: Power play needs overhaul

The Bruins are a team without many glaring weaknesses.

After all, you dont win the Cup without considerable strengths that are able to overshadow every little point of weakness on a hockey club.

But the Bs power play is no longer a puny little weakness. A huge, gaping hole and profound problem would be better ways to describe a special teams unit that continues to fail the Black and Gold when it matters most.

Its a major problem to be reckoned with this summer by the Bs decision-makers.

Its also one of the single biggest reasons the Bruins playoff bubble burst after losing four one-goal games in an incredibly tight seven-game first round series. The Bruins were 2-for-23 on the PP during this years battle with the Washington Capitals, and are an obscenely bad 2-for-44 in the first round over the last two years.

Thats a grotesque 4.5 percent success rate that even Ripley wouldnt believe if werent unequivocally true.

Bruins President Cam Neely admitted the need for a change in philosophy when it comes to the power play next season. That includes adjustments from the coaching staff and the players, and more importantly results.

We got away with it last year as everybody knows. This year, it kind of bit us in the butt. We really need to have a philosophical difference in how we look at the power play. I dont just look at the percentage of the power play, I look at when we get power plays, what the score of the game is, and what time of the game isthats important, said Neely. Maybe more so important than what the actual percentage of the power play is. I think we have the personnel that we can improve on the power play. There are some things well certainly discuss in the offseason about what we can do differently with the power play. I think its an area that absolutely needs improvement and we will improve on it.

Neely wants more movement and more life to a power play that becomes all-too predictable when it simply revolves around generating big shots from Zdeno Chara at the point. There isnt enough of a Marc Savard-like presence off the half-wall that can shoot, create offense by rushing the net or pass with the kind of lethal scoring ability that can keep opposing coaches up at night.

Its something were going to keep internal right now, but I just know it can better, said Neely when asked whether it was the coaching or player personnel he held as the culprit behind the power plays struggles. The player personnel is strong. Dont get me wrong. Its an area where we were okay during the regular season, but we started to fall off in the players and couldnt right the ship.

Its an area where players have to take responsibility as much as the coaching staff because its a privilege to be on the power play. Its certainly an area of the game that can make a difference between winning and losing. I watch a lot of hockey and a lot of power plays. What I see is a lot of movement. Obviously its about getting pucks down low, but its also about getting that puck movement and making the penalty killers work hard. When I look at good power plays thats what I see coming out of it.

Savard averaged 37 power play points a season for the Bruins during his first three years in Boston.

The leading power play guy this year for the Bruins was Zdeno Chara with 18 points, and Nathan Horton ranked third on the team in power play goals despite missing the final 36 games of the season.

Its one area where David Krejci has been a disappointment since first cracking the NHL despite a skill set that seems made for it.

Krejci appeared ready to replace Savards magical touch on the man advantage when concussions finally got the better of him, but that hasnt happened in three years. The Bruins PP has been run-of-the-mill at best, and an anchor dragging them down at its worst moments.

Perhaps it will be Tyler Seguin that finally breathes life into the unit with a versatile, elite set of offensive skills and the burgeoning experience and confidence needed to be a power play ace. Or maybe the Bruins can bring in an outside free agent influence like Zach Parise or Ryan Sutter to perk up the Bs man advantage.

Parise would have led the Bs with nine power play goals scored during the regular season, and Suters 25 points for the NHLs top-ranked power play unit blew away anybody on the Black and Gold.

But its not a difficult trick to make the Bs power play look so bad.

The challenge this summer is to make it something that will win the Bruins a playoff game or two next time around, and that will be doubly difficult if its the same group of players manning the unit next year.

Pastrnak on looming RFA status: 'I obviously love it here'

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Pastrnak on looming RFA status: 'I obviously love it here'

David Pastrnak will be a better player for some of his struggles in his first Stanley Cup playoff experience over the last couple of weeks.

The 20-year-old right winger might even be a better player from the experience for Team Czech Republic when he joins them next month for the world championships in Europe. Pastrnak did have a couple of goals in the six game series against the Ottawa Senators and it wasn’t a complete disaster for the youngster the first time around, but he also wasn’t quite up to the lofty standards he set this season when he posted 34 goals and 70 points.

“It was different, but to be honest I loved it. It hurt [to lose] but every win felt unbelievable,” said Pastrnak. “It was a great experience for me, and hopefully in the coming years I get to taste that feeling a lot more times. You always want to be the player that makes a difference, but at the NHL level it’s a good feeling no matter who the hero is.  

“Every year is a learning lesson especially for a young player like me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come back stronger and get better every year. Obviously the year ended sooner than we wanted, but I did get that first taste of the playoffs after missing out in the first couple of years. It’s another experience and hopefully I get better every year.”

He had just a combined five shots on net in five of the six postseason games, and really only let loose with a big performance in the Game 5 double-overtime win. Otherwise it was sloppy turnovers with the puck against the 1-3-1 trap, a passive role in the offense where he missed the net far too often with the shots he did take and then an ill-timed penalty in overtime in Game 5 that led to the goal that ended their season.

