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Bruins Focus on Shutting Down Subban, Habs' Power Play

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com - It's the playoffs, and players throw their weight around. They crash and bang, and battle for every inch. They get emotional, and fired up.

We don't see as many fights as we do during the regular season, but we still see a physical Bruins squad.

"It’s been good for us to be able to keep playing physical," said Dougie Hamilton.

"Just as long as we keeping playing physical and keep hitting, I think it’s still the same Bruin way."

Naturally, that will sometimes gets the best of them.

The Bruins have taken 13 penalties through the first two games of their second round series against Montreal. Four of them have been matching minors, and the Canadiens have taken advantage of their nine power plays, scoring four times.

P.K. Subban has factored into all four goals. His lethal point shot led to both the first goal of Game 1 and the double-overtime winner.

What can the Bruins do to slow down Subban and the Habs' power play?

"Well, it’s simple - not get in the penalty box," said Bruins' blueliner Andrej Meszaros. "So he doesn’t have a chance, the whole team doesn’t have a chance, to score."

"They’ve scored a power-play goal every game so far, so we need to make sure we do a better job not retaliating or not take stupid penalties. Five-on-five, we play pretty good and get lots of chances, but once you go in the penalty box, they get the momentum and obviously they can hurt you on the power play."

So, step one: stay out of the box.

The Bruins were able to storm back in Game 2 for four straight even-strength goals in the third period to take the 5-3 win and even the series at one game apiece. But it was two power-play goals from Montreal that put the Bruins in their 3-1 hole to begin with.

Meszaros found himself in the box for the first one, off a roughing penalty after tangling with Tomas Plekanec along the boards.

"We were battling there, he pushes off my helmet, and he called me, so you know, I wish I could take it back, obviously - they scored on it - but it’s the referee’s call…next game, just have to take a punch or whatever and walk away," said Meszaros.

Montreal took a 2-1 lead to the third period, but made that 3-1 at 6:30 into the final frame. Dougie Hamilton was in the box for interference, after battling with Brendan Gallagher in the corner.

"We’ve got to stay out of the box, I think me especially right now," said Hamilton. "We know their power play’s good and I think we think we’re better five-on-five with them. So, definitely have to stay out of the box, especially going to their rink too. It will be tougher for us to stay out of the box and tougher PK there."

Less than five minutes later, Hamilton helped start the Bruins' comeback, but he knows that they can't keep beating themselves with penalties as they move on in the series.

"In terms of [Saturday], I have to make sure the guy has the puck when I hit him," said Hamilton, who has noticeably ramped up his physicality in the postseason. "But I think it’s just plays where hopefully in the playoffs, they let that kind of stuff kind of go, corners and the front of the net for me."

"But I think it kind of comes with the being more comfortable part, and for me, I want to keep trying to be physical and keep hitting them."

The actuality of no penalties being called, though, even if the Bruins are conscious of staying out the box, is not likely to happen.

"It’s going to happen, nothing you can do about it sometimes," said Meszaros. "But we have to watch video and talk with coaches, and obviously do a better job blocking shots I think from the point, because they have their guys who can take the shot, and box out guys in front of the net."

So, steps two and three: block shots from the point, and box out in front.

The Bruins did a better job of that in Game 2 than in Game 1. They didn't allow Subban's lethal one-timer into the back of the net. But, they did allow Thomas Vanek to get positioning in front for two tips off of Subban's shot.

At times, it looks like the Canadiens' defenseman has too much time and space up top.

"I think we're respecting his shot and his passing ability," said penalty killer David Krejci. "For the most part, we did a good job eliminating his shot but now we need to take away Vanek from the net and just do the job."

"[Subban's] quick and you don't want to give him the shot, so if you're too close to him he makes a quick move so you have to keep your distance but also be aware of the guys around him."

"I think it’s not too much room. I think it’s his shot is allowed to get through," said Julien. "That’s where we've got to get better. We've just got to take away that shooting lane."

"You've got to give him credit, too, there’s the one shot I talked about, went by three of our players, and that’s a guy who’s putting pucks in the right place."

Johnny Boychuk knows a thing or two about shot blocking.

"You want to block the shot if it's a wrist shot or if it's a slap shot, then you have to box out [for tips]," said the defenseman.

"If it's going to be a wrist shot, I'm going to try and block it. There's no sense trying to push a guy out and not worry about the puck when it's a wrist shot; you can just block it. It usually goes straight to your forwards and then gets down anyways."

The key to taking away Subban's impact is quickly taking all of the variables into account, and instinctively making the right choice. That's not easy.

He can pull out the one-timer, take his time with the wrister, or - just when you think he's going to shoot and you commit to that - he'll find the open man.

"Sometimes it's a guess and hopefully, you guess right," said Paille.

"It all depends on where the forwards are too - there's so many things in the equation that you'd have to look at," said Boychuk, conversationally trying to go through the Xs and Os but realizing that there really wasn't one answer he could give. There were too many different scenarios that could come up during the course of a penalty kill. "I can't tell ya [exactly] - I'd have to look at it," he said.

When Subban opts for the shot and it does get through, the last line of defense - Tuukka Rask - sometimes doesn't have a chance, with bodies clouding the front of the net.

"Some Ds are so good that they get them through, through you or by you. My job is to see the puck. Sometimes it's easier, sometimes it's really tough," said Rask. "And he's one of those guys. When he gets the puck on his stick, it's a challenge for our guys to block it and a challenge for me to see it."

"I think he’s doing a pretty good job of moving around and keeping guys on their heels a little bit," said Julien. "But we have to make a better adjustment there. We know that."

The Bruins had a strong penalty kill all regular season, and were ranked second after the first round. They'll make the adjustments as they head into Game 3 at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night, and hopefully, that pays off.

'Is nine times shorthanded good enough? If you do that moving forward, will you be alright?' a reporter asked Krug on Sunday.

"Uh, no," he responded, with a slight smile.

"Obviously, Subban’s shown what he can do up top there, and their net-front presence with Vanek, you know they’re a tough power play to stop and they’ve had success for different reasons, so it’s not good enough."

"We need to make sure we control our emotions and stay disciplined and moving forward, it’s something we’re going to keep an eye on."

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