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Subban providing big problems for Bruins' penalty kill

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- Watching the Montreal Canadiens' nine power plays through the first two games of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins, one starts to wonder if the video is more appropriate for TV Land than NHL Network.

Each power play, of which four have turned into goals for the Canadiens, is a rerun of the previous one. The Canadiens' strategy is as predictable as those old sitcoms.

Once they follow their trusted formula for getting the puck to defenseman P.K. Subban, however, the predictability ends. With his slap shot, wrist shot and ice vision, Subban is a potpourri of possibilities for puck movement as he walks the blue line.

Heading into Game 3 Tuesday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) with the best-of-7 series tied 1-1, Subban has already scored two of Montreal's power-play goals. And he's had the primary assist on each of forward Thomas Vanek's goals, which were scored on tip-ins.

With the exception of the power play Subban missed while having a cut wrist checked out early in Game 2, the Montreal man advantage has been a momentum changer in its favor whether it has scored or not.

There's nothing more important for the Bruins' PK to focus on now than P.K.

"He's a good player and he gets the shots through on the net," Bruins center and penalty killer David Krejci said. "He scored two goals in the first game. So you have to be aware. You've got to take his shot away. Obviously we work on it. But also, you have to be aware of the other guys. Vanek, he's good in front of the net. So just kind of do our homework the right away and go out there and stick with the game plan and see what happens."

Sometimes when Subban gets the puck at the blue line, it looks like he could skate all the way from Boston to Montreal unscathed. The Bruins have committed to a philosophy to give him space to puck handle but not to let his shot get through. The Bruins have blocked Subban's shot five times in the two games during Montreal power plays.

With the strategy the Bruins think is the right one in place, now they just have to execute it with a little more body sacrificing and desire. It takes a lot to get in the way of one of Subban's slap shots, but that's the kind of courage that wins playoff games and the ultimately the Stanley Cup.

"You know he's definitely a big part of that power play that's causing us some problems right now. But from our aspect, we're not being as aggressive as we'd like to be right now," Bruins forward Daniel Paille said. "But the main thing is they're getting the puck through and we're not blocking those shots. And when they have someone like [Vanek] there that knows how to tip the pucks in, it definitely makes it a lot harder for us to stop."

Should Subban and his teammates on the man advantage continue to have their way with the Bruins, Boston might have to consider crowding the defenseman a little more. That comes with major risks as well because of Subban's mobility. A forward darting out at Subban easily turns into a pylon for him to skate around and then create a 5-on-3 in a blink of an eye.

"He's quick, you know," Krejci said. "And you don't want to give him the shot. So if you're too close to him he makes a quick move and he's past you. So you have to keep your distance, but you also have to be aware of the guys around him. He's pretty good. He's got always so many points in a season, he won the Norris Trophy, so he's a pretty good player. But we took his shot away, so we've got to keep doing that and we have to look at the video again and figure out how to stop the other guys as well."

The Bruins have to respect the shot as much as the pass from Subban. He's a true quarterback that can make quick reads and pick out the open man even under intense pressure. Paille credited Subban for keeping his head up at all times, and Bruins coach Claude Julien lamented the fact that Subban's versatility is keeping the Bruins' penalty killers back "on their heels."

"So give him credit for that," Julien said. "But at the same time, we have got to do a better job because I think all four goals have basically come from that part of their power play."

Whether they'll be able to execute the necessary adjustments against Subban remains to be seen. At least for now, the Bruins know it's time for the reruns to stop and some first-run penalty kills to shift that aspect of this series in their favor.

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