The man-advantage has been anything but an advantage for Boston, which has managed just two goals on 41 power-play opportunities in the playoffs. That’s a success rate of just 4.9 percent, though when the numbers are that low, calling the rate a success defies all logic.
It also defies logic how a team that has been so solid offensively at even strength can lose virtually all ability to score when an extra attacker is on the ice.
There’s been no lack of trying to find a way out of this slump, and the tinkering continued on Monday as the Bruins continued to try out some new combinations on the power at the start of their practice at TD Garden.
Among the changes was rookie Tyler Seguin getting some reps on the power play, though that’s hardly a guarantee he’ll see any time there in Game 2 on Tuesday as the Bruins try to even their Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay after going 0-for-4 on the power-play in a 5-2 loss in Game 1.
“We got different looks,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We got different players. We want to make this power play work. It’s never a bad thing to have those guys go through it. And if at one point you need them, you need them. And what I said yesterday was exactly what we wanted to do with Tyler.”
Julien stressed that the Bruins are trying to bring the talented prospect along judiciously, and don’t want to overwhelm him after being a healthy scratch for the first two round of the playoffs.
“He hadn’t played a playoff game yet and we give him a little bit to chew on and then we give him maybe opportunities if need be in other areas,” Julien said, “but he’s a young player that we care about and want to make sure that we develop him properly, and that’s part of the decision we’ve made as an organization is not to rush him through anything. And the example is probably [James] van Riemsdyk from Philly, how good he has been this year and yet he was healthy scratch a lot of times last year and he’s turned out to be a pretty good player.
“So everybody has an opportunity to develop their players the way they want,” Julien added. “And we’re doing that. We understand the quality of player we’ve got and what he can bring and what he’s going to bring in the future. And those are part of the things we keep doing with them and do with them all year is make them participate in all those areas where he’s going to be hopefully a big factor for us in the future.”
Seguin is eager to show what he can do on the power play, but also understands he may have to wait for the opportunity.
“I think it’s just about being ready,” Seguin said. “Up to this point, it was the first time I skated with the power play in over a month and a half, so it was definitely nice being out there and moving the puck around.
“I guess it’s exciting,” Seguin added. “I’m pretty sure I’m not starting on the power play, but I think if the time comes that they want to try something new and get me out there, I’ll be prepared and ready for that.”
Seguin may be the new blood the Bruins need to bring some life to the power play, but Boston also needs the players already seeing power-play time to start to produce. That begins with defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who was acquired in February to improve that unit, but so far has failed miserably in that endeavor.
“We have to find a way to put the puck in,” Kaberle said. “That’s why I was brought here, to move the puck and stuff. And hopefully we can make it happen.
“I think I could play better, obviously,” Kaberle added. “I would like to help my teammates more.”
In 36 games (both regular season and playoffs) with Kaberle in the lineup, the Bruins are just 9-for-107 on the power play, converting a mere 8.4 percent of the time. Julien has tried to ease the pressure on Kaberle, who has perhaps been pressing too much as the missed opportunities mount.
“He has to try to push himself and be the player he can be,” Julien said. “At the same time, it’s up to us to help him through that. I think he’s got to have the confidence of our group here, and I know how well he can play when he’s at his best. And certainly him feeling our support is going to help him reach that. You have discussions with players at times and you try and pick them up when they’re down and you try and take the pressure off when there’s some on, and that’s just part of the coach’s job more so nowadays than ever.”
Julien expects more from Kaberle, but he is also quick to point out that the veteran defenseman isn’t the sole cause of the special teams’ struggles.
“I think there’s no doubt people have looked at him as a savior because our power play had been struggling,” Julien said. “He’s just a piece of the puzzle. And it’s unfortunate, but the other guys on the power play had the responsibility to do the job as well.
“He’s one of those guys that is probably feeling the pressure because people seem to think he should be carrying the power play,” Julien added. “He’s an important part of it, and I think if he finds his game, he’s going to be an important part of it, but he’s not the reason that our power play isn’t going at the rate we’d like it to go. And we’ve got to take some pressure off him and just let him play his game. I think if he plays his game, he’s going to help us a lot.”
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