O Power Play, Where Art Thou?

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Claude Julien, the 2009 Jack Adams award winner, was hired by the Boston Bruins on June 22, 2007 after the team dismissed Dave Lewis of his duties. Since Julien has taken over, the Bruins have been known for two dominant characteristics: a great defensive system and a shotty power play. Although the defensive system speaks for itself, I’m blown away that the Bruins have had a lackluster power play for so long and have done virtually little to change it.

Let’s take a look at goals scored per game and power play success (in percentage) since Julien was announced as the Bruins head coach.

2007-2008 season: 24th in goals per game (2.51), 16th in power play success (17.6%)
2008-2009 season: 2nd in goals per game (3.29), 4th in power play success (23.6%)
2009-2010 season: 30th in goals per game (2.39),  23rd in power play success (16.6%)
2010-2011 season: 5th in goals per game (2.97), 22nd in power play success (16.3%)

So solely based on the numbers above, the power play has only been ranked in the top half of the league once and it took a masterful season to do so. The 2008-2009 season was one of the greatest seasons the Boston Bruins have had in a long time. It was THE season, or so we thought. That notion was later put to the rest when the Bruins forgot to show up against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lets take a look at some more numbers…

Speaking of the playoffs, lets take a look at what the power play has done in the playoffs for Claude:

2007-2008 playoffs: 10% success, good for 14 out of 16 qualifying teams (7 games, lost to Montreal 4-3)
2008-2009 playoffs: 14% success, good for 9 out of 16 qualifying teams (14 games, lost to Carolina in second round 4-3)
2009-2010 playoffs: 24% success, good for 4 out of 16 qualifying teams (14 games, lost to Philadelphia in second round 4-3)

Wow. I don’t know about you, but I surely didn’t expect the power play success to increase in the playoffs.

So while the power play has been good in the playoffs, why has it been so bad in the regular season? Let’s look deeper into some numbers shall we?

PPG goals leaders (first 3).

2007-2008: Marco Sturm (10), Dennis Wideman (9), Zdeno Chara (9)
2008-2009: Zdeno Chara (11), Michael Ryder (9), Marc Savard (9)
2009-2010: Mark Recchi (8), Michael Ryder (7), Marc Savard (6)
2010-2011 (through 71 games): Michael Ryder (8), Zdeno Chara (7), Mark Recchi (6)

I find it interesting that certain guys come up here multiple times (Chara, Ryder, Recchi and Savard) while somone like Kessel – who had a fantastic year in 2008-2009 – wasn’t a top power play goal scorer that year. Even more shocking, Mark Savard was third in power play goals in 2009-2010 while only playing in 41 games. There’s a definite issue right there.

For years the Bruins have stated they needed a puck moving defenseman (though no one said a peep about it when Dennis Wideman was having fantastic years in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009) so Peter Chiarelli finally landed Tomas Kaberle with the impression that he would juice up a terrible power play.

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Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. While the power play has looked like an actual power play with Kaberle here, they’ve yet to find any consistency. In fact, the Bruins are sitting on a 3% success rate (1 for 27) over their last seven games. Wow. How do you expect to contend for a Stanley Cup when you can’t convert on the man advantage? When I broke down the winning streak and the losing streak, I briefly spoke about the power play.

“Line 1: Back end should be Krejci and Kaberle. Stick Chara in front of the net and use Bergeron/Horton along each side wall. Allow Z to screen to the goalie while both Kaberle and Krejci have the open ice for their vision. Line 2 should be Seguin playing center with Lucic and Peverley on the wings. It’s time to get the kid some time, especially on the PP. Use Kampfer and Ference on the back end so Kampfer can move the puck and Ference can break up anything that gets past Kampfer.”

Without trying to sound redundant, I don’t see what the issue would be in changing the lines around. Against the Maple Leafs, Julien finally put Seguin on the power play and the kid looked good out there. I don’t know if he’s going to be the guy we need on the power play, but something needs to be done. The power play system needs to be changed, but if the Bruins keep Julien, it won’t.

I’m not advocating for the coach to be fired, but I am advocating that someone takes an honest and unbiased approach to his system and make the appropriate changes. Having a power play in the bottom half of the league isn’t going to win you a Stanley Cup. The team will have to stop playing running the power play through their defenseman, stop the extra passes and produce more shots. Nothing bad can happen when you put pucks towards the net.

The silver light on the horizon is that the playoffs are coming and the Bruins have increased their power play success every playoff season since Claude began coaching.

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