BOSTON — When Bruins president Cam Neely, owner Jeremy Jacobs and principal Charlie Jacobs met with the media Thursday afternoon at the Garden to discuss their club's recently completed season, they were easily outnumbered by the reporters and cameramen on hand.
That wasn't a problem. It's only when the Bruins have a numerical superiority that they have a problem.
Boston's issues on the power play during its first-round loss to Washington were a frequent source of questions during the session, and the Bruins brass didn't try to sugarcoat those struggles or the impact they had on the series.
"We got away with it last year as everybody knows," Neely said. "This year it kind of bit us in the butt."
The Bruins won the Cup in 2011 despite a historically bad power play. They went 0 for 21 in the opening round against Montreal and just 10 for 88 over four rounds in the postseason. This spring, they couldn't overcome a 2-for-23 effort on the man advantage against the Capitals, with an 0-for-3 night in the 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7 proving especially costly.
"There's some things we're certainly going to discuss in the offseason about what we can do differently on the power play," Neely said. "I think it's an area that absolutely needs improving, and we will improve on."
Neely was less precise in describing exactly how the Bruins would improve, declining to specify whether he felt it was more of an issue of the personnel in place or the coaching strategies employed.
"It's something I'm going to leave internally for now," Neely said. "I just know it can be better. The player personnel I think is strong. Don't get me wrong, it's an area I think you look at where we were during the season we were OK but it started to fall off and we couldn't right the ship. It's an area the players have to take as much responsibility as the coaching staff because it's a privilege to be on the power play. It's certainly an area of the game that can make a difference."
Neely did state that he doesn't foresee any changes in the coaching staff or major changes with the roster, putting the onus on the players in place to find a way to be more effective on the power play.
"Obviously I watch a lot of hockey and a lot of other power plays," Neely said. "What I see is a lot of movement, getting pucks down low, getting them to the net. I think that's important. But a lot of movement, makes it difficult for the penalty killers. That's an area when I look at good power plays, that's what I see coming out of it. Confidence too, when your power play's good your players have a lot more confidence and they try different things. I think when you go out there and you're not as confident, it will show in your power play."
While head coach Claude Julien and assistant Geoff Ward, who is in charge of the power play, have drawn criticism for the lack of creativity on the man advantage, Neely noted that it's not all about drawing up set plays. It's often more about how the players read and react on the ice that determines how effective a power play can be.
"There's only so many breakouts you can have," Neely said. "There's only so many setups you can have offensively inside the zone once you do set up, but it's really once there's a shot you have to ad lib. You have to anticipate and ad lib a little more."
The Bruins will get their chance to ad lib again next season, but first Neely and Co. will spend a long summer going over just what went wrong to try to return to a time when having a man advantage actually was an advantage for the Bruins.