Bruins finalizing power play units

Bergeron up front this season

September 30, 2009, 1:08 PM

By: Matt Kalman

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It was hard enough during the Boston Bruins' condensed training camp schedule to get enough work for all the players that needed it and then decide who won the individual roster battles. Without a full lineup for all but one of the exhibition games, Boston head coach Claude Julien didn't have much time to get his regular season power-play units together.

"I think the good part is we have a lot of our guys back from last year that were power-play guys," said Julien. "So you hope that they find that chemistry quick. I think at the same time, we try to put some of those players together during those exhibition games as close as we could. So I think we're no different than a lot of teams. We've just got to keep working at it."

Wednesday during practice at Ristuccia Arena the Bruins inched closer to having their power-play groups ironed out. One unit consisted of Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris at the points with Marc Savard, Michael Ryder and Marco Sturm up front. Milan Lucic rotated in at Sturm's spot.

The second group featured Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman at the points with Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and David Krejci up front. Bergeron and Recchi's regular linemate Chuck Kobasew took a few turns in Krejci's spot.

Both these units seem pretty balanced and I like the concept of keeping at least two guys from a full-strength line (Savard/Sturm, Bergeron/Recchi) together on the man-advantage. Last season, the spot next to Chara was filled by Bergeron and Wideman at different times. Sticking Morris there makes the most sense because that's what he was brought to Boston to do: make the No. 1 unit more dynamic.

These units are also more attractive than what Boston put out on the ice the last two seasons because Bergeron is now up front where he can use his great vision and accurate passing rather than spending time worrying about covering up and preventing a shorthanded break.

"I think you're likely to see a little bit of both," said Julien of Bergeron's chances of playing the point or up front this season. "He may end up playing there, he may end up playing up front too. There are some players that are still trying to find there games here a little bit and we have to kind of look at that too. As the season unfolds, you can make those sort of adjustments. But right now I think we're trying to come up with the best scenario to start with."

The Bruins' power play was in the top five almost all of last season and should challenge for the No. 1 spot this season.

License to kill
On the other side of special teams, Julien hasn't been able to finalize his penalty-kill forward pairs either. Let's take a quick look at the Bruins' forwards, ranked by their likeliness of killing penalties:

1. Bergeron
2. Steve Begin
3. Savard
4. Blake Wheeler
5. Sturm
6. Krejci
7. Vladimir Sobotka
8. Kobasew
9. Byron Bitz
10. Shawn Thornton
11. Milan Lucic
12. Michael Ryder
13. Mark Recchi

Krejci and Wheeler formed a great pair last season, while Bergeron and Sturm have always had chemistry since the day Sturm arrived in Boston. It'll be interesting to see how Begin fits in and if he can help erase the memory of departed penalty-kill experts P.J. Axelsson and Stephane Yelle. I'd like to see Sobotka really make some strides in this area to make himself more valuable to the Bruins.

The bottom line is, top-notch penalty-killing starts in goal, where the Bruins are stacked. So with the type of grit the Bruins have on defense and their depth up front, they should be fine when they're a man down.

Two men up
For those curious, the Bruins also did some 5-on-3 drills, with Chara, Morris, Krejci, Savard and Recchi on the offensive side.


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