WILMINGTON - The Bruins have gone on the power play only 109 times, second fewest in the NHL behind New Jersey (94). The Bruins, however, have made the most of their opportunities.
The Bruins have scored 27 power-play goals, good for a 24.8 percent efficiency rate, third highest after Detroit (28 percent) and Philadelphia (26.4 percent).
And everyone wants a piece of that action.
"We've got a lot of guys right now that aren't playing on the power play that could easily be on the power play," said coach Claude Julien, whose breadth and depth on offense (3.47 goals per game, the best mark in the Eastern Conference) has left some hot sticks on the bench during man-advantage situations. "I think with the skill level we feel we have on our hockey club, we could almost go with three units."
When Marco Sturm was knocked out of the lineup Nov. 19 because of a neck injury, the Bruins lost one of the key cogs of their No. 1 power-play unit: the lefthanded goal-line and net-front attacker, a position that requires versatility, vision, hands, and toughness. During Sturm's 12-game absence, Julien tabbed P.J. Axelsson for the first unit.
More recently, in power-play situations when Axelsson had been deployed on previous penalty kills, Julien has used Milan Lucic down low. Lucic mostly had been used as a screen on the second unit, asked to make space in the slot, cut down netminders' sightlines, and be in position for tips and rebounds.
"You just have to read off [Marc Savard] most," Lucic said. "If he's got the puck, I move out to the goal line and give him a down-low out. When you're playing as the down-low guy, you've got to make more plays when you get the puck. It's easier and harder, in another standpoint, to stand in front of the net. You're getting shots taken at you all the time. But down there [on the goal line], you're moving in and out, in and out, in and out, and being with the puck more on the power play."
Players seeking increases in power-play time include Chuck Kobasew (only 55 seconds of power-play ice time per outing despite averaging 0.78 points per game, fourth highest on the team) and Blake Wheeler (a mere 22 seconds of PP time per match despite recording nine goals, third highest on the club). An embarrassment of riches, indeed.