BOSTON – If the Bruins were willing to trade top prospect Joe Colborne and a first-round pick to Toronto to acquire would-be power-play savior Tomas Kaberle, what would they surrender now to import anyone that could make their man-advantage actually score a goal or two.
The Bruins proved that the postseason isn’t a fresh start for everyone or every special-teams unit. With three opportunities and 4:53 of extra-attacker time, the Bruins looked like the regular-season version of themselves by failing to score or generate more than just a handful of clean shots from the point by Zdeno Chara.
“I think it’s about, again same thing, putting the puck on net,” said Patrice Bergeron, who finished with just one shot on net and was ineffective from the right point on Boston’s second unit. “Doesn’t have to necessarily be pretty. It’s a good penalty kill that we’re playing against, and we’ve got to find a way. I think just take what they’re giving us instead of just forcing plays.”
You can drag the numbers all the way back to the start of the season, or just to Kaberle’s arrival, or just to the last seven games of the regular-season. The power-play has been ugly and tonight it was Medusa, and not just because the Bruins stood still as if they were made of stone. If they made life any easier for goaltender Carey Price, he could’ve played in a Barcalounger.
Kaberle wasn’t ready to give up after just one playoff game of power-play frustration.
“We had a few good shots and it seemed like he had seen most of them. Like I said, we had been standing beside him and in front of him, and he had been able to get out of the net,” said the defenseman. “We need to keep him inside the net more, that way it’s way tougher, keep moving the puck and I think we had only two [power plays] or something. It’s just belief, you know. It doesn’t matter. It’s just one game, and like I said, we have to forget about tonight. They played really good and we have to give them credit, but tomorrow’s a new day.”
Well, people believe in the Easter Bunny and Sasquatch, so I guess it’s all right that the Bruins believe their power play – which ranked 20th in the regular season – is suddenly going to erupt and be a difference-maker in their favor. They’ve certainly had enough time to work out the kinks. It seems every practice they devote a large chunk to crisper passing, more movement by both forwards and defense, and multiple ways to get the penalty-killers and the goaltender to move and open up chances. As soon as they hit the game ice, all that goes by the wayside.
The Canadiens, who ranked seventh in penalty kill this season, aren’t going to make life any easier for Boston. The Bruins are going to have to muck and grind their way to some goals. The magic spell Kaberle was supposed to cast when he got here didn’t take. Head coach Claude Julien has made personnel changes on the power play over the course of the season, and he’s not going to be able to wait long before making some moves in this series.
“Well, the first power play definitely didn’t do a very good job. Certainly, at that time, you kind of needed that momentum, but you know, the ones afterwards, I thought we had some great shots from the blue line,” said the coach. “Again, same old, same old. We had some great shots, but we didn’t do a very good job in front of the net with the screens, with the loose pucks, and weren’t able to capitalize.”
Brad Marchand’s already been added to one power-play unit. Could we see the return of Gregory Campbell to the man-advantage? Boston fared well in the pre-Kaberle, pre-Rich Peverley days when the Bruins’ fourth-line center received some time. Maybe it’s time to plant Chara, or even Adam McQuaid, in front of Price, if Boston’s bigger forwards aren’t going to get the job done.
Only one game in this series has gone by, but the Bruins’ power-play problems are a long-term illness. It might take some drastic measures to cure it before the whole patient flat lines.