Commentary

Bruins' special teams anything but

Updated: March 26, 2010, 12:21 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- There's a major power outage in Boston.

At a time when the Bruins are fighting for a postseason berth, having a lifeless and unsuccessful power play has become a major hindrance. That was the case again Thursday night during the Bruins' 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.

The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage and now have gone eight games without a power-play goal (0-for-20). Overall this season, they are an ugly 40-for-236 for a 16.9 percent success rate.

[+] EnlargeAntero Niittymaki and Marco Sturm
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesMarco Sturm and the rest of the Bruins have been turned away on their last 20 power-play chances.

If Boston wants to remain in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, or even move up in the standings, something has to be done with the power play.

Even Boston's best player this season remains scoreless as Patrice Bergeron has yet to notch a power-play goal. Sure, he's the player manning the point on the special-teams unit, but it's a sure sign the Bruins are struggling in that category.

"It's something we need to get better at, that's for sure," said Bergeron. "They scored two goals in their power play and we didn't score any. We got some chances, but we need to find a way."

Veteran Mark Recchi leads the unit with eight power-play goals, followed by Marc Savard (6), Michael Ryder (6) David Krejci (5), Marco Strum (4), Zdeno Chara (3), Blake Wheeler (3), Dennis Wideman (2), Dennis Seidenberg (1) and Matt Hunwick (1).

The missing link is Savard, who is lost for the season because of a Grade 2 concussion he suffered against the Penguins on March 7 in Pittsburgh.

"Savy's a great player and we miss him obviously," said Bergeron. "Like we've always done when we have a great player missing, we have to regroup and play as a team. You can't replace Savy, he's a great player, but it's the guys in here who need to do the job."

Krejci said the unit is not on the same page. It has no trouble getting the puck into the offensive zone; the Bruins just can't convert their chances, which is a very discouraging sign to coach Claude Julien.

"First of all, there are times when we're overhandling the puck when we should be moving it around," he said. "There's no doubt a lot of guys are second-guessing themselves, and those are our best players on the power play that have to be able to convert. Whatever chances we seem to get, we don't bury. That's a big concern right now and that goes hand in hand with what happened tonight. All the chances we had we weren't able to score goals. It makes it tough to win hockey games."

So now what?

Julien said he's willing to try anything and everything in order to get the power play going, especially with a postseason berth on the line and only nine regular-season games remaining.

Part of that is to get Chara camped out in front of the net, a position where he can cause havoc, which he was able to accomplish when he tipped home his sixth goal of the season -- an even-strength tally -- at 19:33 of the first period.

"Right now we already have a forward on the back end, it's a matter of looking at different scenarios and that's what we have to do right now," said Julien. "We have to find some scenarios here that will give us the results we want. If we had the right elements back there, there's no doubt [Chara] would be a good presence in front of the net. To be able to utilize a guy like that, you've got to get shots on net and shots through and we're not doing that."

Seidenberg is the newest member of the Bruins, coming over in a trade with Florida at the deadline, and he's seeing improvements with Boston's power play.

"At least we had a lot of chances and a lot of shots," he said. "We had chances to score and got good looks at the net. The last few games we didn't get that, so it's a positive sign we got chances and rebounds off the power play."

The lack of spark on the power play wasn't the only reason the Bruins saw their two-game winning streak come to an end on Thursday. Boston got off to a slow start, turned the puck over and wasn't as sharp defensively as it has been of late. Plus, Tampa goaltender Antero Niittymaki was solid, especially in the third period, and finished with 47 saves.

After the loss, Julien was asked if he's paying attention to the standings and the teams below the Bruins. The simple answer: Of course he is. But regardless of what anyone else is doing, Boston needs to get its power play going and quickly.

"The number one concern is your team," said Julien. "That doesn't mean you don't look at the scoreboard after it's all said and done, but right now our concern is we need to bounce back and we need to win our next hockey game. The next hockey game happens to be in your home building, where we have to get better as well. That's the most important concern right now."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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