BOSTON — The Bruins’ power play was sputtering through four games and one period in Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. The issue wasn’t really a systematic one, though, and the solution to fixing the problem was quite simple. The Bruins just needed to work a little bit harder.
Boston’s power play, which finished the regular season with the NHL’s third-ranked power play at 21.4 percent, was 0-for-10 against Montreal as the second period began in Game 5 on Saturday night. The B’s started the second period with a power play, and they finally broke through. Reilly Smith scored broke the skid at the 1:04 mark, and Jarome Iginla scored another power-play tally just 32 seconds later. The two quick strikes pushed the lead to 3-0, and Boston cruised to a 4-2 win.
Bruins coach Claude Julien and his staff didn’t need a magical drawing board to jump-start the power play, though. The message in the Boston locker room after 20 minutes as it pertained to the power play was simple. The Bruins needed to win puck battles and make better decisions up a man. They needed to work harder and work smarter than the Montreal penalty killers. For the first time in the series, the message got through.
“I think the biggest thing I noticed on our power play is that we were getting outworked by their PK on battles and decision-making with the puck was soft,” Julien said Sunday. “We kind of talked about that after the first period. We just had to get a little bit harder and smarter and more determined. We had to outwork their penalty kill. We came out in the second period and those goals kind of redefined our power play.”
The first goal was all about outworking the Habs. Dougie Hamilton made a great pass, and Smith gets credit for the redirect, but there was so much more to it than that.
Smith and center Patrice Bergeron really started the play with their work near the net. They made it difficult for Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges to clear the puck. Bergeron did just enough along the end boards to obstruct Gorges’ clearing attempt. Gorges didn’t get all of the attempted clear, and that allowed Hamilton to keep the puck in at the blue line.
Hamilton then kept the puck moving. He quickly shoveled it to Carl Soderberg across the point. Soderberg quickly passed it back to Hamilton, which forced the Canadiens penalty killers to scurry. Hamilton’s shot attempt from the right point was blocked, and the puck went straight into the air. Loui Eriksson was the first one on the puck when it landed, which kept the play alive. With the Canadiens still running around, Eriksson went across the slot to Soderberg. He carried down the left wing before passing it back to Hamilton. That’s where Hamilton made a great pass to Smith, as the Boston forward went to the front of the net and found a way to tip the puck by Price.
The decision making and hustle kept Montreal on its toes in its own end. The result was opened passing and shooting lanes that weren’t there for the Bruins in the first period or in the first four games against a Canadiens team that packed the slot and blocked a bunch of shots. The newly found open ice was more than enough to get the Boston power play going.
“It was just about working harder to get the puck and being able to set up and make plays,” Hamilton said Sunday. “I thought we did OK. So two plays that aren’t really plays we practiced, but reaction plays.”
If nothing else, the power-play breakout should serve as a reminder to the Bruins that sometimes the most effective fixes are the easiest ones.