We've heard and seen this before: the Boston Bruins' power play is struggling. That isn't the only thing hurting the defending champions, but with this being a continuous problem it is getting old. It's not like their power play picked up during their Cup run either; they had the worst power play ever for a Stanley Cup winning team, going 10-for-88 in the postseason. Five of those goals came against the floozy Canucks goaltending in the Cup Finals.
Here we are early in the 2011-2012 season and things haven't changed. Substitute Joe Corvo in for Kaberle, more Seguin power-play time, and Peverley playing on the power play now as Recchi has retired, you have the same product that is ticking at 13.5 percent efficiency. That figure is only slightly inflated due to a gift goal thanks to Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night.
It has been far too much dump and no chase or trying to take the puck through opposing teams players like they're holograms. They play the puck way too much on the points and not enough down low, and there's little to no movement which results in the Bruins playing free skate up and down the ice for the two minutes. It's frustrating and getting to be embarrassing. If the Benny Hill theme was playing in the background then it'd be a funny source of entertainment for some.
Corvo isn't at all to blame for this power play, not one man is going to make this overall approach to the power-play any better. He does shoot the puck more than Kaberle and he does make smart decisions with the puck in terms of playmaking.
We thought last year bringing in Kaberle from Toronto would improve this suffering special teams unit, but unfortunately it only got worse and that too is unfair to pin entirely on Kaberle. Bottom line here, it's the overall team's approach at this thing that makes this such a torture. They've brought in different players, switched up the units, even tried Chara down low in the Finals which seemed to work very briefly but it's all failed. What's next?
Doug Houda is the power-play coach and has been since joining the team for the 2006-2007 season. In his first two seasons, the team's power-play ticked at an average rate of 17.4 percent which kept the Bruins at the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league. Pretty good considering the Bruins began their resurrection from the dead during the time, making the playoffs in 07-08 with that "This Building Is Vibrating" Game 6 against Montreal before ultimately getting blown out of the playoffs in Game 7.
It was the sign that the Bruins were back and ready to compete in the playoffs for years to come. Anyways in the 08-09 season Boston boasted the league's fourth-best power play at 23.6 percent where Marc Savard lead the team with 30 PP points. Kessel and Ryder combined for 18 power-play goals (both of whom had their best seasons as a Bruin that season), while Chara led the team with 11 tallies on the man advantage.
In 2009-2010 the Bruins power-play dropped down to 16.6 percent, mostly due to the major drop in production the last month and a half of the season due to Savard being sidelined from you-know-who's cheap shot. And in their Cup winning season last year, it dropped a little bit more to 16.2 percent.
It's fair to say the organization should look beyond its players now for its power-play cure, and time to dismiss Doug Houda or hand the power-play responsibilities to Doug Jarvis who coached the Canadiens' PP unit during his tenure with the hated Habs from 2005-2009 to a solid rate of 21.3 percent over those four seasons. They need a new approach and it's clear that Houda isn't going to change his.
They should put one man on the point on the man advantage and get the remaining four players down low. With two men on the point, the team is forcing the puck up their too much and making it too easy for penalty kills to pressure them and force turnovers. Putting Chara and Corvo on separate units on the point allows them to crank shots on net and be afforded open targets down low.
The penalty kill will have to focus more on shutting down passing lanes closer to the net, thus the less pressure on Chara and Corvo as the lone guys on the blue line on their units. Throwing Seguin and Marchand should also be considered. They have been the lone bright spots of the team thus far and can handle the easy two minutes of power-play time.
The team has had so much trouble simply possessing the puck on the man advantage, which both guys are so good at doing. They open up passing options as they cycle with the puck so well, thus maybe even throwing a guy like Dan Paille on one of the units to simply do that couldn't hurt. I mean really, could it make things any worse?
The way this power play is right now, the Bruins don't even wear down their opponent since they turn the puck over so quickly allowing the PK to do their jobs much easier and expending little energy. At least if the penalty-killers have to chase around a guy like Paille, not only could it create open space elsewhere in the zone it tires the opponents.
Just a few thoughts, but something needs to be addressed with this ongoing and painful issue. Bottom line is they got what they got in terms of player personnel, and they are going to have to be good enough on the power play to at least be average on the man advantage. Krejci is going to have to be much better than what he has shown so far, and the same can be said for guys like Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic if they are going to be out there. They got away with a poor power play last season but it's almost a sure thing they won't get away with it not hurting them again.