Morning Skate 525: Chara finds power in front

Morning Skate 525: Chara finds power in front

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comTAMPA The Bruins have been in a power play funk for the entire postseason, and it hasnt been any better since the Bs took the ice against Tampa Bay Lightning while mired in a 2-for-19 funk against the Bolts.The Bruins penalty kill has bailed them out in the series, but its needed to be brilliant in order to offset the PP.The Bruins cant set up, they have no speed through the zones to throw Tampa Bay on their heels and their PP entries are stale, predictable and playing into a forward group not working hard enough for the puck. It makes little sense that puck retrieval is more of an issue during the PP than on 5-on-5 play, but thats exactly whats happening with the Bruins right now.There is no set up for Tomas Kaberle to distribute the puck and not enough chances for Zdeno Chara to wind up and blast away with his 105.9 missile. All of this really comes as an indictment on both the players and coaches designing and executing whats become a special teams debacle. Pretty much everyone inside and outside the organization has had suggestions or bright ideas to great creative with a status quo that clearly isnt working but nothing has worked for PP architect Geoff Ward and the rest of the Bs coaching staff struggling for PP answers.So the Bruins finally deployed their secret weapon and broached their last PP frontier in Mondays Game Four when they plopped Zdeno Chara in front of the net. The 6-foot-9 Captain will usually venture closer to the net during the final 60-90 seconds of a game with the goaltender pulled and the Bruins are trailing and has been used to mix things up on a stale power play from time to time in seasons past.The Bs finally brought out the secret 6-foot-9 weapon on Monday night, and theres a good chance more will be up-coming tonight in an elimination game.Claude Julien said the Bruins would possibly employ that strategy again in Game Six against the Bolts, but there needed to be a better work ethic by the rest of the PP unit to take advantage of it. Forwards need to start hunting pucks and winning one-on-one battles for anything else to matter.I think I liked what he did last game in front of the net, said Julien. But hes only going to be useful in front of the net if we put him there, if we get control of the puck and if we get some shots on net. The first few power plays we didnt really get control of the puck and it didnt mater who was in front at that point. I didnt mind what he did and I think we need to see how this game unfolds. But its certainly a possibility.Chara didnt really camp his big body down low near the net until the conference finals this season, but its been a welcome sight for the Bruins. Mike Smith admitted after Game Four that Chara is a tall drink of water while blocking out vision lines for the goaltender, and it cant ever make life easy for goaltenders of all shapes, sizes and preferences.He is a tall drink of water, said Smith. Obviously he is there for a reason, to try and get in my face and not let me see it. You have to fight and battle to find the pucks.Its pretty simple: you cant stop what you cant see, and theres a lot that goaltenders cant see when Chara puts his mind to screening things. That will be Dwayne Rolosons challenge in Game Six after the Bruins couldnt capitalize on the man advantage Monday night while Chara was blocking out the sun by the goal line.That is provided they can execute just a little better on the man advantage this time around.On to the links:The Senators Extra blog says that the jury is still out on who won the Dany Heatley deal between San Jose and Ottawa. I would have guessed the team that made the playoffs versus the team that didnt but thats just silly old me.A top 10 video list of Tim Thomas saves throughout his career thats required viewing for any Bruins fan.Pierre Lebrun sets the scene in the San Jose losing locker room after the Sharks truly put it all out there in the postseason, but still couldnt find a way into the Stanley Cup Finals.Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov might be packing up and headed back to the KHL according to this Russian report. Warning: Google translator is a must on this one.USA Todays Kevin Allen writes that Lightning ownership has led the way to their franchises return to the respectability and later on to the playoffs.Sporting News scribe and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance gets a hold on the new compensation adjustments for offer sheets submitted toNHL restricted free agents with a quality crop hitting the market this summer.The Globe and Mail has the story of the Vancouver Canucks opening up their arena for Stanley Cup Finals viewing sessions when their team is on the road. Wouldnt it be cool if the TD Garden could do the same?SI.coms Stu Hackel says that Bostons special teams are making the difference against the Lightning, and hes absolutely right. Its just perhaps not the special teams that you thought it might be.A good look at the 1991 Stanley Cup champs in Pittsburgh that marked the end of an era in the NHL and gave Mark Recchi his first taste of championship glory.The Edmonton Journal is weighing its options when it comes to Sheldon Souray and his albatross of a contract that the team is still paying off.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.