BOSTON – The Bruins had been in a self-described special teams “funk” as of late, so Thursday night’s special teams’ explosion was a welcome development indeed.
The Bruins broke a six-game power play drought (0-for-18 over that span) with three PP strikes and at the time ended up holding the high-powered Penguins power play unit without a score in Boston’s 8-4 win over the Penguins at TD Garden. The fact that they did both of those things without an integral piece in Patrice Bergeron was impressive, but it was all about executing and getting back to a simple, hard-working mindset at both ends of the ice.
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All three power play goals arrived because players were crashing the net or cutting hard to the paint with our without the puck, and that’s something that had been missing a bit over the last month as the Bruins went 2-for-32 on the man advantage. They managed to outdo that in one night’s work with the three special teams’ goals against the Penguins.
“We executed better. We’ve talked about that. That’s a start, right? You make good passes and you win pucks, you’re playing in the O-zone, and you’re forcing the team to defend. So I think that’s the start of it. We made some great heads-up plays like, the [Nick] Holden play to Krejci – that’s not one you practice; that’s a broken play where you win a puck – Jake DeBrusk does a great job winning a puck,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We talked about it, I think this morning, one of the specifics was second effort. That’s a second-effort play, winning the puck, and then you allow your skill to take over, and he makes a great play.
“So that’s an example of what we had asked the players to do a little better job at, and I thought they did. We had a few passes that didn’t connect that were maybe forced, but I think that’s always going to happen when you have – what did we have, five [power plays]? But, for the most part, I thought we made better decisions with it, as well. So good for them; they got rewarded. We have plenty of skill in there. They can score, and I thought we had more urgency tonight.”
The first score was Rick Nash camped out in front of the net, waiting and ready to redirect a Torey Krug point pass through Casey DeSmith with a simple tap-in attempt. Then David Krejci kicked it into PP overdrive in the second period when Nick Holden found the Czech center cutting to the net wide open, and for his third goal of the night he was able to guide home a shot set up by a tipped Brian Gionta pass as the 5-foot-7 forward was camped out in front.
“Over the last three games we’ve talked about the drought and keeping it simple,” said Nash. “I think that when any power play struggles, you have to simplify things. Put pucks to the net and you have to get bodies to the net, and it’ll start to go in.”
That’s exactly what happened on Thursday night as the dam finally broke on the power play for the Black and Gold, and the PK managed to shut out the Penguins after allowing six power play goals in the previous five games. Now it’s a matter of the Bruins keeping it up at a time of year when special teams can be a massive difference-maker for hockey clubs looking for any edge they can find.