November 10th, 2013 by

Bruins special teams finding their identity

Bruins special teams finding their identity

Throughout Claude Julien’s tenure, the Boston Bruins’ penalty kill has been one of the best in the league. Things are no different so far in the 2013-14 season as the B’s are tied for 11th on the PK with an 84 percent success rate, and have not allowed a goal their last 18 times shorthanded.

Surprisingly, the power play is keeping up with their special teams counterpart.

It’s no secret that the Bruins power play was the subject of much ridicule the past few seasons. From the endless jokes about the man advantage being powerless, to the angry callers on 98.5, the B’s inefficiency on the power play was the biggest mystery going in the city.

Slowly, but surely, though, the power play is coming full circle. Sure, they may be in a tie for 15th with the Colorado Avalanche on the PP, but their 19.2 conversion rate is evidence that the ranking doesn’t indicate the B’s improvement with the man advantage.

But Julien and company can point to more than just statistics on this year’s success. Instead of being a momentum killer, the Bruins power play is turning into a momentum booster in the first two months of the season. And it became a difference maker as evident by a 2-for-3 performance Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Is the power play perfect? Absolutely not. But with key cogs like Torey Krug on the point and Zdeno Chara in front of the net, it is much better than in years past. And that’s an encouraging sign for the Black and Gold.

“It’s something that we’ve worked on for a few years now and now it seems to be clicking. Obviously that helps the team a lot,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored the Bruins’ second power play goal and the game-winner in the 3-1 win over the Leafs. “That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about and that we needed to be better at it. So far it’s been good.”

Not to be outdone, the Bruins penalty kill is still doing its thing. They have not allowed a power play goal since giving up four tallies on the man advantage in the 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils back on October 26. In that span, they’ve held top rated teams like the Penguins, Islanders and Leafs off the scoresheet; each of whom are ranked in the top ten in the league on the PP.

Saturday night, the Bruins allowed 10 shots in three shorthanded situations, but they came through in the clutch. With Carl Soderberg serving a holding the stick penalty late in the third, the B’s gave the Leafs very little room to work with in the entry zone, and were very physical against a skilled squad.

That certainly drew the praise of the seventh year bench boss afterwards.

“It’s one of those things, once you get along the boards there’s a battle going on there. So if you’re in a battle with a guy, you knock him down, then you can certainly get the puck,” Julien said about the team’s aggressive shorthanded approach Saturday night. “The one thing that you don’t want to do is get yourself out of position, and I think our guys were in battle there where they wanted to get the puck and by knocking guys down they were able to do that.”

In the words of the “great philosopher” Bill Belichick, it’s about executing in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. And it just so happens that the Bruins special teams are earning their reputation in The Hub of Hockey.

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