Commentary

Bruins must focus on 5-on-5

Time to put power-play struggles aside and work on the basics

Updated: June 3, 2011, 9:41 AM ET
By James Murphy | ESPNBoston.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Bruins are tired of talking about their anemic power play that, after going 0-for-6 in their Game 1 finals loss, is now 5-for-67 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And who could blame them? The media is tired of asking them about it, and the fans are tired of watching it.

But the bottom line is the Bruins need to accept the fact that it's a problem. And if they're not going to fix it, they must correct what ailed them five-on-five in Game 1 quickly or they will be heading home to Boston on Saturday night in a 2-0 hole in the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks.

"Well, yeah, it was pretty simple. I think they beat us at the five-on-five game last night," Bruins coach Claude Julien acknowledged Thursday after an optional skate for his team at the University of British Columbia. "And I thought our special teams were as good, if not better, than theirs, to be honest with you. We had more scoring chances on our power play than they did and our penalty kill did a great job against a pretty potent power play, so special teams I don't think was an issue last night, but the five-on-five, they were no doubt the better team."

Center Patrice Bergeron was not happy that he and his teammates played to a scoreless tie until Raffi Torres won it for the Canucks with 19 seconds left in regulation.

[+] EnlargeClaude Julien
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire"Special teams I don't think was an issue [Wednesday] night but the five-on-five, they were no doubt the better team," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

"Obviously we're not happy," Bergeron said Thursday. "We're not satisfied with losing 1-0, even though it was a tight game. Yes, we played all right. We played OK. But we can be better. We need to be better. Saturday, Vancouver is going to obviously increase their tempo as well, so we've got to be even better."

Bergeron, of course, knows the power play has to be better, but things aren't going to change in Game 2 even if the Bruins miraculously solve their power play and pop in a goal or two on the man advantage. The Bruins need to play their game consistently throughout Game 2 and going forward in the series, whether it's five-on-five, five-on-four or even five-on-three.

"We have to find a way to score more goals," Bergeron said. "On the power play is the area we need to fix and be better, especially having a five-on-three and a four-minute five-on-four, you have to find a way. Five-on-five, we need to make sure we get to the net more, find a way to get more chances."

While paying homage to Roberto Luongo for his shutout performance in Game 1, the Bruins know they didn't exactly make those 36 shots the Vezina Trophy candidate faced count.

"I think we can improve that part of our game," Bergeron said of creating better scoring opportunities. "I think, yes, we had some good shots, but not necessarily all from the dangerous area. Yeah, we've got to improve that and make sure we fight our way close to the front of the net. Obviously they're doing a good job of boxing us out, but we have to do a better job."

Julien concurred with his best two-way center.

"No, I don't think we made it as difficult as we should have or could have, so it's something that has to be a little bit better in regards to that," Julien said.

"We might have out-shot them, but they had the better quality scoring chances than we did and that's reality."

General manager Peter Chiarelli said the Bruins' nerves might have hindered them.

"I think maybe we were a little bit nervous, first game of the finals, and we had good chances but maybe waited a little too long [to shoot] and a little too close," Chiarelli said. "When you get too close to Luongo, he's such a big guy, it's hard to finish. We had some odd-man rushes that we didn't execute that well and that didn't result in a true chance. I attribute it to nerves a little bit and I think we have to be sharper in those areas we spoke of. We hesitated a little too much and we played with energy but we missed some assignments. I like the effort but I think it can be better."

Julien didn't necessarily agree with his boss as far as nerves go, saying the missed opportunities were a case of his team needing to play better.

"Well, I would say what nerves there were, they were on both sides," Julien said. "I don't think there's a team there that seemed more nervous, but I would say that our team is and will play better, is capable of playing better, and will definitely play better next game. And that's a thing that we believe in, but we also have to understand that we have to play better if we intend on winning some games here."

As Chiarelli pointed out, whenever the Bruins have failed to make life miserable for the opposing goalie by getting traffic in front and playing their game, they usually have bounced back and done so the following game. The Bruins already have lost two Game 1s and come back to win the series, and both Chiarelli and Julien believe they will bring their game back in Game 2.

"I think they had more chances," Chiarelli said. "We have to do a better job of getting more traffic in front. That's been our trademark, and when we stray from that, that's how we come back and respond better. That's been our bread and butter."

Julien promised that bread and butter would be in effect in Game 2.

"Well, I expect our team to play better, so that's in all areas, whether it's physical, whether it's what we create on offense and everything else," he said.

The Bruins better, because at this point, the power play is basically a lost cause. Their best bet is to do what they do best and play hard, effective hockey five-on-five. If they can't do that Saturday, they might not have a chance to do so much longer. The Canucks aren't the Habs; they're the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners, and there's good reason they were favorites heading into this series. Coming back from a 2-0 hole to Vancouver will be a much more formidable task than it was against Montreal.

James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.

James Murphy

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

MORE NHL HEADLINES