Paoletti: B's deliver a body blow to Canucks

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Paoletti: B's deliver a body blow to Canucks

By MaryPaoletti
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Ask the Bruins about a successful night and you often get some version of the same answer: "We played our game."

Theirs is a bruising, efficient style. But in the last two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, it's been just as important to take Vancouver out of its own game. And they have.

The Canucks will limp home Friday, the series tied 2-2, after rolling out of the gate with two decisive wins.

How? How has Boston dismantled such an explosive Vancouver offense to create a 12-1 goal differential?

Simple. They've played their game with punishing physicality.

"That was our plan: take time and space away," said Dennis Seidenberg. "That's all it takes for guys to turn the puck over, to not be able to create plays. We tried to keep a tight gap on those guys, play them tough and not let them look for passes or plays. It's a whole team game. We did a good job with it."

That might be an understatement.

Boston set the tone from the start. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler tripped Patrice Bergeron on the opening faceoff. Reset. On the second drop, Kesler tried a cross-check, but Bergeron didn't bite and won the draw back to Tim Thomas. Even the subsequent attempt to train Bergeron at the blueline backfired, as Kesler was the one who hit the ice.

Kesler's failings are huge for the Bruins.

The Canucks center had four assists and a plus-two rating in the first round. In the second, he registered five goals (all on the power play, two game-winners) and six assists (one shorthanded). Three more points were tallied in the third round.

He's since been caged.

Kesler's frustration with one point in four games boiled over Wednesday night. Though struggling with some degree of a groin injury, his ineffectiveness was catalyzed by the Bruins and he snapped.

With over nine minutes left in the period, Boston up 4-0, Kesler slashed Adam McQuaid well after a whistle. It was a pointless act; there was nothing to be gained except a penalty. Kesler went to the box, perspective reduced to spite.

The Bruins, on the other hand, seem to be seeing clearly.

"Kesler might be hurting but I think adrenaline will take over for him," said Daniel Paille. "He's obviously going to respond after these last two games, not just him but their whole team. It's definitely something to focus on, not just Kesler but try to maintain a physical presence on everyone."

Like the Sedin twins.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin were billed as one of Boston's biggest threats. It was no joke. Henrik won the Hart Trophy in 2010 and followed the honor up with 94 points this year. Daniel is a Hart finalist this season with a league-leading 104 points. In the 18 playoff games before meeting the Bruins, Daniel registered 16 points; Henrik, 21.

Things have quieted some.

Henrik's Game 4 shot on goal was his first of the series. Daniel? Zero points in the last two contests. The Bruins have rendered the pair impotent both on their prized power play (Vancouver is 1-for-18 in the finals) and even strength.

During the first period, Henrik tried to bother Thomas by dropping into the blue paint. Zdeno Chara shoved and rolled Sedin violently out of the crease -- twice.

Later, Brad Marchand came off the bench and bumped Henrik before lining up against him for a face-off. Marchand quickly drilled Sedin on the leg. He lost the draw but made his point: Wherever you go, I'll be there. And you're not going to like it.

The Canucks were pestered, taunted and bullied off the puck all night -- exactly as Boston planned.

"Every game we've played so far, one team has been a lot more physical than the other and it just seems those teams come out on top," Marchand said. "They seemed to try to run us out of the rink the first couple games and they did a great job at that, they seemed to build off that emotion. When we're in our home building we feed off our fans and it makes it a little easier to play."

Even Thomas got in on the action.

In the final minutes, Boston's netminder slashed Alex Burrows on the leg. The move sparked a brief scrum and Thomas' helmet flew off in the fray. But it was retribution. The Canucks had been knocking the butt-end of Thomas' stick all the night so when Burrows chopped him for the third time that play, well, enough was enough.

"I thought I'd give him a little love tap and let him know, I know what you're doing, but I'm not going to let you do it forever," Thomas said.

Take away Vancouver's game and they win. Take away time and space and the Canucks will pay physically and on the scoreboard.

That's Boston's game. And when they play that way? They win.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins made a few roster moves after a slogging 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, with an eye toward getting some competition going among the forward group, and perhaps spark a team struggling offensively.

Danton Heinen and Noel Acciari were brought up from Providence to skate with the big club on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena and gritty Anton Blidh was returned to the P-Bruins after a solid stint as a fourth-line energy guy for the Black and Gold. 

Jimmy Hayes and Colin Miller were the late skaters off the ice following morning skate, so those will be the healthy scratches for the Bruins with both Acciari and Heinen in the lineup for the Black and Gold tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Heinen has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins lately with four goals and seven points in his past five games with a plus-2 rating, including a couple of two-goal games for a Providence team that’s starting to heat up. 

Otherwise, things looked fairly similar for the Black and Gold, who didn’t make any changes to the struggling top power-play unit that was a disaster on Thursday night in the first period. It was Patrice Bergeron in the bumper role, Ryan Spooner on the half-wall, David Backes at the front of the net and David Krejci and Torey Krug manning the point positions. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate: 

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Heinen-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Acciari/Hayes

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-K. Miller

C. Miller

Rask

 

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning.