The Boston Bruins and the Eastern Conference Final that Was
That Was Quick
Well, that was quick, wasn’t it? Before we even really knew it, before a full calendar week had elapsed, the long-awaited Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final series between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins was all done. The Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded and the commemorative caps were all distributed, but not to the team that many people expected.
Nope, the powerhouse, star-studded Penguins were the ones going home early while the Bruins ascend to their second Stanley Cup Final series in three years. Last year’s first-round exit is looking more like an anomaly with every series won.
Stymied at pretty much every turn, the Penguins were able to put a mere two goals by Tuukka Rask, the goalie who has everyone talking and is showing that Vezina Trophy nominations are certainly not the be-all end-all of goaltending achievement. He stopped 134 shots, got his first and second career playoff shutouts, put up a 0.44 goals-against average, helped set a new Bruins record for the fewest goals allowed in a four-game series and inspired favorable comparisons to former Boston goalie Tim Thomas’ performance two years ago.
Those two goals, by the way, were scored by two guys named Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz. Sure, they’re part of the Pens squad, but not the most important parts—not the guys who get all the media attention, the hype and the high expectations. Those guys, with names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, James Neal and Kris Letang, were all left entirely off the scoresheet. That vaunted Pens offense, which was capable of an average of 4.27 goals in the regular season, almost completely disappeared.
Meanwhile on the Boston side, the scoring was timely and varied. David Krejci continued to be a postseason beast—he leads the league in points and goals—while his linemate Nathan Horton has a +21 rating, which is fourth best in a playoff run behind guys named Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Jarri Kurri. Defensemen often helped out, especially considering a d-man was the one who basically ended the series.
Now, as the Chicago Blackhawks and a whole new set of challenges await, let’s take a look back at the conference final that was.
Game 1: 3-0, Boston
Goals scored by: David Krejci and Nathan Horton
This game was loud, rowdy and heated (Malkin fighting Patrice Bergeron, anyone?), but it was the quiet and unassuming Krejci who really helped push this game to a win for the visiting Bruins. He scored twice, once in the first and then again in the second, to help quiet the home crowd. Horton—who’d helped Krejci on both his goals—extended the lead and sent some fans to the doors before the final whistle.
Game 2: 6-1, Boston
Goals scored by: Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk
If that 3-0 shutout had CONSOL Energy Center emptying out before all 60 minutes of play had elapsed, so too did this 6-1 slaying. Marchand scored just 28 seconds into the first period, touching off a first-period firestorm of goals that finally ended nine seconds before the period did, capped off with another goal from number 63. At that point, the score stood at 4-1 for the visitors and Tomas Vokoun was on the bench.
That wasn’t the end of the party, though. Bergeron, his face a bit worse for wear after his fight, scored an early third-period tally and Boychuk got a goal that went in off the post, the clang echoing loudly in the much emptier arena.
Also, that guy who used to play for Pittsburgh back in the day, some old farmhand named Jaromir Jagr, notched two assists in this game.
Game 3: 2-1 (double overtime), Boston
Goals scored by: David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron
Back home in Boston, the Bruins got off to a quick start once more thanks to Krejci’s early first-period goal. But this would be no high-scoring bloodbath—in fact, neither of these final two games were. These were nail-biting, down to the wire kinds of outings, starting with this one. This one took two overtime periods to finish off and actually stretched all the way into the next calendar day, climbing to the top 10 longest Bruins games ever.
But in that overtime period, the game-winning play was started by that guy Jagr, working hard to take the puck from Malkin (some, including NBC, argue that he worked too hard and that it should’ve been a penalty) and then sending it over to a waiting Marchand. Marchand passed to Bergeron—and so it ended.
Game 4: 1-0, Boston
Goal scored by: Adam McQuaid
The Bruins play a defense-minded game. Even the forwards get in on the defending action (see also Selke winner and nominee Bergeron), but defensemen can hold down the fort and score goals too. Thus it completely makes sense that McQuaid, the Masterton nominee and a guy who scored only one playoff goal previously, put away the sole goal needed for the sweep.
To give the Penguins some credit, they worked extremely hard to force a fifth game in their barn, but it was not enough. Once McQuaid scored his goal, the Bruins doubled down on their efforts, protecting Rask and their lead at all costs. It worked and they were then able to pose around the Prince of Wales once again.