The Bruins had to have known that they were in for quite the test Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks. Facing arguably the best team in the league in its home rink — where the Ducks haven’t lost in regulation all season — the B’s were likely looking for every advantage they could get.
The seemingly obvious advantage the Bruins had against the surging Ducks was in special teams. That actually turned out to be anything but an advantage as Anaheim dominated the special teams game on the way to a 5-2 win, though. Of the Ducks’ five goals, four of them were special teams-related.
The night’s biggest issue for the Bruins was clearly the penalty kill, which is just the latest in a growing line of struggles for that unit. Boston allowed three power-play goals Tuesday night to an Anaheim power play that really isn’t anything very special. Despite some high-end talent up front and on the blue line, the Ducks entered their meeting with the Bruins with the league’s 24th-ranked power play. Boston, conversely, entered the game with the league’s fifth-best penalty kill (85.3 percent), which has been even better on the road (86.8 percent).
It certainly looked like it was the other way around Tuesday night.
The PK issues are nothing new for the Bruins right now. The Boston penalty kill has now allowed seven goals over its last 17 attempted kills. The Islanders were able to score three power-play tallies in a Dec. 31 win over the Bruins before Anaheim potted three on the man-advantage on Tuesday.
It’s probably not much of a coincidence that the Bruins’ PK issues have come in the last four games. Those four games have been the team’s first four without Dennis Seidenberg, who has been lost for the season after tearing a pair of ligaments in his knee on Dec. 27. Seidenberg was averaging 2:24 of shorthanded ice time per game when he went down with the knee injury. That ranked him third on the Bruins, trailing just Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk.
That’s led to the Bruins having to call on others to help fill the void. The next man up among defensemen is Adam McQuaid, who is going to have to log more PK time in Seidenberg’s absence. McQuaid was only on the ice for 29 seconds of shorthanded time against the Ducks — and was on the ice for all three Anaheim power-play goals.
The issues are far from McQuaid’s alone, of course. The penalty kill, like just about everything in hockey, is something that thrives on rhythm, and that is certainly missing at this point. Too many times Tuesday night the Ducks were left with great chances, whether it was leaving Mathieu Perreault alone in the slot for the Ducks’ first goal or losing track of Nick Bonino in the middle of the ice during a 28-second abbreviated power play in the third period.
The Bruins have to step up as a team, and that unit needs to step up as a whole to ensure these recent struggles don’t turn into a long-term trend. That’s especially true on a night like Tuesday, when the team was probably good enough to win in every area except special teams, particularly the penalty kill.