It is hard to take issue with how the Boston Bruins have played to this point in the season. It is early yet, as the team has played all of five games, but they have earned a point in each of those games, which include third period rallies for victories in their past two contests. At 4-0-1, Boston leads the Eastern Conference heading into tonight’s game with the conference’s only other team without a regulation loss, the New Jersey Devils.
Both did score in last night’s 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes to take some of the pressure off, but if the Black-and-Gold faithful want to get overdramatic about anything, the early season struggles of both Tyler Seguin and the Bruins’ power play are the biggest talking points so far for the team.
While the empty net goal Seguin scored last night for his first tally of the season is probably not enough to get the young forward completely out of his slump, Seguin’s touch should eventually come around and that could have been said even before last night. With his play in Switzerland during the lockout, the expectations were probably set a little too high for Seguin coming into the season. With the smaller ice in the NHL and the defensive style of the Bruins, it should not have been assumed Seguin would continued his flurried pace as many thought when he jumped back into the NHL.
Seguin will need time to readjust and the line of Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is playing well as a unit regardless of the winger’s struggles. The power play, however, is the greater concern.
Head coach Claude Julien asked pundits to relax when it comes to critiquing the power play prior to the game against the Hurricanes and the Bruins did play better with the man advantage in Carolina. Maybe Claude is right. Unfortunately, a stymied power play is not a problem from the five games this season. It is a 3+ season problem dating back to when Marc Savard’s career began to be derailed by injury.
The power play has gotten incrementally better in those three seasons. Coming into the year, Boston also changed its power play strategy from what was more of an umbrella formation to something of the more commonplace 1-3-1, so maybe it is a matter of time before the power play takes off. Based on the skill sets of the players on the Bruins first unit running the 1-3-1, it is hard to believe it is as terrible as it has been. With the NHL’s hardest shot in Zdeno Chara on the point, tough man Milan Lucic posted up in front, sniper Nathan Horton in the slot and playmakers Seguin and David Krejci running the half boards, the Bruins power play’s efficiency should creep past its current 14.3% and get itself into well within the top half of the league, where it has not been since it finished fourth in 2008-2009, Savard’s last full season in the NHL.
The Bruins showed last night, they have the talent to be effective on the power play. The concern, however, is the lack of consistency Boston often shows from game-to-game with the man advantage. As much a good power play can help in turning the tied of the game, a bad power play can kill the momentum of a team, regardless of whether or not they are ahead or trying to rally. Even without their goals on Monday night, the Bruins were able to control play when they were a man up, which is something they had not really accomplished in the first four games of the season. They have not yet given up a shorthanded goal, but it often did not look like they had a manpower advantage when on the power play prior to last night.
If playing the backend of their first back-to-back games of the young season against a rested team that has earned points in every game it has played was not enough of a challenge for the Bruins heading into tonight’s contest with the Devils, the power play will have a tough task proving their 2-for-4 performance against the Hurricanes was more the norm than the aberration. New Jersey arrives in Boston bolstering the league’s second best defense, giving up just seven goals this season (1.75 per game), and fourth best penalty kill, operating at 87%. One good game is not enough to quell the negative talk, but another good showing against an opponent playing as well as the Devils will go a long way.
A consistency in controlling the play is really what Julien and his staff should focus on when gauging their power play, more so than increasing their overall percentage, particularly with their second unit that has featured a carousel of players in 2013. Even with Julien’s assurances all will be right with the power play, until a consistency and stability is established, the power play will continually be a focus for those judging the Bruins this season.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.