BOSTON (CBS) – Several years of watching the Bruins’ power play flounder and finish in the bottom half of the NHL during the regular season took their toll.
Although the Bruins were third in the League in 2013-14 and went 6-for-16 against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you didn’t have to be a strict cynic to look at the Bruins’ 0-for-8 through four games against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference second-round series and start to think, “same old Bruins.”
But during the Bruins’ 4-2 win at TD Garden in Game 5, the Bruins proved that there’s nothing the same about their power play compared to past years. And the only thing old about it is Jarome Iginla. But the star right winger and his one-timer are both old and reliable on the man-advantage.
The Bruins went 2-for-4 in the win that earned them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Monday night at Bell Centre. They are now 2-for-12 in the series.
“I don’t think we really felt like we were struggling too much,” defenseman Dougie Hamilton said on the Bruins’ travel day Sunday. “I think it’s tougher in games when you’re getting them in the second period and one or two a game, so you really don’t get a rhythm. But they came hard at us [Saturday]. And the first one, I guess, was a little bit of a struggle and we were lucky enough to set up on the second one and get a goal [on the third one] and then right off the faceoff to get another one. So it was just a real momentum swing.”
The goose egg on the power play’s ledger through four games might’ve looked ominous to outsiders. But this new-and-improved Boston man advantage didn’t get discouraged, even after going 0-for-2 in the first period Saturday. Two goals in 32 seconds early in the second period hammered home the message that the Bruins’ power play can no longer be held down for weeks at a time. And the improvement and consistency of the power play is all about the character and skill of the new cast of characters.
Hamilton and Torey Krug, defensemen who could be manning the point on the power play for the next decade in Boston, continued their game of “can you top this” with assists on the two power play goals. First Hamilton fired a slapper from the blue line that deflected off Reilly Smith’s skate for a goal. Then Krug made a magical backhand pass out of the corner to set up a goal by Iginla.
The 20-year-old Hamilton and 23-year-old Krug are so mature beyond their years both in their talents and their confidence. They don’t let the struggles of the power play group get them down any more than they let their rare individual mistakes hinder their aggressiveness.
But there’s even more to this new-look steady power play than Krug and Hamilton. Forwards Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg have been able to carry over their hot hands from even strength to the power play, unlike some of Boston’s best scorers of the past couple years. Iginla and his knack for scoring around the net doesn’t change depending on the man-power situation and he’s as steady as an ocean stream.
The newcomers have obviously juiced up the returnees, who maybe were starting to think that an 0-for-10 heading into the second period of Game 5 might turn out to be something as ugly as the 0-for-21 best endured against Montreal back in 2011 in the first round. Instead, the Bruins kept faith in their plays and their movement and cashed in.
As long as the Bruins have steady young quarterbacks Krug and Hamilton leading the charge on their two units, and Boston fills in the frontline with the type of players they have now for the next decade or so, slumps might come and go in the blink of an eye.
In the here and now, the Bruins will settle for the power play pushing them past the Canadiens, preferably in six games rather than seven.
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