Boston won a seven-game marathon with Montreal in the opening round that featured three games going to overtime, including one to double-OT, and didn’t manage a single goal on the man-advantage despite 21 opportunities.
They won again on Saturday in Game 1 of their second-round series against Philadelphia, and in convincing fashion with a 7-3 rout. But once again, the Bruins came up empty on the power play, going 0-for-5.
When asked after the game what it said about his team to score seven goals without a single score on the power play, center David Krejci answered bluntly: “Our power play is not very good I guess.”
No, it certainly is not. But there were some small signs of possible progress on Saturday.
They didn’t score, but at least a couple of the chances created some better possession time in the Flyers’ zone and a few decent chances. Bruins coach Claude Julien tried to take the positives out of those small steps in the right direction, but only to a point.
“No results,” Julien said after Sunday’s practice at the Wells Fargo Center. “That’s one thing, but I thought there were a few things better and hopefully it continues to get that way.”
Julien did note that while the power play has struggled, the Bruins haven’t completely conceded the special-teams battle as Boston’s penalty kill has played very well.
“I know right now, when your power play isn’t going, your PK has to be really good,” Julien said. “And it has been. It’s unfortunate they got that goal late in the game, but I thought our penalty kill has done a decent job and it has helped us really survive a lack of scoring from our power play. But you hope that it’s going to come, and I have a feeling it will, hopefully sooner than later.”
It’s hard to fathom how a team that has performed so well at even strength can look so inept with an extra attacker on the ice. Julien is trying to use Boston’s success at even strength to get the power play going, as he looks to carry over the same approach when up a man.
“I really think, when you look back at the game, you see where there are some openings, some opportunities and right now it’s unfortunate that on our power play we are not finding those,” Julien said. “We seem to be finding them 5-on-5, but not when we’re 5-on-4, so that tells you something.”
“There is a lot of tension there and when there is tension, you’re not seeing what’s going on. And 5-on-5, we make the right choices. We find those seams. So there has to be a time when those guys have to relax and understand that they have to find those seams and make the right decision on choices of play. … Those are all things that I think our guys have to understand, that if we do those things better, we are going to have success.”
Julien understands it’s not a simple fix, but does believe it all begins with outworking the opposition.
“Well, if I had that answer, it would’ve been fixed by now, right?” Julien said. “Somehow we’ve got to see the plays, see the openings. We also have to outwork. Whether it’s 5-on-5 or 5-on-4, you’ve still got to be the hardest working team out there. You’ve got to work the PK and our PK is doing a great job of really sticking with it against the five guys, and outworking them on a lot of occasions. But our power play’s got to do the same thing, and I think if you do that, you’re going to improve it.”
Julien also admitted that the power play has never fully recovered from the loss of Marc Savard. The talented playmaker excelled on the man-advantage, and was the driving force of Boston’s power play before a pair of concussions in the past two seasons sidelined him indefinitely.
“I think Marc Savard was a real big asset for us in that area,” Julien said. “He was a guy that did such a good job on the power play. We definitely miss him there, and that’s not a big secret. The way he just was poised, and would find those areas where to move the puck, and certainly created some awareness for the other team. They knew how dangerous he was, and that’s a part that yeah, we lost that part when we lost Marc Savard. It’s not a part that’s easily replaceable, and somehow we’ve got to find a way to improve our power play without Marc Savard.”
The Bruins won’t get Savard back on the ice anytime soon, but he still may help them get their power play back on track. Julien revealed that he still keeps in touch with the injured center. The texts began with simple checks to see how Savard was doing, but Julien joked that after he asked for advice to help the power play, his inbox has been flooded with pointers.
“I’ve been texting back and forth with Marc, no doubt,” Julien said. “There’s always, for me personally, there’s the player and then there’s the individual. I care for him as an individual and really hope that he gets better, for the sake of his personal life. I’ve been texting to see how he’s doing and every once in a while I’ve said. ‘I thought you were going to text me to give me some tips on certain parts of our game?’ As soon as I opened that door he took advantage of it. So I’ve gotten a few tips from him.”
At this point, with the power play 0-for-26 in the postseason, any help would be welcome.