So it is the morning of the aftermath of what was, for all intents ans purposes, the death knell for Dan Bylsma with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens had a great run, with a power play that was all but unstoppable, humming along through the first two rounds at a 28.3% clip. The problem is the buzz saw they ran into in the Eastern Conference Finals known as the Boston Bruins…or more specifically…the Boston Bruins Penalty Kill.
The Bruins had the number one power play for 90 percent of the season. In the last week or two (of the season), the penalty kill dropped to fourth in the league, where it finished. The first round brought with it the Toronto Maple Leafs (again, why isn’t it Leaves?) with a power play that made Boston look, well, mortal. Boston’s penalty killers allowed 5 goals on 21 attempts, good for a 76 percent clip. The speed of the Maple Leaf forwards turned out to be the Achilles heel for the kill. During the regular season the Leafs had a power play percentage just under 19% (good for 14th in the NHL), but raised that to 24 percent in that first round.
In the second round they faced the New York Rangers. Now the Rangers anemic power play finished the regular season at just under 16%, still better than the 14.8 percent of the Boston Bruins. The Rangers managed just two goals of the power play variety in the second round, but none during the regular season.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pens managed to score…no power play goals. That’s right, none. This after scoring 2 in 11 chances during the strike shortened regular season. I mentioned the buzz saw earlier. The Pens not only completed 18% against the Bruins, but 42 in 170 chances…good for 24.7% during the season!
So why re-hash all this information that anyone can look up with a little initiative? Well, the possible Stanley Cup opponents for the Boston Bruins have the 10th (Kings) and 19th (Blackhawks) best power plays in the NHL this season. Combined in the post season these two teams are 15 for 98, a 15.3% rate. The Bruins managed to shut down a team that scored on 1/3rd of their opportunities in the first round…One Third. And just for kicks, the Pens still scored on one quarter of their power plays in the second round against the Senators. Just to put the bow on this package, the Islanders were almost woeful against the man advantage, but Ottawa, who allowed 24 percent against the Pens, were the best against the power play, allowing only 12% of the opportunities result in goals.
The moral of this story…if the Kings or the Blackhawks expect to beat the Bruins in the finals, they will most likely have to do it at even strength, because if the best power play in the game couldn’t get it done, well, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the next opponent on the board. Right now the Bruins have the hottest goaltender in the playoffs and have shown that they don’t have to out hit their opponent to win a hockey game. They have been rolling four strong lines, and even with the misfiring on the third line, the fourth line, the Merlot line, as it is known, has picked up the slack.
So this writer wishes good luck to all those teams left in the playoffs, but for whoever comes out of the West, if you expect to beat the Bruins, you may need as much as you can get.