You have to go all the way back to Dec. 16 at Montreal for the Bruins’ last power-play goal that was actually scored after a set-up in the attack zone.
The Bruins hope tonight a return to the Bell Centre can help them regain some measure of power-play proficiency.
However, Boston’s slumping extra-man attack will be extremely tested by the Canadiens, who rank second in the league in penalty-kill percentage. Even without injured top shutdown defenseman Josh Gorges, who leads the Habs with 3:46 of shorthanded ice time on average per game and is now out for the season with an ACL problem, Montreal might not be the place to get the Boston power play going.
Boston has gone four straight games without a power-play goal (0-for-10) and is just 3-for-24 (12.5 percent) in its last nine outings — with power-play goals in just two of those games. None of those scores came off of set-ups in the offensive zone, with two coming on rushes (one by Mark Recchi and one by Michael Ryder) and the other off a giveaway by the opposition and some opportunistic positioning by Ryder.
The Bruins talk about their solid December, when they were 10-for-45 (22 percent), but most of that success came prior to Dec. 17, including Milan Lucic’s tip in front against the Habs Dec. 16. Since the middle of last month, it’s been a drag for the Bruins when they have an extra man on the ice.
“When we work it well [at the top] and we establish shots, it certainly makes our power play better. And down below it’s about winning battles,” said head coach Claude Julien after practice Friday, when he juggled some of his power-play combinations before those units worked on their passing and movement. “So those are two areas where, when we don’t win battles down low, it ends up at the other end of the ice. When we do win those battles and we get it to the top and the top kind of works it well, we establish some opportunities. Those are two areas we’ve kind of keyed on to get the power play going again.”
With Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara manning the points, Blake Wheeler, Recchi and David Krejci served as the forwards on one quintet Friday. The other group featured rookie Steven Kampfer and Patrice Bergeron up top along with Ryder, Marc Savard and Lucic up front. Sniper Nathan Horton had left practice with discomfort prior to the power-play work.
“If you look at it, a lot of times we have the good movement, we have good passes, but we just don’t shoot at the right time or when we do shoot it’s not the right time,” said Chara. “It’s one of those two. So we just need to correct those two elements of the game to be on track.”
The Bruins are 1-for-8 against Montreal on the power play this season. So this might not be the best time to try to start a turnaround. However, in as much as the power play is reliant on aggression and hard work, the sight of the Habs and their vocal fans should provide a source of motivation for the Bruins’ power-play performers.