Bruins notebook: New power play units still have some work to do

December 24, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Bruins still have a long way to go until their numbers on the power play look respectable.

After a 1-for-3 night in Florida on Thursday, they were still ranked 29th in the 30-team league, having scored just three goals in the previous 38 attempts going into last night against the Hurricanes.

But there were some glimmers of hope in the revamped power play units. One unit group had Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug while the other had Austin Czarnik, David Krejci, Colin Miller, Frank Vatrano and David Backes.

Last night was a decidedly mixed bag in the 3-2 overtime loss. The B’s went 1-for-3 again, scoring against the league’s top penalty kill unit, but on one of the man-advantages they gave up a shorthanded goal that changed the game. It was the fifth the B’s allowed this year. Still, they were on the attack on all three opportunities, which in itself felt like progress.

“Great pulse. It was unfortunate that we gave up that shorty, but the power play itself scored another goal again tonight and had some good looks,” said coach Claude Julien. “We had some good looks. We scored the one goal. That was the first time they were really together and we just had that little practice in the morning, so I think it’s a work in the progress but it showed some potential.”

Czarnik lost the puck on the Jordan Staal shorthanded goal, but he was a strong man-up player in Florida.

“I thought it was pretty good,” said Miller. “I think we’re still trying to keep it simple and focusing on getting lots of shots, but I thought it was good. .?.?. I think Czarnie on that half on the right side and Krech on the left side, they’re both kind of the similar players in that sense, so I think it kind of gives us an equal balance on both sides. Then if I’m able to feed pucks in from the top it’s a good mix.”

Two good

There might be no one in the B’s organization who knows Vatrano’s tendencies and strengths better than Czarnik.

The two signed with the club out of their respective colleges in the spring of 2015 and Czarnik was his centerman for most of Vatrano’s 36 goals in 36 games last year in Providence.

“I think it’s just deceptive how fast he can get it off,” said Czarnik. “He beats so many goalies 5-hole. It’s crazy to think about. It’s something everyone wants in their game and it’s hard to work on, but it comes natural to him. But he’s able to get it off so quick that goalies aren’t able to react fast enough to his shots. And his shots are hard enough. He just finds a way to score.”

And Czarnik has no problem finding him on the ice.

“Every time I touch it, he’s always going ‘Z! Z! Z!’ He’s always wanting it, which is good, so I just try to get it to him,” said Czarnik.

Last night, Vatrano was held to one shot on net, four total. . . .

David Backes had a game-high seven shots on net, but was minus-2.

“It’s a bit frustrating at the moment, especially personally,” said Backes, who scored an empty-netter in Florida. “I’d like to contribute a little more. I’ve had a few great chances the past couple of games and I’ll certainly own that. If I bury one more, maybe the game’s got a different feeling.”

Settling in on ‘D’

It would be premature to say that defenseman Colin Miller now has a stranglehold on a nightly spot in the lineup, but he played his fifth consecutive game and his stock definitely appears to be on the upswing.

Miller agreed that he may have gotten some of the hesitation out of his game, both in lugging the puck out of the defensive and in shooting it. He had 11 shots in the last four games.

“I think I’m just moving my feet and doing things that kind of target more of my game, but I’m just trying to keep it simple, try to move forward and help out any way I can,” said Miller.

He made several good plays last night, using his speed to get to pucks. .?.?.

With Matt Beleskey (knee) and John-Michael Liles (concussion) still on the shelf, the B’s have now lost 98 man-games to injury.