Bruins' power play finally starts clicking

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Bruins' power play finally starts clicking

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

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.

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

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

BRIGHTON, Mass -- The Bruins lost Matt Beleskey for six weeks to a knee injury this week, and now they’re hoping to get another winger back now that 22-year-old Frank Vatrano has rejoined the Bruins at practice.

Vatrano was wearing a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, but his presence along with the other players at the team skate means that he’s moving closer toward a return to the B’s lineup. While initial timetables for his recovery from foot surgery had him in the early January range for returning to the Bruins lineup, it appears that he might be at least a couple of weeks ahead of that initial expectation.

Either way Vatrano is happy to be back on the ice with his teammates after the torn ligaments in his foot wiped out his training camp and the first two plus months of the regular season for him.

“It was a big step for me today. It was nice to be out there with the guys for the first time,” said Vatrano, who scored a combined 44 goals last season for Providence and Boston in a breakout season with the B’s organization. “I’ve gone through the rehab and done everything I need to do to get back playing, so now the next step is getting back on the ice with the guys. I felt great, so now it’s just waiting to hear the news when I start playing again.”

While Vatrano is still a young, relatively inexperienced player with just one full year of pro hockey under his belt, the sense from the Bruins is that he’s going to help a team that’s currently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense. Claude Julien was encouraged by seeing him out there in the red, no-contact jersey that his teammates were chirping him about, and said that his level play at last spring’s world championships should give him confidence when he jumps back into a big role with the Black and Gold.

“It’s a step in the right direction for Frank. That’s the best way for him to get to the pace of our game because it’s going to take a while when you’ve been out that long,” said Vatrano. “I think his experience at world championships last year is a real blessing in disguise because he gained a lot of confidence there. I think that’s going to help him a lot more than had he not gone.

“He played against a lot of elite players last year, and he fared really well. I think he’ll be coming in now with some confidence, and we just have to sure coming in that we give him every opportunity to succeed by using him properly, and giving him a chance to find his game.”

That certainly sounds like the Bruins are preparing for a top-6 role and maybe some power play time once the young, sharp-shooting Vatrano is back up to full speed. That should be fun to watch once he’s ready to play, and ready to again unleash that shot and release that rivals anybody else for tops on the Bruins roster. 

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place.