Inconsistent special teams was a major problem for the Boston Bruins this season and contributed to the team missing the postseason for the first time in eight years.
After ranking third in the NHL in power-play percentage and eighth in penalty killing during the 2013-14 season, Boston fell to 18th and 12th, respectively, this campaign.
Let’s take a look at the Bruins’ special teams performance this season and what it means for 2015-16.
Three factors hurt the Bruins power play this season: Jarome Iginla’s departure, injuries to key players and a lack of opportunities.
A 30-goal scorer like Iginla who could create scoring chances, set screens in front of the net and win battles along the boards wasn’t easy to replace.
Krejci’s playmaking skill and ability to execute successful zone entries also weren’t consistently replaced during the 35 games he missed with injuries. Zdeno Chara missed nearly two months of the season with a knee injury, which took his powerful shot from the point and net-front presence away from the power play. Dougie Hamilton missing the last 10 games of the season left a huge void at the point on the first power-play unit.
Complicating matters for the B’s was their lack of power-play attempts. Boston finished 29th in power-play opportunities with 213. The Bruins also had one power play or fewer in 16 games.
Boston’s power play performance really is a tale of two seasons. From opening night through Feb. 15, the Bruins struggled to score with the man advantage and draw power plays (NHL rank in parenthesis).
|Oct. 6 through Feb. 15||GP||PPG||SCF||Shot Attempts|
|Boston Bruins||51||22 (T-30th)||196 (25th)||409 (25th)|
B’s head coach Claude Julien switched up his units against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 16. He placed Torey Krug and Hamilton at the points, with Loui Eriksson, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron up front on the first unit. This group led a power-play resurgence until Hamilton was lost for the season on March 21. The Bruins generated more shots, scoring chances and scored at a higher rate. The movement without the puck and passing also improved.
|Feb. 15 through March 21||GP||PPG||SCF||Shot Attempts|
|Boston Bruins||17||10 (T-4th)||99 (2nd)||195 (2nd)|
If the Bruins keep this first unit intact, and give Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner more ice time with the second group, the power play should be more effective and consistent next season.
Outside of a stellar January, Boston’s penalty kill was pretty inconsistent. Overall, the Bruins finished 13th in shot attempts allowed (649) and 12th in goals given up (43) in penalty kill situations.
October: 80 percent (18th)
November: 76.5 (24th)
December: 79.1 (19th)
January: 95.3 (2nd)
February: 76.7 (25th)
March: 80 (15th)
April: 85.7 (10th)
Ranking in the top 15 for the entire season isn’t too bad when you factor in all the injuries that impacted the penalty kill.
Three regulars on the blue line — Chara, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller — all missed more than two weeks each with injuries. One positive to come out of these injuries was that younger defensemen such as Torey Krug and Zach Trotman earned valuable penalty killing experience that will help them next season.
The Bruins should see improvement on the penalty kill next season if they’re healthier on the blue line and maintain their league-leading 52.5 faceoff percentage in shorthanded situations. It also helps to have one of the league’s best goaltenders in Tuukka Rask, who had the ninth-highest shorthanded save percentage among goalies with 60 or more games played.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images