Time to man up on advantage
MONTREAL — The Bruins have at least one more game, tonight, in a win-or-go-home Game 7 matchup with the Canadiens, to figure out how to wring a little cash out of a bankrupt power play. They’ve had two months to figure out those economics, including the first six games of this series, only to be left musing why they can’t get the kind of five-on-three advantages the Habs used last night to score both goals in a 2-1 victory.
“Well, let’s put it this way,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien, who’ll need to win tonight if he hopes to preserve his job behind the bench beyond his fourth season. “It is struggling. We’ve talked about that. But they scored twice at five on three . . . five on four they weren’t a threat, and neither were we. I thought five on five we controlled the game. I know I would have liked to have a five on three, and maybe our power play would have scored, too.’’
Now, honestly, that’s open to much debate, considering the Bruins stand an eyesore 0 for 19 on the power play through six games. They went 0 for 4 last night, again too often looking hapless, punchless, and shapeless when awarded that little extra elbow room by the referees.
Would a two-man advantage help them? Hey, maybe? It could also double the pain, place a brighter spotlight on the total tonnage of their inefficiency.
On one of those alleged power plays, the Bruins stood around and watched (a slight exaggeration, but not much) in the second period as the Habs six times swatted the puck out of Boston’s attack zone. That’s a half-dozen times in two minutes. Three of those six clears came in the opening 37 seconds. You thought that was impossible? You thought wrong, my little power-play pals.
The Bruins are beyond bad on the advantage. They are their own buzzkill, turning a little something into a lot of nothing, so lost in the offensive zone that at times one is left to wonder if the PA announcer will suddenly blurt out, “May I have your attention, please. If the Boston power play is in the building, please report to the front lobby, Cam Neely is here to take you home. . . and boot your sorry behinds up and down the Esplanade!’’
If the Bruins win tonight at the Garden, they stand to make history with what French Canadians call le jeu de puissance. No team in NHL history ever has gone the distance, clinched a series in seven games and done so without scoring a single power-play goal. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that nugget yesterday.
The Bruins now have that historical mojo right in their hands. They can be the all-time blankety-blanks of the Stanley Cup playoffs, surviving a postseason series without once knocking home a goal when they have more guys on the ice than the other guys. Truth be told, their power play is so bad it often doesn’t look as if they have more guys on the ice than the other guys.
For the record — or perhaps to add to the migraine, if you are reading this in Black-and-Gold country — only the 1942 Maple Leafs ever won a series in six games without connecting on the advantage. Those World War II-era Leafs survived the Rangers in Round 1, going 0 for 6 games on the power play, and then knocked off the Red Wings in the Cup final. Maybe they gave up the power play as a form of wartime rations?
So maybe this 0-for-forever thing is a good omen. Win tonight, don’t score on the power play, and the Bruins could claim a bit of history and also stand but 12 Ws from winning the Cup for the first time since 1972. Really no telling how far this 0-for-the-love-of-God power play thingy can carry them. It’s a whole new definition to the expression “zeroing in on a championship.’’
Another quirk of the works came at the end of three consecutive power plays for the Bruins in the second period, the calls against the Habs whistled at 10:23 (Roman Hamrlik, interference), 13:49 (too many men on the ice) and 16:26 (Jaroslav Spacek, hooking).
Only 22 seconds into that last advantage — and it was Boston’s last of the night — Son of Sunrise Nathan Horton (0 shots, 0 hits, 17:33 ice time) negated the advantage when he slashed Tomas Plekanec’s stick while in possession of the puck. Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it? But when it comes to Boston’s power play, nothing is beyond the imagination. What a power trip, and we mean trip.
The best thing the Bruins could say about their power play in Game 6 was that it didn’t produce a shorthanded goal. True, that’s not saying much, but there’s really nothing else to say.
The theme among Boston players postgame was consistent: Other than the Habs’s two goals, each scored five on three, the Bruins felt they had the better of it. The even squeezed out a fluke goal 48 seconds into the second period, providing a short-lived 1-1 tie, when play was at four on four and Seidenberg stuffed home a loose puck that came from a weird pop fly off of Habs goalie Carey Price.
Other than that, all of Boston’s playmaking at five on five only factored into a load of easy-to-stop shots. Price finished with 31 stops, the vast majority of them delivered at even strength, and most of them routine. One of his best stops, in fact, came with 2:07 left in regulation when he held his ground on a David Krejci shorthanded stuff attempt. It was Krejci’s only shot of the night. He is Horton’s pivot. Krejci’s other top-line winger, Milan Lucic, also went without a shot, but he was given the heave-ho for hammering Spacek into the boards at the 4:37 mark of the second.
“Obviously, he wanted to run me over,’’ said Spacek, left flat on the ice and bloodied around one hear when smoked by Lucic, “so he ran me over.’’
Some things are just that obvious. Like a power play that now stands 0 for 19, with one foot in the history books and the other in the land of broken dreams.