Assertive Attack Is Boston Bruins' Main Missing Ingredient in Recent Slump

Al DanielCorrespondent IIDecember 3, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins comes out from behind the net between Jonathan Quick #32 and Brayden McNabb #3 of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Staples Center on December 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Kings won 2-0.   (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins have gone through eight consecutive games without a single power-play goal. The zero in the conversion column, however, is the least of the alarming special teams statistics in that span.

Dating back to Nov. 15, the opposition has garnered more man advantages than Boston on seven occasions. The exception was this past Monday, when both parties logged six minutes of five-on-four action in the Anaheim Ducks’ 3-2 victory.

Those three power plays were the most the Bruins have had in a single game since they last capitalized.

Overall, they are scoreless on a cumulative 16 opportunities since the start of the second period of a Nov. 13 visit to Montreal. In the eight full games since then, they have had 14 man advantages, chalking up to a nightly average south of two.

The whole hex hit a nadir Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Bruins went dry at even strength, did not draw themselves a single power play and eventually let a 1-0 deficit morph into a 2-0 loss with the help of an empty-netter.

With that, they brooked their first pair of consecutive regulation losses since their wretched two-night Canadian road trip Nov. 12-13. In both cases, one extra biscuit burial in any situation could have made a difference in the form of a point or two in the standings.

Extraordinarily, they have posted a winning record (4-3-1) since this overall power-play famine started. In addition, in each losing effort, they have valiantly hung around with top-echelon competition amidst a multitude of key absences in their lineup.

With that said, they are 1-3-1 in their last five games, with each loss limited to a one- or two-goal differential. Makes one wonder how little more could have made a much greater difference in any given falter.

Per CSNNE.com beat reporter Joe Haggerty, Bruins alternate captain and two-way connoisseur Patrice Bergeron seamlessly summed up the chronic shortcoming:

We’ve done a lot of good things, but at the same time when we’re not scoring then any small mistakes turn into big ones. We don’t make up for it on the offense. We’re playing a pretty stingy game when it’s 1-0, so defense isn’t a problem. We just have to find a way to score more goals.

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 1:  Milan Lucic (L) of the Boston Bruins controls the puck against Ryan Kesler (R) of the Anaheim Ducks on December 1, 2014 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
Debora Robinson/Getty Images

One way to go about that would be to pose a greater quantity of physically and mentally taxing dilemmas to the opposition.

Boston has, incidentally, gone scoreless in each of its last six first periods and four of the last six middle frames. But not everything it generates needs to end up in the net right away. If anything, the Bruins need to get the detrimental data out of their collective heads.

As quoted by Caryn Switaj on the team’s official website, winger Milan Lucic opined after Tuesday’s loss, “I think right now we’ve just got to not grip our sticks too much and kind of just relax and bear down when we get opportunities.”

It does not matter how they do that, as long as they seize a little more control a little earlier and a little more often.

It does not matter if it is through the pure brawn of Lucic and Carl Soderberg. It does not matter if it is through the size-defying aggression and irritation of Brad Marchand.

It does not even matter if it is through Dougie Hamilton or Torey Krug blistering from blue line to blue line on a single-handed breakout.

However they percolate the trouble, the Bruins need any given puck-carrier to impel the opponent to choose between illicit impediment and leaving the final word to the goaltender. Nothing less will generate more potential to saturate the scoresheet, whether that is in the goal or penalty section.

Naturally, the easiest scapegoat for the power-play drought is the absence of Zdeno Chara and David Krejci. The captain’s choices of a towering net-front presence or prolific point patroller, along with the pivot’s playmaking prowess, could make a difference, if they were available.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a save in front of Milan Lucic #17 and Carl Soderberg #34 of the Boston Bruins during the first period at Staples Center on December 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Ph
Harry How/Getty Images

But even without those veterans, the Bruins can still cultivate more from their younger two-way blueliners, Bergeron and other forwards. That is to say nothing of what they can do to draw more power-play segments to begin with.

Given the tight, relatively low-scoring outcome of every recent loss, Boston does not even need to turn an overnight 180 on its power-play prosperity. All it needs is to pilfer more time and energy from the opposition by buzzing around the zone with an extra skater for one or two more sequences each game.

For all Bergeron said to the likes of Haggerty about the team’s defensive stability, the Bruins could stand to animate an adage. With a few more momentous shifts on opposing property, they can let their offense play defense by subtracting precious time they might otherwise spend in their zone.

Maybe then they will avoid surrendering the first goal a little more. They have shed first blood in five of their last six outings, going 2-3-1 in that span.

Both of their last two wins saw them trailing at the first intermission and ultimately required overtime or a shootout to complete the comeback. Meanwhile, they have taken only three regulation leads in their last six games, letting each evaporate before they could expand.

Outings like Tuesday against Los Angeles reaffirm the plain reality that they cannot keep getting away with that drama. As if recent losses to other certified powerhouses from Pittsburgh and Montreal did not deliver that message.

The immediate schedule will not be much easier, with San Jose and Chicago constituting two of the next three adversaries. Playing with a lead would come highly recommended in either of those matchups, as would sustained momentum when the Bruins have it.

Provided the defense does not detonate in the near future, more quantitative and qualitative possession ought to tip the scale. If the Bruins can clear their heads and refocus on wearing down the adversary when they can, their preferred sin bin, net and point column should start to fill accordingly.

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.

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