Neely: We need a philosophical change on the power play

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Neely: We need a philosophical change on the power play

BOSTON -- If theres one specific topic of conversation for improvement when it comes to the Bruins, its the power play.

They finished middle of the road during the year in power-play percentage, but limped to a 2-for-23 performance in their first-round playoff loss to the Washington Capitals. This came on the heels of an 0-for-21 against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round last year, in spite of which the Bruins somehow managed to win in seven games.

Thats a 4.5 power-play success rate over the last two years in the first round. Excluding the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins are 7-for-84 (8.3 percent) over the last two years in the postseason, and Bruins management finally admits that something has to give.

We got away with an ineffective power play last year," said team president Cam Neely Thursday in management's postmortem with the media. "This year it kind of bit us in the butt.

"We need to have a philosophical difference in how we look at the power play. I dont just look at the percentages when it comes to the power play. I look at when we get them, when we score on them and what time in the game they are coming for us. I think we have the personnel to improve on the power play. There are some things . . . we can do different, but its an area that absolutely needs improving. Well be discussing that in the offseason.

Nobody was talking about pink slips for the coach designing Bostons oft-stagnant power play, Geoff Ward, or making wholesale personnel changes. But Neely indicated there absolutely will be internal discussions on the matter, with plenty of time in the spring and summer to discuss strategy.

Its something Im going to leave internally for now, but its something that can be better, said Neely. The player personnel, I think, is strong. You look at the regular season and it was an area that was okay. But at the end of the year we started falling off and we could never right the ship.

Its an area where the players need to take as much responsibility 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.

In losing seven one-goal games for the first time in NHL Stanley Cup playoff history this year, the Bruins now know exactly what kind of difference a fully operational power play can make.

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line. 

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins returned to work on Monday after a big win over the weekend, but were one man down by the end of practice at Warrior Ice Arena. David Krejci exited the ice early on Monday and coach Bruce Cassidy said that the playmaking center is battling a bit of an upper body issue.

That was the reason for his abbreviated practice appearance ahead of the game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

“He’s got a bit of an upper body issue, he’s got a little discomfort,” said Cassidy of Krejci, who has one point and a minus-4 rating over his past four games. “He got treated and I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow. I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate [on it]. But that’s the issue.”

There was no play that sticks out from the Saturday night win over the Islanders were Krejci might have hurt himself, but the team’s hope is obviously that it’s something the 30-year-old can keep playing through.

With Krejci having left the ice, Ryan Spooner bumped up to the second line with the following line combos and D-pairings finishing out an hour-long practice:

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

C. Miller-K. Miller

 
Rask