Monday, April 21, 2014
Bruins thriving on special teams' play
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- Entering this first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, there was this notion that it could shape up as a disciplined series.
If the Red Wings maintained their composure and did not fall into the Bruins' style of play, Detroit could have the advantage. That's the way it went in Game 1 as the Red Wings earned a 1-0 win. There were only three power plays total in that game.
Zdeno Chara scored a power-play goal in Game 2, and his presence in front of the net has helped the PP unit improve.
Things changed in Game 2 as Boston played exactly the way it wanted to and forced the Red Wings into a bunch of penalties. But the Bruins expect to be called for some, too, when they bring that physical, intense style of hockey.
Both of the Bruins' special-team units were successful in Game 2. They went 2-for-4 on the power play, with Reilly Smith and Zdeno Chara scoring. Boston was a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
"Our power play has been good. It's a lot better this year," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And the big thing was, can they continue to produce for us in the playoffs? And that's an important part of the game, and I know we won in the past without having a power play.
"Penalty kill to me is extremely important. Our penalty kill right now is doing a pretty good job, but when you have both units being able to do the job right, it helps a lot, and obviously it was a big difference in [Game 2], the penalty kill being so good and getting those power-play goals."
As far as the power play, this is the first time in a long time that the Bruins have two solid and productive units.
"Yeah, it's been a while since we've been consistent and successful like that, scoring some big goals, so we've got to keep that going," Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said.
While the power play's personnel has remained steady, the penalty kill has been without the services of Daniel Paille (head) and Chris Kelly (back) because of injuries. Still, others have stepped in and produced, such as rookie Justin Florek and veteran David Krejci in the first two games of this series.
"Our guys just did a great job," Julien said. "I think they have good positions. We worked hard to get our penalty kill back to the level that we needed for the playoffs by really looking at their power play closely and seeing the tendencies.
"But David Krejci hasn't killed much this year. He's killed in the past and he's been a good penalty killer. We're, I guess, blessed with a lot of them this year where we're able to save David for the line following a penalty kill. But we need him now. He stepped up. Florek's another guy that's killed penalties in Providence and is pretty good at it as well. So guys have done a good job. Our regular guys continue to do a good job on it, but then new guys have come in and really stepped up and replaced those missing guys in a good way."
The PK always has been a source of strength for the Bruins. The power play has gone from a weakness to a weapon this season.
The ability of rookie defenseman Torey Krug to quarterback the PP has allowed Julien to move Chara to the front of the net. The 6-foot-9 defenseman is a virtual wall in front of the opposition's goaltender. During the regular season, he recorded 15 points (10 goals and five assists) on the PP.
In Game 2 Sunday, Chara scored on the team's fourth power play of the game. The Bruins controlled the puck at the point as Chara screened Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Boston's Jarome Iginla took a shot from the right faceoff circle and Howard made the initial save, but Chara pumped in the rebound through the 5-hole to give Boston a 4-1 lead.
Having Chara in front of the net this season has been productive.
"Z takes up so much room and so much space it's tough to move him out of the way and I think it's really hard for goalies to see the puck," Bergeron said.