The Bruins didn't shy away from the fact that Pastrnak looked like a first timer in his playoff experience, and expect the third year pro to be better for it the next time around. Clearly the banged-up status of David Krejci throughout the first round also had an impact on Pastrnak’s production and effectiveness as well.

“I think our playoffs, several players went through [the playoffs] for the first time and no matter what you say, until you have experience you don’t get it anywhere else, you’ve got to go through it. Hopefully we’ll be better off as a result of it,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “Sitting with David Pastrnak [on Wednesday], that’s the first time he’s played an NHL playoff game. He’ll hopefully be a better player as a result of it. He had a tremendous regular season, but it’s the next level, it’s a new challenge. I thought the vast majority of our players really did a nice job.”

There’s the other situation facing Pastrnak and the Bruins with his entry level contract up after this season, and negotiations set to get underway between his agent and GM Don Sweeney on a second contract. A complete breakdown of the looming negotiations will be a different story for a different day with Pastrnak, but suffice it say that a 20-year-old is going to get paid after dropping 34 goals and 70 points in just his third NHL season.

On the short end of the spectrum one could have a comparable like Chicago’s Artemi Panarin with his two-year, $12 million deal if the two sides come together on a bridge deal, and a contract like Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (six-year, $40.5 million for a $6.75 million cap hit) if both sides are amenable to a longer deal that buys out some of the young Pastrnak’s unrestricted free agent years.

That leaves a lot of room in between to negotiate and a lot of time before the two sides would have to start worrying about offer sheets around July 1, or about a potential holdout next fall if things don’t go smoothly. Either way, pending restricted free agent Pastrnak left no doubt that he wants to remain a member of the Bruins and continue developing as one of the most exciting young offensive players in the NHL.

“100 percent. I obviously love it here. This is where they gave me the opportunity to be in the NHL. It’s not something I was focusing on all season, so I’m not really going to think about it now,” said Pastrnak, when asked about a deal getting done with the Bruins. “It’s not in my hands. It’s in the hands of management and my agent. Both sides have seen these situations a million times, so I’ll let them handle it.”

Pure skill players don’t come along all that often for the Bruins and now they’ve got one starting to become battle-hardened following his less-than-perfect playoff experience this spring. Now all they’ve got to do is find a way to sign him, and that’s a lot easier said than done as they continue to also try and improve the current NHL roster at the same time. 

McQuaid on going in the NHL expansion draft: ‘I hope that’s not the case for me’

McQuaid on going in the NHL expansion draft: ‘I hope that’s not the case for me’

BOSTON – With the NHL expansion draft looming a couple of months in the future, it became much more of a reality for the Bruins this week now that the 2016-17 season is in the books.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said on Thursday that he expects the Bruins to go the 7 (forwards) 3 (defensemen) 1 (goaltender) route protecting their roster from the June 21 expansion draft. That will still leave some useful roster players unprotected.

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Atop that available expansion list for the Bruins will be potential names Malcolm Subban, Riley Nash, Jimmy Hayes and Adam McQuaid, who could be headed to Vegas. Asked about the topic at this week’s breakup day for the players, McQuaid expressed his hopes that he isn’t the one selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. The 30-year-old McQuaid stayed healthy enough to play in 77 games this season, and posted two goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 while serving in a top-four role pretty much all season as Torey Krug’s defensive partner.

McQuaid also brought the toughness and quiet leadership element with his willingness to always stand up for his teammates and go toe-to-toe with the toughest guys in the league when it was called for. His midseason heavyweight bout with Matt Martin was one of the most memorable moments of the season. It’s an element the Bruins would miss if he was taken in the expansion draft.  

“Well, I hope not. I never thought of it that way, to be honest with you. Obviously, the reality of the situation is they’re picking somebody from every team,” said McQuaid. “So, I hope that’s not the case for me. I’ve won here and I’ve always said how much I love it back here. I can’t imagine playing for another team. It’s totally out of my control, but hopefully that’s not the case.”

McQuaid is signed for $2.75 million for the next seasons and it was clear he was missed on the penalty kill once he went down injured in the first-round series against the Ottawa Senators. As for the entire expansion process, Sweeney said they are currently whittling down the protected list while required to protect Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to start by virtue of the no-movement language in their contracts.

Other young players, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano among others, don’t need to be protected either after completing this season with two years or less of pro hockey experience. One of the most difficult decisions will come down to protecting either 25-year-old Colin Miller or 28-year-old Kevan Miller as the third defensemen. 

Whichever one of those D-men is left unprotected would join McQuaid as the most likely player to be selected by Vegas GM George McPhee after he spent a decent amount of time scouting the Black and Gold this season to get an idea of which player he wanted.

Here’s our best guess at which players will end up being protected by the Bruins:

Forwards (7): Bergeron, Krejci, Backes, Pastrnak, Marchand, Beleskey and Spooner

Defensemen (3): Chara, Krug and Colin Miller

Goaltender (1): Rask