Bruins' power play finally arrives

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When the Bruins scored three times on one penalty kill in their April 10 playoff-spot-clinching win over Carolina, their power play had to be suffering a case of special-teams envy.

After all, that afternoon Boston was on its way to a seventh straight game without scoring a man-advantage goal. Although the Bruins scored one on the power play in their meaningless regular-season finale at Washington, they went into the playoffs with just that one goal in their final 21 man-advantage opportunities before the second season started.

Boston is now six games deep into the playoffs and about to start a second-round series against either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, and the power play is finally earning its share of bragging rights in the Bruins locker room. Boston's power play burned Buffalo for six goals in 22 opportunities during the first round, a far cry from the last few weeks of the regular season.

The Bruins' penalty kill still outshined the power play with a perfect 19-for-19 success rate against the Sabres.

"A lot of it is confidence," coach Claude Julien said. "You can see our guys right now, they're moving the puck, making the right decisions, and moving the puck with confidence. When it's time to hang onto it for an extra session, they do. When they've got to move it, they move it quick. But also the passes with confidence are more tape-to-tape than they were before. And we're taking advantage of the shooting opportunities that are given to us. We're not over-passing."

A lot of Boston's power-play turnaround also has to do with sheer hard work and determination.

"We pay the price in front of the net," center David Krejci said. "If I have the puck on the half-wall, [Patrice Bergeron or Mark Recchi] can go to the net. Maybe before we were just looking to pass and other things. But I think now we're looking more to shoot."

One thing the Bruins' penalty kill, which ranked third in the NHL in the regular season, had that the power play did not down the stretch -- in addition to actual success -- was consistency in personnel. Injuries and ineffectiveness forced Julien and his staff to shake things up seemingly every other game. The rapport that built up with Boston's penalty-kill pairs Steve Begin-Daniel Paille, Patrice Bergeron-Marco Sturm, and David Krejci-Blake Wheeler was absent for the always-in-flux power play.

The Bruins were able to keep their two quintets mostly intact against Buffalo, with one spot on the second unit going to whoever had the hot hand at a particular point in the game. But the top squad of Bergeron, Krejci, Recchi, Zdeno Chara and Matt Hunwick produced four of the goals, while the second group -- anchored on the blue line by Dennis Wideman and Johnny Boychuk -- chipped in with two.

"I think eventually we probably found a way after the regular season. There were times we were searching for personnel, for the right plays and for everything," said forward Miroslav Satan, who has become a mainstay on the second unit and scored the Game 4 overtime winner on the power play. "Now it seems like it's settled a little bit and we found the right choices."

The Bruins will have a new choice of player in the next round with the return of center Marc Savard. Julien and his staff will have to play with the power-play permutations again and hope they come up with a winning combination, because special teams will again be huge. Both the Flyers and Penguins were hot on the power play in the first round, and Philly's penalty kill was excellent against New Jersey.

The Bruins' penalty kill will probably continue to set the standard, and the power play will have to try to keep up.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.