The Bruins’ power play is obviously never going to provide the team with any production, so it’s up to the penalty kill to make sure special teams aren’t a total loss in the Eastern Conference Final series with Tampa Bay.
So far Boston’s penalty-killers have held up their side of the bargain.
The Bruins kept the Lightning off the board on four power-play opportunities and limited them to just four man-advantage shots in last night’s Game 5 win to run their penalty-kill success rate to 16-for-17 in the series Boston now leads three games to two.
“I think it kind of actually did the same thing in our favor that it did in their favor last game. We had those two early power plays in the second period [in Game 4] and we didn’t do much. They built momentum off that,” head coach Claude Julien said after the game. “And I know when [Nathan Horton] came out after that second one there [in the second period], he scored a big goal and got us back in the game. So it did build momentum. I think our penalty kill did a great job tonight for us.”
The Bruins killed three straight Tampa Bay power plays from the first period through early in the second period. One of those penalty kills featured four players — Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly — staying on the ice in the Bruins’ zone for 1:50 until they finally cleared the puck. You can argue how effective that kill really was, but know that the Lightning managed just one shot on goal in that entire span of the game.
“Yeah it was huge. Our penalty kill has been great especially this game,” said center Patrice Bergeron, another key shorthanded performer. “It’s been one reason why we won tonight, the way that we competed and the way that we played out there even though there’s one penalty kill where Kelly and [Peverley] who stayed on the ice for almost two minutes but still, they didn’t give out much and they found a way to get the puck out.”
Tampa Bay’s power play entered the conference final with the best success rate among teams in the NHL final four.
The best news for the Bruins is that while Tim Thomas definitely has the Lightning shaking their collective head, the penalty kill also has Tampa Bay grasping for answers. Lightning star sniper Steven Stamkos sounded confused after the Bruins’ win.
“Our power play is struggling right now,” said Stamkos. “We had a few chances in the second [period] to kind of get another one and get some breathing room. But, it seemed like they got some momentum off the penalty kill. We started to get away from our game.
“We had probably a four- or five-minute span where it was odd man chances both ways. Kind of a run and gun style and that is not our team. We got away from what worked. In the end, yeah we got a lot of shots on net. We had some chances. But, our power play has to be a lot better, and then we have to stick to our plan for the whole 60 minutes if we want to win.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher lamented his team’s recent tendency to be too cute with the puck on the power play. That’s usually a sign that team’s a bit psyched out.
While the Bruins still want to stay out of the box, their penalty killers might actually be providing them a boost — especially when they get off to a slow start like they did in the first period of Game 5.
“Yeah I think so. For sure, when you’re killing, you definitely have to move your feet. You can’t be caught standing still,” Kelly said.