Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Five Major Storylines Of Eastern Conference Finals
2013 NHL Playoffs: Five Biggest Storylines from Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Series
The Boston Bruins are back home, taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals at the TD Garden tonight. The shock of Boston’s dominance so far in this series has yet to settle in.
Pittsburgh rolled through the regular season, already starting the year off with an uber-talented roster. However, trade deadline additions of Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray reinforced the powerhouse.
And yet, the Penguins come into Game 3 having only scored one goal for the series. Top that with coach Dan Bylsma having a goalie controversy on his hands and you’ve got a series start no one could have predicted.
The Bruins, on the other hand, have dominated nearly every facet of the game thus far. Offensively, they’ve come alive. And defensively, well, how else can you explain the zeros next to every Pittsburgh superstar’s stat line?
While the Penguins' net looks like a revolving door, Boston goalie Tuukka Rask enters Game 3 continuing to do his best impression of a brick wall.
A reverse of this entire situation would honestly make so much more sense.
Unfortunately, a 2-0 series lead is not enough for Boston to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals. Until a team wins four times, it’s anybody’s ballgame. The Bruins should know this, and they can’t afford to think anything less.
Still, with Game 3 kicking off tonight, let’s take a look at the five biggest storylines thus far in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Bruins Defense Has Left Pittsburgh Offense in Shambles
February 1, 2011. That was the last time the Penguins were shut out in a hockey game. That is until this past Saturday.
The Bruins have done everything they can to completely neutralize Pittsburgh’s potent playmakers, and it's working astoundingly well to date. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang all haven’t notched a single point yet this series.
It’d be foolish for Boston to assume this will continue. For now, though, they know what strategy works in keeping the Penguins off the board.
One would think they’re smart enough to keep rolling with it.
Tuukka Rask is Doing His Part to Keep Penguins Quiet
Remember when people were claiming Rask was underperforming this season? That seems like forever ago. Allowing one goal in two games against this star-studded lineup will do that.
The young Finn has looked stellar in the first two bouts of the series. He’s received a few lucky bounces from a goalie’s best friend, the post, but his performance so far has been lights out.
Yes, the Boston defensemen have done an excellent job at limiting Pittsburgh's opportunities, but the goalie is the last line of defense, and Rask’s play in Games 1 and 2 deserves loads of credit.
The Penguins Are Knee Deep in a Goalie Controversy
Where Rask has kept Boston’s net on lockdown, its an entirely different story when it comes to Pittsburgh.
Backup Tomas Vokoun had done more than enough so far to steady the ship and erase any goaltender issues the Penguins were facing. But it only took four and a half periods for those familiar problems to creep back up.
Giving up his sixth goal of the series late in the first period of Game 2, Vokoun was yanked for shaky starter Marc-Andre Fleury. The song remained the same, as Fleury let in three of his own, two of which looked like easy saves.
The goalie controversy has officially returned for Pittsburgh. If it isn’t shored up soon, their chances will shrink by the second.
Pittsburgh is Donating Pucks to the Bruins Like a Charity
The turnover numbers in these two games have been staggering. Pittsburgh gave away the puck eight times to Boston’s one giveaway in Game 1. In Game 2? The Penguins had 12 giveaways while Boston only had two.
This has to be the most troubling stat for Pittsburgh as it's leading to a ton of opportunities for Boston. Whether it’s the Bruins' smothering defense or the Penguins just being off on their game, the significance is huge.
Whatever the reasoning is, I’m sure Boston won’t be complaining anytime soon.
Boston's Forwards Have Returned to the Scoreboard With a Vengeance
It was the defensemen who put on an offensive display for the Bruins last round against the New York Rangers. Suddenly, though, things have shifted back into proper order.
Johnny Boychuk’s goal in Game 2 was the first time a Boston blueliner had scored this series. In the meantime, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand have all been leading an offensive explosion for the Bruins' forwards.
It's clear Boston has taken advantage of a suspect Pittsburgh defense. If this pace continues, it won’t matter who the Penguins start in net.