Bruins need to build power-play momentum before Stanley Cup Playoffs

Bruins need to build power-play momentum before Stanley Cup Playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — An elite power play is not required to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs or win a championship, but it sure does help, and right now the Boston Bruins are having plenty of trouble scoring with the man-advantage.

The Bruins entered Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden with the No. 10 ranked power play in the NHL at 22.6 percent. Recent results, however, have been mostly lackluster.

The B’s have scored only two power-play goals in their last 24 opportunities over the last eight games, including Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win. Boston’s 8.3 percent success rate on the power play during that span ranks 30th out of 32 teams.

The power play wasn’t able to generate much against the Panthers and their No. 7 ranked penalty kill. The Bruins had three power plays in the first period and tallied just four shots on net in those six minutes. They also failed to tally a single high-danger scoring chance in front of the net on those power plays, as you can see in the chart below, via Natural Stat Trick.

The Bruins’ fourth power play of the game came late in the second period when Matthew Tkachuk drilled Parker Wotherspoon from behind and was given a two-minute penalty for interference.

Boston finally made Florida pay when Brad Marchand fed a nice pass to the slot and Charlie Coyle re-directed the puck past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Boston’s fifth power play came with 9:37 remaining in the third period. It was a great chance for the B’s to take the lead. But the power play tallied only one shot and couldn’t get much going at all. Another wasted opportunity.

The Bruins finished 1-for-5 on the power play Saturday — not a horrible showing, but there were plenty of missed opportunities. And in a close game, the power play has the ability to be a huge difference-maker, especially in the postseason.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said before Saturday’s game that he wasn’t worried about the power-play’s slump as the playoffs near.

“I’m not concerned about our power play,” Montgomery explained. “We’ve got David Pastrnak. We have Charlie McAvoy. We have a guy (Brad Marchand) who has 400 goals as a Bruin. I’m not too concerned. I know that hasn’t looked great lately, but we’re working on things, and when you work on things, sometimes it’s not natural. But we think because we’re working on it now, it’ll be natural come playoff time.”

We saw a somewhat similar scenario last season when the Bruins ended the regular season with a 19.1 power-play percentage over their last 20 games, which ranked 21st out of 32 teams. The B’s power play found its groove in the playoffs with a 40.7 percent success rate (11 goals on 27 opportunities) during the team’s seven-game first-round series loss to the Panthers. Only the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers had a better power-play percentage in the 2023 playoffs.

The Bruins will likely need an effective power play in the 2024 playoffs because they aren’t as productive at 5-on-5 scoring or as deep lineup-wise as last year’s record-breaking team. Boston’s most likely first-round opponent is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who rank No. 5 in killing penalties and have a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner starting between the pipes in veteran goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Bruins won a Stanley Cup title in 2011 with a dreadful power play, so it’s possible to win multiple rounds without scoring at a high rate with the man advantage. But a struggling power play makes the job a lot tougher, and the B’s already face a brutal path to the Stanley Cup Final in the Eastern Conference.

There’s enough talent on the Bruins power play, especially the first unit, to be a potent group. But this team is quickly running out of time to figure it out before the playoffs commence.

“You want your special teams to be an advantage for you,” Coyle said postgame. “You want your penalty kill to be good and dampen their momentum, and you want the power play to do the same thing. Getting a big goal on the power play can be huge, especially come playoff time. It’s a work in progress. There are things we can do better.”