By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn
By now, we are all well aware of the injury problems the Bruins face heading into the 2022/2023 season. The injuries will likely hinder the Bruins defensively and offensively, but one area I had not considered until recently is the power play. Unfortunately, the Bruins have become synonymous with a struggling power play, and it will not be any easier this season, with two of their primary power play weapons missing to start the season.
Tuesday morning, Conor Ryan reported that the Bruins are experimenting with five forwards on their first unit. The Bruins were among the first teams in the 2010s to use four forwards on the power play when they used Patrice Bergeron as a defenseman. Bergeron’s defensive skill allowed them to add offensive value while not sacrificing much defensively.
While using Bergeron as a defenseman is fine when a traditional defenseman is present, using him as the primary defensive option is not a strong strategy. The Bruins have also struggled in recent years with giving up shorthanded goals. Typically to prevent giving up goals, a team would add defensive strength. Unfortunately, the Bruins have done the exact opposite with this unit.
My second concern is that Bergeron will not be used as a defenseman on this power play. Ever since the Bruins innovated their power play by adding a bumper, Bergeron has made that position his trademark spot, becoming one of the best bumper players in the league. That leads me to believe he would still occupy that position even with four other forwards on the ice.
If I had to guess, I’d imagine David Krejci plays the quarterback role at the top of the power play. That would let Bergeron take that bumper role, Pastrnak and Hall would slot in on either half-wall, and DeBrusk would take the low position that slides along the goal line and the crease. Unless the Bruins change the structure, they have been using, that is the most likely setup.
The second unit did not get as much coverage because it depends on who plays on the first unit. What we do know, again, thanks to Conor Ryan, is that Jakub Zboril was working with the second unit. I would like to see Zboril as the quarterback on the second unit full-time when the season opens. This could be a breakout year for Zboril, and giving him time on the power play is a great way to supply him with point-scoring opportunities.
While Charlie McAvoy is out of the lineup, it would be great to see Hampus Lindholm get a shot at running the first power play. Not only would he provide much-needed defensive support to help stop shorthanded chances, but he would also be a great point-man to distribute the puck to shooters like Pastrnak, Hall, and Marchand once he returns.
There is still plenty of time left in the preseason for the Bruins to experiment with their lines. They may end up scrapping the five forwards strategy after one game, or it may catch fire and roll right into the season as the go-to unit. It is almost certain that the Bruins will give up some shorthanded goals this season. Using five forwards on the power play will only increase the likelihood of giving up shorthanded goals, but if it also increases power play output, it might be worth it.