The Boston Bruins are ranked sixth in the NHL right now with a 33.3 percent success rate on the power play, so one would suspect simply relying on the special teams status quo would the proper course.
But the Bruins coaching staff has never been about being satisfied with things as they are if they can be improved, and that means tinkering with the man advantage now that they’re close to full health with Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk back in the lineup.
The Bruins featured at Tuesday’s practice a five forward makeup for the top power play unit with David Krejci working the point along with regular PP 1 unit members David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Nick Ritchie.
PP1: Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Ritchie
PP2: Grzelcyk, McAvoy, Coyle, DeBrusk, Smith
— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) February 9, 2021
It’s something Bruce Cassidy has talked about in the past, so why not let it loose this week against the Rangers and the Islanders with the Bruins already off to a roaring start this season?
“Sometimes it’s about what the other team is going to be giving up predictably on our pre-scouts. So, is it better to have a right stick or a left stick up top? It’s a little bit about entries, and [David] Krejci is one of the best in the business in that [category],” said Cassidy. “A little bit will be just time and score as well. Where are we at? Are we behind and can we afford to gamble a little bit?
“I think so far no matter who has been on it we’ve managed pucks well and when we’ve turned it over, we’ve limited anything coming back at us. That wasn’t always the case last year and the year before. So hopefully that stays the same and that can factor into it, whether we have a ‘D’ back there or not. We’re going to use all three of those guys at different times and I assume that will sort itself out. Or maybe not and then it will be one of those collaborative efforts.”
Cassidy said part of the thinking also goes into the second PP unit continuing to generate offense without the experienced, playmaking hand of Krejci at the controls. As long as the second PP group of Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Charlie, Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and Craig Smith remains viable when they’re on the ice, it frees up the Boston Bruins coaching staff to tinker with five forwards on the top power play group.
The big danger, of course, is that giving up a spate of shorthanded goals ensues as has happened in the last few seasons for the Boston Bruins.
This may also be an admission one month into the season that both Grzelcyk and McAvoy aren’t really capable of giving the Bruins what they had from Torey Krug on that top power play unit. Grzelcyk has one power play point in five games played this season, and McAvoy has just three PP helpers in 11 games while still working on hitting the net with his big wind-up blasts from the point.
Any difficulty in replacing Krug certainly wasn’t part of Bruce Cassidy’s evaluation of the group during his media availability post-practice on Tuesday, and the numbers are as robust as they’ve ever been on the B’s power play this season.
But it’s big ask for anybody to match everything Krug did from the point spot on the power play, and some of the ongoing adjustments on the man advantage speak to that fact for the Black and Gold.