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5 Players that Have to Step Up for Boston Bruins

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5 Boston Bruins that Need to Step Up in Eastern Conference Finals

Michael Ivins-USA Today Sports

The Boston Bruins begin their Eastern Conference finals series against the favored Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at 8:00PM. The Penguins are loaded on offense and have been the best team in the conference all season long. They led all of the National Hockey League in scoring during the regular season and are averaging almost a goal per game more in the postseason.

Three of the top four points leaders (Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Sidney Crosby) in the postseason play for Pittsburgh, making their attack flat out scary. The Bruins, for their part, have scored at a higher rate in the postseason as well. One major concern for Bruins fans as the regular season ended was their inability to score goals down the stretch. However, through two rounds, the Bruins are only behind the Penguins in scoring, averaging 3.10 goals per game.

Both teams have been solid in net, allowing just over 2.5 goals per game in the playoffs. The Penguins took a huge risk in benching starting goalie Marc Andre-Fleury, but it’s paid off. As the starter, Tomas Vokoun has been outstanding, averaging a paltry 1.85 goals against while compiling a 6-1 record. Goaltending was once considered a potential fatal flaw for the Penguins, but Vokoun has been a wall for them in the last seven games.

So if the Bruins have any chance at winning this series and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals, they’ll need several players to step up and make a difference starting Saturday night.

B.L. writes for Rants Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip.

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5.) Rich Peverly

Michael Ivins-USA Today Sports

Peverly provided a key spark for the Bruins in their 2011 Stanley Cup winning season. He scored four goals, dished out eight assists and appeared a step faster than he does right now. Through two rounds this postseason, Peverly has managed just one goal and has a plus/minus rating of -4.

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4.) Brad Marchand

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Speaking of the 2011 playoffs, Marchand was a beast in that postseason, scoring 11 goals in leading the Bruins to the title. This season, he led the Bruins with 18 goals, but has managed just two in the 12 games they’ve played thus far in the playoffs. He’s an emotional leader for this team, and a nuisance for opposing teams when he’s going well. If the Bruins are to pull off the upset, they’ll need to hear Marchand’s name called frequently.

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3.) Zdeno Chara

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Saying Chara needs to step up does not imply that he hasn’t played well thus far in the playoffs. He does, however, have a massive challenge on his hands in defending Crosby and Malkin. Like all highly skilled players in the NHL, if given time and space, both of those guys will make you pay. Therefore, Chara’s job will be to disrupt their timing, get in their jerseys and not to give them anything easy in front of the net. If the Bruins stay out of the penalty box, that will go a long way to accomplishing that goal. Regardless, Chara has to be huge and try to limit the extremely potent attack the Penguins have.

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2.) Tyler Seguin

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Through two rounds, Seguin leads the Bruins with 45 shots on goal, but has managed to find the back of the net only once. That has to change if the Bruins want to keep pace with the highflying offensive-minded Penguins. Seguin has been in good position to score throughout the playoffs, but hasn’t been able to sneak many by. He’s fanned on numerous opportunities and has hit the goalie in the chest on a bunch of others. He has the potential to breakout in what could be a high-scoring series, and the Bruins need him to in a bad way.

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1.) Tuukka Rask

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Rask still has a lot to prove in the eyes of a lot of Bruins fans. He had some big moments in the series against the New York Rangers, but also gave up a couple of incredibly soft goals. Going into this series, Rask knows he’s going to face a team loaded with offensive playmakers. It’s important for him to get off to a good start in Game 1 in Pittsburgh and build from there. A team is only as good as its goalie, so the Bruins need him to be excellent.

This series is set up to be an all-time classic, but these five individuals need to step up to ensure the Bruins have a chance in the end. If all five play well, they should have plenty of success. If one of them falters, particularly Rask, it could be a quick Eastern Conference finals.