TAMPA – The Bruins have managed to survive in a number of different areas despite getting whacked with injuries the past month.
Still, one department where they simply haven't been able to make due is on offense where the Bruins have dropped all the way to 27th in the NHL in overall offense with 2.59 goals per game. The figure is even worse at even strength as the Bruins actually have the fifth best power play in the NHL. That's been the big provider for the Black and Gold since Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron went down a couple of weeks ago.
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Unfortunately for the Bruins, even that power play that still features Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak has hit hard times in the past few games. Suddenly, the formula of tight defense, impenetrable goaltending and prolific power play are gone after it had been so effective in grinding out games in the wake of injuries.
Not so coincidentally, the Bruins have lost those games in regulation to a couple of the Atlantic Division weak sisters in Detroit and Florida after just scraping by the past couple of weeks.
So the Bruins spent an hour plus on the Amalie Arena ice on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the Thursday night game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, after going just 1-for-10 on the PP in the past two defeats. Some of it was about adjusting to added pressure that penalty kills have begun featuring against them with no Bergeron playing the bumper in the middle of it all. Some of it was about good old-fashioned zone entries to make certain they can set things up for designated scorers.
That obviously hasn't been happening nearly enough lately.
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"We talked about any adjustments that we need to make in-game. In the [offensive] zone with the [David] Krejci group, it's about getting more pucks to the net and working on a different set. We've just got to be a little better handling the puck, executing and supporting one another, especially when we're getting into the zone," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Possession before position we like to call it, and we've gone away from that.
"The last couple of games I just haven't liked the way we're playing for one another on that unit, and getting open for another and working to get pucks back. It was definitely [things] creeping in during the Detroit, and we definitely needed to be a lot better [against Florida]. There was not enough O-zone time for the talent we have, and that's just either A) not winning enough pucks or B) not supporting it to get it back."
David Backes has been featured on the top PP unit since Bergeron went down. He diagnosed it as perhaps too much individual play while not playing off each other enough to set up odd-man situations around the net.
"Not getting set up, all of a sudden you're just working on your breakout and just getting tired there," said Backes. "Maybe there is a little bit too much individual and not enough of ‘let's hound it and play it like it's 5-on-5' and they'll run out of guys a lot quicker 5-on-4 than they would 5-on-5. If that mentality is there, maybe we'd have a little bit more success against the pressure, and more shots to just relieve pressure so all of a sudden they're a little more worried about the slot and the net-front guy. Then you can just go to all the options that are wide.
"That being said, it's a missed opportunity to pick the team up when they need it, and that's on us that are on that power play [unit]."
Clearly, they miss their power-play conductor in the middle with No. 37 gone and they also miss his face-off abilities to seemingly always get Boston possession of the puck immediately in the offensive zone. But there's still enough talent with Pastrnak, Marchand and Torey Krug among others on the top unit to keep on scoring for an undermanned Bruins team that desperately needs it right now.
They have to hope that the tweaks on the man-advantage at practice pay immediate dividends and that they can continue to squeeze offense out of the PP until they are back at full roster power.
Otherwise, there could be a lot more losses in their future, much like the futile past couple against the Red Wings and the Panthers and the Bruins can't afford that.
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