Haggerty: B's PP transforms into lethal weapon

Haggerty: B's PP transforms into lethal weapon
December 28, 2013, 1:15 am
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BOSTON -- In case you haven’t already heard, the Bruins power play is lethal rather than a laughingstock these days.

The B’s power play units continued a torrid month of December with another PP score in Boston’s 5-0 demolishing of an Ottawa Senators team that pretty much quit in the third period of the game on Friday night at TD Garden. The PP goal belonged to Jarome Iginla as the game’s only marker in the first two periods for either team, and left the Black and Gold special teams group scoring at a 34 percent clip (10-for-29) on the PP during the month of December.  

It’s got the Bruins ranked fifth in the NHL with a 22.6 percent success rate on the season, and sandwiched between the Maple Leafs and Blues in a show of special teams might that hasn’t been the norm under Claude Julien. In fact it really took Milan Lucic all the way back to his first couple of years in the NHL when a certain power play maestro used to wear a Bruins uniform.

“This is the best that it’s been in three years since [Marc Savard] has been gone. It’s nice to see. It’s nice to have as a weapon,” said Lucic. “We just need to make sure that we stay on top of that, and don’t let it slip. Iginla’s shot definitely adds a different element to our unit.

“Obviously Zee has done a really good job in front picking up loose pucks. He’s got six power play goals, and he’s getting rewarded being in front of the net. With Krug, Iggy and [Krejci] now it seems like that hesitation to shoot isn’t there, and that confidence in our puck movement and getting pucks through is there. It’s what has given us success. We can’t get comfortable with it. We just have to stay on top of it even though it’s at a high level.”

It doesn’t appear that there’s any danger of the power play slipping into its former incarnation as a 25-30th ranked PP unit in the NHL. It was the biggest Achilles heel on a hockey club built on work ethic and toughness that made it to the Cup Finals twice in three years, and won the Cup with arguably the worst PP unit in Stanley Cup playoff history.

Everybody remembers the bad old Tomas Kaberle power play days in Boston when an 0-fer on the PP was a foregone conclusion for a B’s team hell-bent on grinding it out.

That’s not the case anymore.

“It feels good. The first time when I came in the league we were top five the first couple of years with Savvy [Marc Savard],” said David Krejci. “The last couple of years it kind of went downhill. But we’ve got some new faces in our lineup, and it’s clicking. Hopefully we can keep it up.”

The Bruins have two legitimate power play units that are built differently, but have been scoring with the kind of stunning rapidity for the Black and Gold. Iginla now has power play goals in each of the last two games after being held without one for the first 36 games of the season. This time Iginla was just picking up on the rebound of a Torey Krug point shot in the middle of the ice, and utilizing his size, toughness and instincts around the net to create offense.

Combine that with Zdeno Chara camped out in front of the net and Torey Krug blasting away shots from the point position, and it’s a talented until rounded out by perennial top line players in David Krejci and Lucic. That’s a star-stuffed first PP unit that’s set the tone, and has Chara on a 20-goal pace given his scoring chances camped down low by the paint on the man advantage.

On it’s own that unit would give the B’s some decent power play production, but there’s also a second worthy PP unit. Carl Soderberg has connected with Reilly Smith for four backdoor plays on the man advantage this season, and their unit has gained a different level of proficiency with Ryan Spooner working off the half-wall. That leaves Patrice Bergeron working down low, and several defensemen filling in until Dougie Hamilton is ready to step in at his customary right point position on the PP.

That’s a ton of versatile offensive skill that’s produced regularly when given the chance on special teams.

“Well, [it’s] Iggy [Jarome Iginla] and I think there’s a lot of other people,” said Claude Julien, when asked what’s helping drive this team’s power play. “There’s a lot of people that are new on the power play this year from the [Carl] Söderbergs and [Reilly] Smith and so on and so forth and different positions.

“But [Iginla] has that element that he’s got a good one-timer if you give it to him. I thought he was getting chances earlier on, he was just a little snake-bit and now they’re going in for him just like we knew it would.”

The one final mission for the Bruins now that the power play has become a formidable strength rather than a pitiful team weakness: get more power play chances. Nobody is telling the B’s players to start embellishing penalties or take cues from Montreal when it comes to flopping like a dead fish for a call.

The Bruins are dead last in the NHL with 102 power plays in 38 games this season, and have been among the league’s worst at drawing penalty calls since Julien first took over the team seven years ago. It was never a big deal in the past when the B’s were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight on the PP, but now it’s a legitimate weapon they should be looking to haul out there whenever possible.

The Bruins now have a power play to be feared and respected around the NHL this season, and that couldn’t have been said even six months when they were battling for a Stanley Cup.