BRIGHTON, Mass. – One area where the Bruins are looking for more after a mostly positive first four regular-season games: the power play.
The B’s are a downright gross 1-for-14 on the man-advantage to start the season and were 0-for-4 on Thursday night while squeaking out a last-minute win over the New Jersey Devils. The early-season 7.1 percent success rate doesn’t have them last in the NHL, but only the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames have performed at a lower PP clip.
It’s a subject that Claude Julien knew was coming from the B’s media, and so he was ready to answer for it ahead of Saturday night’s rivalry renewal with the Montreal Canadiens.
“I knew it was just a matter of time before that question came. It is what it is. I think we had some opportunities, but we haven’t finished,” said Julien. “At the end of the day our power play is judged by whether you score or not, and I thought our second period [vs. the Devils] wasn’t great. But our third period had some really good power plays, but we didn’t manage to score.
“Where we need to get to right now [on the power play], is to find a way to finish. There’s no doubt the absence of Patrice Bergeron there brings somebody else in, and maybe there’s not as much chemistry as we’re used to. But I think with him back now we can even be better, and get a little more movement…not be so stagnant. When we struggle a bit it’s because we’re a little stagnant, and we need to get a little better there.”
Quite a bit of the struggles go back to Bergeron missing the first three games of the season and the top power-play unit missing No. 37 from his trademark bumper role at the center of the PP action. The power play remained scoreless as the unit adjusted to Bergeron's return on Thursday night, but it seemed that things started to click a little bit as that game went on.
“It’s not moving right now. We’ll just work through it. There were times last year where it let us down, and there were times last year where it helped us through some tough moments,” said Torey Krug of the PP. “Right now we’re able to play through it, but at some point this team is going to need this PP to step up and score some goals. We rely on that, and the guys on the power play take a lot of pride in it.
“[Bergeron] does a lot of things for us. Instead of me having to go all the way to the other end to break the puck out where I’m losing 20 seconds and frankly it’s tiring to break the puck out, now we have him winning face-offs and we’re starting with the puck in the zone. That’s a big thing, and he collects puck like nobody else in the league. With him back on the power play it brings another important player to the forefront, but it’s a five man unit and when everything’s working out there [on the PP] we have a good unit.”
Now with Ryan Spooner expected to rejoin the B’s lineup, after being healthy scratch vs. New Jersey, that adds another dangerous power-play weapon that practiced with that unit on Saturday morning ahead of the traditional morning skate. The hope is that installing Bergeron and Spooner will help kick-start a special teams unit that’s been less than explosive, and not quite cohesive, in the first four games of the season.
BRIGHTON, Mass. – It would appear to be something a little more serious than “general soreness” with Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins No. 1 goaltender was missing from the ice at Warrior Ice Arena for Saturday’s morning skate and Claude Julien said he won't play tonight vs. the Montreal Canadiens.
Instead, the B’s have recalled Zane McIntyre from Providence on an emergency basis and to serve as Anton Khudobin’s backup. Rask has clearly been battling a lower body injury since the opening night win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last week and it cropped up again in the Thursday night win over the New Jersey Devils.
The same injury also forced the B’s to play Khudobin instead of Rask in their only loss of the season, a 4-1 defeat to the Maple Leafs in Toronto one week ago.
Rask admitted he was playing through a little “something-something” after the Jersey win and Julien would only say that his goalie has “general soreness” and is considered day-to-day after missing team practice on Friday. Julien reiterated the day-to-day status Saturday.
“He’s doing better, but we’re going to shut him off for a bit,” said Julien, who said he wasn’t concerned about the long-term health of his franchise goaltender. “We’ll give him another day’s rest at least, but we’ll still go day-by-day.”
It’s a severe case of bad timing for both Rask and the B’s as the Finnish netminder is off to a roaring start this season (3-0-0 with a .947 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against average) after his worst season last year for the Black and Gold.
The 24-year-old McIntyre has appeared in three games for Providence, going 1-0-0 and leading the AHL in goals-against average (0.44) and save percentage (.977) in a solid start after a rough rookie pro season last year.
Boston’s sixth round pick in the 2010, McIntyre, played his first professional season with Providence in 2015-16, going14-8-7 with a 2.68 GAA and .898 save percentage in 31 games.
Malcolm Subban might have been the call-up under different circumstances, but has been pulled by the P-Bruins twice in the span of a week including a Friday night loss where he allowed three goals in the first period in an eventual 4-1 loss.