Much has been made of the Bruins Power Play unit and its ineffectiveness dating all the way back to 2010-11’s Stanley Cup season. In fact, it still boggles the mind that the B’s won a 7 game playoff series and led another series 2-0 before finally scoring a PP goal in the third period of a game they led to go up 3-0. Even that goal came in a 5-on-3 situation. Despite the Power outage, the Bruins have rolled on, including this season, with an 8-1-2 record despite having an anemic 9.3% (4 for 43) conversion rate. A number made ever worse by the fact that one of the goals was into an empty net at the end of a game. An even more gruesome stat is the 0-for-23 at home with the man advantage. But a closer look shows that the problem might not be as bad as it seems.
First, take a look at the Bruins forwards. While they run four lines deep with effectiveness, there is no top gun sniper like a Rick Nash, Steven Stamkos, or the like. Make no mistake, players like Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic are very skilled offensive players, but none are in the elite class like a Nash or Stamkos. Seguin could become that player, but he is not there yet.
The PP itself has not been terrible. Possession has been good and there have been some excellent scoring chances, but the results aren’t there. Not to make excuses, but of the first 11 games of the season, 5 have been against either Henrik Lundqvist or Ryan Miller, probably the best two goaltenders in the NHL. Friday night they face Miller a third time, so half of their games will be against the elite.
Finally let’s take a look at the Rangers game from Tuesday night. The Power Play stats read 0-for-4 but stats did not tell the whole story, especially in the 3rd period. The first Bruins goal came one second after a Rangers penalty had expired. Teams shorthanded are vulnerable in the 30 or so seconds after the player exits the box and many goals are scored in that time frame. But in this case the goal was essentially a PP goal with the puck movement and effort creating the scoring chance and the goal. The player leaving the box was no factor in the play. Fast forward to the final 1:30 of the 3rd period, and the Bruins with the goalie pulled. This creates a 6-on-5, which is basically a Power Play with an extra skater aside. Many of the same PP strategies apply here, and you could actually argue that the extra traffic that can be created in front of the net can be an advantage. With the good puck movement and traffic, the Bruins scored twice in the final 1:30 and salvaged a point after the shootout loss.
While the PP struggles continue to frustrate, things are not as bad as they seem. They have proven before that championships can be won with a poor PP, although it is not the best way to get things done. As long as the penalty kill stays effective and the B’s can still dominate 5-on-5, things will be fine. Things should pick up and while the Bruins PP unit will never be among the NHL’s elite, they should move to the middle of the pack and that should be more than enough for the team to keep winning.
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