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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins’ power play looked its best in the first period when Zdeno Chara was screening Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. It appears Chara will remain in that position for tonight’s Game 2.
Toward the end of practice yesterday, the Bruins worked on their flickering power play. Like he has been since the third period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, Chara was the net-front presence on the first unit. Tomas Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg were the point men. David Krejci manned the left boards. Nathan Horton was in the left corner.
For most of his time in Boston, Chara has been at the blue line on the power play. From there, the Bruins have looked to set up Chara for his triple-digit slap shot.
But for a player owning such a hard shot, Chara hasn’t taken full advantage. Because of his long windup, shot-blockers — the ones courageous enough to perform the equivalent of stepping in front of an Acela train — have time to fill shooting lanes. Also, Chara requires lots of repetitions to make sure his shot gets through traffic and on net. General manager Peter Chiarelli has noted that Chara can’t do that in practice for fear of injuring a teammate. He has performed most of his shooting drills before and after practice.
So, with Chara’s shot not being utilized and the power play struggling, the coaches have rotated the captain in front of Luongo. It is a job that is not new to Chara.
For part of his time in Ottawa, Chara was the net-front man on the power play, with Wade Redden and Daniel Alfredsson at the points. In Boston, during empty-net, six-on-five situations, Chara has also gone to the front instead of the point.
“I think it’s a combination of being aware of where the puck is, and obviously you have to be in the right position,’’ Chara said. “It’s just having the right instinct — where you feel the puck’s going to be, and kind of predict a little bit, too.’’
Chara’s primary task is to prevent Luongo from seeing the play. The Canucks, aware that trying to jostle the Slovakian strongman is a waste of time, fronted Chara in Game 1. Tonight, Chara must continue to hound Luongo. But the other power-play gunners, specifically Horton, must be better at giving Chara support. If shots carom off Chara or if Luongo makes the first save, the Bruins have to crash the net to jam home loose pucks.
“I think it’s got to be a commitment from everybody to be willing to do that job,’’ Chara said of bothering Luongo. “And not just on power plays.’’
Depth charge In Game 1, even before left wing Raffi Torres tapped home the winning goal with 18.5 seconds remaining, Vancouver’s third line had submitted a sterling performance. Torres landed five hits. Ex-Canadien Maxim Lapierre snapped off six shots, including two high-quality chances in the third. Jannik Hansen had three shots, two hits, and two blocked shots in 15:26 of ice time.
“It took us a while to get some chemistry within that line, for whatever reason,’’ Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “We had a few players audition when Manny [Malhotra] went down for that third-line center spot. Nobody really seemed to grab it until somewhere in the playoffs, Max grabbed that opportunity. I think the reason they’ve been effective is that they’re all three emotional players that play with an edge and skate real well. Right now, they’re playing high-percentage hockey, getting pucks behind the D. They’re playing the body when the opportunity is there. They’ve been real smart and effective about it.’’
The Bruins will need their third line to push harder tonight. Michael Ryder had two good looks at Luongo early in the third period of Game 1. But Chris Kelly recorded only one shot. Tyler Seguin didn’t have a shot in 6:21 of ice time. Seguin hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet since his four-point explosion in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“I don’t think there’s any specific reason,’’ Julien said of Seguin’s six-game scoreless streak. “There’s a lot of guys that have gone scoreless in those six games as well. He’s 19 years old. We don’t expect him to carry our team on his back.’’
Recchi remains Mark Recchi practiced on the second power-play unit, although his last power-play goal was Jan. 10 against Pittsburgh. Recchi doesn’t have a point since Game 4 of the second round against Philadelphia . . . Rich Peverley was the fourth forward on the No. 2 line yesterday, and could rotate in for Recchi at times tonight . . . The Bruins will not have a morning skate today. They also didn’t skate prior to Game 1 . . . Milan Lucic on Dan Hamhuis’s Game 1 hip check, which sent him pinwheeling to the ice: “It’s the first time I’ve ever been hit like that and gone all the way over. It’s unfortunate for the Canucks that he got hurt.’’ . . . Vigneault hinted that he might roll out his fourth line more as the series progresses. That would likely mean more ice time for Bruins Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. Campbell skated 7:38 in Game 1, Paille a team-low 5:15.