The season is only three days old but the Boston Bruins have already been busy getting their penalty kill in check.
In Saturday’s season opener, the Bruins had to kill a crucial 5-on-3 in the third period to secure a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers, and for the majority of that time they needed to do so without Zdeno Chara, who was serving one of the two penalties.
Monday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden, the Black and Gold once again had to come up big on the PK. And once again, they delivered – in overtime.
For the second straight game, Chara took a questionable holding penalty in the last minute of overtime. But behind a strong defensive effort and great forechecking by Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly, the Bruins held the Jets to zero shots on their two power plays in overtime. That sequence led to the shootout, where Bergeron and Tyler Seguin lifted Boston to a 2-1 victory.
More after the jump including video with Bergy and Andrew Ference
“That’s what made the difference today,” said head coach Claude Julien. “I thought the penalty has been good the first two games…5-on-3 last game against the Rangers and two 4-on-3’s today in overtime, especially with a tough call [on Chara]. And to have to kill that to finish the game, our guys did a great job – not only the two defensemen that were out there, but Bergy and Kels were breaking up a lot of plays once they got over the blue-line. And that is why we are sitting here with a win today.”
While the power play has struggled for the last few seasons, the penalty kill has been the exact polar opposite. And Monday was no different as the Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play.
In four penalty kill situations – including two in the second period – the Bruins held the Jets to one shot. But obviously its the last two shorthanded situations that had The Hub of Hockey buzzing with awe.
“We needed to do the job, especially in overtime,” Bergeron said. “You need to make sure that they are down and they don’t get any quality chances and I think we did that.”
“It’s [about] being confident in the penalty kill, but it’s also about the time of the game where the ice isn’t wonderful to work on,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference added. “We can read fairly well off of pressure and we’ve done a good job stopping them.”
While most goaltenders might be a little antsy after seeing their offense hit the post five times like the Bruins did on Monday, goaltender Tuukka Rask was certainly appreciative of the penalty kill’s effort, especially during the extra session.
“It’s really the situation you want out there,” said Rask, who made 26 saves in the victory. “Our PK has been tremendous in the years that I’ve been in the organization.”
While the Bruins have fared well shorthanded through the first two games, they know that they need to continue to progress on the penalty kill throughout the season.
But through the first two games, it looks like the Bruins once again have the makings of one of the top penalty kills in the National Hockey League.
“Special teams are always big,” said Chara. “The penalty kill [gives you] a chance to help the team win and we have done a good job in the first two games.
“We have to continue to do that. It gives us a chance to win hockey games.”