By: Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
The Boston Bruins have been known as one of the best penalty-killing teams for a while now. Regardless of which head coach they’ve played under, the PK has been an impressive strength. Check out these MA sportsbooks right now to see the best odds and future bets from safe and trusted sports wagering companies.
Over the last ten seasons, the Bruins have had a top-ten penalty-killing team eight times. It’s something the organization takes a lot of pride in, and the consistency is front and center, and there’s one constant variable. That would be assistant coach Joe Sacco.
Sacco joined the coaching staff ahead of the 2014-15 season and has been the architect behind the team’s penalty kill since then. The start of the 2023-24 campaign has been no different. Boston is now through nine games in their Centennial season, and killing penalties has remained a significant strength.
They currently have the top-ranked penalty kill in the league at 97.1%. Only one power-play goal has been scored on them, which was against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, October 21st. Sacco has widely received credit for the success.
After the Bruin’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on October 28th, in which they killed off four penalties, head coach Jim Montgomery spoke on the importance of Sacco’s duties. “Joe Sacco does a great job. It’s plain and simple.” He added, “I think it’s his game plan, his execution, and players understand his game plan at a high level.”
There are several reasons the Bruins are consistently effective when being down a man. They can roll out several different forward combinations, which keeps guys fresh throughout games. Furthermore, all their defensemen can kill penalties, resulting in the same luxury on the back end. Having arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league also goes a long way in the department.
Positionally, the Bruins are very sound in their penalty-killing strategy. They put a lot of emphasis on keeping their opposition to the perimeter in the defensive zone, which limits lateral passing lanes across the ice. It also limits high-danger chances from off the boards and allows their goalies to track the puck more easily.
Winning loose puck battles down low is another strength. This allows them to frequently gain possession and exit the zone or clear the puck down the ice. When opponents try breaking into Boston’s defensive end through the neutral zone, the Bruins forwards do an excellent job clogging up the middle of the ice. Doing so makes it difficult to enter the attacking zone cleanly and sometimes results in their opposition turning over the puck.
Another important detail of having a strong penalty kill is it helps them shift momentum. In their 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers Monday night, Charlie McAvoy was given a match penalty. It resulted in a five-minute major where Florida could score at will. Boston killed it off without yielding a goal, and the crowd came to their feet, giving the team proper recognition. That’s an example of how a big kill like that can shift the momentum of a game.
Boston’s successful penalty-killing operation, led By Joe Sacco, is undoubtedly a huge reason for their hot start. Ultimately, you never want to be shorthanded, but being able to kill off penalties constantly goes a long way in being a winning hockey team.