Coming into their best-of-seven series with the Detroit Red Wings, the Bruins and Red Wings both knew that special teams would play a huge role in the series. Despite the series being knotted at one, the special teams’ battle has been completely lopsided.
Through Games 1 and 2, the Bruins have killed all six of the Red Wings’ power play chances. Detroit on the other hand has struggled to match the success the Bruins have had on the penalty kill. The Bruins used two power play goals to lead them to victory in Sunday afternoon’s series-tying 4-1 victory. The Bruins are now 2-5 on the power play in the series.
“Obviously we got to keep getting better and adjusting to some of the stuff that we see on the ice. That’s the nature of playing a best-of-seven. I mean, you got to adjust after every game and I think we like the way we played their power play last night — yesterday afternoon— but we still got to make sure we keep playing well, keep adjusting and keep getting better because they’re going to do the same thing” said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron following Monday’s practice.
The Bruins finished the season with the third best power play (21.7) in the league while the Red Wings finished 12th in penalty kill percentage, killing off 83% of opposing teams’ power plays.
“I thought they were way better than us in Game Two. They were engaged. They won the battles. They were quick, we were slow. We didn’t execute, and then on the power play, I thought their penalty kill forecheck was good” said Red Wings head coach Mike Bobcock following Sunday’s loss.
“Well, on special teams, they won the faceoffs, so they cleared it down. Their penalty kill forecheck was good, our power play breakout failed to execute, so we got no zone time. It was like an exercise in skating up and down the rink. We weren’t very good on special teams, anyway you look at it. They won the special teams battles.”
Veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson—a guy who has 135 power play goals—saw the same thing his coach did in Game 2.
“We didn’t set up in their end. Our breakouts, I think they read them too easily and they did a good job in the neutral zone” said Alfredsson. “Seems like we got hesitant and we weren’t as assertive as we normally are and I think that’s been one of our strong suits is setting up in the other teams end. We are going to have to do a much better job of that because that’s probably the difference today, the special teams.”
Like Babcock said, the Bruins were the more aggressive team, especially at the faceoff dot while shorthanded or on the power play. The Bruins won nine of the 14 special teams’ faceoffs in Game 2.
With key penalty killing forwards Chris Kelly (back) and Daniel Paille (concussion) yet to play in this series, you would expect the Bruins penalty kill to take a bit of a hit, but clearly that hasn’t been the case.
A big reason as to why the Bruins have been successful on the penalty kill has been their ability to clog the middle, not giving the Red Wings much space to get pucks on net.
The Bruins got power play tallies from Reilly Smith and Zdeno Chara on Sunday. As we saw a bunch this season, good things happen with Chara parked in front of the net.
Whether it’s Loui Eriksson or Chara making things difficult in front of the opposing net, Bergeron likes what he sees from the teams’ net presence.
“I think Loui [Eriksson] is really good at finding the puck and turning and getting the rebounds, and Zee [Zdeno Chara], it takes so much room, so much space to move out of the way, and I think it’s really hard for goalies to see the puck” stated Bergeron.
The Bruins will look to continue their playoff special teams’ success Tuesday night as they look to take their first lead of the series when they travel to Detroit for Game 3 of their Atlantic Division Semifinal series.
Hear what Chara, Rask and others had to say following the Bruins 4-1 Game 2 victory Sunday afternoon: