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Bruins at Canadiens > Game 4

Bruins need to get power play moving

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 21, 2011

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Prior to yesterday’s practice at the Olympic Center, both of the Bruins’ low-pulse power-play units went through end-to-end rushes. Once practice commenced, the team spent approximately 15 minutes working on five-on-four situations.

Starting tonight, they hope those tuneups turn into results.

It is hardly breaking news that the Boston power play has gone missing. The Bruins and Penguins are the only teams in the postseason that have failed to score a power-play goal.

Eleven times the Bruins have gone on the power play. Eleven times they have shot blanks. It is one reason they are in a 2-1 series hole against the Canadiens.

“We need to get this going a little better,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “But also understand that in the playoffs, [penalty-killing units] seem to be trumping the power plays. That’s in most of the playoff games we’ve seen as well.’’

The Bruins have allowed only one power-play goal by the Canadiens in 12 chances. Montreal’s goal came in Game 2 after Andrew Ference made an uncharacteristic giveaway in the Bruins zone.

Mike Cammalleri intercepted the pass and set up Brian Gionta for a bang-bang strike at close range.

But as efficient as the penalty kill has been, the power play has been sloppy.

The coaching staff altered both units yesterday. On the first, Tomas Kaberle and Zdeno Chara manned the points, as they have for most of the time the ex-Maple Leaf has been with the Bruins. But up front, Patrice Bergeron replaced Nathan Horton and worked the left boards, interchanging with David Krejci. Milan Lucic was the net-front man.

On the second unit, Rich Peverley was the half-wall quarterback. Mark Recchi was stationed in front, while Michael Ryder and Brad Marchand shared shifts down low. Up top, Ference replaced Bergeron. In the first three games, Bergeron had been one of the point men on the second unit alongside Dennis Seidenberg.

Ference is not a gunner, nor does he feature a heavy point shot. But he is among the Bruins’ smarter puck-movers and decision-makers. And if there’s one thing the Bruins require, it’s better movement, both with and without the puck, to open up and spread out Montreal’s penalty-killing box.

“A lot of times, we’re too predictable,’’ said Julien. “We don’t move enough. And we keep telling them. I don’t know if it’s the pressure of the power play not working all year long and it creeps in.

“But no matter what it is, you have to find a solution. A big part of it is us. The other part is them. So hopefully we can get it going.’’

Power-play woes are nothing new to the Bruins. During the regular season, they buried only 16.2 percent of their chances, 20th-best in the NHL. Management and the coaching staff thought that upon Kaberle’s arrival, the power play would improve. But his presence has done little to help.

As he was in Toronto, Kaberle has been too reluctant to shoot. His safe play has been to send dishes to his right, where Chara can blast away with one-timers. The Canadiens, knowing Kaberle’s tendencies, have sagged off the defenseman and overplayed Chara and the forwards.

“They take away that one-time shot, for the most part,’’ Recchi said. “That leads to four-on-threes everywhere else.

“You’ve got to be able to make movements. You’ve got to go at people and create two-on-ones. If you do that, you’re going to be better off. Eventually, those things open up.

“You’ve got to show them other things before they start respecting other areas. Then you find, all of a sudden, that shots come easier.’’

Vancouver had the top-ranked power play in the regular season, converting on 24.3 percent of its opportunities. The Canucks have been even deadlier in the playoffs, going 4 for 10, the hottest clip among postseason teams, and they hold a 3-1 series advantage over the Blackhawks.

Coaches stack their power-play units with their best players. Vancouver sends out Henrik and Daniel Sedin, along with Ryan Kesler, Christian Ehrhoff, and Mikael Samuelsson. A power play reflects high-end talent, proper strategy, and confidence. For too long this season, the Bruins have been lacking in all three categories.

“The encouragement is that we can definitely get a lot better,’’ Seidenberg said. “We looked at a lot of video. We all know what to do. We just have to execute and be a little more focused when we get the chance.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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