When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman put a pause on the season on March 12, it was the right move with the coronavirus outbreak that is overtaking the world. The health of everybody is the No. 1 priority for the foreseeable future. Should the league resume operations and play at some point, Bettman has said that he still has plans to award the Stanley Cup in 2020 at the conclusion of the playoffs.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, the games tend to become more low scoring than in the regular season and the difference between winning and losing can come down to special teams. Whether it’s a power-play goal or a penalty kill, coaches know that every decision made as to who is on the ice can mean the difference in advancing the to the next round or hitting the golf course earlier than they would like.
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Last season, the Bruins scored 24 power-play goals in 24 games in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. They had nine different players score with the man advantage in the postseason. This year, should the playoffs take place, look for not only their power-play unit, but also their penalty kill to play a big role if they are to have playoff success.
Power Play Ranks Second
Boston’s first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is one of the top lines in the league. It should be no surprise that they also are the leading scorers on the NHL’s second-ranked power-play unit.
Pastrnak is having an MVP type of season and is tied for the league lead in goals with 48, with 20 coming on the power play. He also has 18 assists for 38 power-play points. Bergeron also has double-digits in PP goals with 11. He even has a game-winning power-play goal on Jan. 11 at the New York Islanders in a 3-2 overtime win.
The play-maker and the man who makes the power play go is defenseman Torey Krug, who leads the team with 26 PP assists. He plays at the blue line with Pastrnak generally setting up shop in the left circle. When the puck finds its way back to Krug, he looks to Pastrnak ready for his one-timed slap shot. Marchand is second on the team in assists with the man advantage with 23.
Jake DeBrusk is the fourth forward that coach Bruce Cassidy has on the first unit of the power play. Earlier this year when the unit was struggling, DeBrusk was the odd man out and Charlie Coyle was promoted from the second unit. David Krejci has played a big role in the second grouping with 3 goals and 14 assists on the power play. His opportunities have not been as much as the first unit because they don’t always give the second group a chance.
Penalty Kill Ranked Third
Killing penalties is not an exact science. It doesn’t take much, but it takes a certain player. They are generally good skaters and work well in a four-man unit and even sometimes a three-man unit should they be down two players.
Fortunately for the Bruins, who rank third in the NHL on the penalty kill, they have several players to choose from when it comes to killing a penalty. Forwards Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Charlie Coyle, Marchand, Par Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman all have spread around the duties. Every one of those players is not in the lineup each night, but with the depth they have built shorthanded, Cassidy has plenty of options to turn to.
Coyle leads the Bruins in shorthanded goals with two of their five this year. Marchand, Bergeron and Wagner have one each. At the end of the day, the success of the penalty kill has a lot to do with the players in front of their goalie, but Boston also has arguably the best goaltending duo in the league.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been a big reason why the Bruins lead the league with 100 points, but don’t let their play in net on the penalty kill go unnoticed also. Both seem to play their best when their backs are against the wall.
Carry Over Special Teams Play to Playoffs
With the uncertainty around what is going to happen over the next month because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to see hockey again. Understanding that the health of everybody around the world is the top priority.
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Last season, the Bruins rode the dominance of their power play, which averaged a goal a game in the playoffs, all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. They will need more productions from the power play and penalty killing units if they want to make a second straight run in the postseason should the season resume.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.