The statistics afforded by an eight-game sample size haven’t smoothed out their numbers yet, but the Boston Bruins have constructed one of the most successful penalty kills in the NHL this decade. Like the Kings, there is a good defensive base to begin with, and just as Los Angeles’ star players are also their top defensive players, skaters such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara have set a fine example for younger and less tenured players to follow.
Cumulative penalty killing percentage since 2011-12 / Rank (excl. Vegas Golden Knights)
Boston: 83.8% / 2nd
Los Angeles: 83.7% / 5th
The Bruins rank second in the league over that span with 51 shorthanded goals, led by Marchand’s 23, which leads all active players.
Through eight games, the team has killed off 28 of 34 power plays, but pay little heed to that number until the team advances past the NHL’s quarter-pole. Even at the eight-game mark, the Bruins have still posted two shorthanded goals – one by Marchand and one by Danton Heinen – representing the same legacy of aggressive killing that has defined much of the team’s successful special teams play this decade.
Earlier today, I asked John Stevens, Drew Doughty and Brooks Laich about the criteria, apart from simply personnel, that goes into one of the league’s sturdiest special teams packages.
John Stevens, on Boston’s PK continuity, even when Bergeron and Marchand are off the ice:
I think when you have two guys like Bergeron and Marchand, I think that has an effect on everybody else. You’re watching guys do everything right. If you’re watching two of the elite penalty killers in the game, it can’t do anything but help people watching – young players, whoever’s coming next. You’re doing video review. You’ve got great reference points in guys doing things right all the time. He’s great on faceoffs, they angle well, anticipation’s unreal. I think they kind of set the whole plan in motion, and then it gets followed up by some great examples in front of them. Their special teams are very good on both sides of the puck, and penalty killing, not only do they kill penalties, they’re always a threat to go the other way, so it’s something we have to be aware of.
Drew Doughty, on facing a quality penalty killing team like Boston:
I think against Boston, like you said, they have a very good PK. We just need to get shots on net and pucks to net because if you’re trying to make seam passes against this team and trying to go over sticks or under sticks, Marchand and Bergeron are going to knock ‘em down every time. And they’re also looking to score on the PK, too. So that’s what makes it tough, too. If they do create a turnover they’re taking off and trying to score a goal. They’ve been a good PK team, just like we have been for many, many years and they’ve got good special teams so we need to win that battle tonight in order to win the game.
Brooks Laich, on what he’s picked up on Los Angeles’ penalty killing success:
One, a lot of team discipline. You don’t take a lot of lazy penalties. You don’t take offensive zone penalties. If you take a penalty it’s because you’re going save a goal or a chance. There aren’t selfish penalties. So that comes from the character within your locker room. Two, commitment on the defensive side of the puck. If you look at last game, Alec Martinez blocks two Shea Weber shots back-to-back. Doing it once, okay. Getting hit with it and going out and doing it again is amazing, and then he takes another one in the third. Forbsie blocks a lot of shots. Our forwards block a lot. Centermen are good on draws. A lot of pride in the penalty kill. And certainly if we do give up a chance then we’ve got a world-class goaltender that you’ve still have to beat. So I think the guys really take more pride in not giving up goals than we do in scoring goals and it’s led to success for us.
Laich, on how Boston’s penalty killing stands out:
The thing that I think has given them a lot of success is they work well with units. So you just mentioned [Marchand and Bergeron], those two guys go over the board together, so they know how to play each other, they know how to react, they know situations, structure. They’re usually killing with Chara on the back end. They’ve always had good goaltending. Bergeron is great on draws. I think same thing for them. They take more pride in not giving up a goal than they do in scoring. Ultimately you’re down a man so you have to find some will and a way to outcompete the other team. And I think the guys who kill consistently do that and that’s why they don’t give up goals.
-Lead photo via Jared Wickerham/Getty Images