By Joe Haggerty
PHILADELPHIA It took slightly longer than originally anticipated for the Tomas Kaberle Effect to start paying dividends on the power play, but theres certainly a better late than never vibe echoing through the Bruins dressing room these days.
The puck movement and the elite skill level were present on the PP as soon as the Czech Republic blueliner arrived from Toronto last month, though none of that mattered if the forwards werent scrapping and battling for inches of ice in the scoring areas.
Boston finally meshed both qualities together on Sunday night, and enjoyed its first two-power-play-goal night in more than two months to lock down an impressive 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
The last time the Bruins scored two power play goals was in a triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes Jan. 18 at the RBC Center a span of 28 games over the course of two months where the special teams' well simply dried up.
The little Sunday night spurt lifted Boston from a 16.3 to a 16.9 percent power play success rate, and things could get much easier for the Black and Gold if the power play isnt an issue during their playoff sojourn through the Eastern Conference.
There are no guarantees things will go swimmingly for the man advantage once theyre in Stanleys tournament, but it wasnt lost on the Bruins players they clinched a playoff berth during their power plays best night since mid-January.
We scored on two power plays, which is good for us, said Kaberle, who has watched the Bs power play go 6-for-49 (12.2 percent) during his 17 games with Boston. Lately weve been a lot better moving the puck on the PP and were getting rewarded right now. We got a few shots and bodies in front of the net as well, and when you have bodies there youre going to get chances.
Why did the power play suddenly find its mojo?
The 2-for-3 Bs power play performance featured a pair of greasy man advantage goals that Danny Zuko and Pony Boy would have been proud of: a rebound Nathan Horton strike in the second period, and the game-winner from Brad Marchand while he was hanging all around Brian Boucher with 3:47 to go in the game.
The game-winning play in a nutshell: a Dennis Seidenberg blast bounced off Bouchers glove and grazed Marchands chest before dropping in front of him for a golden game-changing opportunity.
Marchand didnt miss, and had his 20th goal of the season after fighting through a 12-game goal-scoring drought that the 22-year-old admitted had him bouncing off the walls with frustration.
Its been a while. The power play is really coming along, and it really stepped up and got some big goals tonight, said Marchand. Theyre pretty tough in their own end. They all collapse, and we were talking about getting pucks into the net and getting guys in front of their goalie. We knew it was going to be a greasy one, and thats what it ended up being.
I kind of saw the lane and I knew Seidenberg was going to shoot. We made eye contact there. He made a great shot getting it through and creating the rebound. That was a great shot by Seidenberg.
Perhaps assuming the arrival of Kaberle would magically cure all of Bostons power play ills, there wasnt enough brute strength or blunt force coming out of the battle areas in front of the net. The forwards werent willing to pay the physical price for success, and in effect the power play never got to enjoy the spoils.
That started to change in wins over the Devils and Canadiens when the man advantage cobbled together power play goals in the consecutive victories, and thats allowed Bostons PP to go 4-for-15 (26.7 percent) over its last four games.
Both Bs power play units registered a goal against Philly, and kept battling after a first-period power play didnt really generate much in the energy or momentum departments.
Calling it a power-play fizzle might have been a kind compliment.
But thats all changed now, and allows power-play stalwarts like Kaberle and David Krejci to take credit for refusing to make wholesale changes just for the sake of it.
As long as the work ethic is present among the oversized group of forwards around the net, theres no reason to think the power play cant be a more consistent source of offense at the very least.
Its about time. Its about time, said Recchi of the power play. Its been a long haul and weve got a lot better at it in the last four or five games, and we showed signs of turning it around. Tonight you get a good opportunity late in the game to win, and those are the kind of things youre going to need from your power play if you want to have success in the playoffs.
The Bs PP squad only amounted to five shots on net in the victory over the Flyers, but the quality of shots expanded for Boston as the game went along.
The new composition of each unit has been a big reason for the PPs resurgence when it seemed nothing was working.
The first power-play squad is essentially Bostons top forward line paired with Zdeno Chara and Kaberle at the point spots, but Julien and assistant coach Geoff Ward have utilized a little creativity and imagination for the second power play unit.
Young forwards Marchand and Tyler Seguin have added some energetic pop to the second PP team along with points Patrice Bergeron and Seidenberg, and just about every one of the five players had heavy involvement in Marchands game-winning strike. There was a perfect example of Seguin's progress in the first period: he made a soft play on Boston's first PP that opened up a short-handed rush for the Flyers, but he responded by belting Scott Hartnell later in the game and finding a little snarl with Claude Giroux after a whistle later in the game.
The new blood has brought speed, skill and a slight level of unpredictably along with Marchands sandpaper, and the Bs have to hope that Sundays effort was the start of a bigupward power play trend.