WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Boston Bruins are in a bit of a special-teams rut, so maybe they can turn to Dwight Schrute for the key to fixing things.
There’s a great episode of The Office (one of many great episodes) in which Dwight explains a bit of advice from his manager, Michael Scott.
“Michael always says, ‘K-I-S-S, keep it simple, stupid.’ Great advice, hurts my feelings every time,” he says.
The Bruins would be smart to listen to that right about now, assuming they don’t let the bluntness hurt their feelings. They’re struggling a bit, and that’s no more obvious than on special teams. The power play and penalty kill have gone cold at the same time, which is one of the main reasons the Bruins have lost five of their last eight games.
Boston’s issues come on both sides of special teams. The usually stingy penalty kill has fallen out of the top 10 in the NHL after allowing 12 goals on the opposition’s last 29 power plays. The Bruins’ man advantage has run dry after powering the team through the first half of the season. After an 0-for-3 showing in Tuesday night’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins’ power play has gone 16 straight chances without a goal.
The encouraging part for the Bruins is that they obviously know they can have success on both units. The Bruins had the league’s third-best penalty kill and No. 6 power play entering the final day of 2013. Injuries have helped accelerate a recent slip that now has them ranked 12th and 10th in those areas, respectively, but each unit has the talent and structure to be successful.
“It’s not the system. The system that is in place has worked for years and it’s been able to put us at the top of the league,” Gregory Campbell said Tuesday night after the Bruins’ loss. “It’s something collectively as a group that we have to look at. Like I said, it’s not the system. It’s us as players. The ones that are given that responsibility have to do the job.”
The key to doing that job is simplifying. The Bruins need to get back to finding and making the simple play. On the power play, that means focusing on effective entries into the attacking zone, getting the puck deep and then going to work once possession is established. On the penalty kill, it’s as simple as winning defensive zone faceoffs, getting in shooting and passing lanes, making the saves when needed and clearing the puck when the opportunity is presented.
“[We have to] do the little things right,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after practice Wednesday. “Work hard and get more focus on doing the little things.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked Wednesday what his team could do in terms of simplifying things to help fix the special teams. He answered the question, essentially, by repeating the question.
“You just said the word — simplify things.” he stated. “I think right now we’re trying to do too much. The power play is just the same thing. We’re just moving the puck and overthinking and relying on getting shots on net. … I thought there were some chances there where we lacked a little bit on the power play. [It] was probably our entries where we struggled a little bit. Again, that’s all about confidence. When things are going well, you’re scoring goals, and right now, we’re not.
“The penalty kill, we’ve just gotta tighten up a little bit. It’s OK to lose a guy like [Dennis] Seidenberg and say you lost a big piece, but when you look, the goals are still getting scored against a lot of the same players who were there when Seidenberg was around, too.”
The Bruins will have a chance to right the ship Thursday night against the Dallas Stars, who have the 28th-ranked power play and 22nd-ranked penalty kill in the NHL.