BRIGHTON, Mass. — One of the things that went largely unnoticed during Boston’s losing stretch where they lost eight out of nine games was a weakened power play that wasn’t cranking at its normal dominant efficiency.
The Bruins went 6-for-42 on the power play in the 10 games leading into their back-to-back wins for a 14.3 percent success rate that dropped them to third in the NHL after they had led the league for much of the season on the man advantage.
In the last two wins over the Capitals and the Sabres, things have been back on track for the B’s power play with three goals on 10 tries for a 30 percent success rate that still sees them in third place (26.4 percent success rate), well behind both the Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning at this point.
One can’t really chalk the power-play slump to injuries and missing personnel as Patrice Bergeron has been healthy and scoring a boatload of goals over the last nine games, and other key players like Torey Krug and David Pastrnak were healthy for pretty much all that stretch. It appeared that many penalty kills were crowding David Pastrnak at the face-off dot to stifle his ability for one-timers while No. 88 also went into a little bit of a shooting slump.
The B’s power play seemed slow to adjust to all these things while simply not outworking the opposing penalty kills during a general malaise up and down the lineup, but that appears to have been cleared up around the three-day holiday break.
The adjustment clearly has been made with Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk scoring PP goals in each of those last two games and the five-man unit adjusting to teams shadowing Pastrnak at the face-off dot.
“We’ve been together for a while on these power plays. Obviously we’re missing Torey [now], but sometimes we just go from the gut,” said Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 13 power-play goals this season but has just one in December after scoring 12 in October and November. “You can be rolling and then the next game you can’t even get it into the zone. We’re just trying not to overthink it. We know our plays and we know how good we are when we don’t overthink stuff on the power play.
“It’s [keeping with] the simple plays, the plays that we know work. We definitely don’t want to overthink it and then we score a lot of goals on the power play. You remember in October when you knew you were going to score. Obviously kills are getting ready for you and you know it, and that’s when it becomes about making things more simple and recover pucks after the shots so you’re not breaking pucks out for two minutes.”
A lot of it comes down to simply getting the puck to the open man if teams are overplaying Pastrnak, and then winning battles in front of the net to make sure that pressure stays on the penalty kill in the offensive zone.
The Bruins have stepped things up in both of those areas, and not-so-coincidentally the B’s are again scoring PP goals and again winning hockey games after an extended lull in the month of December.