Bruins penalty killers stifle Lightning

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Bruins penalty killers stifle Lightning

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Its no exaggeration to say that the Tampa Bay Lightning's high octane power play unit was just destroying teams over the first two rounds of the playoffs.

They led the NHL playoff field with 12 power play goals and were cranking at over 27 percent efficiency against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. It's no surprise with their many weapons. When Steve Stamkos struggled in his first playoff experience Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis carried the day.

But a little something happened on the way to the electric Bolts special teams squad pouncing all over the Bruins. They ran into a gritty, unrelenting Bs penalty kill unit that has somehow made up for their power plays impotence, and has held the Lightning to a 2-for-18 performance in the first five games against Tampa Bay.

Whats important for us to frustrate them before they even get into the zone, and to not let them set up. Once they get set up theyre bound to make plays, said Gregory Campbell. When youre killing penalties youre out there against arguably the best five players on the other team.

Our job is to limit those plays and be desperate and sacrifice. Those are big parts of a good penalty kill.

Within that 2-for-18, the Bruins have kept the Tampa power play off the board in three out of five games and actually have killed off nine straight Lightning power plays over the last three games against a high-wattage Tampa bunch.

Its the same thing. You have to play it game by game, and every game is a different story. We cant say just because yesterday was good that tomorrow will be as well, said Campbell. Youve got to have that urgency and that killer instinct every time you go out to kill a power play.

They have a dangerous power play much like Montreal did. Of course its got to do with personnel, but those guys have also been together for a long time. They know each other well, and they seem to create plays out of nothing. If you take away one option then there are other options for other guys. I know teams have really keyed on Stamkos over the last couple of years because of his shot, but how can you do that? Its like pick your poison.

Its been a big step up for the Bruins PK unit after they were gashed numerous times by the Montreal power play in the first round, and now the tandems of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, and Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell have really gained traction in the third round of the playoffs.

Paille went on a goal-scoring tear at the end of the season to really make a push for a playoff roster spot, and has been doing all of the little things during 5-on-5 play and during penalty kill situations. His strong skating ability allows him to apply heavy pressure when needed on the penalty kill, and there is just enough sandpaper in his game to make it tough on offensive skill players during the PP.

I think he's done a great job penalty killing. He's a guy that has a lot of energy, fore-checks well, puts a lot of pressure on the other team, especially up the ice, said Julien. He's done a great job of that. So this is where he's always excelled and this is what we needed from him. He's played just great in regards to that, and he's been a real important player for us as far as our penalty kill success is concerned.

Stifling the high-flying Tampa PP was the goal prior to the series getting started against Guy Boucher and his coaching staff, and the Bruins have reached the mark nearly all of the time. In a 20 minute period in Game 5, the Bs penalty killers stifled four straight Tampa power plays when the score was 1-0 and a strike by the Lightning on any of the PP possessions would have meant the real likelihood of a loss.

At one point Peverley and Kelly were both stuck out for pretty much the entire two minutes of a kill, and they managed to find some energy reserves to gut it out when the team needed their services. Those are the kinds of things that dont end up in the score sheet, but win games.

Heading into the series, we knew that they had an advantage, and that was the part of the penalty kill was very good, special teams was certainly given an edge, a good edge to Tampa's team, said Julien. We knew it had to be better in regards to both. And although our power play has scored but hasn't been the best, we've been able, with our penalty kill, to neutralize theirs to a certain extent as well.

Right now between the two teams, you know, the special teams P.K. and P.P. are about the same. So that's something that we've managed to do that was important for us. Because had we not done that, I think the series might be in a different place right now.

Julien and the Bruins know that could change at any point in the series, however, and the results would be dire for the entire team.

The Bruins killers have been desperate and resourceful during their brushes with the Lightning, and success lies with keeping that up for just a few more periods of hockey.

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

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

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Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while excited for Season 2 of Stranger Things now that it’s official.

*An interesting look at Jack Eichel’s perspective during the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes as it seems like he took the hands off approach toward the end.

* On this date in NHL history a classy, legendary Hall of Famer, was born in late Habs forward Jean Beliveau.

* The USA Today has a list of 10 players that could change the fates of their respective teams this season, and there wasn’t a Bruins player among them.

* Former Bruins winger Blake Wheeler has been named captain of the Winnipeg Jets in a move that makes all the sense in the world. He’s really developed into a terrific player since being traded from Boston.

* PK Subban will visit a Montreal children’s hospital to give an update on his pledge to give a big helping hand.

* Resident NHL cheap shot artist Raffi Torres will be getting a tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he’s one type of player that the league can do without these days.

* The Hockey News lists young center Matthew Barzal as a player that could make or break the season for the Islanders. That’s the same Barzal that the Bruins skipped two years ago to draft Zach Senyshyn in the first round, for those that are keeping score.

* For something completely different: Stranger Things season 2 details? Ummm, yes please.

Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

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Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

Click here for the gallery.

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Malcolm Subban.

Things might have been much different for Subban had he avoided the fractured larynx injury last winter, and instead been able to continue building momentum toward winning an NHL job this season as the understudy to Tuukka Rask. Instead, Subban sustained the freak injury that knocked him out for the final months of last season, and now finds himself stuck organizationally after the B’s signed old friend Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on July 1 to once again work in tandem with Rask. Now it looks like it will be the AHL again for the foreseeable future for Subban.

What happened last year

Subban has shown flashes throughout his young career after the Bruins made him a first-round pick in 2012, and that continued last season prior to the stray puck that hit him in an unprotected part of his throat during pregame warm-ups. The shame of the injury’s timing was that Subban was perhaps playing the best hockey of his career and it finally appeared like he was headed toward the consistency that’s eluded him thus far. Instead the 22-year-old finished last season with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage and didn’t appear on the surface to make much of a progression from his first couple of pro seasons. The injury cost Subban any chance to potentially move into this season as Tuukka Rask’s backup at and really puts a lot of pressure on him to turn the corner this season in the AHL.

Questions to be answered this season

The question still lingers as to whether Subban is an actually NHL goaltender. He still has the potential to be a No. 1 guy as he gains experience and confidence between the pipes. He’s still just 22 with three years of AHL experience and goaltender is a position where it can take longer for the development arc to be completed. But Subban needs to start showing a little bit more dominance in the AHL if he wants to start pushing for looks in the NHL, and clearly needs to be more consistent rather than shining every once in a while with brilliant performances. The talent is clearly there for Subban as a gifted athlete playing goaltender, but it still looks like he’s a late-comer to the goaltending position as he was in his teenage years. Perhaps this is the season where it all comes together for him.

In their own words

“I’ve been hit in the neck before. I have all the gear on now, the protection and stuff. I’ve gotten used to it. Honestly I feel like a tank. I’m not even worried at all about getting hit again. [My approach] is the same as it’s been since I was drafted. I just focus on myself and my game, and that’s all I can really control. My goal is to make the team the same as it is every year, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I just have to play well and give my chance a team to win every night.” –Malcolm Subban talking about his injury and his approach at development camp in July.

 Outlook

We are entering make-or-break territory with Subban and the Bruins as he enters his fourth pro season with the organization with very little discernible progress made over that time period. The injury makes it even more difficult to gauge if he has shown significant signs of development in his time in the AHL and if he’ll be a better goalie than the one that imploded in St. Louis during his NHL debut a couple of years ago. Subban has made strides in his technique and certainly seems to understand the need to gain consistency at this point in his career, but all of this will be happening at the AHL level for the next couple of years barring any injuries to Rask or Khudobin. One has to wonder if Subban is going to end up in another NHL organization via trade given the current goaltending situation in Boston. Subban won’t be getting his NHL shot anytime soon in Boston and he still has work to do before he’s even earned it. With Rask a fixture in Boston and Subban’s lack of clear dominance in the AHL, it makes one wonder why the B’s selected him in the first round back in 2012 when clearly there were bigger organizational needs.  

 

 

Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

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Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

The Bruins announced some organizational signings and one surprise dip into late summer free agency with a one-year, $900,000 contract for 36-year-old depth center Dominic Moore.

The B’s also announced one year, two-way contracts for forward Brian Ferlin, along with defensemen Chris Casto and Alex Grant, and all three of those players will serve as young, organizational depth players in Providence.

Moore has spent each of the last three seasons with the New York Rangers amid a career 765 NHL games played as a solid face-off and penalty-kill player that has fourth line candidate written all over him.

The Bruins will be former Harvard center Moore’s 10th NHL team. He’s coming off a season where he posted six goals and 15 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts, and has previously played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose along with the Rangers.

While Moore is a solid candidate for fourth-line duty that will provide leadership, good face-off work, solid and gritty penalty-kill work and all kinds of NHL experience, he is also a 36-year-old on a team that has a ton of center candidates headed into camp. 

Moore’s presence could be problematic if he’s standing in the way of developing young centers Austin Czarnik and Noel Acciari. The expectation is that B’s coach Claude Julien, as he always has in the past with safe veterans like Chris Kelly, will go with a player like Moore over the youngsters if times start getting tough for the Black and Gold.

Ferlin, 24, completed his second professional season with the AHL's Providence Bruins in 2015-16, producing six goals and eight assists for 14 points with 27 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating in 23 games. He was sidelined for much of last season in Providence by a concussion.

Casto, 24, completed his third full AHL season with Providence in 2015-16, establishing career highs with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points with 47 penalty minutes in 68 games.

Grant, 27, spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, splitting time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Springfield. He recorded seven penalty minutes in five games in the NHL, while compiling 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points with 57 penalty minutes in 69 games in the AHL.