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

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.