VANCOUVER – Even if the Bruins rally in this series to win the Stanley Cup, they should find a way to prevent the power-play performers from fully participating in the parade.
Maybe anyone on Boston’s “putrid play” has to ride a Duck Boat that doesn’t go in the water, or has to ride behind a Duck Boat in an air-conditioning-less jalopy.
The Bruins might deserve to beat Vancouver, but their power play just doesn’t belong anywhere near the Cup.
Practically every playoff victory the Bruins have recorded, including in the Stanley Cup Final, has been in spite of their inability to do anything 5-on-4. And tonight in Game 5 at Rogers Arena, they again lost a game that easily could’ve turned in their favor with just one goal or even a hint of pressure from their man-advantage.
“They came hard at us on the PK,” said winger Michael Ryder after Boston dropped the game 1-0 to fall behind, 3-2, in the series heading to Game 6 in Boston Monday. “And the ice is not the greatest, so when we don’t make a good pass, they jump us. It’s all about us bearing down and making sure we do make a good, hard crisp pass and move the puck well. We didn’t really do that and we’ve got to make sure we bounce back and regroup on that.”
A visiting team playing in such a pivotal team couldn’t have asked for a better gift than three power plays in the games first 14:13 and four in the first 24:18 before the home-standing Canucks received their first man-advantage. That is, a visiting team other than the Bruins, who now are clicking at just a 9.76 success rate on the power play.
It’s not just the lack of goals from Boston’s power play, it’s the lack of anything resembling an attack. The Bruins couldn’t even set up in the Canucks’ zone, where Boston was trying to establish a net-front presence by replacing Rich Peverley with Gregory Campbell on one of the units. One can argue that taking the hot hand of Peverley – two goals in Game 4 – off the man-advantage and inserting the fourth-liner Campbell is equivalent to sabotage. But it doesn’t really matter considering the inability of Boston’s point men – Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Tomas Kaberle – to get the puck anywhere near the front of the net. Even Phil Esposito himself couldn’t score from the slot without the puck being there.
Seidenberg was frustrated by his and his teammates’ play.
“If you want to take a shot, take it, if somebody’s in front,” said Seidenberg. “You want to move the puck first before you take a shot so you make them a little tired, so it’s a little harder for them to battle once there’s a battle created. So it’s all about moving the puck crisper.”
Not only were the Canucks not tired, they were energized by the penalty kills. Each one was rewarded with a giant standing ovation from the home crowd, and a couple were followed up by Vancouver scoring chances that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had to snuff out.
“We had some good chances. I had some good chances in front. I have to find a way,” said center Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe on their forecheck they were a little more aggressive. But it was more us tonight.”
So what to do now? That’s the question that’s been asked about the Bruins’ power play seemingly since the dawn of time, or at least since Marc Savard was lost for the season due to injury. There’s not one player on the Bruins that can say he’s played his best on the power play with any level of consistency. That goes not just for the much-criticized Kaberle, but also for Bergeron, Chara and David Krejci.
Maybe they should try taking a penalty after they draw one. I bet the Canucks are thinking they could take a few extra ones if need be because of Boston’s ineptitude.
The Bruins got this far without a power play. So it might not cost them over the next game, or possibly two. If they fail to finish this job, the power play will bear the brunt of the blame and be a focus on general manager Peter Chiarelli’s fine-tuning this summer.
Even if they win it all, the power play won’t be something to be proud of. Maybe they can drop it to the bottom of the Charles and start from scratching during the celebration.