Notes: Krejci back on penalty kill vs. Lightning

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Notes: Krejci back on penalty kill vs. Lightning

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON A huge key to slowing down the Tampa Bay Lightning is short-circuiting the high octane power play thats been so good for them this season. It's a challenge Boston will have to face without Patrice Bergeron.

The 25-year-old center is one of Bostons best penalty killers when healthy, and his loss will hamper an already struggling PK unit. Boston has allowed 8 power-play goals in 41 chances during the playoffs, an 80.5 percent success rate that's better than only the Detroit Red Wings (76.7 percent) among playoff teams still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

Bruins coach Claude Julien has already tapped David Krejci as Bergerons replacement on the penalty kill -- a move that's been a long time coming for the playmaking center.

Krejci has been actively campaigning to get back on the PK squad since he was relieved of special-teams duty following the trade of Blake Wheeler to the Atlanta Thrashers. Wheeler and Krejci were penalty kill partners, and Julien chose to utilize the Czech Republic native in more of an offensive role.

There is no doubt David Krejci has been a pretty good penalty killer, said Julien. Since we have a lot of penalty killers, we tried to save him more for the offensive side of our game. We are able to come back with him after killing a penalty, and his line has been coming out. So you have to use David on the penalty kill and thats things you have to adjust with. Mark Recchi has been able to bail us out too in regards to that.

We are going to have to utilize certain guys. Depending on how many penalties we get too, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell can almost start it, get a rest and go back out there again. Maybe we do a little bit more of it. We are going to try to utilize our personnel as best we can in regards to that and make sure the penalty kill stays good. At the same time, I think we want to make sure we have players doing the job and doing it properly.

Now that Krejci is back hell likely join Marchand along with the pairs of Gregory CampbellDaniel Paille and Rich PeverleyChris Kelly in holding Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis at bay over the next couple of weeks. Perhaps there will even be a bit more counter-punch capability while short-handed if an offensively adept force like Krejci is out there on the PK.

But Job No. 1 will clearly be keeping Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier from adding to the seven power play-goals those three have amassed in the first 11 postseason games. The Bolts have a 26.7 percent success rate and have averaged more than a power-play goal per playoff game. They lead the entire playoff field with 12 power-play goals thus far in the Cup playoffs.

The biggest special-teams challenge will come in slowing down St. Louis, who can be wildly unpredictable and creative on the man advantage with his speed and playmaking abilities. Sometimes St. Louis will create from the half-wall and other times hell decide to do same damage down low with the big bodies.

Theyve always been a team that can score and kill you on the scoreboard, but theyre built a lot more solidly now from the goaltender out, said Campbell. Their top guys are some of the best in the league, so when you have that combination its obviously going to work on the power play.

Theyve always had a power play that I wouldnt call unstructured, but they move parts in and out. Its tough to defend that when St. Louis is sometimes on the point and sometimes hes down low. To have a game plan is probably a little tougher than other teams, and they have a lot of weapons.

So the Bs havent been all that successful in completely shutting down the Habs and Flyers in their first 11 games, and will need to improve if they hope to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Shutting St. Louis and nudging Stamkos off his one-timer spot at the right faceoff dot are the biggest keys once a penalty has been called.

Of course, the best way to avoid power-play damage is to avoid penalties altogether.

Discipline is always going to be the key word that every team is always going to use in the playoffs obviously, said Julien. But there are going to be penalties. In a series there always are. Our PK is going to have to come up big for us and we know that.

"The power play has been pretty good and theyve got some pretty highly skilled players on those power plays, whether its shots or playmaking . . . good presence in the front of the net. They seem to have that going very well for them.

Nobody has been able to slow down the Lightning from striking on the power play in the postseason, and that will be one of the big factors to unravel the Bruins if they do end up falling in the series.

Its up to the Bs special teams crew to slow down an All-Star power play crew in Tampa, and theres no easy way around it.

Nate Thompson was a captain for the Providence Bruins during his three plus years with the P-Bruins after getting drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 draft. He played with current Bs David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Adam McQuaid during his time in the Bs organization. But Thompson finally blossomed into a gritty, third-line center this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and finished the regular year with 25 points (10 goals and 15 assists) in 79 games.

