BOSTON — It’s become pretty en vogue to complain about the Bruins’ power play in seasons past, and for good reason. The Boston man-advantage has been comically bad at times, often leaving it as a point of criticism and ridicule from fans and media alike.
If the first five preseason games are any indication, however, there may be reason to believe the Bruins’ power play might not suck this year. In fact, it’s beginning to look like it could be a strength of the defending Eastern Conference champions.
The Bruins have scored 15 goals in the preseason so far, and seven of those (47 percent) have come on the power play. To put that in some sort of perspective, the B’s scored 131 goals in the regular season last year, with just 18 of those (14 percent) coming on the power play.
It’s an admittedly small sample size, but the reasons for optimism are certainly there. The Bruins scored two power-play goals in their overtime win over Washington on Monday, both of which were scored by Zdeno Chara. In the process, the Bruins were also able to exhibit a potential flexibility when it comes to the man-advantage. Just taking Chara for advantage, it was telling that he scored one of the power-play goals in on a deflection in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and the second power-play tally came on a blast from the blue line during a 5-on-3.
Chara’s versatility on the power play is just one example of the potential the unit showcases. It also doesn’t hurt to add a player like Jarome Iginla and his 165 career power-play goals to the mix, nor does it hurt to have Torey Krug wheeling and dealing while quarterbacking the power play from the point.
These weapons, though, are only as good as how they’re used. Many of the Bruins’ man-advantage issues stemmed from overthinking and over-complicating. That sort of mentality — the constant quest to always make the perfect pass, the perfect shot — has crippled the Bruins’ power play in the past. Through five preseason games, at least, the Bruins have found success by embracing simplicity. They’re keeping it simple, and they’re finding the back of the net. Perhaps it’s just that easy.
On the first Chara goal it was as simple as work from Iginla to keep the possession alive in the Boston end. From there, it was short, quick passes in the offensive zone and then a Dennis Seidenberg shot from the high slot. The most important thing about the Seidenberg shot was that it was on goal, and that gave Chara the chance to not only create traffic in front but ultimately tip the shot over Holtby’s left shoulder.
“That’s a great example of keeping those things simple,” Chara said. “Just a good give-and-go and shot on net and just working in front trying to take the goalie’s eyes away.”
Success is only going to breed more success as well. The confidence is clearly building, and that alone can make a huge difference. If the Bruins aren’t going well on the man-advantage, that’s where the pressing returns and that’s when things get complicated.
“We just need to stay sharp and keep working on it in practice,” Milan Lucic said. “I think the best thing is our puck movement is a lot better. There’s confidence in making those good passes and guys are shooting the puck when they have the opportunity as well.”
So far, the Bruins have given reason to believe they’ll not only be competent on the power play, but it may be a dangerous weapon. If that ends up being the case, and they improve upon one of their few glaring flaws from years past, they could be even better than expected.
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