The Boston Bruins have converted each of their last two power plays and three of their last four, the only four they have garnered through the first four installments of a five-game road trip.
It should be noted that, by virtue of being among the NHL’s weaker penalty-killing clubs, the recent opposition has not imposed the stiffest test in this department. By virtue of having drawn such infrequent opportunities for themselves, neither have the Bruins brought on the most telling challenge.
Still, for Claude Julien’s pupils, there is a can’t-hurt confidence booster to be had in this, provided they formulate a way to genuinely build on it.
With Chris Kelly’s conversion at 2:30 of Sunday afternoon’s second period, the Bruins nabbed their first dose of insurance en route to a 4-1 win over the Panthers. With no more special teams’ segments in their favor thereafter, they effectively elevated their conversion rate on the year from 13 percent (6-for-46) to 14.9 percent (7-for-47).
Before the third period of a Feb. 10 visit to Buffalo, Boston had gone a cumulative 3-for-38 with the extra player. In addition, it was nursing a slump that saw a repeat failure to convert in 17 consecutive advantages dating back to the start of a Jan. 29 bout with New Jersey.
Then Sabres defenseman Mike Weber was cited for illicitly spooning the puck over the glass at the 7:24 mark of the closing frame. A mere 28 seconds later, Patrice Bergeron inserted the go-ahead goal and eventual clincher, starting a 4-for-9 “hot streak” that has spanned Boston’s last 16 full-length periods of play.
The Bruins were blanked on the power play in their next outing versus the New York Rangers, although David Krejci did spark a three-goal rally one second after Rick Nash was through serving a sentence for hooking.
Aside from that and the Tampa tilt, Boston has not gone a single outing without a power-play conversion over the last two weeks and six games. They victimized the Sabres once more on Feb. 15 to start their 3-for-4 rate on this road trip.
Over their four conversions in the last nine tries, nine individual skaters have claimed a hand in at least one.
Bergeron has a goal and an assist, Chris Bourque three helpers. Dougie Hamilton, Kelly and Brad Marchand have buried the other goals and Krejci, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin have nabbed an assist apiece.
As Bruins buffs may have come to expect, though, there is a kicker on this topic. The four latest conversions have come against penalty-killing brigades that currently rank No. 20 (Buffalo), second-to-last (Florida) and dead-last (Winnipeg).
Conversely, the next two items on the itinerary will present a pair of the league’s top 10 shorthanded fortresses. The New York Islanders, on tap for Tuesday, are ninth overall with 83.6 percent success while the Ottawa Senators, Thursday night’s visitor to the TD Garden, rank third at 88.7 percent.
The Bruins have passed Level One in the power-play arcade. Now they need to be ready for an instant pole-vault to the top level, complete with multiple chances per night and an unyielding conviction when some of those chances expire.
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