BOSTON – The Bruins have underachieved to massive proportions on the power play this season, and it was astounding that the B’s were ranked 29th on the PP among NHL teams entering Monday night’s game vs. the Sabres. Perhaps even more stupefying was the rock-bottom aspect of Saturday night’s loss to the Rangers when the Bruins allowed a pair of shorthanded goals to speedy New York attackers in a frustrating loss.
Credit the buoyant Bruins with bouncing back from that ugly outing, and using three power play goals scored to guide them to a 4-0 win over the Sabres at TD Garden. The three power play goals matched Boston’s total seasonal special teams output in the first 11 games of the season, and gave the Bruins clear evidence of just how good they could be on the man advantage once the work ethic started matching the talented PP personnel.
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“In order to be successful, you have to outwork the penalty kill. That’s always been the case. We have a tendency sometimes on the power play to think, we’ve got the extra guy and we’ve just got to take it easy,” said Claude Julien, who also swapped Marchand down to the second PP unit and bumped massive power forward David Backes onto the third line. “But at the same time I think we did a better job of finding the seams and getting shots at the net and, you know, jumping on those loose pucks and rebounds. Those are the kinds of things that we need from our power play.”
The Bruins showed early on it might be a different kind of night when they managed four shots on net in a first PP possession that didn’t end up in a goal, and then they went out and proved it in the second period. Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak both crashed the net looking for rebounds, and Brad Marchand was able to shot a loose puck through a Beleskey screen blocking out Robin Lehner in the Buffalo net.
Beleskey picked up his first point of the new hockey season for his efforts, and the entire unit’s energy levels energized both PP units. An extended 5-on-3 advantage set up the next scoring chance, and this was David Krejci one-timing a Torey Krug pass from the opposite point that somehow bounced past Lehner.
It was Krejci’s first goal of the season, and another sign that some key performers on the B’s man advantage were starting to wake up. Now they just need to keep it going for some time while operating more efficiently and creatively in the offensive zone, and never going more than a couple of games without a power play goal if it can be helped.
“We looked at some clips when we were doing fine, when we were moving the puck well and moving our feet. I thought that’s what we did today,” said Krejci. “We didn’t really just stand in one spot. We were moving all over the ice and creating some good scoring chances and we got three goals. That was a big power play night for us. Hopefully, we’ve got more in the bag, especially for [the next game vs. Montreal].”
There’s no reason to think the Bruins are as bad on the PP as they showed in the first 11 games of the season, and there’s also the plainly obvious fact that the man advantage isn’t going to supply three PP goals per game against other teams hungry for wins. So the newly healthy Bruins will instead return their full complement of goal scorers and PP playmakers in a hopeful bid to stay afloat with their special teams, an area where they’ll need greater production if the wins are going to keep following along.