Thompson became a staple on the bottom-six forwards along with Sean Bergenheim and Dominic Moore, and he gives the Lightning a combination of grit and offensive finish behind all of their bright stars.

Julien said Thompson is blossoming into the player the Bs always envisioned hed become, which has been to Tampa Bays benefit after he signed there as a free agent two years ago.

Hes always been a hard-working, dedicated individual, said Julien. He was a great person as well. There wasnt much to not like about Nate. Im happy hes found a place to play . . . Tampa Bay seems to be a really good fit for him.

"Although you compete against each other, there are certain times where youve got to look at the individual and say Im glad he got rewarded for all his hard work. Thats certainly what I think about Nate. Unfortunately organizations make decisions based on what they can or cant do. We didnt have a choice but to put him on the waivers when we did, and he got picked up because he was a good player.

Tomas Kaberle hasnt been the answer man for the Boston power play though the Bruins have scored PP goals in each of the last two playoff games but Julien thinks the smooth-passing defenseman can be a key against the trap-happy Lightning.

Kaberles passing and vision through the neutral zone is exactly what can help pick apart the 1-3-1 trap defense employed by Lightning coach Guy Boucher, and his ability to carry the puck will be vital if the Bolts switch to a 1-2-2, as they did during the first regular-season meeting of the two teams.

Some of this new importance for Kaberle has to be tempered by the fact that his minutes have consistently gone down throughout the playoffs while Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference have picked up the slack.

Kaberle can definitely be a good asset," said Julien. "Thats one of his strengths: passing and finding those seams. Ive found that his game in regards to that has been pretty good. He has been moving the puck pretty well through neutral zones. People have had a tendency to be hard on him because they probably expected more.

"Were one of those groups that we know we can bring some of those good assets to our power play. We can help him through that. But he still has a decent player as far as his passing is concerned: moving pucks through seams and making those right plays in those tight areas.

Checked in with one of the Bs equipment guys, and the team has ordered roughly 150 Reebok sticks for center Patrice Bergeron as hes literally snapped dozens of expensive sticks during the regular season and playoffs. My loyal readers can do the math, but thats some serious scratch that the Black and Gold are spending on sticks that continuously shatter at an amazing rate.

Brad Marchand was asked by the assorted media if he remembered a time in his career when he started acting up and agitating opposing teams. The birthday boy, who turned 23 years old Wednesday, didnt have a very good answer.

I dont know, said Marchand after some quick thinking. I think maybe I was just born this way.

From the Bruins' P.R. department:

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Boston Bruins with the Environmental Merit Award during a special ceremony at Boston's Faneuil Hall on Tuesday afternoon. The Environmental Merit Award honors individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region's environment. Boston Bruins Foundation Director of Development Bob Sweeney accepted the award on behalf of the Bruins organization.

At the start of the 2010 -11 season, the Bruins joined the NHL's green initiative and partnered with Rock and Wrap It Up! to help fight hunger throughout the United States and Canada. The Boston Bruins committed to work with Rock and Wrap it Up! to pack up all prepared but unsold concession food and give it to local shelters and places in need citywide. To date, the Bruins have donated 4,950 meals and 6,950 pounds of food to the Boston Rescue Mission. Including TD Gardens contributions, a cumulative total of 15.5 tons of food has been donated to the Boston Rescue Mission.

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

Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

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Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while continuing to marvel at the strength and character of Isaiah Thomas. 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals doing major damage control after going down 0-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their series. 

*Dion Phaneuf is finding exactly what he needed with the Ottawa Senators and is going past where he’d been before in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

*The New Jersey Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery, and will get the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft with a team badly in need of some star power. 

*On the other hand, the Colorado Avalanche were the big losers dropping all the way to the fourth overall pick after being a dumpster fire all season. I guess there is some hockey justice left in the world. 

*Larry Brooks says that the word on the street is that the Lightning are going to shop Jonathan Drouin this summer for a stud top-4 D-man. They should be getting the pick of the litter by making the skilled forward available. 

*Ron MacLean and Don Cherry talk Big, Bad Oilers and the decline of Corey Perry during Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. 

*For something completely different: Manny Ramirez hitting home runs in Taiwan is a beauty and a joy forever

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.