Last week, I made my case for the Boston Bruins not pairing up newly signed right-handed defenseman Derek Morris with Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara on a regular basis.
But there is one place that I believe Morris and Chara should unite, and that’s the Bruins’ No. 1 power play unit. And that will benefit the Bruins in a number of ways, with the most important being that Patrice Bergeron should be relieved of the added responsibilities that come with manning the point as a forward.
The Bruins didn’t throw a little more than $3 million at Morris for the 2009-10 season to have him watch power plays from the bench or be relegated to the second unit. While the Bruins strive for balance and don’t like to designate their quartets as first and second, one group typically gets the bulk of the ice time — mainly the one featuring Chara, unless his unit is in a severe slump.
Morris is known for his offensive instincts and his ability to fire his shot through traffic, a department the Bruins sometimes struggled in 2008-09. The last time he played regularly for an NHL team and not the circus known as the Phoenix Coyotes, Morris lit the lamp line times and totaled 28 points on the power play for the 2002-03 Calgary Flames. Surrounded once again by high-caliber NHL talent, Morris should be able to approach those numbers in black and gold.
So with Chara and Morris, in Bergeron’s old spot, manning the points on the top unit, that leaves the second-group spots to fill. Last season, Dennis Wideman and Andrew Ference (when healthy) worked beautifully as a power-play duo. Of course, Matt Hunwick also enjoyed some highlights next to Wideman on the man-advantage and his offensive prowess is a big reason Boston decided to make a two-year commitment to him as a restricted free agent this summer. The competition to crack the power play unit will be intense this fall. Alas, there’s no room for Bergeron out by the blue line — and that can only be a positive.
Depending on what happens with Phil Kessel — both injury- and contract-wise — and how quick David Krejci recovers from his offseason surgery, the Bruins are going to need extra firepower up front on their power play. Bergeron can provide the perfect right-shooting competition to Michael Ryder, with the two stars jockeying for a spot on the top squad. Bergeron could even shift over and center the second unit in Krejci’s absence, with Marc Savard obviously entrenched as the No. 1 pivot.
Bergeron, to me, always held his own as a point man. But he’s always seemed most comfortable up front, and playing forward on the power play best puts his offensive talents to work. The Bruins need to be better in every area this season than they were last year, including on the power play (which ranked near the top of the NHL all season). With Bergeron up front and Morris on the back end, the Bruins should be in business with one of the league’s most productive man-advantages.