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Bruins' Special Teams Special Against Red Wings

Eriksson celebrates.jpg

The Bruins celebrate Loui Eriksson's power play goal in the first period. Photo by Joe Makarski, Bruins Daily.

The power play was once the biggest running joke in The Hub of Hockey. That joke turned into a more positive discussion point during the 2013-14 regular season when they finished third in the league with a 21.7 percent efficiency rate.

The penalty kill, however, has always been a strength during the seven years of the Claude Julien era. Even though they had some trouble adjusting after Dennis Seidenberg’s injury, the Bruins shorthanded unit regrouped and finished eighth in the NHL, killing 83.6 percent of their penalties.

With the penalty kill and power play in their arsenal, the Bruins were looking to use that to their advantage in their first round series with the Detroit Red Wings.

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The stats in the 4-1 series victory speak for themself: 6-for-16 on the man advantage and 18-for-20 while shorthanded. That’s a 37.5 percent and 90 percent conversion rate for the power play and penalty kill units, respectively.

“We know that special teams can be very big parts in games, and they were this series,” Bruins forward Jarome Iginla said after the Bruins’ 4-2 series clinching win over the Wings in Game 5 on Saturday. “I thought our power play, through the season, we’ve been working on it hard. It’s nice to have the different units and different looks. I think each unit brings it a little bit different, and we’ve been able to build confidence during the season, and each unit has been hot at different times and have been carrying the load.”

Both power play units each got a tally on Saturday. It began with Loui Eriksson getting his first postseason goal since May of 2008 on a beautiful feed from Dougie Hamilton at 3:27 of the opening stanza. It continued with Zdeno Chara firing his patented one-timer past Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson - on a 4-on-3 - with 3.8 seconds left in the second to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Moving the puck, getting good zone time and having quick feet are all part of a successful power play, and the Bruins have featured that on several occasions.

“I don’t know in the past what has changed for us, but this year I think we’re moving the puck well, and we’re making the plays when they’re there, and we’re not overdoing anything, but it’s huge,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 31 saves. “When your penalty kill is doing the job, you need the power play to come up guys to step up and win your games and that’s huge in the playoffs.”

And the penalty kill? Well, that was equally impressive in a game full of penalties. The B’s only allowed one power play goal in seven opportunities on Saturday against the highly skilled Red Wings.

“You got to give credit to our penalty killers, especially here today,” said Milan Lucic, who scored his third of the playoffs on a beautiful feed from Torey Krug at 4:27 of the third period. “We had a lot time here on the PK today and throughout the series. The special teams [in the series] ended up a lot bigger than most would’ve thought.”

With their second round series looming against the Montreal Canadiens, special teams will again look to make an impact. The last time these two met in the playoffs, the Habs scored six power play goals and a shorthanded tally in the seven-game series. The B's, meanwhile, became the first team in league history to win a round without scoring a goal on the man advantage.

That was three years ago, though. The Bruins and the habs have had some changes to their roster. And with the right personnel in place this time around, the Black and Gold will look to use their special teams arsenal again in the Atlantic Division Finals.

“Obviously the power play has helped us through this series, and it certainly makes it a lot easier,” Julien said. “We’ve certainly won before without having a successful power play, but when you have that in your arsenal, it certainly makes it a lot easier. Our penalty kill has been great since the beginning of the playoffs, and, you know, we need to continue to be strong in both of those areas moving forward.”

See what Julien, Lucic, Rask, Eriksson, Torey Krug, Patrice Bergeron, and Red Wings forward Johan Franzen had to say about the B's series clinching win on Saturday.


More from this blog on: Playoff Central