Somehow the Bruins made it through three rounds of playoffs with a power play that converted on just 5.4 percent of its chances.
When it came time to win the Stanley Cup, however, the Bruins were able to come through on their man-advantage.
No one was prouder of the Bruins’ 5-for-27 against Vancouver than assistant coach Geoff Ward, who has been Boston’s “power-play coordinator” since he was hired along with head coach Claude Julien in 2007. Ward, a mostly anonymous individual, suddenly found even casual fans talking about him as the power play struggled in the regular season and went just 3-for-56 in the first three rounds of playoffs.
“The power play goes in fits and starts. We had our struggles, but the guys were excellent in this series when we needed to have them excellent,” said Ward. “Our penalty killing got us through the rest of the rounds, but the guys just kept at it. And I give them a lot of credit. They worked through the things we were asking them to do and never got discouraged with it. As a result we got some timely goals at the right times.”
That the Bruins were able to thrive 5-on-5 distracted some of the attention away from the power play. Well, that and that the Bruins were able to win the 12 games they needed to reach the Final.
“Everybody talks about the power play, but when you take look at everything else that goes around our game. I think the power play with this team was more something that enhanced, or had the potential to enhance, what we did 5-on-5,” said Ward. “Whereas if you look at Vancouver, they lived an awful lot on their power play. So as much as you would’ve liked it to be better, and as much heat as it took, there were times when it was really good for us. And the credit’s to the guys.”
If you think Julien sticks with his players through thick and thin, you should know that he does the same for his assistants. Ward says that Julien never placed the blame at his aides’ feet and instead continued to collaborate with Ward and the other coaches to try to come up with solutions.
And things finally clicked a bit against the Canucks, as Boston scored five times and also put a lot of pressure on the Vancouver penalty kill.
“The power play was getting heat. He never pointed fingers,” said Ward of Julien, who previously coached with Ward with Hamilton of the American Hockey League earlier this century. “He just kept supporting us, working with us. He’s got to have full credit for sticking by his guns and what he believes in and believing in his people. When you come as a coach to work, and as a player, every day, and just worry about what you’ve got to do without the outside pressure on a daily basis, it’s huge.”