WILMINGTON - For much of Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, the Bruins worked on the power play. They have no intentions of seeing the man-advantage submit a flat line against Washington in the first round of the playoffs.
“Not waiting until the finals,’’ coach Claude Julien cracked when asked how the power play needed to improve from last year’s postseason. “That would be one key.’’
Last year, the Bruins clawed past Montreal in the opening round despite going 0 for 21 on the power play. They may not have as many opportunities to practice their man-up situations against the Capitals.
During the regular season, Washington averaged only 9.4 penalty minutes per game, sixth-fewest in the league. The Capitals killed 81.6 percent of their penalties (21st overall).
The Bruins had the league’s 15th-ranked power play (17.2 percent) and were blanked on it in eight of their last 10 games.
On Tuesday, Zdeno Chara and Joe Corvo manned the point on the No. 1 unit in practice. David Krejci worked the left-side half-boards, Milan Lucic was parked in front of the net, and Brian Rolston hovered around the slot.
On the second unit, Dennis Seidenberg and Rich Peverley worked the point. Tyler Seguin was the half-wall quarterback, Patrice Bergeron was the goal-line man, and Brad Marchand worked the net-front area.
Julien acknowledged that the long-term inconsistency on the power play has been a touchy subject. But this year, he has been satisfied with just about everything - entries, setups, and puck distribution. Just not the scoring.
“I don’t know if it’s a disappointment,’’ Julien said. “This year, I found the power play to be better when it came to bringing the puck in, spending time in the offensive zone, and moving it around. Probably the biggest issue our team faced, as far as the playoffs were concerned, was the finishing.
“When you look at the end of the night, we take time to review that stuff. You look at the scoring chances you had on the power play. There’s a lot of nights when you did everything but score.
“It’s not as bad a situation as many people think. At the same time, I’d tell you we would like our power play to be able to finish a little bit better in the playoffs.’’
Balancing the attack
In previous seasons, Nicklas Backstrom has been Alex Ovechkin’s setup man in Washington. But Backstrom was sidelined 40 games this season because of a concussion. Most recently, Brooks Laich has been Ovechkin’s center. Laich has more grit but lacks Backstrom’s playmaking touch.
Backstrom and Ovechkin could be reunited later in the series, but to start, Backstrom will most likely center the second line between Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin. That gives Washington two dangerous scoring lines instead of a top-heavy trio.
The Bruins will most likely roll out Chara and Seidenberg against Ovechkin. Marchand, Bergeron, and Seguin could be reinforcements against the Washington captain.
That would leave Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk, the club’s second defensive pairing, to keep their eyes on Backstrom’s line.
“Johnny’s been one, for years, that has played against top lines,’’ Julien said. “Andrew’s done a great job in that area.’’
Adam McQuaid (eye/head) didn’t practice Tuesday. It was the second straight practice he missed. Corvo skated alongside Greg Zanon on the third defensive pairing again. “We’re smart enough to know to put him in areas where he’s going to succeed,’’ Julien said of the offensive-minded Corvo. “He’s a good player when we put him in those situations.’’ . . . Boychuk (knee) made it through his second straight practice without any setbacks. If he isn’t sidetracked, he is likely to dress for Game 1 alongside Ference . . . If the expected matchups take place in Game 1, Bergeron will skate plenty of shifts against Laich. This season, Bergeron won 33 of 49 faceoffs against the left-shot Laich (67.3 percent).
Cross signs on
The Bruins signed Boston College defenseman Tommy Cross to a two-year entry-level contract. Cross, the Bruins’ second-round pick in 2007, will report to Providence for the team’s final weekend of play. The BC captain won his second NCAA title Saturday. He put up a 5-19-24 line during his senior season. The stay-at-home defenseman will most likely start 2012-13 in Providence . . . NESN reported a 4.7 average household rating for Bruins games this season, tops in the network’s history . . . The Bruins will have a final playoff tuneup Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.