What's to Love and Hate About Boston Bruins' Special Teams

Michael Smith@@smithmichael8 Contributor IIIAugust 21, 2013

What's to Love and Hate About Boston Bruins' Special Teams

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    Special teams are an important part of any hockey team's identity. With a high-percentage power play, clubs always have a chance of getting back into a game even if they're down by a couple goals.

    Likewise, a great penalty-killing unit is a necessity for anyone wishing to protect a lead, especially late in a game or during the playoffs.

    For the Boston Bruins, one unit (at least last season) was clearly better than the other. But some offseason roster moves will be sure to even things out and bring more balance to their special teams in the 2013-14 campaign.

    The following slides show what is to love and hate about the Bruins' special teams.

    Unless noted, all statistics were retrieved from NHL.com.

Love: Last Season's Penalty Kill

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    When you have one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL, it's not shocking when your team has the fourth-best penalty kill in the league.

    Led by former Selke winner Patrice Bergeron, as well as Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell and Zdeno Chara, the Bruins registered an 87.1 percentage on the PK, allowing only 21 goals on 163 shorthanded situations in the regular season. In the playoffs, they improved that mark to 88.7 percent.

    The club also had five shorthanded goals, which was tied for fifth in the league. Marchand and Daniel Paille each had two shorties, tying them for third in the league with a bevy of other players.

    There's no reason the Bruins shouldn't be near the top of the league again next season when they're a man down, especially with a key roster move made this summer that will be addressed in a later slide.

Hate: Last Season's Power Play

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    The Bruins are an elite team. That's obvious. What may not be, though, is that during last year's regular season, their power play was not.

    In the 48-game lockout-shortened season, Boston's power-play clip was a lackluster 14.8 percent, which was 26th in the league.

    Twenty-sixth? The Bruins? With David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Bergeron and Chara's rocket shot from the blue line? Surprisingly, yes.

    They only scored on 18 power-play goals on 122 chances. There were eight teams that didn't make the playoffs that were ranked ahead of them in that category. That couldn't have sat well with head coach Claude Julien.

    Another interesting note is that by a wide margin, the Bruins had the least amount of power-play chances in the league with the aforementioned 122. They had 13 less instances with the man advantage than the Anaheim Ducks, who had the second-least amount in the league. The Montreal Canadiens, who had the most, had 203 tries, 81 more than Boston. The low number of chances obviously doesn't change the percentage, but because the Bruins didn't have a lot of time on the power play, perhaps that's why things didn't gel like they did for other teams. With how hard Boston skates along the boards and to the net, you would think that it would draw more hooking, holding and slashing calls, but that wasn't the case.

    Because of the lack of time with the extra man, Boston had the least amount of five-on-four goals (17) in the NHL. Boston will make it a point of emphasis to try and send its opponents to the box more next season. A simple way to do that is to not retaliate—but that's a lot easier said than done.

    Fans may think that the Bruins' lack of scoring with the extra man is overblown; after all, the team made the Stanley Cup Final. It's hard to argue with them there. But there's no question that Boston will look to improve on it next season.

Love: Adding Jarome Iginla Will Improve Power Play

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    After spurning Boston for Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, the longtime Flame is now a Bruin, and his presence on the power play will bolster last year's poor performance with the man advantage by Boston.

    According to hockey-reference.com, Iginla has 165 career power-play goals, which is third on the active list behind Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr.

    Iginla, who loves to set up on the left side of the slot (to the goalie's right) and just inside the hash marks, has 10 seasons with double-digit power-play goals and will provide the Bruins with a second slap shot in addition to Chara. He scored six goals with the man advantage last season, which was 19th in the league. 

    In addition to his release from the outside, he has a knack for cleaning up the garbage in front of the net when he inches toward the crease. 

    The three-time Olympian is aging, but he's still effective and could prove to be the steal of the free agency if used in the right situations.

Love: Loui Eriksson Will Aid Both Special Teams

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    Trading Tyler Seguin for Loui Eriksson was a bold move by general manager Peter Chiarelli, and it will pay dividends on both the power play and the penalty kill.

    Eriksson, one of the league's most underrated two-way forwards, had 10 power-play goals in 2010-11 and has scored at least one short-handed goal in each of the past five seasons, including two seasons with two.

    And that was with one of worst lineups in league in the Stars.

    Expect his numbers to improve with a much more talented cast of characters around him. Going from Dallas to Boston is the hockey equivalent of an actor working with the cast of Sorority Row and getting traded to The Departed.

    Eriksson is a gifted playmaker who will be able to set up teammates with the extra man on the ice. His vision will create a lot more backdoor opportunities near the crease rather than simple passes back to the point. 

    When Boston is trying to survive a shorthanded situation, his stick-checking and speed will only improve the second unit that comes on the ice after Bergeron and Marchand go to the bench for a breather.