During the marathon that is the NHL season, it’s easy to overlook even the most obvious things.
Sure the Bruins’ season, which has them atop the NHL standings after a 3-1 win at the New York Rangers on Sunday, has been defined by David Pastrnak’s assault on the NHL goal-scoring race, the play of him and his linemates Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, and the spectacular goaltending of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, there have been other parts of the Bruins’ game that have been spectacular without getting their due.
Case in point: the Bruins’ penalty kill.
Entering the Rangers game, Boston was second in the league in penalty-kill percentage (84.3 percent). It hadn’t allowed a goal in the past two games and had been 21-for-24 (87.5 percent) in February.
Well, when you allowed one goal in five opportunities to the Rangers, technically you’re having an off night because your efficiency rate is going to decrease. But the Bruins’ killers had anything but an “off nights” at Madison Square Garden, as they mostly suffocated the Rangers and stopped them from even gaining momentum from their power play through Boston’s ninth win in the past 10 games.
Of course, it starts with Halak, who stopped four of five New York power-play shots, with only Mike Zibanejad’s wrist shot from the blue line through at least three bodies to get past him in the third period. That was New York’s only power-play shot through two third-period power plays.
Like the Bruins’ overall play, the penalty kill has endured some rough patches over the course of the season. Every team’s going to go through slumps in every aspect of its game. Minimizing those tough times is key, and the Bruins have done just that on the penalty kill.
And when you can kill penalties the way the Bruins do, it lends itself to being better defensively. Bruins players can take more risks if they know a penalty won’t ruin Boston’s chances. Torey Krug had to take a penalty on tripping penalty on Zibanejad to cut off a 2-on-2 Rangers rush. The Rangers center score after that one, but Boston had already done its part of stifle New York through the first 40 minutes of the game.