BOSTON -- Had anyone predicted at the beginning of this Stanley Cup Finals that after three games, the Boston Bruins would have a better power play percentage than the Vancouver Canucks, then their names should be the NHL's edition of Nostradamus.
The Canucks, loaded with offensive firepower up front, have hit the proverbial brick wall since facing the B's this post season.
Having gone 16-for-60 (28.3%) on the power play through the first three rounds, the Canucks have yet to find an answer for the Bruins penalty-kill -- having gone a mere 1-for-16 (6.3%) on the man-advantage thus far against Boston.
Tonight, as the Bruins pounded the Canucks 8-1, Boston killed-off all eight penlties, while going 2-for-4 (3-for-13 this series) on the power play.
"They’re very skilled and a lot of dangerous weapons on the power play and really wanted to make sure we bared down and did the little things right on the penalty kill, force them and make sure we took their time and space away," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who scored a shorthanded goal while logging nearly four minutes on the PK. "A lot of guys blocked shots at the right time."
Last night, the B's blocked 12 shots -- many of them while being a man down.
"Our penalty kill to me has been excellent," said head coach Claude Julien. " We've done a pretty good job of taking away the passing lanes. That's not giving away any secrets. It's what penalty kills have to do. Our guys have done a pretty good job of sacrificing themselves, blocking shots," said the coach. "It's about sacrifice. More than anything else, our penalty kill has taken a lot of pride in these playoffs to be very, very good, and has been."
Although Boston's power play was embarassing and near-historical low entering the Cup Finals (right around eight percent), they've relied on their defense-first system and great PK to offset the differences. They can gaffe left-and-right while being on the man-advantage, but they have a knack of making even the most elite power plays look pedestrian.
Case in point: this series against Vancouver.
"Our penalty kill has been really, really good for us. That's really helped us survive as far as the power-play struggling," added Julien. "When you're power-play struggles, your penalty kill has to do a really good job in order to at least even things out. They've done a great job at that."
But perhaps the biggest cog in the team's PK has been the stellar performances of goaltender Tim Thomas.
Perhaps overlooked by the Bruins' eight-goal offensive onslaught, Thomas made 40-of-41 save for the Game 3 victory.
"Obviously Timmy’s there to back us up." Marchand said. "We got lucky, a lot of good bounces for us, the puck was kind of hopping a little bit. So it’s not going to happen like that every night but it went well for us tonight."
"We know how valuable he is to us," said Mark Recchi. "He made some big saves for us in the first period...he's been a force for us all year."
Vancouver leads the series 2-1. But with the Bruins offense starting to spread around -- seven different goal scorers tonight -- continued exceptional play by Thomas, an increase in power play production, all while shutting down the Canucks' power play...this series could have taken a huge turn in the Bruins favor with no signs of slowing down.