In 2011, the Bruins won their Stanley Cup with a lockdown penalty kill, and a power play that bordered on comically bad. Stop me if this sounds uncomfortably familiar. Finding no reason to fix what isn’t (totally) broken, the Bruins are on much the same trajectory as they were two years ago, though the Blackhawks certainly should not take that as a cue to tempt fate by marching to the box as they have to this point in the post season. Furthermore, the Hawks finding a way to somehow take advantage of the Bruins’ penalty kill will go a long way toward mitigating the physical liberties Boston will no doubt plan on taking.
Looking at the Bruins’ power play first, we find a unit that has only scored 7 goals to this point in the post season on 45 opportunities, good for 15.6%, which is good for 10th overall in the post season by percentage, and 5th in total goals scored. Contrast that with the Bruins’ regular season where they were dead last in power play goals scored with 18, and 26th in percentage at 14.8% (122 attempts). Additionally, they managed to not score on the advantage at all in their four game sweep of the Pens, which speaks to just how well their 5 on 5 game is humming.
That isn’t to say that the Bruins lack weapons on the power play. Nathan Horton leads all skaters with 4 points (2G, 2A), and rookie phenom defenseman Torey Krug has three power play goals, all of which he accumulated against the Rangers in the series previous. Both Horton and Brad Marchand have been on the ice for 6 of the 7 Bruins power play goals scored, and boast the best scoring rates per 60 minutes of power play ice time among forwards at 11.85 g/60 and 11.33 g/60 respectively. Dougie Hamilton has the best overall rate by far and away at 24.66, being on the ice for 3 PPG, but he hasn’t seen action since Dennis Sidenberg returned from injury.
The last time the Bruins played, they sent out the Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic with Chara and Jagr as “point men” on the first unit, but that’s merely a formality of Bergeron winning the draw and then drifting back to the blue line while Jagr then switches off and works the half wall. The second unit consists of Krejci centering Horton and Seguin, with Krug and Johnny Boychuck on the back end.
Schematically, the Bruins run a pretty straightforward overload, with all five players on the strong (puck) side of the ice, with one at the half wall (Jagr/Krejci), and a forward below the goal line and one in front. The strong side point man will seal off where the boards meet the blue line, with his partner in the middle of the ice at the same distance. Because the Bruins have such size up front, as well as Brad Marchand’s ass boil level of irritation, they mainly try to crowd the net either with stuff plays from the goal line, and blasts from the point, where Krug has shown a knack for finding the net, and Chara has his Doomsday Device of a shot.
For the Hawks, this presents a bit of an issue. They don’t aggressively front point shots, nor do they engage physically with net front road blocks, despite our pleas of the former. So what they’ll need to do to give Corey Crawford a chance at seeing and stopping the puck, they’ll need to close fast and hard on the puck carriers at the perimeter, specifically along the half boards and in the corners. Forcing errant passes to keep the puck from moving to a place where it can generate a netmouth scramble is where the Hawks will have to suffocate the B’s attack, because having Bergeron conistently win draws will keep things pretty well situated in the Hawks’ end for the duration of the 2 minutes each time.
Though the Bruins’ penalty kill is where they’ve made their mark over the past three seasons, and their post season stat line is at first blush on par with the expectation set by the regular season, ( 7GA in 52 chances), their 86.5% kill rate was actually last among the four conference finalists, and that’s after not allowing a single Penguins power play goal. So while it is a strength of the team, it’s not fully on par yet with where the Bruins expected to be, so luckily for them the Hawks’ power play is fucking clown shoes.
Not so luckily for them, they’ll have to do so without Gregory Campbell, who along with Daniel Paille, played the most shorthanded time per game among Bruins forwards. However, as a function of that time spent out there, Campbell was on the ice for 6 of the power play goals scored against the Bruins, and Paille for 5. Look for Chris Kelly to slot in again in Campbell’s spot, and he should be aided by Paille’s relentless pursuit in all three zones during the kill. However, on the flip side, the unit (once again) of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand has yet to see a power play goal against, as a direct function of Bergeron’s dominance at the dot. In case you haven’t guessed it yet, there’s not a lot Bergeron can’t do, and pretty much everything the B’s do hinges on him.
On defense, the pairing of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg see far and away the most ice time among B’s blueliners at around 3 minutes per game a piece, and have only been out for two power play goals against. Obviously, that has nearly everything to do with Chara and not only his intimidating presence in front of the net, but also the sheer amount of ice he covers even when standing still in close quarters on a power play, taking away passing lanes. Based on Bryan Bickell’s absence on the power play at practice today, it seems like Q is not even toying with the idea of engaging him physically, which might be the way to go.
The Hawks would be wise to try to isolate Seidenberg, who while sizeable, is not nearly the alien Chara is, nor anywhere as nasty. This can be accomplished by soft chips into his corner, and then working cycles down low coming out of his corner, either setting up shop for a shot from inside the dot, or walking the tight rope along the goal line for a stuff attempt, and hope that Chara over commits on help, enabling a forward to slip behind or a defenseman to crash down for a pass and a clean look at Rask. Either way, as was stated at the top, the Hawks cannot afford to piss away opportunities, as it will only embolden the Bruins to push their extra-curricular activities even further and further without fear of reprisal on the scoreboard.