The Boston Bruins are the best team in the NHL. The Bruins are also in the midst of their worst slump all season long. Both things can be true. What can also be true is that a slump, though not ideal, is far from the end of the world. The Bruins have given themselves enough breathing room in the standings that they can absorb a skid like this without it causing too much of an issue for them in the grand scheme of things. Still, the team will undoubtedly want to bounce back and get back to their winning ways sooner rather than later; this starts with getting the power play back on track.
The Bruins have the NHL’s sixth-ranked power play, converting on over 25% of their opportunities this season. This is impressive, but it’s even more noteworthy when considering how abysmal the power play has been as of late. In their last seven games, the Bruins have had 27 power play opportunities and converted on just three of them. It doesn’t take an expert to know that scoring on just 11% of your power play opportunities isn’t going to result in many wins.
In short, this has been a monumental slump for the Bruins’ power play.
It gets even worse when looking at just the last three games for the Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes that saw the team go 0-for-12 on the power play. In the first game, the Bruins would go 0-for-2 on the power play and lose the game 3-2 to the Lightning. In the second game, the Bruins would have four opportunities up a skater and would come away empty on each of them. They’d lose this game 4-3 in overtime. In the team’s final game of the road trip, they’d fall 4-1 to the Hurricanes and would go a staggering 0-for-6 on the power play.
For context, the Lightning have the NHL’s 13th-best penalty kill (80.9%) the Panthers are ranked 26th (74.7%), and the Hurricanes are ranked seventh (81.9%).
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The power play may be struggling from a result-driven standpoint, but the eye test also paints a pretty clear image too; the Bruins are just playing poorly on the man advantage right now and need to get back to basics to break this skid and find a rhythm. Whether this comes as a result of head coach Jim Montgomery changing the personnel, slowing things down, changing strategy or some combination of the group, something has to give.
Even the most basic things were causing the Bruins trouble in their most recent outing against the Hurricanes; from zone entries to puck retrievals and everything in between.
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While it’s easy to point out how bad the Bruins’ power play has been as of late, it should also be noted that this latest slide is also coming during a stretch of play that has Bruins playing three road games in four nights.
The Bruins are definitely playing tired; playing four consecutive road games on Jan. 24, Jan. 26, Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 (and a game to follow on Feb. 1) means the team isn’t getting much rest between playing games and traveling to their next destination. Every team has to go through this type of schedule at some point and making excuses isn’t something the team will ever try and do for themselves, but finding some sort of explanation as to why the Bruins are struggling is fair game.
The Bruins have too much talent and have proven to be too good of a team to struggle for long – both in the standings and on the power play. Montgomery has been the NHL’s best coach and the team has the best goalie/goalie tandem in the entire league.
The ship will obviously be righted and things will get back on track at some point, the goal now is to just mitigate the damage in the interim. There’s an argument to be made that losing Jake DeBrusk to the long-term injured reserve has hurt the power play – and this argument certainly holds weight. At the same time, this team is too talented to be one injury away from a trainwreck.
Slumps happen and there are little things that can explain them; losing two games by one goal apiece also mean that the Bruins were very close to going 2-1 rather than 0-2-1 in their three-out-of-four stretch over the weekend. Still, the end result has the Bruins on a three-game losing skid heading into Toronto to take on the second-place team in the Atlantic Division in the Maple Leafs. The Bruins will look to get a win and will have a chance to convert on the power play against a middle-of-the-pack Maple Leafs penalty kill that has killed off just over 79% of their opportunities this season.
Toronto is never an easy place to play and the Bruins will have their work cut out for them. Still, the losing streak and power play struggles have to end at some point. This could be a big statement game for the Bruins.