BOSTON – Normally those that follow the Bruins expect their special teams to be more drag than strength at Stanley Cup Finals time of year, but that’s far from the case this season.
The Bruins power play is 2-for-9 in three games against Chicago, and that solid 22 percent success rate is light years ahead of their work two years ago during the short, unproductive Tomas Kaberle Era.
But the penalty kill is where it’s at for the Black and Gold.
The Bruins have killed off 27 straight opposition power plays, dating back to May 25 in Game 5 against the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. They held Pittsburgh 0-for-15 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and have killed the first 11 power plays awarded to the Blackhawks in their current series.
“We know [Chicago has] got some great players,” said coach Claude Julien. "Our penalty kill has to be at its best. It really got better as the playoffs went on. But we really picked it up against Pittsburgh for the same reasons, same kind of a dangerous power play.
"It just continues to give us some help in these games. Obviously we don't want that to be a momentum changer against us. [And] I think killing those has really given our bench a boost. We just keep plugging away with those special teams, but at the same time, I'm not going to change my attitude as far as saying that 5-on-5 right now is just as important. So we got to continue to play well 5-on-5.”
There was some concern about the after-effects of Gregory Campbell’s injury on the penalty kill, and if his absence would really take away from what’s essentially been the same combos of players for the last three years. Campbell and Daniel Paille have been linemates and penalty killing partners for as long as they’ve been together as Bruins.
But the B's have pulled David Krejci back into the penalty-kill mix because of the Campbell injury, and the Black and Gold unit -- built on grit, speed and smarts -- continues to dominate a Blackhawks power play that features Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
“I think we just went back to our game [on the penalty kill],” said Paille. “They have a lot of talent up there at forward. We know that and I think that’s why we want to try harder. I think we’ve been able to frustrate them right now, but I remember when we were playing against Toronto, the bounces were going their way. Right now we are playing well but we have some good bounces as well so it helps in the game.”
On the other side, the Blackhawks have only a pathetic 11.3 percent success rate in 62 tries during the power play in the postseason, and seem to have that same PP lack of confidence that people have seen on the Bruins’ faces all too often over the last few years.
The Black and Gold being able to exploit that has been a big advantage thus far.