Friday, April 11, 2014
B's power play: from weakness to weapon
By Joe McDonald
The Boston Bruins proved it’s possible to win the Stanley Cup without a productive power-play unit.
During the 2010-2011 regular season, Boston’s PP ranked 20th in the NHL. Time and again, Bruins coach Claude Julien and his staff would tweak the power play, hoping to find something that worked. When it continued to struggle, the Bruins focused on their five-on-five play, which carried them to a championship.
Until this season, the power play always seemed to be the Achilles heel for the Bruins. When looking at Boston’s talented lineups, it was tough to figure out why the power play couldn’t convert.
But the Bruins have figured it out.
With the regular season winding down, Julien is pleased with the improvements both power-play units have made this season. Despite an 0-for-4 performance during Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Bruins have the No. 3 ranked power play in the league with a 20.9 percent success rate, scoring 47 goals on 225 opportunities.
After Thursday’s loss in Winnipeg, Julien told reporters he was disappointed with his players because they seemed disinterested in the game, which could have been the reason for the 0-fer on the power play.
Once again, the Bruins are Stanley Cup contenders, and with the postseason a week away, the overall improvement of the power play this season ranks atop Julien’s list of positives.
“It has to be up there as one of the tops,” he said. “If you look at where we were, and the personnel has certainly changed. Even the players that were there last year and again this year, a lot of them have changed positions.”
It was evident during the semifinal round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs that the Bruins' PP might improve with the addition of young defenseman Torey Krug. He has the ability to control the unit from the point and he sees the ice well. His puck movement is critical, and his ability to quickly create a quality scoring chance and get the puck through to the net has given the PP a huge boost.
His presence also gives Julien more options. For example: The coach’s decision to move 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara from the point position and to the front of the net has paid dividends. Chara is a wall standing in front of the opposition’s goaltender. Plus, his ability to find and control loose pucks has equaled 15 points (10 goals and five assists) on the PP for Chara this season.
It also helps that Krug and fellow defenseman Dougie Hamilton have another season of NHL experience.
Also, the additions of forwards Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg, along with veteran Jarome Iginla, have helped the Bruins’ man-advantage become a major weapon.
“You’ve got quite a few different faces from last year, so we feel like we’ve got players that we had last year in the right position now and new players fit in wherever we need them to fit in,” Julien said.