Julien weighs powerful shift
On Thursday, down one goal to the Canadiens with 1:38 remaining in regulation and Tim Thomas pulled for an extra attacker, the coaching staff altered Zdeno Chara’s regular assignment. Instead of positioning the captain at his usual up-top man-advantage spot, the coaches instructed Chara to stand right in front of Carey Price.
It’s something they’ve always considered, but chosen not to execute save for end-of-game six-on-five situations.
The reasoning, explains coach Claude Julien, is that either Milan Lucic (2-4—6 on the power play) or Mark Recchi (4-6—10) would have to sit if Chara were to report for crease-crashing duty.
“This has definitely been in the backs of our minds, to put him in front,’’ Julien said of Chara. “Except that what we have in front right now with our two power plays are Lucic, who’s our top goal scorer, and Recchi, who’s really good. So to put him up there, one of those has to be sacrificed from that position.’’
The Bruins have an 18.2 success rate on the power play, 13th best in the league. On paper, with the return of Marc Savard, the Bruins should have enough offensive-minded personnel to be dangerous with an extra skater. But the power play has not been consistent enough for the Bruins’ liking.
In theory, using Chara as a net-front guy could be the switch the power play needs. As the tallest (6 feet 9 inches) and perhaps the strongest man in the league, Chara would be practically immovable, leaving opposing goalies blind. Chara also has the hands and skill to shovel in rebounds and tip pucks.
“I’m pretty tall, so most of the time, I can look over the guy’s shoulders,’’ said the 6-4 Tuukka Rask. “But when a guy’s taller than you, it’s tough or it’s impossible. You’ve just got to try to peek around him while holding your position and making yourself big. That’s the only thing you can do.’’
To compound the decision, by taking Chara off the point, the coaches believe there is no adequate replacement for the strongman’s blistering bombs. Currently, Chara and Steven Kampfer have been manning the point on one power-play unit. Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron have been the point men on the other unit. Johnny Boychuk, never hesitant to rip off slap shots, is not playing on the power play.
“By doing that, we don’t feel that the replacement for Z on the back end would compensate for the loss for the guy in front,’’ Julien said. “That’s what we’re battling with. It’s been thought about. When you think about those things, you say, ‘OK, what are we trading off here?’ Right now, we don’t feel that the tradeoff of putting Z in front, taking one of those two guys off, and the replacement on the back end would be a better situation. That’s our thinking with that.’’
The Bruins didn’t have to make any decisions in last night’s 3-2 win over the Capitals, failing to get a power play.
Chara is familiar with down-low work. Under Julien, Chara has filled the role during six-on-five play. In Ottawa, Chara screened goalies during end-of-game, no-goalie situations and five-on-three power plays. During two-man advantages, Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden worked the points, Chara stood in front, and Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley floated down low.
Compared to point play, where he’s shooting and distributing pucks, Chara is working several times harder down low. Because of his size, Recchi prefers to dart in and out, gaining position when he sees spaces open up. Conversely, Chara is coached to root himself into the low slot and stay there. To that end, opposing defensemen shove, hack, and cross-check Chara to remove the captain from that precious real estate.
“I like it,’’ Chara said. “I enjoy being there in that area in front of the net. It’s hard work in that area. It’s a grinder’s area where you have to work really hard and fight for that space. Hopefully the puck’s going to come there.’’
HBO special HBO was present at TD Garden last night as the network continues work on “24/7 Penguins/Capitals,’’ the four-week show leading up to the Winter Classic.
In the first episode, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau stole the show with a foul-mouthed dressing-room tirade during the Capitals’ 3-0 loss to the Panthers Dec. 9.
“Normally, cameras would never be allowed to be in there,’’ Boudreau said of his intermission message. “That goes [on] in every dressing room on every team in every sport at this level. It’s because [HBO’s presence] is second nature. If this was the first week, I definitely wouldn’t have been anywhere near as passionate. At that point, we’d seen them for two straight weeks. They were there, but so be it. This was what had to be said. I don’t talk like that normally. It just comes out of your mouth when you’re mad. My mom talked to me about it, so I’ll be OK.’’
New look for Thomas A fresh-faced Thomas was between the pipes last night. Thomas (39 saves last night) had kept the mustache he first sprouted in November. Against his daughter’s wishes, Thomas shaved it Friday with the promise that he’d grow it again during the summer . . . Brad Marchand left in the second and didn’t return because of an undisclosed injury. Julien said Marchand was day-to-day. On Thursday, Montreal’s P.K. Subban smoked Marchand with an open-ice hit, which could have had residual effects . . . Adam McQuaid won a first-period scrap with Matt Bradley, four seconds after the Bruins’ second goal. McQuaid also assisted on the first goal . . . Andrew Ference broke a 99-game goal drought when he beat Michal Neuvirth at 8:13 of the first.