Notes: B's attempt to cure ailing power play

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Notes: B's attempt to cure ailing power play

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the pass-happy antidote for what ailed the Bruins' power play once Marc Savard was down and out with another concussion.

Sure, it was solving the power-play problem with a player who was very different from Savard, but what could go wrong?

By removing a power-play specialist like Savard running things along the side of the formation and replacing him with a true power-play quarterback from the point spot, the Bruins were going outside the box a little bit.

Kaberles power-play track record was unquestioned, and it appeared hed form a dream team up top with Zdeno Chara for a series of blistering one-timers opening up chances for the forwards working around the net.

Instead its been exactly the opposite. The forwards have relaxed on the man advantage and perhaps put too much reliance in the KaberleChara connection. Ever since PK units started taking away Charas big shot, the Bruins' power play has sputtered to a stop.

Its a problem neither the coaches nor the on-ice personnel have been able to solve, and its beginning to look like a fatal flaw if they cant start figuring it out.

The Bruins are 0-for-11 in three playoff games on the power play, and Boston is a pitiful 7-for-77 on the PP since Kaberle arrived in Boston 27 games ago in a deal that sent Joe Colborne, a first-round pick and a conditional draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thats a 9 percent success rate . . . or a 91 percent failure rate, if youre a pessimistic voice around the Bs brigade.

There have been whispers the 33-year-old Kaberle didnt arrive in Boston in the greatest conditioning shape, and he certainly hasnt done anything to quell criticism of game since he donned a Black and Gold sweater.

General manager Peter Chiarelli was asked point blankWednesday morning if Kaberle and the newly constructed Bs power playhave been disappointing since Kaberle's February arrival, and the GMwasnt pulling any punches.

Has he been a disappointment? He hasnt played up to the level that we expected, said Chiarelli during a radio interview with 98.5 the Sports Hubs Toucher and Rich Show. There have been parts of his game where he hasnt played in the playoffs for a while, and some of those bad habits have stuck with him. We expected better.

If Montreals penalty-kill unit has managed to squelch the Kaberle-to-Chara connection then that should create plenty of room for the rest of the new-look first power play unit.

But that hasnt happened at all.

Its a lot of everything. Weve just got to move the puck a little better and a get a little less predictable, said coach Claude Julien. I say that all the time. If were standing around then we get very easy to defend against.

The guys have to be moving a little bit more and create a little bit more insecurity for the PK. Right now we havent been doing that well enough. If they want to take away the Chara one-timer then other options should be opening up. Its up to us to make them work.

During Wednesday's practice, Julien and power-play architect Geoff Ward opted to insert Patrice Bergeron as a gritty, active body down low near the net along with Milan Lucic as David Krejci moves it off the half-wall. Bergeron called it a tune up for the man advantage after practice, but it was more than that.

Perhaps it was the sweet Bergeron-to-Krejci connection for Bostons first goal in Montreal in Game 3 that inspired the change, or simply that Bergeron is winning battles all over the ice. Either way it means Nathan Horton is off the power play, and the rest of the Bruins are given the task of creating more chances around the net with their skill forwards.

Bergeron has been Bostons best forward over the first three games, and its high time they get his hands, strong stick and fearlessness onto the power play team.

Its the same old thing. Youve got to get ugly. We see the video. We see what theyre doing and now weve got to execute, said Recchi, who skated with the second power-play unit along with Michael Ryder, Brad Marchand, Rich Peverley, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference. Weve got to shoot it at the right time, and weve got to pass it at the right time. Youve got to have support all over the ice, and all it takes is one ugly goal to really get things going. Hopefully things will turn for us."

The playoff familiarity means opponents have scouted the power-play formations and know a teams predictable patterns, but that also means a team like Boston can cross the Canadiens up with something out of the ordinary. Something as simple as point players slipping toward the net on a backdoor play, or forwards rotating spots down low could give a penalty kill unit that little bit of needed uncertainty.

