Bruins search for a power-play solution

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Bruins search for a power-play solution

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER The murmurs have amplified through the playoffs, and are getting more difficult to ignore.

The Bruins' power play has been impossibly bad.

The B's are 19 games into their playoff run and are now battling the best team in the NHL in the Stanley Cup Finals, so perfection is something they need to aspire to. But even something far less than perfection -- just occasional success -- would be a welcome change for the Bruins' man advantage.

Their power play is now running at a 7.5 percent success rate in the postseason and is as unsightly as it is ineffective. The Bruins did rifle off 12 shots on net in their six power plays during Game 1 and didnt lose any momentum when they activated the power play, but thats really just a consolation prize because consistent goal production on the PP seems like a distant fantasy.

With the power play continuing to struggle, coach Claude Julien tinkered with the personnel in Game 1 and went with Tyler Seguin at spots in the first couple of periods without any tangible results on the scoreboard.

But at least the coach was trying something different. Hell need to continue those outside-the-box efforts on his special teams until they break through.

One change Julien should seriously consider: Removing Mark Recchi from the power-play units.

Rex is the ultimate pro, a gamer, a future Hall of Famer and both a gentlemen and excellent leader of men. But hes also 43 years old, and has logged 100 regular-season and playoff games over the last 10 months.

The Bs winger has no points in 19 games on the Boston power play during this playoff run, even though only Nathan Horton and David Krejci have logged more power play time than Recchis 49:28 during the postseason.

Statistically, Recchi has come up short on an unproductive power play, and there is no crispness or quickness with the puck when it comes to his side of the ice during the man advantage.

The bottom line: Puck movement slows down demonstrably when Recchi is out with the power-play unit, and he makes it much easier to defend.

Recchi said his nonperformance had nothing to do with his energy level because the Bruins had a significant break prior to the start of the Cup finals.

I feel great. I feel good. I had lots of energy in Game 1, said Recchi. I would expect the entire thing to last for the whole series.

Recchi didnt feel like changes needed to be made to the special teams units despite the 0-for-6 performance in Game 1 against Vancouver. But he said its always up to the coaches to decide who plays on the power-play units.

I think the groups were good. I think the groups were fine yesterday and we had a lot of opportunities, said Recchi. I dont know what youre going with this right now, but whatever. Thats up to the coaches to decide. I like the way it worked and well see what happens on Saturday. Thats up to the coaches.

Recchis teammates didnt buy into the theory that he should be off the ice on the power play, of course, and linemate Patrice Bergeron felt like Recchi's experience and calming influence on the ice is a vital piece to everything Boston is doing.

Hes fine. He has been around the block more than once, said Bergeron. His experience helps everyone on the ice so much. We're just happy to have a guy like him on our team.

Julien had a chance to relieve Recchi of his power-play duties temporarily in the first period when he inserted Seguin into the man-advantage unit, but instead pulled off Michael Ryder . . . even though Ryder finished tied for the most power-play goals on the team during the regular season.

We have to find a way to score more goals," said Bergeron. "On the power play is the area we need to fix and be better, especially having a five-on-three and a four-minute five-on-four, you have to find a way.

There is, of course, some level of futility in pinning an entire power-play units faults on the back of one player, and Andrew Ference was quick to point that out when asked about Recchis goose egg during the playoffs.

Does anybody on our team have a lot of power-play goals? Ference asked. Its not just one person or one thing with the power play. Its about all of the guys on both units and its different at different times that have been presenting challenges. I think everybody felt pretty good about the power play in the last game, but its always about production at the end of the day.

The ratings for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in the United States were big for NBC, and they certainly caused more than a ripple in the local Boston market.

Boston was the top-rated market in the country with a 25.5 overnight rating for Game 1 . . . which was actually better than the 19.9 rating for Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers series in the NBA Finals last year.

In addition, Providence was the second-highest market in the country with a 16.7 rating.

The overnight rating nationally for Game 1 was a 3.2, the best for a Stanley Cup Final game since 1999 and a 14 percent increase over last year.

I think its great news. It's awesome, said Bergeron. To be honest, back home we could feel it. The whole city was really behind us. They still are behind us throughout the playoffs and the season. It means a lot to us. Obviously we want to do it for them. But we can feel all the support and that's something great.

Canucks coach Alan Vigneault wouldnt go into deep details on Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis other than to say hes day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Hamhuis injured himself throwing a hip check at Milan Lucic in the second period, and appeared to get the worst of the collision before limping back to the dressing never to return.

Tim Thomas was asked how 23-year-old Tuukka Rask had been handling more of a spectator role during the playoffs, and the Bs goalie was effusive in his praise for his Finnish understudy. Rask was among the most animated celebrants after the Game 7 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has been unflinchingly supportive of the team goal over his own personal preference to play.

He's handled it great. He's been a great partner for me, supportive the whole way. I respect that, said Thomas. I was trying to do the same thing myself last year when Rask was the No. 1 goalie in the playoffs. It's not always easy because you want to be the guy who's playing. We wouldn't have got to this level if that wasn't the case.

But he's just been awesome. We've had a good relationship since we first met each other like six years ago. That's still carrying on.

Thomas was embroiled in a little bit of a war of words with the Canucks on Thursday as Vigneault insinuated the Bs goaltender sets up outside the crease area and soaks up penalty calls from the refs when contact occurs.

Julien wasnt having any of it.

That's his style. I mean, if he gets a chance to come out of the crease and challenge the shooter, he challenges. The rule is pretty clear, said Julien. You're entitled to your ice. If he steps out and he's got that ice, he's entitled to it. That's what he's done through the whole process.

"Now, we all know that goaltenders are to be protected. If you're going to say that if he's out of his crease when he comes out to challenge the shooter, he's fair game to be hit by the opposition . . . then that should be the same philosophy when the goalie goes behind the net to handle the puck.

"I think the league has ruled that the goaltenders need to be protected. If he's entitled to his ice, and he's got it, then afterwards I don't think people are entitled to run over those guys. If Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo comes out of his net, he's got his ice. It's his. It belongs to him. The rule to me is pretty clear, so I don't see any issues there.

From the Boston Bruins' P.R. department:

The Boston Bruins and the Boston Police Department want to remind fans to be wary of purchasing counterfeit tickets for the Stanley Cup Final. Fans are encouraged to only buy tickets from authorized ticket agencies. Purchasing from other sources is done at the buyer's risk. Officers want to proactively curb such activity and encourage buyers to only purchase from official vendors. The Boston Police Department suggests that fans guarantee authenticity by purchasing tickets through the Boston Bruins website, Ticketmaster.com, in person at the TD Garden Box Office or at any Ticketmaster outlet.

Purchasing via other means creates the potential for possessing either an invalid or counterfeit ticket. Individuals attempting to gain admission using fraudulent tickets will be evicted from the building and face the possibility of arrest.

If any community members have information about the selling of counterfeit tickets, you are urged to contact District A-1 detectives at (617) 343-4248. Individuals wishing to provide information anonymously may do so by calling the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS or texting the word 'TIP' to CRIME (27463). Individuals wishing to provide information anonymously are reminded that the Boston Police Department is ONLY interested in the INFORMATION you provide, NOT who YOU are.

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

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

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Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.