BOSTON, MA – Since Claude Julien took over as head coach of the Bruins prior to the 2007-08 season, the Black & Gold has prided itself on playing well defensively and having a strong penalty kill. They peaked during the 2009-10 season, when they ranked third in the league in penalty kill percentage (86.4).
Over the past two seasons, while the B’s have still been a solid penalty killing team, they have dipped to 15th (82.6% in 2010-11) and 11th (83.5% in 2011-12). Two games into the shortened 2012-13 campaign, the Bruins have killed off all nine penalties called against them, putting them atop the league in that category.
In the season opener against the Rangers, Boston was a perfect five for five, including killing off two five-on-threes. Their shorthanded strength was on display again today during the B’s 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets, in front of 17,565 at TD Garden.
Boston was four of four on the PK, the last two kills coming at the most critical part of the game - overtime.
“That’s what made the difference today,” said head coach Claude Julien, of the two overtime kills. “I thought our penalty kill has been good the first two games, five-on-three the last game against the Rangers, and then two four-on-threes today.
“Especially in overtime, to have to kill that to finish the game, our guys did a great job. The two D’s that were out there, but also [Patrice Bergeron] and [Chris Kelly] switching out front. They were breaking up a bunch of plays once they got over the blue line.
“Again, probably a good reason why we’re sitting here today with a win.”
Johnny Boychuk was called for a high stick with just 1:11 remaining in regulation, leaving a combination of Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Brad Marchand, and Bergeron to get the game to OT.
And that’s what they did. Forty-nine seconds remained on the Boychuk penalty heading into the extra session.
In overtime, Bergeron was able to generate a shorthanded break but was denied by Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. The rush took a huge chunk of time off the penalty, though, essentially killing it all together.
The B’s found themselves back on the PK with 1:28 to go in overtime. This time, a questionable holding penalty on Chara left the Black & Gold without their best penalty killer.
No worries. Bergeron and Kelly each came up with huge clears to cap off another perfect night of shorthanded work.
The most amazing part of their penalty killing prowess? The B’s did not allow a shot in the overtime, despite being shorthanded for nearly half of the extra session.
“It’s important that we do a good job on the PK, especially in overtime like that,” said Bergeron, who scored in the shootout. “You know, it happened twice and we found a way. So let’s give credit to everyone that was on the ice, but also [Tuukka Rask] he made some great saves for us. You need to make sure you bear down and I think everybody on the ice did that.”
Rask, who was tested on the PK once late in regulation but otherwise had a front row seat for the penalty killing show, was impressed.
“It’s really the situation you want out there,” he said, of being able to rely on the penalty kill. “Our PK has been tremendous throughout the years I’ve been in the organization.”
No. 37 credited Julien for coming up with the right schemes to have a successful penalty kill and also pointed to communication as being a key to success.
“I think we all know where to be, we communicated out on the ice,” said Bergeron. “I think coach also does a great job to make it more black and white. It’s about instincts and just making sure you do the right plays.”