Still without power
Tweaks hopefully provide a spark
Like most aspects of the Bruins’ game, the power play has yet to find its rhythm. In their last outing, a 5-3 home win over Ottawa on Tuesday, the Bruins scored only once on seven power-play opportunities, landing nine shots on goal in 9:54 of man-advantage time.
But in that win, the Bruins’ power play (13 percent, No. 26 in the league) at least showed signs of improvement. There were significant tweaks. On the first unit, when Zdeno Chara or Dennis Seidenberg has the puck at the point, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton are serving net-front duty.
On the second unit, Patrice Bergeron, who’s almost always manned the left point, shifted to the right. From there, Bergeron can serve as a setup man for Joe Corvo, the triggerman with one of the team’s heaviest one-timers.
“We’re still working on that,’’ coach Claude Julien said of freeing Corvo for more blasts. “He’s got a great shot. Somehow, it’s about putting him in the position that he can use it. At the same time, it’s working with him and making sure he gets himself open and available for those as well. It’s something we’d like to see a little bit more of. Hopefully that will come around.’’
In the first period, Lucic scored the only power-play goal when he swatted in the rebound of a Chara shot. Lucic was in the correct spot, almost directly in front of goalie Craig Anderson, when he turned, found the rebound, and lifted a backhander into the net.
Lucic and Horton are instructed to serve as net-front sentries, stationed approximately at both posts. In theory, either wing can screen the goalie or fill the shooting lane to tip pucks from the point.
If the goalie stops the first shot, Lucic and Horton, provided they muscle behind their defenders, can pounce on loose pucks and tuck in rebounds.
The challenge is for Chara and Seidenberg to elude shot-blockers and put pucks on goal.
The Bruins haven’t always been successful at that skill. In back-to-back losses to Montreal, the Canadiens blocked 29 shots in each game. The Bruins blocked only 19 total shots. The key to Lucic’s goal was Chara finding a shooting lane and landing his shot on goal, while Lucic bothered Anderson.
Last month, during a practice drill at Ristuccia Arena, one forward stood in front of the net while a teammate shot the puck at a foam pad. The net-front forward had to turn, find the rebound, and go high with his shot.
“Looch has done a pretty good job of standing right in front of the goaltender. That was a great screen on his part when he did get that rebound and found that puck,’’ Julien said. “The other guy that scores big goals for us - we just have to look back at last year in the playoffs - is Nathan Horton. He finds those pucks around the net, has enough patience to take it around the goaltender, and stuff it in.’’
On the second unit, the aim is to give Corvo more looks. The former Carolina defenseman has 36 career power-play goals, but no goals (power play or otherwise) this season.
In previous games, Corvo often found himself trapped at the right point at bad shooting angles. He would have to walk the blue line to the middle and snap off a wrist shot - not, compared with his one-timer, a weapon.
With Bergeron assuming right-point duties, the center is in position to feed Corvo pucks at the left point.
“He has good vision,’’ Julien said of Bergeron.
“He may not shoot as much as other players, but he sees openings pretty well. Putting him back there was certainly a good option for us.’’
The Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a division-leading 9-3-1 record. They have not lost in regulation at the Air Canada Centre, where they’ve put up a 5-0-1 mark. They are averaging 3.38 goals per game, third most in the league behind Washington and Philadelphia.
Phil Kessel leads the charge with 10 goals and 11 assists. The Leafs beat Columbus, 4-1, on Thursday, and the night before scored a 5-3 win over New Jersey.
“They’re high-tempo, very open type of game,’’ Julien said. “[Wednesday] night was back and forth and certainly created a lot of goals for both sides. That’s their M.O. We’ve certainly dealt with teams like that. We’ve just got to be at our best. If we do that properly, the offense will come from that, as you saw [Tuesday] night. That’s how we feed our offense, from good defense. If they’re going to open up, we’ve got to be ready to play good defense.’’
The Bruins didn’t practice yesterday. They traveled to Toronto in the afternoon, then appeared at the Hockey Hall of Fame for a free autograph signing . . . Benoit Pouliot and Steven Kampfer project to be tonight’s healthy scratches . . . Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins’ most recent first-round pick, was named OHL Defenseman of the Month for October, scoring seven goals and 13 assists in 12 games. Hamilton is bidding for a spot on Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.