Bruins penalty kill getting back on track
One of the more consistent aspects of this year’s Bruins team has been their abilities to kill off penalties and limit scoring opportunities when they are on the man down. Entering Saturday’s game with the Panthers the Bruins are in a three-way tie for second in the NHL in penalty-killing percentage at 85.3% and their 10 shorthanded goals are good for second in the league.
One of the Bruins’ glaring problems during their four-game losing streak, however, was the struggles of their near-impenetrable PK unit. During the skid, the team allowed seven power-play goals, at least one in each game. Their 12 killed penalties in 19 opponent power-plays equated to a success rate of only 63.15%. One upside was that the B’s potted two shorthanded goals during that time frame.
But as the Black and Gold look to continue to turn around their misfortunes during this recent three-game win streak, the penalty-kill has seemingly returned as the team’s greater strength. Dating back to the loss to Tampa Bay last Thursday, the B’s have killed off 14 consecutive penalties, including all 12 opponent power-play opportunities during the last three games. None bigger than during the third period of this past Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars.
After Kevan Miller’s inadvertent high stick caught Curtis McKenzie at 11:08 of the final frame, causing a deep gash by McKenzie’s eye, the Bruins were faced with killing off the double minor. Given the timing of the game, and ultimately the situation with the playoff race, a clutch kill was needed. Thanks to some great goaltending by Tuukka Rask, who registered his seventh shutout of the season, and some great defensive work by Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo, the B’s were able to bleed out Miller’s four-minute penalty and, as a result, took the wind of the Star’s sails.
“[Our] penalty kill came up huge in the third at a crucial time,” interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said after Thursday’s win, “so those things win hockey games when you don’t have your A-game so to speak offensively, and we saw that tonight.”
“It was a bad tough accident,” Rask said of the Miller penalty. “I mean I saw [Kevan Miller’s] stick kind of just flip in his hand and hit him in the face but good thing our penalty kill was excellent today.”
Aside from the great shorthanded play from Chara, Carlo and Rask, the defensive play of the forwards have contributed heavily as well. Patrice Bergeron, the three-time Selke Trophy winner, lead all Bruins forwards in PK time-on-ice. Up there with him was Brad Marchand, whose defensive-zone prowess has garnered attention in recent days along with his offensive skills. Riley Nash and Dominic Moore have also seen significant time, as well as Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug on the back end.
“I thought we were good on the PK. I thought we were good overall,” said Krug. “You know, [the Stars] have a lot of firepower over there and they play fast, so they got their chances and they’re going to get their chances every game they play in, and Tuukka showed up big when we weren’t able to shut it down.”
The Black and Gold have seemingly turned things around for the better during the last week. Though their not perfect, the Bruins are more focused, playing better in all three zones, and have certainly got some great goaltending. But most notably, arguably the B’s greatest strength, the PK unit, has returned to form after a bit of a lull.