Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Bruins 7, Blackhawks 4: Bruins find power from 2nd power-play unit

Ty Anderson
March 10, 2018 - 5:10 pm

It’s awfully tough to get into a special teams duel when you’re down David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins, while victors thanks to some more late-game heroics from Brad Marchand, found that out on Thursday with a power play that finished 0-for-3 and was far from ‘sharp,’ according to B’s coach Bruce Cassidy.

Today’s 6-4 victory over the Blackhawks, however, came with a different story for the B’s thanks to a 4-for-6 mark on the man advantage powered by their dynamite second unit.

"It might be 1-A and 1-B now," Cassidy said of his power-play units. "Recently they’ve been – since [Brian] Gionta’s been moved to the front of the net on that group and Nick Holden’s come – a little more of a shot-tip type of mentality. We’ve moved Krech and DeBrusk. Krech has always been on that side, but DeBrusk a little lower around the net, maybe look for a little more of a spread look. So, it’s been good for us."

The power-play party began when Jake DeBrusk forced a Brent Seabrook turnover along the walls and then dished to David Krejci all alone in front of the Chicago net. And Krejci, who finished Saturday’s victory with two goals to give him five goals in the last five games , did not miss on his top-shelf snipe on ‘Hawks netminder J.F. Berube.

The Blackhawks would score the game’s next three goals, but when the second power-play unit went back out there in search of the game-tying goal, it was DeBrusk that found Krejci once again. This time with an even prettier pass to find Krejci alone.

"Those are passes you dream of – you just kind of get it in the perfect spot and you’re only facing the goalie or an open net," Krejci said. "Those are fun."

"No matter what the setup is, you’ve got to win pucks back," Cassidy offered. "I think that goal in the second period, we were able to win it back, Gio gets his stick in there, and DeBrusk makes a heck of a play to Krech – made two of them. But, that’s it more than anything is your willingness to – the [Rick] Nash goal was obviously a nice play we talked about making, but the other goals are will to win pucks, tire them out, make a play because you’ve got skill, and that’s what happened."

And deadlocked at 4-4 in the third period when Patrick Kane caught Sean Kuraly up high with a high-sticking double-minor, Cassidy went right back to his second unit.

With possession in their favor for almost two full minutes -- and with two great keep-ins from Nick Holden -- the Bruins cycled the puck around and when DeBrusk’s blast on net created a rebound, Brian Gionta was on the doorstep for the go-ahead goal.

The goal also featured everything the second power-play unit could offer to this squad.

Matt Grzelcyk provided smooth resets back to Holden or vice versa, which denied Chicago’s clearing attempts for fresh killers on the ice. Krejci, meanwhile, continued to roam and win one-on-one battles while DeBrusk dominated the walls. And the 39-year-old Gionta, a player you wouldn’t believe missed the first five months of the season, stood taller in front of the Chicago net than his 5-foot-7 frame would indicate.

But most importantly, the goal came before the first two minutes of the double-minor, meaning that the Gionta goal allowed Cassidy to immediately turn back to his first unit, and allow Rick Nash to come through for the B’s sixth goal just 1:16 later.

"Fatigue, right? I mean, the other group gets – first of all, they get discouraged because it can’t get it out, then you get tired, and that’s when mistakes are made, and that’s when seams open up," Cassidy noted. "The second and third effort plays to get a puck out of your zone and then to recover and make a play, those are the big difference makers, I think, on the power play, because the killers get fatigued. It’s a tough job to be out there stopping and starting, blocking shots. If you’re stuck out there for more than 40 seconds, you’re exhausted, and I think that’s what eventually gets you."

In an afternoon tilt that did not feature Tuukka Rask’s best (the birthday boy allowed four goals on 27 shots against), the lift from the B’s power play was more than appreciated.

It also helped the Black and Gold sweep their season-long six-game homestand, played completely without Bergeron and without McAvoy for four of those six games, as well.

"We can’t be perfect every night and obviously it hasn’t been a solid 60 minutes all the time but we haven’t let the game get out of hand – falling behind two or three goals," said Rask. "We’re in the games and when we decide to step on the gas we just take over. I think that’s a great sign in a team."

The Bruins will conclude this weekend home-and-home with a Sunday afternoon head-to-head against the Blackhawks at the United Center.

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