Entering the playoffs, the Bruins’ penalty killing shouldn’t have been a concern. They finished eighth in the league on the kill (83.6 percent) and were going up against the 18th-ranked power play in Detroit (17.7 percent).
Except there were two issues with that: Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly.
The Bruins played their first two games of their first-round series against the Red Wings without two of their penalty killing forwards, pushing the untested Justin Florek and David Krejci into shorthanded duty.
So far, it’s worked.
“Our guys just did a great job,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think they have good positions. We worked hard to get our penalty kill back to the level that we needed for the playoffs by really looking at their power play closely and seeing the tendencies.
“But David Krejci hasn’t killed much this year. He’s killed in the past and he’s been a good penalty killer. We’re blessed with a lot of them this year where we’re able to save David for the line following a penalty kill. But we need him now. He stepped up. Florek’s another guy that’s killed penalties in Providence and is pretty good at it as well.
“So guys have done a good job. Our regular guys continue to do a good job on it, but then new guys have come in and really stepped up and replaced those missing guys in a good way.”
They have made adjustments, as instituted by assistant coach Doug Houda. As Patrice Bergeron said, “Now it’s about getting used to the new guys that are killing. But it’s been going well.”
Through the first two games of the series, Detroit is 0 for 6 on the power play.
“We have good sticks, we’re taking care of the middle and trying not to give them those seam passes, and then if they get shots we’re trying to pounce on the loose pucks and win puck battles,” goalie Tuukka Rask said. “I think everything has been pretty strong — the forecheck and stuff like that.
“We take a lot of pride in our penalty kill and so far it’s been working. It’s a huge thing throughout the season and especially in the playoffs, you need to have good special teams in order to move forward.”
Although the Bruins have been pleased with their penalty kill, they’re not as pleased with the amount of time they’ve spent on it.
All those penalties yielded too many minutes played overall by a couple of their penalty killers in Game 2, Zdeno Chara (26:04) and Johnny Boychuk (22:57) in particular. Krejci also played more than 20 minutes (20:33) in Game 2. As Julien said, “We’ve got to be careful. We’ve got to still stay out of the box because at one point, you overutilize certain players and when it gets to be a long series, you need those guys to be as fresh as possible.”
For the Bruins, though, it wasn’t only about the penalty kill. They scored twice on the power play Sunday, getting goals from Reilly Smith and Chara. The power play finished the regular season third in the NHL (21.7 percent), a change after years of lackluster power plays.
Part of that was putting Chara in front of the net. Part of that, too, was the addition of Torey Krug as a quarterback. Both have helped the Bruins turn it around on the man advantage, which was crucial Sunday as they got a goal from each power-play unit.
“I think our power play has been good — as you know, a lot better this year,” Julien said. “And the big thing was, can they continue to produce for us in the playoffs? That’s an important part of the game, and I know we won in the past without having a power play — LA did the same thing.
“Penalty kill to me is extremely important. Our penalty kill right now is doing a pretty good job, but when you have both units being able to do the job right, it helps a lot, and obviously it was a big difference in [Sunday’s] game, the penalty kill being so good and getting those power play goals.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.