LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – It was tinkering time for the Bruins’ power play again.
In what has become a regular occurrence every two or three weeks, Boston head coach Claude Julien moved some pieces around and switched some pieces on and off the two units during practice today at the USA Rink at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center in an effort to finally find the right combination.
There’s really not much else Julien and power-play specialist Geoff Ward can do at this point. The Bruins’ power play, which ranked 20th in the regular season, has continued to struggle against Montreal through the first three games of the club’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, which Boston trailed two games to one.
Eleven man-advantage opportunities have come and gone for Boston without a goal. Today, the Bruins put their power-play yo-yo back in action by moving Patrice Bergeron from the point to a forward position on a unit with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Typically when the Bruins want to shake things up, Bergeron moving from one spot to another is the first maneuver made.
The point men in that group were Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle.
The other quintet consisted of Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg on the points with Mark Recchi and Rich Peverley constants at forward, and Michael Ryder and Brad Marchand rotating in and out of the third spot. Nathan Horton was limited to spectator status.
“I think if we don’t do anything, we’re not trying to improve it,” said Julien when asked about the torture that is deciding when to alter the lineups and when to leave them alone. “If we’re changing things around a little bit, you’re trying to improve it and we’ve been trying to do that all year. For the most part, you think you’ve got the players for it. On the other end, you need to execute and they need to use their creativity and the biggest thing is they’ve got to be moving here.
“A lot of times, we’re too predictable. We don’t move enough. We keep telling them. I don’t know if it’s the pressure of the power play not working all year long and it creeps in. No matter what it is, you’ve got to find the solution.”
The solution for the Bruins so far has been to keep Montreal’s power play off the scoreboard while their own man-advantage continues to sputter. The Canadiens are just 1-for-12 in the series. That’s been something of a theme in other playoff series, as Julien pointed out: “PKs tend to be trumping the power plays.”
In fact, in the Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh series, the Lightning are clicking at a 36.4-percent success rate and the Penguins are 0-for-15. Yet the Pens lead that series, 2-1. Phoenix has cashed in on 31.2 percent of its power plays, but still trails Detroit – and its 25-percent power play – 0-3 heading into tonight.
Maybe we’re all overvaluing the power play in this series. However, if the Bruins could somehow be the team to break through first with a man-advantage goal or two, it could tip this series in their favor.
That’s why Julien’s not just going to give up making alterations or running his players through the practice paces until the season ends or there’s an offensive eruption.
With Bergeron and Krejci now up front together, Boston will have two of its best playmakers working the half wall and the goal line, respectively, with the big bull Lucic parked in front. Ference has shown a better knack for getting pucks through from the point of late. If Ryder’s ever going to contribute to Boston’s cause, the power play might be the area he’ll do it in.
And then there’s the chance that the mentality Julien and his staff has been trying to instill in the players might finally click in a game situation.
“I think it’s a lot of everything. We’ve just got to move the puck a little better. We can’t be so predictable,” he said. “I say that all the time. If we’re standing around, we’re easy to defend against. Our guys have to be moving a little bit more and create a little bit more of insecurity for the PK, and right now we haven’t been able to do that enough.”
With a win in Game 3, the Bruins have bought themselves some time to iron things out. But this isn’t about the coaching staff coming up with some grander plan to get the players to what they’ve been instructed. The players themselves, are going to have to execute, finally.
Because if this current alignment doesn’t come through, and the Bruins last long enough in these playoffs, there’ll be another lineup shuffle down the road.