VANCOUVER – It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached just June 1 and Bruins head coach Claude Julien sounds like he’s all ready to give on his putrid power play.
“As long as we’re able to stay on even terms with them when it comes to special teams, we’re okay with that,” said Julien after his team finished 0-for-6 on the power play and lost 1-0 to Vancouver in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena.
You’ve come too far Claude Julien to begin to talk like that. Resigning oneself to just trying to break even should not be an option. That the Canucks weren’t able breakthrough on any of their six power-play opportunities should be a reason to celebrate, unless the Bruins pop one in and get the better of Vancouver.
Now I’m not saying that Julien is taking on a loser’s mentality. Knowing him, this is his psychological ploy with his team. Where some coaches might rip his man-advantage jamooks to shreds, Julien’s kind of saying: “I have low expectations, now go and prove me wrong.”
That might work. But it might not hurt to show a little anger, especially after the Bruins let the Canucks escape with the type of game that could determine an entire best-of-seven series. It’s hard to imagine a game any closer than Game 1. And the Bruins had the chance to turn all the momentum in their favor.
They squandered two first-period power plays. Then came the Alex Burrows double-minor – which could’ve been worse had someone in an authority position seen his bite on Patrice Bergeron – and a Kevin Bieksa high stick on Zdeno Chara for more than a minute and a half of 5-on-3. One Mark Recchi one-timer that didn’t get past Roberto Luongo into the net and a bunch of passes later – plus a Ryan Kesler scoring chance 3-on-5 – and the Bruins were on their way to falling to 5-for-67 in the postseason when they have a man-advantage.
Julien’s players sounded a little more determined to get the power play going.
“Obviously, we had some good looks. But still, we’ve got to find a way,” said Bergeron. “That 5-on-3 we had some good chances. Rex just missed the net there. But we had some good looks.”
Whether the Bruins want to accept it behind closed doors or acknowledge it publicly, they are not a better all-around team than Vancouver. That fact makes it imperative that when they have more players on the ice than the Canucks, they do more than kill the clock or get some “good looks.” They have to finally score.
We’ve said this 1,000,000 times this playoffs season. But if tonight was any indication, it’s finally going to come to fruition. No power play equals no chance for victory for the Bruins.
Julien and his staff have tried numerous different things. They’ve put Chara in front, they’ve put Milan Lucic on the second unit, tried Bergeron at the point and worked in Andrew Ference and Tyler Seguin at times. Now it’s time to get extremely creative. If that means getting Brad Marchand or Gregory Campbell out there, so be it. It could mean asking Tomas Kaberle to take a power play off to see if someone else can work some magic.
And then there’s the elephant in the room, which wears a No. 28 jersey in black and gold. When’s the last time you saw Recchi make one of his patented tips on goal? When’s the last time he really got in a goaltender’s grill? Julien doesn’t have to bench Recchi. He can just take him off the power play once. Just once could be all it takes to give the Bruins a different look, give someone else a chance and maybe align the planets perfectly for the type of goal the Bruins could build upon in their pursuit of the Cup.
This isn’t insulting the individual play of Recchi, Kaberle or anyone that’s failed to contribute on the power play. It’s about looking for the hot hand and maybe empowering other people to get the job done. Maybe watching from the bench would give someone like Kaberle or Recchi a new perspective on what’s going on out on the ice.
When Kaberle watches video of Game 1, he’ll see the time he failed to shoot when he was open straight on from the goal with both Chara and Nathan Horton parked in front of the net. If ever there was time to get the puck to the crease, it was then. Instead he made a robotic pass over to Dennis Seidenberg for a shot that went right into a Canucks player’s shin pad.
That play wasn’t the reason the Bruins lost or even the reason the power play has now become the delinquent you praise for not getting arrested even though he comes home with all F’s on his report card. What that play is is a microcosm for everything the power play has gone through since the dawn of the 2010-11 season.
Julien’s seemingly endless patience has gotten the Bruins this far. But he shouldn’t let his patience lead to resignation about the power play. He has to continue to juggle lines, shift players and try to find that spark that could make this month notable for more than being the first June the Bruins’ franchise has ever played in.
It could be the first June the Bruins have won the Cup in, or at least scored a power-play goal in. The way things have gone, playing in June doesn’t even seem as rare as scoring on the power play.