Coaches see big improvement up front
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — At 11:35 of last night’s second period, when the Bruins scored their first power-play goal of the Stanley Cup Final, Mark Recchi delivered some much-needed vindication for his coaching staff.
The coaches — assistant Geoff Ward is in charge of the power play — made all the right moves. Zdeno Chara had started the night as the net-front presence on the No. 1 power-play unit. But in the second, Chara went back to the point on the No. 2 unit. The puck that floated off Chara’s stick ended up behind Roberto Luongo.
Claude Julien has liked Chara’s work in front. In Game 1, the Bruins ripped eight shots during a four-minute power play, with Chara screening Luongo for most of it.
“He’s been very good at it,’’ said Julien before the game. “I like the fact that he’s done a good job of standing up front. Whenever there’s been loose pucks, he’s reacted well in getting them.’’
The drawback, however, is the net-front beating Chara takes. In Game 1, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, and Ryan Kesler took multiple shots at Chara. The job requires far more punishment than Chara’s used to receiving as a triggerman on the point.
Because of how grueling net-front action can be, the Bruins monitored Chara’s power-play minutes. Last night, like they did in Game 1, the coaches moved Chara back to the point in the second period. Milan Lucic rolled in for Chara on the first unit, playing the front of the net alongside even-strength partners David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Tomas Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg remained at the points.
“Zdeno has a lot of ice time,’’ Julien said. “When you play a lot, you certainly don’t want him in front all the time. It’s a very taxing position to be in. We thought that Lucic was bringing a pretty good physical presence tonight. He was capable of doing the job there for him. You’re going to see [Chara] there at times. But it doesn’t mean you’re going to see him there all the time.’’
The move paid off.
Chara, who was manning the point alongside Patrice Bergeron, sent a wobbler on goal. Tyler Seguin, when he’s given the nod for power-play action, usually works the left boards. But this time, Seguin engaged Bieksa in front. Seguin’s gutsy work led to a screen on Luongo.
Then, just as Luongo steeled himself to stop the shot, Recchi tipped the puck past the netminder. It was Recchi’s first power-play goal since Jan. 10.
Combination of things Jim Benning was a lonely man.
While most of his colleagues were in Vancouver, Benning was in Toronto during the week. Benning, along with director of amateur scouting Wayne Smith, was overseeing the Bruins’ efforts at the annual NHL combine.
Last year, the entire front office assembled in Toronto to put Seguin through the paces. After the combine, the bosses gathered in Ottawa to conduct their pre-draft amateur meetings.
The Bruins have the No. 9 pick at this year’s draft, which will take place June 24-25 in St. Paul. The pick is the final piece of the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto. Benning estimated that two or three players could jump to the NHL next season. Candidates include center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer), winger Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener), and defenseman Adam Larsson (Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League).
“I think the top end, there’s probably four guys, and anyone could go No. 1,’’ Benning said. “But I feel confident at nine that we’re going to get a good, solid kid, and a good player.’’
The Bruins interviewed approximately 60 prospects. General manager Peter Chiarelli’s philosophy is to draft the best player available. Benning hinted the Bruins would continue with that approach.
The Bruins will conduct their amateur meetings in Boston tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday as they organize their draft board.
Shake it off In Game 1, Vancouver’s No. 3 line stole the show. Jannik Hansen connected with Raffi Torres for the winning goal. Maxim Lapierre was also around the net all night.
“They play hard,’’ Michael Ryder said of Lapierre and Torres, former teammates in Montreal and Hamilton. “They get in your face. They play physical . . . I know what kind of players they are and what they bring to the team. As a line, we know what to expect from them. They come out, bang hard, they skate.’’
Last night, Vancouver’s third line was quieter, mostly thanks to Tim Thomas.
Late in the second, Hansen took a pass from Kesler and put a point-blank shot on goal. But Thomas pushed from left to right to get his pad on the shot. Hansen shook his head after the near-miss.
Short-timer Kaberle played only 9:08 of even-strength time. That was the fourth lowest five-on-five time of any Bruin . . . Old friend Andrew Alberts landed six thumps in his series debut. Alberts was on the ice for Lucic’s goal . . . Dan O’Halloran was one of the two referees last night. O’Halloran was one of the referees who called a penalty-free match in Game 7 against Tampa Bay. Then again, Stephen Walkom, O’Halloran’s partner that night, was at the whistle in the Game 1 penalty-fest.