BOSTON – It’s one thing to be good on the penalty kill and not allow your opponent to win games via power-play goals. It’s another to be so dominant on the penalty kill that it consistently swings momentum in your favor. Over the last seven games, the Bruins’ penalty kill has been that dominant.
Against two of the best offenses in the league in Pittsburgh and Chicago, the Bruins have gone a perfect 26-for-26 on the penalty kill. It’s worth noting that the Blackhawks’ power play has been struggling all playoffs, but that shouldn’t diminish what the Bruins have been doing. The fact that they completely shut down a Pittsburgh power play that entered the Eastern Conference finals at 28.3 percent for the playoffs serves as evidence that this isn’t just a matter of the Bruins facing a weak power play.
Not even the loss of Gregory Campbell could slow down the Bruins’ PK. David Krejci has done a great job filling his spot and everything has continued to fire on all cylinders.
“We know they’ve got some great players on that other team. Our penalty kill has to be at its best,” said coach Claude Julien. “It really got better as the playoffs went on. We really picked it up against Pittsburgh. They have the same kind of dangerous power play. It just continues to give us some help in these games. Obviously we don’t want [power plays] to be a momentum changer against us. I think killing those has really given our bench a boost.”
At home, those kills can provide an even bigger boost because of the crowd. Outside of the goals in Monday’s 2-0 Game 3 victory, the biggest cheers came after penalty kills. On each occasion, the Bruins were able to shift the atmosphere from tense to ecstatic in two minutes.
“It’s always great when the crowd acknowledges things like that,” said Chris Kelly. “I thought everyone did a great job killing penalties. Your best penalty killer needs to be your goaltender, and he was again tonight.”
In the first period, the Bruins’ fourth line took a pair of undisciplined roughing penalties that could’ve been costly. Instead, the Bruins held the Blackhawks to one shot on goal on the two power plays and managed to generate a couple shorthanded chances. The bad penalties had deflated the crowd a little bit and could’ve deflated the team, but the penalty kill injected new life into both.
Two more huge kills came in the third period, when the Blackhawks could’ve made the game interesting had they converted. The fourth one, which came in the final four minutes, was particularly big because it came on the heels of a sloppy Bruins power play.
In theory, the Blackhawks getting a kill of their own and then immediately drawing a penalty should’ve swung momentum in their favor. Nobody let the Bruins’ penalty kill in on the plan, though. For the fourth time in the game, the Bruins made it tough for the Blackhawks to enter the zone, barely let them get set up, and limited them to just a couple shot attempts.
“I think we try to stay compact in our zone,” said Dennis Seidenberg. “Once the puck is bobbled, if you see a chance to pressure them, we do that. For the most part, we’ve been doing a good job of keeping them to the outside and outnumbering them down low. And then there’s Tuukka [Rask]. He always seems to make the save. We try to clean up for him to get the rebound or for us to clear it.”
Obviously the Bruins would prefer to not have to kill five penalties in a Stanley Cup Final game, but if their penalty kill continues to play this well, it might not even matter. At least, it won’t until the Blackhawks figure out a way to make the Bruins pay, something no one has been able to do for two rounds.