The up-and-down Bruins (8-7-1) continue to baffle us so far this season: their bizarre home/road splits (2-5-1 at TD Garden and 6-2-0 on the road) are well-documented at this point but another odd trend has been their power-play dominance (No. 1 in the NHL) but abysmal penalty kill (No. 30 in the NHL). In nine seasons under head coach Claude Julien, Boston has established an identity of two-way players, defensive layers, toughness and scoring depth. Typically, their penalty kill has been one of the best in the league while their power play has famously struggled at key times in the playoffs. It’s hard to explain this recent transformation in 2015-16 since their newest players haven’t really been factors on either special teams unit plus forwards David Pastrnak (broken foot) and Chris Kelly (broken femur) who would have been big parts of either team, have been out lately with injuries.
In Boston’s last game, a 3-1 win over Detroit (9-8-1) on Saturday night at TD Garden, their eight-game streak of scoring a power-play goal was snapped. That was the franchise’s longest mark since December 12-29, 2006. The Bruins power-play was only 0-for-1 against the Red Wings but their power-play success rate on the season is still an absurd 33.3% (17 of 51). To put that in context, only Dallas (29.8%) is in the same area code while Montreal is No. 3 (23.9%). Already, eight different Bruins have scored power-play goals this season led by Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron who both have four. David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner have each notched two.
Julien and his players know that this incredible output on the man advantage is not sustainable and that’s why they have to be better 5-on-5 and of course on the penalty kill as well. “The penalty kill has been better, our 5-on-4 the last three games has been pretty good,” noted Julien. “We’re starting to pay attention to the little details that make the difference.” For what it’s worth, the B’s allowed a power-play goal to Detroit but it was in the third period when they led 3-0 so it wasn’t all that impactful. Boston’s penalty kill is 43-for-60 (71.7%), an ugly number which has to keep Julien and his coaching staff up at night.
These next three games at the Garden-against San Jose (9-8-0) on Tuesday (7, NESN), Minnesota (10-3-3) on Thursday (7, NESN) and Toronto (5-9-4) on Saturday (7, NESN) represent a good chance for the Bruins’ penalty-kill to pick it up against some bad power-play units. The Sharks (No. 29), Wild (No. 17) and Maple Leafs (No. 25) all rank in the bottom half of the NHL in terms of power-play conversions. Having a great power-play is a bonus but in today’s NHL, it’s hard to go anywhere with an awful penalty kill.