Bruins still searching for answers to power play power outage
The Bruins have been solid playing 5-on-5 but left wanting in the power play
But coach Claude Julien downplayed the problem in the Bruins' Game 1 loss
Julien hopes moving Zdeno Chara to the front of the net will get Boston going
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Three weeks ago, after the Bruins had lost the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston center David Krejci seemed exasperated by the unceasing questions regarding the team's impotent power play.
"We're in the conference final. So who cares?" he said. "I don't care if we score on the power play or not. ... Look at other teams, they scored on the power play, and they're watching us at home on the couch."
The power outage didn't seem to bother him as much as it confounded onlookers searching for a way to explain success in the midst of failure. But now as the stakes get even higher, the need for answers is becoming more crucial.
On their road to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins have grown accustomed to having the obvious advantage when playing 5-on-5. They outscored their opponents 47-27 when both teams were at full strength, and their aggressive, physical forecheck can wear teams down. In Game 1, however, the one penalty-free period (the third) went in Vancouver's favor. Boston coach Claude Julien admitted that much on Thursday. Without that 5-on-5 advantage, then, Boston will need more from its special teams.
Now, despite going 0-for-6 in Game 1 on power play opportunities, which included a 1:38 with a two-man advantage and a four-minute power play early in the game, Julien is encouraged by what he saw in Wednesday's opener.
"It's amazing. Because of how it's been before, it's still being questioned today," Julien said. "I think our power play was very good last night in moving the puck and creating some chances, and was dead even with Vancouver's in my mind. We had more scoring chances than Vancouver did on the power play. If we're going to criticize ours, we should criticize theirs at this stage of the playoffs."
Julien particularly liked what he saw from defenseman Zdeno Chara, who he moved to the front of the net on the power play to provide a massive 6-foot-9 screen for Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. By removing him from the point, it takes away his booming, bone-crushing shot from that spot, but his overwhelming strength makes him an immovable beast in front and perhaps an even greater asset to the Bruins unit.
But the Canucks' tactic, they say, will be to leave him be and let Luongo deal with him. For the first game, it seemed to work, as the big man didn't find much success tipping point shots and his somewhat unwieldy seven-foot stick -- while fantastic for breaking up plays -- is a less-than-ideal instrument in tight spaces. But the adjustments that will come could tip the scales at any time, and Vancouver, for one, is sensitive to that.
"You're just playing with fire [if you underestimate their power play]," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said.
For now, Boston's unit seems more akin to an unlit match, but perhaps Chara can find a way to provide that spark.
NOTES: The NHL announced Thursday that Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows would not receive supplemental discipline for an incident that occurred at the end of the first period in Game 1, when he and Patrice Bergeron got tangled. Video of the scrum seemed to suggest that Burrows bit down on the gloved hand of Bergeron, who had said after the game that he had been bit. "After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron," senior VP of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a statement. ... It looks like that unprecedented 10-year deal between the NHL and NBC is already paying off. Wednesday's Game 1 brought in the best overnight rating for a Game 1 since 1999. It eclipsed last year's Game 1 between Philadelphia and Chicago by 14 percent, somewhat impressive given that this year's series features just one American-based team. However, it should be noted that last year's Game 1 fell on a Saturday night, not prime television viewing time. Predictably, Boston was the top market, pulling in a 25.5 rating and 39 share, which is actually higher than they saw for the opening game of the Celtics-Lakers final last spring. And the Red Sox, Boston's team, moved up the start time of their game Saturday so it would not conflict with Game 2 in Vancouver. "That's what Boston is all about," Julien said. "They're supportive of all their teams. Obviously, hockey for the longest of times was something so big in Boston. It kind of lost its luster in those difficult times. Right now what we're seeing is it's certainly coming back in the right direction. It's been a lot of fun being part of it."