SUNRISE, FL (CBS) – The joke among us critics when it comes to the Bruins’ usually sleepy power play is that Boston should decline penalties in order to avoid wasting two minutes that could be better put to use by the club’s potent brand of 5-on-5 hockey.
Well, 15 games into the shortened 2013 season, it might be time for opponents to consider that declined-penalty strategy. After all, attempting to score against the Bruins’ penalty kill has become a task as tall as getting Dougie Hamilton to grow facial hair.
The Bruins’ power play actually cashed in (albeit off the stick of third-line grinder Chris Kelly) during their 4-1 win in Florida Sunday.
But the penalty kill once again saved the day, as it has for much of the season, with a perfect 4-for-4 performance.
Boston entered the game with the best penalty kill in the NHL by a long shot. With three power-play goals against on the season, the Bruins were four goals better than the next closest team (Chicago, with seven power-play goals against). The Bruins have now gone six games without surrendering a goal while a man down, going 19-for-19 in that stretch.
After what a could have been a game-changing sequence Sunday, the Bruins’ penalty killers did what they do best late in the second period and early in the third – they calmed things down and prevented the Panthers from even thinking about momentum, let alone gaining any of it.
Milan Lucic had just been checked from behind by Mike Weaver when Boston was dropped into a hole. The referee completely missed the call and Lucic decided to exact his own form of justice. The result was a double-minor for cross checking and boarding on Lucic, who also picked up a 10-minute misconduct for berating the officials from the penalty box.
While it’s not suggested that every Bruins player who’s wronged by a missed call duplicate Lucic’s reaction, the Bruins had nothing to worry about with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Rich Peverley and Kelly, along with the solid cast of defensemen, stifling Florida’s 16th-ranked power play.
Even with their most important defenseman in the box late in the third period (Zdeno Chara went off for interference), the Bruins never panicked or let the Panthers gain any confidence toward cutting into Boston’s lead. In fact, Paille blocked a shot, won a race and then buried an empty-net goal for the Bruins’ second “shorty” of the season.
The Bruins’ offense is still trying to find its way and the power play has become nearly a permanent blemish on what general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien have built here the last several seasons.
Nonetheless, the penalty kill has become the great equalizer that every team needs to bail it out once in a while. Watch out if the Bruins can start clicking in other areas while maintaining such an efficient penalty kill.