The Bruins have power-play goals in eight straight games. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)
After a stretch that included 50 games in just over 100 days, a week-long break was more than deserved for the Bruins.
But, as timing as a whole has often worked out for this group this season, it could not have come at a worse time. Not only did the B’s rattle off three wins in a row under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy to head into their bye week, but the Bruins rolled into the break with power-play goals in eight straight games.
Over that span, the Bruins have collected 11 power-play goals on 30 opportunities, or a 36.6 power play percentage.
It’s a hot streak that the Black and Gold have to be desperate to extend to nine games in spite of a seven-day layoff when they skate against the Sharks in San Jose as the kickoff to their California tour (and with a stop in Dallas before they return back to Boston) on Sunday night.
So much of the B’s man advantage success has come from a top-heavy first unit with Torey Krug and David Pastrnak on the points, Brad Marchand in front of the net, Ryan Spooner along the wall, and Patrice Bergeron as the noted ‘bumper’ between the circles. The Pastrnak addition to the top unit is a relatively new one for the Bruins, of course, but it’s one that has allowed David Krejci to move back down to the second unit for a more natural, patient touch when it comes to puck distribution for that group.
“I’d prefer to call them the Bergeron unit and the Krejci unit to be honest with you because my experience is that power plays are cyclical and you’re going to have some success as a team and then as groups,” Cassidy said when asked about the club’s dueling power-play units last week. “They’re red hot, the Bergeron group, no denying that. They work hard at it and the Krejci group works hard at it, they just need to find their chemistry because we are moving a few new bodies in there.”
One of the newest bodies to the mix, for over 20 games anyway, has been second-year pro Frank Vatrano.
The decision to put Vatrano, who has a quick shot and even quicker release, with a second unit that features not only Krejci but defenseman Colin Miller and with David Backes as the net-front presence, is an obvious one that predates Cassidy’s bump up to head coach (though Cassidy did run the B’s power play under Claude Julien), but one that’s still worked wonders for the club.
In Vatrano’s 24 games to date, the Bruins have scored 24 power-play goals on 82 opportunities, or a 29.3% percentage. Compare that to their 13-for-102 mark and 12.7% success rate (which stood as the second-worst in the entire league), before the shoot-first winger was activated from the injured reserve and it’s clear that No. 72 has made a major difference in the potency of their units.
The chemistry has grown with more minutes, too, as the 22-year-old showed in the club’s 4-3 win over the Canucks last week.
“Vatrano hasn’t been healthy all year, now [Peter] Cehlarik goes in and Backes came off the other group so they have got to find their rhythm and that’s one play that we’re going to look for is that seam,” Cassidy said. “Krejci to Vatrano because you got a guy that loves to pass that can see the ice and you got a guy that can get it off in a hurry. That’s plan A on that group if we find that.”
And for that unit, it’s about shots with a purpose in the time that they do get together, which will be hard to find given the effectiveness of that first unit, which has been responsible for eight of the team’s 11 power-play goals over the last eight games.
“I mean, we haven’t been getting much PP time lately,” Krejci said of Vatrano’s power-play goal in their win over the Canucks, which was Vatrano’s fourth power-play goal of the season. “Our first unit has been doing really good job and they’ve been scoring a lot, but it was nice for our unit to put the puck in, give us some confidence that we can do it as well.”
Krejci’s unit added another one the next night, too, with his own goal created off a some soft hand movement between Cehlarik and Backes at the front of the net, a move that doesn’t happen without some growing confidence from that unit.
Confidence that you hope didn’t rust over during the break.