Bruins’ new-look power play takes center stage vs. Wings
|10.05.13 at 11:21 pm ET|
Torey Krug gets the puck at the point. Zdeno Chara sets the screen in front. Goalie never sees the shot coming.
That’s exactly what the Bruins coaches had in mind when they decided to reconfigure the power play heading into this season, and the new look was executed perfectly on Boston’s first goal Saturday night.
Once Krug emerged as such a dangerous offensive weapon in last year’s playoffs, it was an easy decision to have him quarterback the top power-play unit — especially when you consider how much the Bruins’ power play struggled for most of last season. He has great hands and a great shot, and he’s able to create open lanes with his footwork.
The tougher decision — at least looking at it from the outside — was what to do with Chara. As great as Chara is in pretty much every other area, he never seemed totally comfortable as a power-play quarterback.
When he got an open look, he could take advantage with his rocket of a shot, but getting those looks — and being able to move the puck quickly when he didn’t — could sometimes be a struggle. The problem for the Bruins was that they didn’t have anyone else who was a great fit for the quarterback role, either.
Krug is. And because Claude Julien now has Krug at his disposal, he decided to try something different with Chara. Instead of trying to take advantage of Chara’s shot, Julien moved Chara down low hoping to take advantage of his size. Chara has played down low in select situations before — think Patrice Bergeron‘s tying goal in Game 7 against Toronto — but never on a regular basis.
“Zdeno was on the point because we felt we didn’t have a ton of other options,” Julien said. “Now we do. We’ve added a [Dougie] Hamilton to our group. We’ve added a Krug. The mobility has increased back there. That allows us to move [Chara] into a position where we felt he’d be better-suited for us.”
So far it’s worked. Chara set a perfect screen on Krug’s goal Saturday night. But as Julien was quick to point out after the game, Chara does more than just stand in front of the goalie and take up space.
The Bruins captain has worked at retrieving pucks in the corners and behind the net, and Julien said he has seen a lot of improvement in that area. Put Milan Lucic out there, too, and it makes it extremely difficult for any penalty kill to out-muscle the Bruins’ top power-play unit down low.
“You don’t have a play, throw it down in front and Z is going to battle for it,” Krug said. “Having Z and Looch down there if we miss the net or if we just throw it down there, there’s a good chance we’re getting the puck back. We have a good setup. We’re excited about what we can do this year, and we have to continue working on it. It’s not just going to continue. To have success like that, we have to continue to work on it and keep doing those little things.”
Later in Saturday’s game, Chara showed that he can be just as dangerous with the puck in front of the net as he is without it. On the Bruins’ third power play of the game, he got behind the Red Wings’ defense and hit the post. Then on the fourth, Krug found him in the slot, and Chara made a nifty move to the backhand to beat Jimmy Howard for his first goal of the season.
The Bruins’ power play might not always look this great, but Saturday night made it clear that with Krug at the point and Chara in front, this year’s man advantage is much more dangerous than last year’s.