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It was their even-strength data that did best to explain how the Boston Bruins made it this far. It’s what they’ve done outside those conditions that has them so close to winning it all.
If the Bruins function best when their special teams run optimally, Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was their singular performance from the postseason so far.
Using four shots to convert on all four opportunities with the man advantage while their penalty kill extended an incredible cross-series stretch of dominance before an unlucky bounce in the third period, the Bruins conducted a masterclass on special teams. That elite production helped them take a 2-1 series lead — while embarrassing the St. Louis Blues in their first home game in a Stanley Cup Final after 49 years — with a 7-2 victory on Saturday night.
Starting essential before ending incidental, power-play goals from Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Marcus Johansson left the Bruins one shy of the single-game playoff record. Along the way, it underscored the mastery of Boston’s special units since the club embarked on its postseason run six weeks ago.
Converting in seven consecutive games, the Bruins now have 23 power-play goals to rank 14th in NHL history. Bergeron himself now has seven goals with the man advantage, improving to within two of the record shared by his boss, Cam Neely.
While still 13 goals behind the single postseason record for goals with the man advantage, Boston could finish with the highest percentage ever with a strong close to the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins currently trail the 1980-81 New York Islanders by less than two percentage points for the most efficient power play in playoff history.
With 10 consecutive power-play opportunities for the Blues thwarted, which saw them boost their postseason success rate to an 86.7 percent clip, the Bruins improved to plus-15 with their special teams so far in the playoffs. That number equals their margins when lumping together all even-strength conditions.
The single-biggest reason for their success to this point, Boston’s ace units may just inspire all it needs to push it over the line with two more victories.
Silent in Games 1 and 2, Boston’s Perfection Line broke out in Game 3 with their power-play ice. Though still without a point at five-on-five in the series, Bergeron, Pastrnak and Brad Marchand combined for two goals and five points in the victory, and won’t have to answer for their lack of production in the lead-up to Game 4.
With opportunities more infrequent, and the opposition more willing to wade into shooting lanes, teams that rely too much on special teams, particularly a hot power play, are often exposed in the postseason.
For these Bruins, though, and all their data-substantiated dominance at even strength, it’s the leading reason why they’re now just two wins away from lifting the Stanley Cup.
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