BOSTON — There’s no way the Bruins get past Tampa Bay in tonight’s Game 7 without a contribution from their moribund power play.
Well, we’ve said that throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and yet Boston has reached this final game of the Eastern Conference Final with a power play that has clicked just 8.2 percent (5-for-61) in 17 games.
With a solid penalty kill, excellent 5-on-5 play and great goaltending, the Bruins might be able to get it done against the Lightning. But that doesn’t mean their going to chalk up their power play as a lost cause without trying tonight at the TD Garden.
“You do [take it to heart], absolutely. It’s an important piece of the puzzle and we’ve got an opportunity in one game tonight to try and erase all the junk that we’ve done, really, in the last three or four months,” said forward Mark Recchi after his team’s morning skate. “So if we can go build momentum with it, then it helps. If it kills your momentum then it obviously hurts you.
“We’ve had some times where the power play’s been good and we’ve just kept momentum in the game. There’s been some times where it’s drained some momentum. And we’ve got to make sure you make it on the positive side. Even if you don’t score, it’s how well you do it. If you get them hemmed in, that’s going to happen sometimes.”
The newest wrinkle in the Bruins’ power-play alignment features 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the net screening the goalie and battling for loose pucks. Tampa Bay defenseman Eric Brewer — no slouch himself at 6-3 — spoke this morning about not being able to move Chara from the front so, “you just have to stay close to him.”
But, of course, the net-front presence only pays off when there’s a puck in the vicinity — an issue the Bruins haven’t been able to solve regardless of who’s at the points. The one goal Boston scored on the man-advantage with Chara in front came on a pass from Nathan Horton from the side wall to David Krejci in front.
“Well, it’s only an advantage if we get pucks to the net. That’s the bottom line here,” said Julien, who began employing Chara in front late in Game 5. “If you are going to put him in front, you might as well get some pucks to the net and find ways to do that. So that’s part of our process is to move the puck around and create some shots.”
With just 20 shots on net total in each of the last two games, the Bruins haven’t been putting enough pucks to the net at even strength or up a man. That might be a sign they need Chara more on the back end and could use Milan Lucic or Nathan Horton to play the role of crease-top chaos-maker.
To win Game 7, the Bruins might have to try every configuration known to man. And start shooting from almost anywhere and everywhere.