The Bruins rank fourth overall in the NHL with a power play that has scored nearly 28 percent of the time, but how much good is an effective power play if a team is very rarely on the man-advantage?
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The Bruins didn’t look like world-beaters when they failed to score on a four-minute power play at the start of the third period Saturday night after a high-sticking call on Brooks Orpik. That proved to be one of the differences in the B’s falling to the Washington Capitals 3-2 at TD Garden. Orpik clobbered David Pastrnak with a dirty high-sticking infraction that cut open the 21-year-old’s chin and the B’s couldn’t even cleanly enter the zone in the ensuing four minutes of power play time.
In fact, the Capitals outshot the Bruins 3-2 in those four minutes. That inability to do anything made a late Pastrnak PP goal meaningless in the one-goal loss. Some of Boston’s initial disorganization might have been because the bloodied Pastrnak was getting stitched up on the bench while Boston’s top PP unit was on the ice without him, but Bruce Cassidy wasn’t hearing it.
“There were enough good players out there and certainly we didn’t look organized on our entries. We didn’t change anything on them, so you’ve got to give Washington some credit for putting some heat on us, and then we’ve got to...we can’t absolve ourselves of the responsibility, not the appropriate play,” said Cassidy. “That was disappointing. It was an opportunity to get back in the game and eventually the power play did score to around back in the game, but you’d like to see it a little bit earlier and a little smoother because it’s been a strength of our team. Absolutely we needed to be better there.”
The Bruins rank 23rd in the NHL with 43 power-play chances in 12 games and they’ve only generated 18 power plays in the past six games while getting waylaid by injuries up and down the lineup. Both Zdeno Chara and Pastrnak were visibly angry in the victory over Vegas on Thursday night after not getting calls following clear slashing infractions. On Saturday night, the Bruins went without any power-play chances in the first two periods of the game.
The lack of any PP action could certainly be another factor in the special teams’ rustiness for the B’s when they finally did get the four-minute PP at the start of the third period, but the players inside the Bruins dressing certainly weren’t using that as an excuse. Instead, Patrice Bergeron was frustrated at the stagnant zone entries through the neutral zone where the Bruins weren’t gathering any speed or momentum for the attack.
“We can give [Washington’s penalty kill] credit, but at the same time we had no speed and you know if you do that it’s definitely going to…as a penalty killer I want that,” said Bergeron. “It’s easier to defend. I think we definitely have to talk about it and regroup and do a better job.
“We had some really good looks [later in the third period]. I thought we had some good shots, good traffic, and, you’re right, at the end we came close a few times. But the bottom line is it’s tough to let those points slip by [after] a tough start.”
It’s also tough to watch a team on the power play when it’s clear that those special-team chances are going to have to carry the day for the Bruins with so many key offensive players missing.