October 3rd, 2013 by

Flipping the switch: Bruins power-play set to ignite

Flipping the switch: Bruins power-play set to ignite

When a team struggles on the power-play, fans are quick to the point the finger at the head coach, who doesn’t change up his strategy or course of attack with the man advantage enough. The same holds true in Boston, as the Bruins rank near the bottom in power-play efficiency over the last three seasons, yet contend as one of the NHL’s elite organizations.

Gone are the days of Marc Savard draping the corner point, feeding a saucer pass just two inches off the ice to a player sitting on the corner post to bury it home with the man advantage. In Savard’s absence, the Bruins have grappled with an identity on the power-play and have relied mainly on superior short-handed units to essentially neutralize any special teams advantage.

As one of the NHL’s best five-on-five teams, it’s unfathomable to imagine what the Bruins would look like with an elite power-play. Over the last three regular seasons, the Bruins have only capitalized on 104 out of 637 power-play chances, or 16.3%, which would have ranked 20th in the NHL last season. Instead, the 2013 Bruins laid claim – along with the Phoenix Coyotes – to the 25th overall power-play unit in the NHL, led by goals leaders, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, who each potted four up a man.

Since Seguin arrived in Boston, it was clear he was going to eventually fill the void left behind by Savard as the power-play quarterback. As Seguin progressed into a shooting role on the power-play, Boston’s power-play transgressed. Today, Seguin resides in Dallas full time, while Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla refer to the TD Garden as home, instantaneously making the Bruins power-play unit a dangerous group. In Eriksson, the Bruins receive the best play-making forward they’ve seen on the power-play since Savard, who’s collected 47 points with the man advantage over the last three seasons.

When Nathan Horton signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason, it was unimaginable to think Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli would find a comparable replacement. Instead, Iginla found Chiarelli and with an incentive-laden contract, Iginla’s a perfect match for Boston.

Iginla is a swiss-army-knife on the power play. Whether it’s operating as the quarterback of the unit at the point or operating as the off-wing, Iginla’s excelled in all areas. Over the last three seasons, the former Flames captain collected 31 points on the power-play, including 14 goals. The days of operating a power-play are probably behind Iginla, but his uncanny ability to sniff out loose pucks around the net and quick shot release in the slot makes him as dangerous of a goal scoring threat as the Bruins have seen on Causeway Street over the last decade.

Meanwhile, the last factor in the Bruins power-play achieving continued success this season is from one of their biggest contributors during last seasons postseason run, Torey Krug. The Michigan State alumnus rocketed on the scene during the Eastern Conference semi-finals, logging significant minutes, but on the power-play Krug made his biggest impact.

In the five game shellacking over the New York Rangers, Krug netted four goals and one assist, including three power-play goals. Meanwhile, over the following 10 playoff games, Krug managed only one assist. As a young, inexperienced player, growing pains are expected and Krug’s consistency will only improve. Julien prefers to expel Zdeno Chara from power-play duties as much as possible, meaning Krug will be called upon to generate offense from great stick skills and a lightning quick release of a shot.

With new personnel, early season struggles on the power-play are expected, but in the end the Bruins power-play will be an asset throughout the 2013-14 NHL season. In the end, Bruins fans realize the power-play issues of yesteryear was more of a personnel problem than coaching philosophy.

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