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

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

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Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while excited for Season 2 of Stranger Things now that it’s official.

*An interesting look at Jack Eichel’s perspective during the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes as it seems like he took the hands off approach toward the end.

* On this date in NHL history a classy, legendary Hall of Famer, was born in late Habs forward Jean Beliveau.

* The USA Today has a list of 10 players that could change the fates of their respective teams this season, and there wasn’t a Bruins player among them.

* Former Bruins winger Blake Wheeler has been named captain of the Winnipeg Jets in a move that makes all the sense in the world. He’s really developed into a terrific player since being traded from Boston.

* PK Subban will visit a Montreal children’s hospital to give an update on his pledge to give a big helping hand.

* Resident NHL cheap shot artist Raffi Torres will be getting a tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he’s one type of player that the league can do without these days.

* The Hockey News lists young center Matthew Barzal as a player that could make or break the season for the Islanders. That’s the same Barzal that the Bruins skipped two years ago to draft Zach Senyshyn in the first round, for those that are keeping score.

* For something completely different: Stranger Things season 2 details? Ummm, yes please.

Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

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Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

Click here for the gallery.

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Malcolm Subban.

Things might have been much different for Subban had he avoided the fractured larynx injury last winter, and instead been able to continue building momentum toward winning an NHL job this season as the understudy to Tuukka Rask. Instead, Subban sustained the freak injury that knocked him out for the final months of last season, and now finds himself stuck organizationally after the B’s signed old friend Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on July 1 to once again work in tandem with Rask. Now it looks like it will be the AHL again for the foreseeable future for Subban.

What happened last year

Subban has shown flashes throughout his young career after the Bruins made him a first-round pick in 2012, and that continued last season prior to the stray puck that hit him in an unprotected part of his throat during pregame warm-ups. The shame of the injury’s timing was that Subban was perhaps playing the best hockey of his career and it finally appeared like he was headed toward the consistency that’s eluded him thus far. Instead the 22-year-old finished last season with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage and didn’t appear on the surface to make much of a progression from his first couple of pro seasons. The injury cost Subban any chance to potentially move into this season as Tuukka Rask’s backup at and really puts a lot of pressure on him to turn the corner this season in the AHL.

Questions to be answered this season

The question still lingers as to whether Subban is an actually NHL goaltender. He still has the potential to be a No. 1 guy as he gains experience and confidence between the pipes. He’s still just 22 with three years of AHL experience and goaltender is a position where it can take longer for the development arc to be completed. But Subban needs to start showing a little bit more dominance in the AHL if he wants to start pushing for looks in the NHL, and clearly needs to be more consistent rather than shining every once in a while with brilliant performances. The talent is clearly there for Subban as a gifted athlete playing goaltender, but it still looks like he’s a late-comer to the goaltending position as he was in his teenage years. Perhaps this is the season where it all comes together for him.

In their own words

“I’ve been hit in the neck before. I have all the gear on now, the protection and stuff. I’ve gotten used to it. Honestly I feel like a tank. I’m not even worried at all about getting hit again. [My approach] is the same as it’s been since I was drafted. I just focus on myself and my game, and that’s all I can really control. My goal is to make the team the same as it is every year, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I just have to play well and give my chance a team to win every night.” –Malcolm Subban talking about his injury and his approach at development camp in July.

 Outlook

We are entering make-or-break territory with Subban and the Bruins as he enters his fourth pro season with the organization with very little discernible progress made over that time period. The injury makes it even more difficult to gauge if he has shown significant signs of development in his time in the AHL and if he’ll be a better goalie than the one that imploded in St. Louis during his NHL debut a couple of years ago. Subban has made strides in his technique and certainly seems to understand the need to gain consistency at this point in his career, but all of this will be happening at the AHL level for the next couple of years barring any injuries to Rask or Khudobin. One has to wonder if Subban is going to end up in another NHL organization via trade given the current goaltending situation in Boston. Subban won’t be getting his NHL shot anytime soon in Boston and he still has work to do before he’s even earned it. With Rask a fixture in Boston and Subban’s lack of clear dominance in the AHL, it makes one wonder why the B’s selected him in the first round back in 2012 when clearly there were bigger organizational needs.  

 

 

Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

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Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

The Bruins announced some organizational signings and one surprise dip into late summer free agency with a one-year, $900,000 contract for 36-year-old depth center Dominic Moore.

The B’s also announced one year, two-way contracts for forward Brian Ferlin, along with defensemen Chris Casto and Alex Grant, and all three of those players will serve as young, organizational depth players in Providence.

Moore has spent each of the last three seasons with the New York Rangers amid a career 765 NHL games played as a solid face-off and penalty-kill player that has fourth line candidate written all over him.

The Bruins will be former Harvard center Moore’s 10th NHL team. He’s coming off a season where he posted six goals and 15 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts, and has previously played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose along with the Rangers.

While Moore is a solid candidate for fourth-line duty that will provide leadership, good face-off work, solid and gritty penalty-kill work and all kinds of NHL experience, he is also a 36-year-old on a team that has a ton of center candidates headed into camp. 

Moore’s presence could be problematic if he’s standing in the way of developing young centers Austin Czarnik and Noel Acciari. The expectation is that B’s coach Claude Julien, as he always has in the past with safe veterans like Chris Kelly, will go with a player like Moore over the youngsters if times start getting tough for the Black and Gold.

Ferlin, 24, completed his second professional season with the AHL's Providence Bruins in 2015-16, producing six goals and eight assists for 14 points with 27 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating in 23 games. He was sidelined for much of last season in Providence by a concussion.

Casto, 24, completed his third full AHL season with Providence in 2015-16, establishing career highs with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points with 47 penalty minutes in 68 games.

Grant, 27, spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, splitting time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Springfield. He recorded seven penalty minutes in five games in the NHL, while compiling 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points with 57 penalty minutes in 69 games in the AHL.