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Corvo coming up empty

Defenseman firing blanks on power play

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 2, 2011

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Of the 79 NHL goals to Joe Corvo’s name, 36 have come on the power play.

Eleven games into his Black-and-Gold career, Corvo has none, in any category.

On July 5, shortly after Tomas Kaberle signed with the Hurricanes, the Bruins acquired Corvo from Carolina for a 2012 fourth-round pick.

In theory, Corvo projected to be an upgrade on the power play because of his shot. The right-shot defenseman has one of the league’s hardest and heaviest one-timers. The Bruins would have two of the NHL’s deadliest blasters on the power play: Corvo and Zdeno Chara. They could split up the two, spreading the wealth over two units, or pair them to cause matchup issues for opposing penalty-killers.

Corvo’s power-play acumen, however, hasn’t translated to his new employer for a simple reason. He hasn’t been showcasing his shot enough.

“I feel like I haven’t had any chances,’’ Corvo said before last night’s 5-3 win over the Senators at the Garden. “I’m getting the puck and I’m cutting off the middle, so I have to walk down the side and wrist them at the net. I’d really like to shoot much harder than that.’’

The primary issue could be the structural shortcomings of Boston’s power-play personnel. If the Bruins had a left-shot playmaker working the right-side half-boards - Marc Savard’s old office - Corvo would be in better position to open up for one-timers.

But the Bruins have a glut of right-shot forwards. Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Rich Peverley have rotated through the left-side half-wall position. When any of those forwards pass to Corvo at the blue line, the defenseman must turn to receive the puck. Corvo must then turn to his right and either rip a slapper or snap a wrist shot on goal. Corvo can’t one-time shots, and the turn-and-release motion gives shot-blockers extra time to fill the shooting lane.

Last night, Corvo was on the No. 2 power-play unit with Bergeron working the right point. Peverley, Seguin, and Brad Marchand were down low. Last night’s wrinkle was Corvo shifting from the right point to the left. That way, he was in better position for one-timers off cross-ice passes from Bergeron.

Corvo didn’t score. But he landed one power-play one-timer, and put another shot wide of the net.

“I’ve been cornered more on my right side,’’ Corvo said. “It’s difficult to get pucks from the middle from the point. Last couple days, we’ve been switching some things around, so hopefully I can get opened up more for one-timers.’’

The defensive mix

In Saturday night’s loss to Montreal, the coaching staff reunited Chara and Dennis Seidenberg for the first time this season. The two had served as the power defense pairing for most of last season’s playoff run.

But with the defense struggling and the Canadiens scoring two early goals, the pair was split up. Coach Claude Julien tried just about every other pairing in search of defensive chemistry.

“Everybody’s been playing with everybody,’’ said Johnny Boychuk. “It hasn’t been too bad chemistry-wise. We know we can play with each other. We’ve just got to make sure to know their tendencies. If you play with different guys, they have different tendencies.’’

Julien does not emphasize strict pairings. He prefers flexibility based on matchups, with Chara being the centerpiece of the system. Chara can be deployed in a shutdown role, while the coaches can rotate different partners with the captain. But with Chara yet to find the rhythm of his game, there is no telling how much longer the shuffle will continue.

“It would be better,’’ Boychuk said of having stable pairings. “But they’re just trying to mix things up. We haven’t been winning. So to switch up something is usual when you’re not winning.’’

Last night, Chara started with Corvo. But Chara took most of his shifts with Boychuk against the No. 1 line of Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, and Colin Greening. Chara and Boychuk helped keep the first-liners off the scoresheet.

Two out

Benoit Pouliot and Steven Kampfer were the healthy scratches. Pouliot (eight games, 0-0-0) missed Saturday’s loss to Montreal because he was sick. Kampfer hasn’t played since Oct. 22 against San Jose. Kampfer has one assist in two games . . . The Senators were without Daniel Alfredsson (concussion). The Ottawa captain has four goals and three assists in 10 games . . . Though Zenon Konopka (49 penalty minutes) and Chris Neil (46) were most likely instructed by Ottawa coach Paul MacLean not to get involved with too much rough stuff last night, Konopka squared off with Shawn Thornton in the first period. “The one thing that’s pretty obvious that I can say publicly is that teams will not engage with us right now,’’ Julien said before the game. “They’re being told we feed off that. We’ve seen that. Right now, the minute we retaliate, we’re being penalized for that stuff. We have to be smarter. We have to find ways to get around that.’’ Thornton and Konopka, former teammates in the Anaheim system, engaged in a lively bout along the boards. “I just wanted to get the boys going. We were down, 1-0,’’ said Thornton, who’s fought in four of the last five games. “It’s not easy. Like the last two guys [Travis Moen and Jim Vandermeer], he’s an ex-teammate and an ex-linemate. It was a pretty good tilt. Kudos to him for stepping up and doing it, too.’’ . . . Zack Smith and Gregory Campbell also squared off in the third.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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