|Bruins winger Brad Marchand got the worst of this collision with Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Let’s face it, Peverley is a solid addition
Blake Wheeler is four years younger than Rich Peverley. Five inches taller. Ten pounds heavier. Maybe even has better hands and legs. But Peverley, who has slotted into Wheeler’s old spot on left wing, has been a far better fit on the Bruins’ third line since his arrival Feb. 18 from Atlanta.
To acquire Tomas Kaberle and his $4.25 million annual cap hit from Toronto, the Bruins first had to clear salary. Logic pointed to a salary dump. The Bruins managed to do that by sending Wheeler and Mark Stuart (combined $3.875 million cap hit) to the Thrashers for Peverley and minor league defenseman Boris Valabik.
But what might look like a salary dump has been a hockey trade. Even straight up, a Peverley-for-Wheeler swap could be swinging in the Bruins’ favor.
Through five games, Peverley ($1.325 million annual hit) has turned into a fixture on the third line alongside Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder. He has manned the left wall on the No. 1 power-play unit, often reading off Patrice Bergeron. Peverley and Kelly have developed quick chemistry on the penalty kill.
Last night, Peverley assisted on Boston’s first goal. First, Kelly bumped Adam Hall off the puck in the offensive zone. Then Peverley dug the puck off the wall and dished it to Steven Kampfer at the point. Kampfer walked the puck into the middle of the ice, then let a low slapper go before Sean Bergenheim, who had sagged low, could get back to cover the point. Kampfer’s shot exploded through traffic and beat Mike Smith at 6:06 to tie the game at 1.
“I think their winger tried to flush us down and keep us down below the tops of the circles,’’ said Peverley. “But he came down and kind of cheated. We just got it up there and their winger couldn’t get back.’’
But perhaps Peverley’s most valuable skill has been his touch on the draw.
Earlier this season, the Bruins tried Wheeler at center when Marc Savard was unavailable. Wheeler, who had played the position at the University of Minnesota, was a serviceable pivot, save for one major drawback — his lack of experience in the faceoff circle.
As a Bruin, Wheeler won only 52 of 136 faceoffs (38.2 percent).
Now, with the righthanded-shooting Peverley complementing the lefthanded-shooting Kelly, the Bruins have two stronger faceoff men on the third line. Kelly is 30 for 55 (54.5 percent), Peverley is 23 for 37 (62.2 percent).
“You’ve got to be extremely pleased with all his faceoffs and how dominant he’s been on draws,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “With that line, you’ve got guys taking them on their strong side with a lefty and a righty. So you’ve got to be comfortable with that situation. I think both Kelly and Peverley have built some pretty quick chemistry on the penalty kill as well. They seem to read off each other extremely well.’’
The Canucks remain the league’s elite club on faceoffs. Entering last night, Vancouver had won 55.2 percent of its draws, which leads to puck possession and scoring chances. The Bruins entered the night with the ninth-best percentage (50.9).
“I think it works for me and Chris,’’ Peverley said. “He takes them on his good side, I take them on my good side. That gives us a better chance of getting possession of the puck.’’
Looking for results After another donut last night on three chances, the Bruins are 0 for 11 on the power play in their last five games. They last scored on the power play Feb. 18 in Kaberle’s first game as a Bruin. That night, the Bruins went 1 for 5, with Dennis Seidenberg scoring the lone five-on-four goal.
The acknowledgment is that aesthetically, it is a much-improved product. Kaberle holds the blue line as efficiently as any point man. He can pick the seams and set up Zdeno Chara for one-timers.
Aesthetics, however, haven’t translated to the results the Bruins are seeking. Last night, the Bruins put six shots on goal on the power play. Kaberle was on the ice for all but 46 seconds of the Bruins’ PP time.
“I think the one thing we have to do is work on getting a little better down low,’’ said Julien. “You see that our power play has gotten better up top. We’re creating some shots, we’re creating space. But we’re not finishing. We’ve talked about that, where down low we need to be a little better. Maybe it’s time we start making better plays down low and start scoring some goals. The finishing touch is probably the biggest question mark right now.’’
Ference improving According to Julien, Andrew Ference (lower-body injury) was examined by team doctors Wednesday, is progressing, and could start skating as early as Sunday. Ference missed his third straight game last night. He was injured in the first period of last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Vancouver when Victor Oreskovich appeared to clip Ference’s knee during a check into the end boards . . . Eight minutes into the second period, Mattias Ritola walloped Kampfer in the right corner. Kampfer appeared dazed and skated slowly to the bench. He completed the period but didn’t return for the third because of a head injury. Julien said Kampfer had his bell rung and will be examined today . . . After appearing in eight straight games, Tyler Seguin was a healthy scratch last night. Daniel Paille, a healthy scratch for four straight games, was back on the fourth line alongside Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Paille had 11:17 of ice time, including 1:59 on the penalty kill. “I wanted a fourth line tonight that was going to give us that identity,’’ said Julien of scratching Seguin for Paille. “That’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s going to be. That’s part of the decision-making.’’ . . . Mark Recchi tied Scott Stevens for sixth place on the NHL list for games (1,635). Recchi is scheduled to tie Dave Andreychuk (1,639) a week from tonight against the Islanders. Assuming good health, Recchi will tie Chris Chelios (1,651) for fourth place April 6 against the Islanders . . . Julien tied Lynn Patrick for sixth on the Bruins’ games coached list (310).
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.