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 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.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats