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Bruins Finding Right Mix on Power Play

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - Once the game plan of a power play is set, it's all about execution; no hesitation.

From there, it's up to the players to take over, using their talents to the best of their abilities. And when you find the seemingly right mix, as the Bruins have in 2013-14, it can pay dividends.

Albeit just two games into the season, the Bruins have scored two power play goals on only seven attempts, good for a 28.6-percent success rate and currently ranked eighth in the league. That follows a seven-game preseason, with nearly a third of their 24 goals coming on the power play.

The Bruins went 2-for-4 in their 4-1 win over Detroit on October 5, with a goal each from Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.

"I think the whole dynamic of our power play, even though maybe people see some of the same faces, is much different," said Head Coach Claude Julien.

"You've got Zdeno, he’s still on the power play, but he’s in a different position. [Jarome] Iginla can take a good one-timer which we thought we struggled with last year on that left elbow. And then, same thing, you add Krug to that and then you bring [Loui] Eriksson in and so now we feel that we have two power plays that can really do a good job."

"So, a few faces here and there can change your whole dynamic of your power play and give you not just one, but two good ones, and that’s what happened here with regards to that."

There's a reason penalty kill specialist Chris Kelly, smiled, and simply said, "I love watching the power play" following the win over Detroit, "especially when it's clicking."

It brings a player's strengths to the forefront, and when the movement's "clicking," it's even enjoyable to watch during practices.

Combining Mobility and Vision

There's no doubt Krug has helped in that regard. With he and David Krejci forming the points on the "first" unit, it's made for two able quarterbacks with exceptional vision.

"He’s got good mobility, he sees the ice well and he finds his players pretty good and he shoots the puck well too," Julien has said of Krug patrolling the blueline. "He’s certainly one of those guys that I think is going to improve our power play this year."

It's a role Krug doesn't take lightly.

"I take a lot of pride in it, especially with the group of guys that I’m on the ice with," he said. "Some Hall of Famers out there and guys with unbelievable minds and creativity and skill and a lot of hard work. It’s fun to go out there and play with those guys."

"You have Zee and Looch in the corner and now you have Iggy looking for one-timers and Krech always looking to make plays, so it’s fun to be out there."

And that's exactly what it looked like in the win over the Wings, with Krug lasering in a power-play snipe as Milan Lucic drew two bodies to him, and Chara owning his new areas at the top of the crease and below the circles with his crafty backhand deke: fun.

Zee's New Post

"He’s a big, big, big, big, big, body," Johnny Boychuk emphasized, smiling as his Captain walked past in the locker room. "And for a goalie to look around him, it’s probably pretty hard. I couldn’t imagine trying to box him out or trying to look around him to find that puck, so it’s a good thing that he’s on our side."

The kicker? He combines that 6-foot-9 frame with his nimble puck retrieval in front.

"He’s really good. I never really thought that," said Brad Marchand, part of the second unit, who enjoys watching Chara's group before he has to hop over the boards for his turn on the man-advantage.

Depending on formations, Big Zee's post isn't always directly in front, but his craftiness comes through.

"When I got here I realized how good Zee’s hands were. You saw his goal the other night, he’s very good at tipping pucks and he’s got some nice little moves in front so it’s fun to watch him down there."

Outbattling the Opponent

While clean entry into the zone is a clear and specific focus for any team's power play, once setting up, the main goal is fairly simple: outwork the penalty killers.

"That was probably the fault of our power play at the end of last season; the penalty kill outworked us," said Krug. "Even though we had one more guy than them on the ice, they seemed to get to pucks first and they were battling harder. So for us, it’s nice to have [Chara] down there. Looch and Iggy do a great job of that too – it’s not just him, it’s a collective effort."

"To go see them battle, you’re not getting the puck from them," agreed Marchand.

"And then you watch Krech and Krugs back in the point and how shifty they are and the plays they make, it’s fun to watch for sure and I think our power play is going to be a little better this year than it was the last few years."

"Dying for the One-Timer"

One area where Julien and his staff have tried to find the right fit, is with a right-hand shot that can fire off one-timers.

"We tried [Tyler] Seguin, it was [Rich] Peverley, using [Patrice] Bergeron, stuff like that. We’ve got a guy who can really shoot the puck kind of the way a guy like [Steven] Stamkos shoots it," said Julien."

"So I think that helped to have Iggy, who can take a really good one-timer; he’s got a great shot, so that’s another step in the right direction for our power play."

While Iginla hasn't scored a goal in the Black & Gold yet during the regular season, he's always "dying for the one-timer," as General Manager Peter Chiarelli has mentioned before.

"Yeah definitely, even when I scored that goal against Detroit, he was sitting there wide open," said Krug. "We’re always looking for him. Your instincts tell you to give it to him because he’s going to always put it on net, he’s got that one-timer that’s hard and it’s accurate. We look forward to using that and I know it’s going to be a big, big part of our power play this year."

And there's no selling Loui Eriksson short, either, with a lethal right-hand release of his own on the second unit, usually playing with linemates Marchand and Bergeron.

Improving on Years Past

Boston finished 2012-13 with their power play ranked 26th (14.8-percent). In the previous six seasons, the B's were in the top-15 twice, ranked at No. 15 to finish the 2011-12 season and fourth at the end 2008-09.

Power play success doesn't always translate to overall success, like in 2011, when the B's won the Cup with a man-advantage that finished 14th in the postseason, converting on 11.4 of its chances.

But, what it can do is be a momentum creator, and for an already deep team that has found recent success, it can be a game-changer.

Boychuk, B's Utilizing Strengths

Another byproduct? Confidence, especially when players who haven't seen as much power-play time, get the opportunity to use their skills.

Like Johnny Boychuk, who sets up on the point alongside Dougie Hamilton or Dennis Seidenberg on the second unit (Matt Bartkowski's offensive edge also allows him to be on the power play when in the lineup), with the usual forward mix of Eriksson, Bergeron, Marchand or Gregory Campbell.

"I think the way we’ve got it set up right now is possibly using his shot. At the end of last year he started shooting a little bit better and more and scored some goals for us," Julien said of Boychuk, whose six postseason goals in 2013 are more than he's ever even scored during a regular season.

"He has a good shot but he also has his head up when he shoots. Not too often you’ll see his shot blocked so he’s pretty good at either finding the net or at least finding the lane."

It's an area that No. 55 has worked on, settling down his "Johnny Rocket" slap shot and opting instead for the more accurate wrist shot ("Yeah I’ve been working on the wrister," he smirks, on adding it to his repertoire. "Two different weapons.")

"You try to make the most of it. It’s always a pleasure to be on the power play and you want to stick on it so you try to do the best that you can when you get the opportunity."

Rewarding the Coaches

For a player, it's an honor and complement to be given a spot, even if it might seem like a no-brainer to an onlooker.

"You have to take pride just to be part of it. That feels pretty good; the confidence from coaches," said Krejci, the decision-maker behind the first unit.

"So you have to pay them back and do the job they’re asking you to do and hopefully put some pucks in the net."

With the coaches putting the prep in for the game plan, the Bruins are enjoying paying them back with the execution. At least for now.

"Our power play is looking pretty good this season but it’s only been two games," cautioned Krejci. "So there’s always room for improvement, we’re working on it every practice and hopefully we’re going to be even better next game."

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