Boston Bruins

Aug 23, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) celebrates with center David Krejci (46) and center Patrice Bergeron (37) after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff,

The most stark difference between the Bruins and Lightning in Game 1? Boston’s superstar right wing finished on the power play, and Tampa’s did not.

Eking out a Game 1 win after a late rally by the Lightning, the Bruins have a 1-0 series lead in large part to their superior special teams play – on both the man advantage and the penalty kill. Each team had three power plays each, and the B’s were the only ones to score in those situations. Their lone PP tally was downright surgical, concluding with David Pastrnak’s first goal of the series and sixth point in three playoff appearances so far.

Contrast that with Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, who had a lot of net to shoot at on a second-period power play but whiffed on the one-timer attempt. Given virtually the same opportunity to fire that Pastrnak had, Kucherov came up well short while “Pasta” finished the job.

That’s certainly the simplest and cleanest comparison to make between each team’s power play. But the Bruins proved to be superior in the little details as well, particularly when killing their own penalties. In the end, Game 1 proved to be a Bruins special teams clinic. Here’s how.

Clearing The Zone

A big advantage the Bruins held over the Lightning in Game 1 was their ability to keep the puck alive on the power play, and clear the zone effectively on the penalty kill. They were charted for 12 successful clears on 13 attempts (92.3 percent), while Tampa was just 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) in that department.

Torey Krug made the Bruins’ power play goal possible with an excellent block to contain an Erik Cernak blast. Boston’s puck movement (and player movement) after that play effectively gassed Tampa to the point that all four defenders lost sight of Pastrnak in the faceoff circle.

All David Krejci had to do was wait for the lane to open.

The Bruins set the tone for the zone-clearing “battle” with a successful penalty kill less than a minute into the game.

Strong Along The Boards

It was readily apparent in the opening minute: the officials are going to continue to make some questionable calls. While special teams may not be a factor in, say, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, it looks like it will be in this series.

So the Bruins have reason to be satisfied with their overall performance on the penalty kill. Strong board play helped precipitate their dominance creating efficient breakouts.

The Bruins were the much better team than the Lightning in terms of board play. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins were the much better team than the Lightning in terms of board play. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins blue line succeeded tremendously in stifling Tampa’s zone entries on the kill, particularly Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo. An attacker often met two backcheckers that immediately snuffed him out.

One of the most striking examples came on the first PK of the game when Connor Clifton pounced on Kucherov near the half boards and turned a potential rush into an easy flip out of danger. Later on the same kill, Tampa’s Patrick Maroon managed to scrape the puck deep despite Charlie Coyle and Matt Grzelcyk mugging him. But the slowdown allowed Clifton to gain position behind the net and create a loose puck, which Chris Wagner whipped out of the zone no problem.

The raw numbers (besides, you know, the goals) for each team’s power play are misleading. Tampa found their footing in the second period and generated some opportunities on their two man advantages, making 12 shot attempts – but four of them were blocked, four missed the net, four made it to goal, and only one qualified as a “high-danger” scoring chance (per Natural Stat Trick). Boston’s superiority on the boards and stout defense down the middle helped keep Tampa to the outside and generate better clears, while Tampa struggled to create high-quality chances.

MORE: Jaroslav Halak Makes Big Difference In Game 1

Sunday’s results were not an anomaly based on the regular season. The Bruins finished third in PK percentage (84.3) compared to 14th for Tampa (81.4). As long as the officials can’t put their damn whistles away for a minute, it’s reasonable to assume the Bruins will continue to have the clear advantage on special teams.

Long way to go in the series, of course. But a strong start for Bruins’ specialty units, and one of the only clear edges they have over a talented opponent.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at