The Boston Bruins dominated on the power play last season and finished with the third-highest success rate of any NHL team.
Duplicating that success in 2014-15 was going to be a challenge without 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla and assistant coach Geoff Ward, but the B’s haven’t been able to score on the power play with any consistency this campaign.
Boston ranked in the bottom half of the league in power-play percentage throughout the first three months of the season, but it appeared to turn a corner shortly after top-six center David Krejci returned from a lengthy injury absence in mid-December. The unit scored seven times in a 10-game span from Dec. 21 through Jan. 10.
The Bruins went 3 for 29 with the man advantage over the next 13 games, including a 1-for-13 mark to begin February. But in the last three games to end the recent five-game road trip, the B’s shuffled their power-play units and scored three goals with the man advantage.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien went to a first PP unit of Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci up front, with Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton at the points. Ryan Spooner filled in for Krejci (undisclosed injury) in Sunday’s game.
This unit scored Wednesday night in Edmonton and created several quality scoring chances. It was even better Sunday afternoon with two more goals against the Chicago Blackhawks’ second-ranked penalty kill.
A couple of factors have resulted in Boston’s improved power-play success over the last three games. They are shooting more and not looking for the perfect setup as much, the movement with and without the puck is better, and there’s a more consistent net-front presence.
Krug and Hamilton use their excellent skating ability to open up shooting lanes, get pucks through to the net and create opportunities in and around the crease. Bergeron has excelled as a shooter and passer in the “bumper” role, and Eriksson has scored twice as the man in front of the net.
Winning faceoffs also is key to the power play, and a win by Bergeron set up Hamilton’s goal Sunday.
The Bruins’ recent success with the man advantage is encouraging because they entered Sunday ranked 28th in road power-play percentage (11.3) and 30th in road power-play goals (eight). Boston has dropped a lot of points in the standings because the power play has failed to score at crucial times, specifically on the road.
If the Bruins reach the playoffs, it’s unlikely they will have home-ice advantage in the first round, so it’s important that this team establishes consistent power-play results away from TD Garden.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images