I dont play with him very much with Chara because Im on a different unit, but they really do try to take away that one time shot for the most part, said Recchi. That means there are 4-on-3s everywhere else on the ice. With movement youve got to be able to 2-on-1 people all over the ice and youve got to go at people creating 2-on-1s.

If you do that then youre going to be better off. Eventually those things open up. Zee opens up for the shot and its there, but youve got to show them you do other things before theyll start respecting it. Then youll start finding shots all over the ice.

The only positive: The Bruins and Kaberle cant get much worse on the power play than theyve been during the first three games against Montreal.

Also, the Bruins are not allowing the Canadiens to score on special teams, either.

Chara indicated that hes feeling much better when he was asked multiple times about his health and the virus that caused him to suffer from severe dehydration prior to Game 2 in Boston. The big defenseman played 26-plus minutes and took advantage of a pair of days between games to gather strength and ready himself for a dramatic Game Four at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Its always a physical game, said Chara. The playoffs are always physical. You have to find the balance between being relaxed and finding your focus in Lake Placid.

The Bruins left the Olympic Center at Lake Placid following Wednesdays practice and rolled up Route 87 via bus for the two-hour ride back to Montreal, and Julien said he felt the team had accomplished all it had hoped for. While the Bs considered Burlington, Vermont and several Canadian outposts before opting for the Lake Placid locale, the ultimate choice by Julien, Chiarelli, Cam Neely and the rest of the Bs front office was a wise one.

What we wanted to accomplish was to come down here, get a little rest and have a quality practice and then head back to Montreal, said Julien. I saw guys walking around yesterday and they seemed really relaxed. Thats the best way to keep yourself fresh for the playoffs. We enjoyed the few days we spent here. It was a positive trip.

Horton feels like hes calmed down a bit after getting a couple of playoff games under his belt, and notching the goal in Game 3 has certainly helped him. There was some thought Horton hurt his collarbone area at the end of the game, but said he was fine and ready to go.

Its exciting for us and exciting to be a part of, said Horton. Were looking forward to the challenge of Game 4.

We played at times the way we wanted to play, and sometimes we let off. You can tell when were playing good and playing with confidence and playing relaxed. Its about putting pucks in the right places, and thats how we want to play.

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

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece. 

 

Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

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Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The first bad break of Bruins camp arrived on Saturday with the news that scoring winger Frank Vatrano will be out three months after tearing a couple of ligaments in his left foot.

The 21-year-old winger from UMass and East Longmeadow, Mass., sustained the injury training just prior to the B’s fitness testing for camp and will have surgery on Monday at Mass General Hospital with Dr. George Theodore.

Vatrano had missed the first two days of camp after participating in captain’s practice just about right until the start of main training camp, so the injury must have happened just prior to Thursday’s off-ice testing.

“He had an injury just prior to testing, and it took a couple of days to make sure he had the proper evaluation. He saw a specialist yesterday and he’s scheduled for surgery on Monday,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “One or two of the ligaments were torn when he was doing some running, so he’s out.”

The injury is a big blow for a Bruins team that clearly had plans on Vatrano filling out a top-six role and leaves the door wide open for a young players Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn or Peter Cehlarik to win an NHL job out of camp. Perhaps a veteran such as camp invite Peter Mueller could secure a job when it didn’t appear to be any room on the NHL roster just a few days ago.

Either way it’s damaging to a Bruins team that was relying on goal-scoring and explosive forward play from a guy who topped 40 goals combined in the NHL and AHL last season.

“Obviously it’s a blow. Frankie looked at as an opportunity to [win a top-6 spot]. We all did. How that was going to play out remained to be seen, but he was going to be afforded a position to see if he could grab hold of it,” said Sweeney. “So obviously, he’s disappointed, and we are as well. You look at as with all injuries…it’s a setback. But the doctors feel very good that three months from now he’ll be able to play and move forward.”

It’s not officially NHL training camp until a major injury strikes, so now the Bruins are in the middle of it after learning they’ll lose Vatrano until Christmastime. 

Here's Vatrano's "Countdown to camp" profile