It’s clearly not an overnight success story. There has been plenty of hand-wringing and empty results for the Bruins power play over the last couple of years. But, finally, the Bruins power play is coming around.
Some would even call it a weapon on most nights for the Black and Gold. The Bruins have scored power play goals in seven of their last 13 games while cranking at a 23.5 success rate (8-for-34) over that time period -- including a power play strike to kick off a three-goal scoring binge in their win over the Flyers on Saturday.
So what’s been the key?
Some of it is Tyler Seguin heating up as he now shares the team lead with three power play goals (tied with Brad Marchand) and five PP points overall (tied with David Krejci). Some of it has been finding the right personnel combinations with both Seguin and rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton now manning the same unit along with the playmaking Krejci, who may finally be getting the hang of the man advantage stuff after struggling in that department over the last couple of years.
“When I have it on the left side [off the half wall] I’m kind of controlling the box," Seguin said, "and whether it’s going to go up or down to make the defensive react. I’ve been trying to be a little more patient as of late rather than making that quick first pass. Even before the results came, you could see that things were coming along, and we were right on the top of getting pucks to go in.
“But when it comes to the power play it’s all about getting results, and we’ve been able to do that recently. You can change the momentum of a game or period. I think we’re gaining more and more chemistry on both units. We’re making smart plays and bearing down now. Obviously you guys aren’t chirping us as much about it anymore, so we must be doing something right."
Seguin credited the video work done with assistant coach/power play designer Geoff Ward with helping him. Ward showed him clips of the St. Louis Blues from this season since the Blues have one of the best power plays in the league, though their power-play units don't exactly feature offensive superstars. In other words it’s the exact kind of team the Bruins could emulate as they move up NHL charts on the PP.
The key has been to focus on quick decision-making and knowing exactly what a player is going to do with the puck before it’s even on his stick. Coach Claude Julien saw way too much “dusting” of the puck when the Bruins were struggling to produce on the PP, a stalling tactic makes offensive players way too easy to neutralize.
“We’re still where we are because of the trouble we had at the beginning of the year, but we’re starting to climb up,” said Julien. “For the last month or so we might not have scored every time, but we’re showing that we can control it a little better.
“We’ve tried to get our guys to move the puck quickly and we try to use the term ‘no dusting.’ A power play guy should know what to do with it before he gets the puck. A lot of times our guys were getting the puck and I felt like we were looking at what options we had. You always have to be a step ahead of the game on the power play. That’s how you move the puck quickly and that’s how you catch the penalty kill off balance.”
The absence of hesitation was readily apparent in the play that led to Seguin's power play strike against the Flyers.
Krejci moved it quick from his position and Milan Lucic backhanded it across the front of the net with precision and confidence that his teammate would be in the right spot. Seguin was in the left circle exactly where he's supposed to be without the puck, and snapped home a shot from the bottom of the circle that should become very familiar to armchair power play coaches this season.
So the Bruins still have a ways to go before they’re feared or even respected around the NHL when they go on the man advantage. The stigma of an ineffective PP is still there two years after the Bruins won the Cup despite one of the worst power plays in Stanley Cup playoff history. And the Bruins are still ranked in the bottom third of the league by NHL standards.
But the Black and Gold have climbed to 20th in the league with an overall 16.2 percent success rate, and right now sit above offensively gifted teams like Red Wings, Canucks and Rangers. That’s a good thing because they’re going to need a healthy PP for some easy goals as they begin the rigorous portion of their season schedule with back-to-back road games in Ottawa and Pittsburgh starting on Monday night.