BOSTON — It’s remarkable that in five playoff games against two speedy teams — the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes — the Boston Bruins have only been shorthanded nine times.
But it’s even more astonishing that only once, when Zdeno Chara was caught for hooking late in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with Carolina Friday, has a Bruins defenseman committed an infraction that’s put the club on the penalty kill. The Bruins will try to keep their disciplined ways going against the Hurricanes in tonight’s Game 2 at TD Banknorth Garden.
“Well, I mean, I think that obviously penalties happen. But if you keep your stick on the ice, you’re obviously going to take a lot less,” defenseman Andrew Ference said after his team’s optional morning skate. “I mean, the majority of the calls are when you get your stick on the guys hands or little hooks here and there. I think you can argue the point that it’s somewhat of a response, when you get beat or something like that. But at the end of the day, if you’re responsible and keep your stick on the ice and play by the rules, you’re not going to be in the box as much.”
Of the nine penalties that have put the Bruins at a disadvantage, only six have been stick infractions. And five have been committed by forwards. But don’t get down on the forwards, because they’re doing their part to make sure the blueliners can stay within the rules.
“A lot of that has to with — at least from a defenseman’s point of view — is having some forwards back helping us, not having too many breakdowns where we’re forced to be out of position and have to use our sticks,” said defenseman Steve Montador. “So I think because we’re in better position, because our forwards are helping out, credit to them because it’s making our job that much easier.”
The Bruins have outscored their opponents, 21-7, in the postseason. That’s obviously been helped by keeping the other teams’ power plays off the ice. Boston’s also been aided by a perfect 9-for-9 performance from its penalty kill.
It would aid Carolina’s cause if the Hurricanes could generate more of a penalty-causing attack. Although the Hurricanes’ power play struggled against New Jersey, it clicked at a 21.3-percent rate of success over the second two thirds of the regular season under head coach Paul Maurice. Drawing penalties is one area they’re going to focus on for the second game of this series.
“You rarely take a penalty when you have the puck so you need to control the puck better and put them in positions where they get in behind and start having to reach in to stop you,” said Maurice yesterday. “But they’re very well coached and very disciplined in that approach so that it doesn’t happen very often. Neither was (New Jersey in the first round). Our first power play in that series came at the start of the third period in Game 1 as well — we didn’t get one through the first two periods. We are going to have to, again, control the puck enough to get them into positions where they have to reach in and do things that they don’t want to do.”
With less ice time devoted to killing penalties, the Bruins have been able to stay fresher and go on the attack more as well.
“It certainly keeps the flow. It keeps the whole bench into it, forwards and defense. So that’s always better. You’re not taxing too many players,” Montador said. “We’ve only played five games, but certain players aren’t going out there every other shift consistently for these specific situations. That’s important. Not that we don’t have the players that can do a number of roles. But at the same time, just playing on your line and playing 5-on-5 and getting that momentum is important. And I think all of that ties in together.”