BOSTON — The Bruins opened the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs with a perfect penalty kill through three games. But in their last three games, this part of special teams has become a bit of a weakness.
Boston gave up a power-play goal in each of its final two first-round games against the Detroit Red Wings, then allowed the Montreal Canadiens to score two goals on the man advantage in Thursday’s night’s 4-3 Game 1 loss in double overtime at TD Garden.
“There’s no panic here,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the Round 2 opener. “It’s game No. 1 here. So obviously, P.K. Subban’s got a good shot from the point and we’ve got to do a better job of fronting him. But our penalty kill’s been through a lot this year and we still have confidence in it.”
Subban scored twice on the power play Thursday night, including the game-winner at 4:17 of the second overtime period.
The Canadiens defenseman is one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the NHL, and his shot from the point is both powerful and accurate. The Bruins must do a better job of taking away his time and space when he has the puck at the point while also blocking his shooting lanes and forcing him to pass. As a team, Boston must be tougher at the blue line and not allow Montreal’s speedy forwards to cleanly enter the attacking zone and set up their power-play formations.
“We need to do a better job boxing out, blocking shots, and disturbing their entries,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. “You know, doing a better job on our forecheck. That’s all.”
Another area for improvement is faceoffs. The Bruins held a 51-37 faceoff advantage in Game 1 but also lost many defensive-zone draws, several of which occurred during penalty kill situations.
Both of Subban’s goals started with a Canadiens faceoff win in the attacking zone. Montreal’s tremendous puck movement on the power play allows it to open up shooting lanes and create quality scoring chances, so it’s imperative that Boston gets possession of the puck by winning faceoffs and clearing the zone.
Overall, the Bruins played pretty well in Game 1. They out-shot the Canadiens 51-33, dominated possession for most of the overtime play and completely shut down the Habs’ top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek. There were lots of positives from the B’s performance, but the penalty kill has to improve because they are a much better team than the Canadiens at even strength.
“It’s tough. I mean, you need your (penalty kill) to step up,” Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “We can’t change anything except we got to kill those penalties and I got to keep the puck out of my net. That’s the only change we need.”