After a sluggish start to their Stanley Cup defense in October (3-7-0 in first 10 games), the Bruins are 3-0-0 and have outscored opponents 18-5 in November. Over the last three games, the Bruins have begun to resemble last year’s team, right up to and including their anemic power play. However, more consistent five-on-five play will help the Bruins climb the Eastern Conference standings and get back into the playoff picture.
Stop if this sounds familiar: The Bruins power play could stand to improve. Boston is scoring at a 16.3 percent clip with the man advantage, 19th in the league. While the Bruins have scored at almost the exact same percentage this season as last season, they are averaging more than half an extra opportunity per game (3.76 PP/game in 2011-12; 3.23 PP/game in 2010-11). Maintaining that percentage will at least net a couple of extra goals, but the power-play unit failures were best masked last year by Boston’s five-on-five goals for/against ratio of 1.4-1, which was the best in the NHL. That number has slipped a little this season to 1.32-1 (sixth in NHL), and would be even worse if not for Boston’s 10-2 ratio over the last two games.
Depth up the middle is lauded as a point of strength for the Bruins, and their performance in the faceoff circle justifies that reputation. The Bruins currently lead the league in faceoff percentage at 53.4 percent. They are also one of two teams with a pair of players in the top 14 among individual players in faceoff percentage. Patrice Bergeron ranks 13th in the NHL, winning 56.1 percent of draws, while David Krejci is right behind at 55.9. Additionally, all four regular Bruins centers rank in the top 44 in faceoff win percentage, making Boston the only NHL team to have all four pivots in the top 50.
Milan Lucic led the Bruins in shooting percentage at 17.3 last season en route to his first career 30-goal campaign. Through 13 games this season, four Bruins have higher shooting percentages than that, including Lucic himself (seven goals on 28 shots, 25.0 percent). Granted, it’s a small sample size and the Bruins as a team have been taking almost exactly as many shots as last season (33.2 shots per game to 32.9 in 2010-11). However, they’ve been stingier about allowing opposing shots. Last season, Boston allowed 32.7 shots on goal per game, second-worst in the NHL. This season, the Bruins have allowed only 28.8 shots on goal per game, jumping 21 spots to eighth in the league.