They’ve been powerless to break out of slump
Above all else, coaches cherish consistency. Right now, Claude Julien can depend on his power play to be underwhelming at all times.
After Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville, the power play remains a punchline. Following an 0-for-3 effort against the Predators, the Bruins are 1 for 27 in their last 11 games. Power-play specialist Tomas Kaberle has made it more pleasing aesthetically, but the ex-Maple Leaf has done nothing to affect the bottom line.
In theory, the Bruins could have put multiple power-play pucks behind Pekka Rinne late in the first and early in the second. At 17:30 of the first, Patric Hornqvist was given the gate when he put his elbow into Tyler Seguin’s left ear. The Bruins were given a five-minute power play and the requisite endless opportunities of a major penalty.
The closest they’d come to scoring was a Milan Lucic wrister off the crossbar one minute into the power play. Other than that, the Bruins failed to test Rinne, and the score remained 1-1.
“It was a big momentum changer,’’ Rinne said. “We did a great job on that penalty kill. When you kill a five-minute penalty, it brings a lot of energy to a team. I think that we got it going.’’
The Bruins were fortunate to have three power plays against the disciplined Predators. Entering the game, Nashville had averaged a league-low 8.8 penalty minutes per game. In nine minutes of power-play time, the Bruins put only four shots on goal. The problem remains the same. Too much perimeter passing. Not enough desperation down low. Zero confidence.
At the other end, Nashville hammered Tuukka Rask with six shots over four power plays, including the winning goal in overtime. After Steven Kampfer was sent off for holding Mike Fisher, the Predators connected with a four-on-three strike. After some quick passing, Nashville set up captain Shea Weber for a one-timer at the top of the formation. With traffic in front, Weber brought the hammer down on one of his trademark cannons, sending Rask sprinting for the dressing room.
In the second period, after Michael Ryder (interference) and Daniel Paille (holding) were nabbed for consecutive penalties, the Predators had a 40-second five-on-three power play. The three-man penalty kill held off the Predators then. It couldn’t do the same in overtime.
“We kind of saw what they did on the five-on-three there,’’ Weber said. “We obviously weren’t very successful in the second period. We made some adjustments and opened up some holes.’’
The Bruins are now clicking at a mere 16.4 percent, ranked 21st in the NHL on the power play. Of the nine teams with worse power plays, only two (Pittsburgh and Phoenix) are among the top eight in their conferences.
It is an issue the Bruins must address heading into the playoffs. Last year, the Blackhawks’ postseason power play hummed along at 22.5 percent, a significant reason why Chicago was the last team standing.
On Thursday, the Bruins went back to two power-play units. They had tried rolling three forward lines in previous games, looking to jack up the competition. One fix they decline to try is making Zdeno Chara the net-front presence. As the biggest and strongest man in the league, Chara is nearly impossible for opponents to shove out of the slot. But Julien’s explanation is the lack of capable point men who could replace Chara’s boomer from the blue line.
At the conclusion of a third-period power play — scoreless, naturally — Chara tried to go off for a line change. By retreating to the bench, Chara gave Martin Erat enough space to zoom in on Rask. The Boston netminder stuffed Erat, then got a pad on Sergei Kostitsyn’s shot, but could do nothing to foil David Legwand’s third attempt.
It was a fitting end to yet another bungled power play.
Marchand unavailable Brad Marchand will finish serving his two-game suspension tonight against Toronto. Marchand, punished for his elbow Tuesday to the head of Columbus’s R.J. Umberger’s, will be eligible to play Tuesday against New Jersey at TD Garden.
With Marchand unavailable, both Ryder and Seguin, the last two forwards to be healthy scratches, will be in the lineup against the Maple Leafs. After being scratched against Columbus, Ryder led the Bruins with seven shots on goal Thursday.
Seguin, who watched from the Nassau Coliseum press box March 11, scored by ripping a shot over Rinne’s glove in Thursday’s first period.
“He skated and competed a little better,’’ Julien said of Seguin. “We had some guys go a little better for us.’’
Hornqvist fined Hornqvist was fined $2,500 for his elbow to Seguin’s head. The rookie required stitches to reattach part of his left earlobe. Nashville coach Barry Trotz didn’t think Hornqvist was guilty of a penalty. “When I watched the replay, Hornqvist had his elbow out,’’ said Trotz. “Then as he goes into Seguin, he brings his elbow in. He actually puts the brakes on and sort of turns. When I looked at it, I really didn’t think it was a penalty.’’ . . . Expect Tim Thomas to get the start tonight. He backed up Rask the last two games . . . Given Kampfer’s late-game hiccups, Andrew Ference could take the rookie’s spot tonight. Ference hasn’t played since Feb. 26 because of a leg injury . . . The Bruins were given yesterday off.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.