Snappy passes helping Bruins score more on power play
This story is from BostonGlobe.com, the only place for complete digital access to the Globe.
WILMINGTON — The reincarnation of the Bruins’ power play started with three one-touch passes against the Lightning last Saturday.
The puck was flung around the boards, from Milan Lucic behind the net to David Krejci on the sideboards to Dougie Hamilton at the point. Hamilton wound up like he was firing a slapper, but followed through with a quick pass to Tyler Seguin. Seguin one-timed the puck near-post for a power-play goal.
Three total touches produced an around-the-world chance that a sniper like Seguin wasn’t going to miss.
Seguin’s goal re-lit the fire on the Bruins’ power play. After starting the year 7 for 54 with the man advantage, the Bruins have gone 4 for 14.
They spent more time honing the power play during Sunday morning’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.
“We’re still where we are in the league [tied for 27th in power-play goals] because we had a slow start,” coach Claude Julien said. “It’s not easy to climb up. But I like the way our power play has been for the last month or so.”
Of the Bruins’ four power-play goals over the last five games, three have been almost identical, with quick puck movement ending in snipes.
In a 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals Tuesday, Krejci took the puck at the top of the right circle and backhanded it to Nathan Horton, who backhanded it to Hamilton, who fired a slap shot into the left corner.
And against the Flyers in Saturday’s 3-0 win, Krejci got it started on the sideboards, passed it down to Lucic, who made one move and then a no-look pass across the goalmouth to Seguin, who lifted the puck top shelf.
“We try to get our guys to move the puck quickly,” Julien said. “For me, a power-play guy should know what he wants to do with it before he gets the puck. A lot of times we were getting the puck and looking at what options we had.
“You always have to be a step ahead of your game when you’re on the power play. That’s how you move the puck quickly and that’s how you catch the penalty kill off-balance.”
With a rare chance to practice twice in three days, Julien has gotten time to work out kinks. First, he wanted to fix the transition offense, which had struggled in consecutive losses to Montreal and Washington. Friday in practice the team worked on that, and Julien said he noticed a difference in Saturday’s game.
“You should never underestimate a good practice,” he said. “And we’ve had a couple of those.”
Sunday’s practice had more focus on neutral-zone play, with additional time spent on the power play.
Dennis Seidenberg continued to work the point, but Julien said that wouldn’t always be the case. For one, Julien said Seidenberg’s shooting has been inconsistent. And two, opposing teams often send their top lines to the ice immediately following a power play, and if Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara have been skating for two minutes with the extra man, they’ll need a break on the bench instead of defending opponents’ top scoring threats.
Seguin has been predominantly on the left wall, where he can fire his righthanded shot with a clean look on net, assuming the puck movement is quick enough to present him with one. Both of his power-play goals came from that spot.
“When I have it on that side, I’m kind of controlling the box,” he said. “Teams will move depending on whether I go up or down. As of late, I’ve been trying to be patient and make the pass. Krejci is doing the same thing. He found Looch and it got to me and we scored [Saturday].”
The Bruins play at Ottawa Monday and at Pittsburgh Tuesday. They have five games over the next seven days. They also play back-to-back later this week when they host the Capitals Saturday and then meet the Penguins on the road again Sunday.
Tuukka Rask, who turned 26 Sunday, has yet to start in back-to-back days this season.
The Senators have been without star forward Jason Spezza, who had back surgery Feb. 1 and is expected to be out at least a few more weeks, and defenseman Erik Karlsson. Ottawa is 6-2-2 over its last 10 games, although a triumph Friday night snapped a four-game winless streak.
“Obviously they’re without [some of] their top guys, but they’re having other guys step up,” said Seguin. “Those kind of guys can be more tough than a team with a bunch of big-name players.”
Boston’s fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille has seen increased ice time lately. They created a crafty goal against the Flyers Saturday, when Thornton forced a turnover at the blue line that led to a Paille goal.
“They’re getting a few more [even-strength] shifts because they’re playing better,” Julien said. “It allows me to use them more, which is a big benefit to our hockey club right now. They’ve been really good. They played extremely well in Washington. They’ve been good the last three games. More to the image of what we think they’re capable of giving us.”