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WILMINGTON — For too many segments of the last two seasons, the Bruins power play has been more punchline than scoring threat.
Last season, the Bruins had the league’s 15th-ranked power play (17.2 percent). In the playoffs against Washington, the Bruins scored on two of their 23 power-play opportunities (8.7 percent, second-worst among all clubs).
Late in the third period of Game 7, Jason Chimera was called for holding. Had the Bruins scored on the power play, they could have advanced to the second round. Instead, Joel Ward scored the overtime winner.
On Monday at Ristuccia Arena, the Bruins took the first step toward addressing one of their biggest blemishes.
Before practice, 12 skaters, under the watch of assistant coach Geoff Ward, hit the ice for power-play drills. During practice, those same 12 went through several repetitions against penalty killers. Claude Julien approved of what he saw.
“I liked our results,” said the Bruins coach. “I thought our power play was moving the puck well in practice today and doing a lot of good things. We’ll keep working on that.”
On the first unit, Zdeno Chara was at his usual point position. For most of the looks, Chara was the lone point man in an umbrella formation. On Chara’s right, David Krejci made his Bruins debut as a power-play point threat.
Krejci played the position for Pardubice during the lockout. Krejci was also the PP point quarterback in junior. But for all of Krejci’s five full seasons with the Bruins, the center has been either on the left-side half-boards or on the goal line in power-play situations.
At Monday’s practice, Krejci alternated with Rich Peverley.
“We try to have more options,” Krejci said. “We don’t want to be sitting with one guy making plays. I think we have better looks and more options from both sides. If me or Pevs are on the point on that side, it’s going to be more difficult on penalty killers.”
If the coaches give Krejci the nod, the center’s job will be to distribute the puck. Krejci could set up Chara for his slap shot.
If penalty killers cheat toward Chara, Krejci will look down low. Tyler Seguin will be the left-side half-boards quarterback. Seguin likes to attack with the puck off the boards. Or Seguin could open up for one-timers.
Nathan Horton will be the shooter in the high slot. Teammates have been impressed by Horton’s heavy shot in the first two days of camp. Milan Lucic and Gregory Campbell rotated net-front duty.
“David sees the ice very well,” Julien said. “I know he’s very comfortable on the right side. With Zdeno as a pair, I think they could do a great job. You’ve got two big bodies — one that’s a great shooter from the slot in Horts, the other guy is a good big body in front of the net in Looch. The quarterback there is Siggy. He’s got the skill and he’s got a great one-timer. We thought that five-man unit would give us a pretty decent power play.”
Last year, Chara led the team with eight power-play goals. Opposing coaches most likely will form their PK game plans around taking away Chara’s shooting lanes.
Lucic punched in seven power-play goals last season. His job will be to screen goalies, tip pucks, and bang home rebounds.
This season, Lucic’s goal is to improve his net-front positioning. It’s not as easy as bulling a defenseman out of the way. Lucic aims to be more agile with his footwork.
“Sometimes I fall into the trap of letting them get inside position on me when the puck moves from side to side,” Lucic said. “I get boxed out. So I’ve got to work on maneuvering around that guy in front of the net to keep the screen so the goalie doesn’t see. You can’t really go into the crease to get around the defenseman, right? So you have to figure out how to get in the right spot at the right time.”
The No. 2 unit featured a two-man look at the point. Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton worked the blue line. Chris Bourque handled most of the right-side half-wall responsibilities. Patrice Bergeron roamed the slot. Brad Marchand jostled around the net.
“It’s about moving the puck, seeing each other, taking what’s given to us,” Bergeron said. “I know last year, it was something we needed to work on. Right now, it’s about putting the puck on net. Don’t force any plays. Try and get the goals off rebounds or with screened shots.”
Some teams can depend on their skill for power-play success. Pittsburgh can roll out a top-heavy unit with Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Sidney Crosby. Philadelphia has featured Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Kimmo Timonen.Continued...