BOSTON — It’s a good sign when a trio of forwards establishes an open line of communication on the ice.
It’s even better when they don’t have to.
In a 6-3 exhibition victory over the New York Islanders Friday night, that’s precisely what happened with the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley.
The unit combined for three goals and five assists in the win, creating chances on the power play and dominating the possession game during its shifts.
The trio was eager to talk after the game, perhaps in part because they didn’t have to do much communicating while they played.
“We read each other very well, we didn’t talk much on the ice,” Bergeron said. “We were just executing and just reacting and playing with instincts. When you do that, it makes the job easy for everyone on the ice.”
Friday was the first test run for Marchand and Bergeron in the quest to fill the right wing spot previously filled by Mark Recchi. The contest’s lead participants figure to be Peverley and Tyler Seguin. Friday, Peverley gave coach Claude Julien good reason to think he’d fit well on the Bruins’ second line.
With Recchi on the wing, Marchand and Bergeron had fairly definitive roles. The veteran’s skating skills had long diminished to that of a below-average NHLer by last season, but his awareness and willingness to work in tight spaces made him a valuable commodity atop the crease.
“Rex was very smart and he knew exactly where to go,” Marchand said. “He liked to be in front of the net though, and we knew that, so we just kind of did our own thing in the corner and bring it to the net and Rex was there.”
Regardless of who fills Recchi’s spot, that dynamic will change. Peverley’s calling card is his speed, and that combined with his eagerness to shoot the puck could fit well with Bergeron’s playmaking abilities.
“I think Peverley brought some speed to that line and I think they’ll enjoy that,” Julien said. “Not to disrespect what Rex did for our team last year, because he brought some other things and brought that line some grit. He just gives another element of a bit more speed. Obviously, he felt pretty comfortable with those guys.”
Of course, nothing is set in stone yet. Seguin will undoubtedly get the chance later in the preseason to make his case for second-line duties. Both Seguin and Peverley are quick skaters, so either way, Bergeron and Marchand will get to enjoy the speed element Julien alluded to.
The difference is that Seguin’s tool bag is filled with the stuff that made him the B’s first-round pick at No. 2 overall last year, whereas Peverley doesn’t have quite the same upside. In the end, the decision will likely come down to a question of what’s more valuable –– Seguin’s skills or Peverley’s ability to mesh with Bergeron and Marchand.
For now, though, consider Peverley off on the right foot.
Gaining an advantage
The Bruins were good enough to skate with Lord Stanley’s Cup last June, but that doesn’t mean they were perfect.
The power play was a major talking point throughout the squad’s run through the finals, and for all the wrong reasons. The Spoked Ones converted just 16.2 percent of man-up chances in the regular season, and then 11.4 percent in 25 postseason games.
Needless to say, making the man advantage an actual advantage is a point of emphasis for the Bruins headed into the 2011-12 season. Friday night, the team took a few steps in the right direction.
Boston converted on two of their first five power-play chances with the top units on the ice. More importantly, the Bruins effectively maintained possession, moved the puck and got it to the net on a repeated basis.
In the second period, the Bruins opened a power play with 39 consecutive seconds of possession, rolling the puck point-to-point, into the corners and to the net with startling efficiency, considering the team’s struggles a year ago.
Defenseman Matt Bartkowski moved the puck with a veteran’s presence, and made a key pinch to maintain possession late in the shift. The result of the move was a net-side shot attempt for Milan Lucic. Lucic was denied, but the rebound squirted right to David Krejci, who deked and slid the puck into an empty net.
In the third, the second unit, comprised of the Bergeron line with Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk at the points, duplicated the first unit’s efforts possession-wise.
Peverley eventually found himself with the puck at the left post. Seidenberg read the play, drove from the right point, and connected on a one-time effort near the right hashes on a centering pass from Peverley.
“The puck was moving fairly well,” Julien said of the power play. “It’s one of those things that we think we could make better. But also, it’s about confidence . . . I think last year, at some point, our players just started feeling the pressure, and it got worse instead of better.”
“In the back of our minds last year, it was always something we had always talked about,” Peverley said. “I think that might’ve hindered us a little bit, but going forward here, if we can start on the right foot, maybe we can have a little more confidence going into the regular season.”
Shipping Out of Boston
The team announced 14 cuts after Friday’s game, including a slew of the squad’s top prospects.
Dougie Hamilton and Alexander Khokhlachev, the team’s top two picks from last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, will both be returned to their OHL teams, as will Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner.
Downgraded to the Providence Bruins training camp was Andrew Bodnarchuk, Ryan Button, Marc Cantin, Carter Camper, Craig Cunningham, Josh Hennessey, Kirk MacDonald, Nathan McIver, Kevan Miller and Jamie Tardif.