BOSTON – One would have assumed the Bruins' penalty-kill unit would struggle in the playoffs with ace contributors Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly out of the lineup with injuries.
One would be wrong.
The Bruins kept the Detroit Red Wings off the board in four power-play chances, and amazingly held the Winged Wheels to one measly overall shot on net. Perhaps it’s not all that surprising, given that the Wings' power-play unit ranked just 18th in the NHL this season, scoring 17.7 percent of the time, but it was a huge part of the Bruins' 4-1 victory at TD Garden that evened the best-of-severn series at 1-1.
Tuukka Rask knows he’s watching something pretty in front of him on the PK.
“We have good sticks, we’re taking care of the middle and trying not to give them those seam passes," he said. "Then if they get shots we’re trying to bounce on the loose pucks and win puck battles. I think everything has been pretty strong: the forecheck and stuff like that.
“We take a lot of pride in our penalty kill, and so far it’s been working. It’s a huge thing throughout the season. And especially in the playoffs, you need to have good special teams in order to move forward.”
Jarome Iginla and David Krejci both logged rare time on the PK in Game 2, but rookie Justin Florek was the most noticeable new addition in the absence of Paille and Kelly. Florek was one of the game’s heroes by scoring the first goal of the game in the first period, but he also logged 2:18 of shorthanded ice time while using his 6-foot-4, 198-pound frame to great effect.
He was blocking shots, clogging up passing seams for the point players, and hustling back and forth to create a sense of pressuring the puck that can force skilled offensive players into mistakes. He doesn’t have the speed of Paille or the craftiness of Kelly, but he’s done a marvelous job filling in on special teams.
That allows him to fit right in with a group of PK players that ranked eighth in the NHL this season.
“Our guys just did a great job” said Claude Julien. “I think they have good positions. We worked hard to get our penalty kill back to the level that we needed for the playoffs by really looking at their power play closely, and seeing the tendencies. But David Krejci hasn’t killed much this year. He’s killed in the past, and he’s been a good penalty killer. We’re, I guess, blessed with a lot of them this year where we’re able to save David for the line following a penalty kill.
“But we need him now. He stepped up. Florek’s another guy that’s killed penalties in Providence, and is pretty good at it as well. So guys have done a good job. Our regular guys continue to do a good job on it, but then new guys have come in and really stepped up and replaced those missing guys in a good way.”
It was mission accomplished for the PK unit in Game 2.