This season, they were not so fortunate.
There were many factors in Boston’s stunning opening-round defeat to the seventh-seeded Capitals, which came to a sudden end with a 2-1 loss in overtime in Game 7 on Wednesday. But like a year ago, one problem that the Bruins simply could not solve was their ineffectiveness on the power play.
“The power play didn’t really work,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “Our puck movement wasn’t sharp enough. They pressured us very well, but we just didn’t seem to get our setup that we wanted to have. They worked very hard to disturb us early and not let us set up. We just should have done a better job, even if we didn’t score to at least create momentum off it and get something going from there.”
The Bruins finished 2-for-23 on the man advantage in the series, including an 0-for-3 effort in Game 7. None of those failed power plays was as costly as the chance squandered in the closing minutes of regulation on Wednesday.
Boston had a chance to close out the series when Jason Chimera was given a rare late-game penalty when he was called for holding after hauling down Johnny Boychuk with 2:26 left in the third period. The Bruins couldn’t convert, and Joel Ward ended their season 2:57 into sudden death.
“When you talk about tonight, that was probably the most frustrating part of our game was that power play that could have ended the series and the game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But I guess when you look at the whole picture it was more than that. At the end of the series you look at their team and you look at ours and they had more guys going than we did. They played us tough. It’s unfortunate we have to look at this one incident because it did play a big role tonight, but I think a lot of the damage had been done before that as well.”
Much of the damage was self-inflicted by their failure to generate goals or even momentum on the power play throughout the series.
“It’s obvious that we had to be better on the power play and we didn’t do that and at least create some momentum out of it and we didn’t do that tonight,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “But it’s about more than that, especially in Game 7 we need to find ways.”
The Bruins found ways last year. They beat Montreal in the opening round, again in overtime in Game 7, despite going 0-for-21 on the power play in that series. They swept Philadelphia with a 2-for-16 power play, beat Tampa bay in seven games at 3-for-24 and finally showed a little life in the Final when they went 5-for-27 against Vancouver.
“We struggled on the power play at the beginning of the playoffs last year too,” Julien said. “I think our power play picked it up in the Finals, but it took us a long time. That’s an ongoing issue. We finished in the middle of the pack in the league this year. Somehow it doesn’t seem good enough, and it shouldn’t be good enough. You always strive to make your power play better.”
The Bruins were a bit better in the regular season, tying for 18th in the NHL at 16.7 percent (41-or-245). But when the defenses got tighter in the playoffs, the old problems reemerged. Washington’s penalty kill was just 20th in the NHL in the regular season, but they outworked Boston’s power play when it mattered most.
“We’ve got to start winning some battles on the power play,” Julien said. “You’ve got to outwork other teams. There’s times where your skill players have to make the skill play, but you also have to work to get that puck and at the same time get some shots through. There’s a lot of things that have to be worked out. At the same time, you miss a guy like [Marc] Savard who was so good on the right-hand wall to control things, and we had different looks on the power play. We have some things we have to look at.”
After a pause, Julien summed up Wednesday’s loss and the series in total.
“Your power play can win you games and tonight it didn’t,” Julien said.
Boston’s power play didn’t deliver when the team needed it most, and unlike last year, the Bruins won’t get three more series to try to get it going.