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Time and space vital to Bruins’ vaunted power play

The Blues try and take away the Bruins’ time and space. Can quick passes beat the press?

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins’ power play is many things. Star-studded? Check. Lethal? You know it. Prone to the occasional defensive lapse and shorthanded chance? Well, unfortunately that too.

The Bruins’ umbrella based approach creates passing lanes to the dots, the slot, and up high at the point. I’ve written previously about how the Bruins utilize the umbrella to create passing lanes and force opponents out of shape, yet the Blues have been effective by speeding up the Bruins’ approach. The first unit prefers to take their time, shuffling the puck around the perimeter in hopes of finding a one-time attempt. Often, the group is criticized for making the extra pass, opting for quality instead of quantity.

The Blues have tried to limit the Bruins’ power play effectiveness by aggressively pressuring the puck carrier. By doing this, St. Louis hopes to force a turnover and limit the puck carrier to dumping the puck to space or the quickest option available.

In the clip above from game two, the Blues create a turnover at the blue line and create a two on one scoring chance because of the applied pressure.

David Pastrnak enters the zone with possession and snatches Robert Bortuzzo’s soul, ankles, and jockstrap simultaneously with a slick side-step. He finds Brad Marchand entering the zone, who circles back and dishes to Torey Krug cross ice to set up the power play. Krug slides down the right circle and the umbrella has been established. As Marchand receives the pass at the top of the formation, he attempts to reconnect with Pastrnak on the left side. Tyler Bozak’s pressure on Marchand allows him to make a play on the puck and force the interception. The Blues counter on an odd man rush, yet failed to capitalize on the chance.

Turnovers at the blue line are lethal because the left the team that turned the puck over exposed susceptible to a counter attack. The offensive team is flat-footed and not in position to properly defend.

However, the Blues pressure the puck carrier everywhere in the zone, not just at the blueline. By doing this, they hope to rupture the flow of the Bruins powerplay and disrupt timing and passing lanes.

In the clip above, the Bruins are swarmed at every chance. Each time that a Bruin gains possession, a player in a blue jersey is immediately in his face. However, the Bruins are able to dispel this trap by utilizing quick passes and still maintain the shape of the system. As two Blues converge on Marchand, he drops it to Krug, who has a half mile of ice with which to work. Krug striding to the net creates separation for Jake DeBrusk, but Krug opts to shoot and beats Binnington past his armpit.

As multiple Blues attempt to trap the puck carrier, vast swaths of ice open for other Bruins. If the Bruins can beat this trap, the power play will be able to succeed, as time and space will be plentiful.

The Blues, with their aggressive penalty kill, try to take away the Bruins time and force them into turnovers or make passes that are undesirable. If the Bruins can make short passes and draw the Blues out of position, they will be able to create time and space with their mismatches.