Gameday Eastern Conference Finals #1: v. Boston Bruins

penguinsvsbruins

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Boston Bruins

Consol Energy Center, 8:00 PM, NBC, 105.9 the X

For a few hours short of a full 7 day week the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins have known they would be facing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. What they, and all of us fans, didn’t know, is when that series would begin. And now we finally have our answer. The long wait is over and the Penguins and Bruins finally have the opportunity to answer the unending stream of questions posed by the Talking Heads in both cities and abroad.

There’s no question that the break has probably been most beneficial to the Penguins. With half the team or more playing through nagging injuries including 2/3 of the top 6 forwards (Kunitz, Crosby, Malkin, and Neal) as well as others like Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen, and most of the defense this has been a time to get healthy. And in that time this veteran team, so different in makeup from 2 months ago, has had the opportunity to gel and convalesce. They’ve had the opportunity to watch so much game film they know exactly what to expect from the Bruins. And as Mike Colligan informs us, the Bruins do what they do and they’re unlikely to change. This is an absolute MUST READ piece so I’m going to give you a couple minutes to do that before we continue on. In short form, the Bruins hope to overcome the Penguins’ speed and skill solely on the strength of their smarts. With so much time off the Penguins really have the ability to match that level of smart hockey.

And that has to start with the goaltender on out. With the week off a lot of people, especially in the national media, have tried to learn more about Tomas Vokoun, whether they SHOULD have done it sometime in the previous 16 years is not for us to debate. What deserves saying though is that in many ways this guy has become THE story of the playoffs. With that kind of expectation though, he will also need to keep playing at a high level, and he tends to do his best when he’s playing smart. Quick thinking will also have to be the MO for the defense in this round. Yes Kris Letang emerged as something of a game breaker in the Senators series but he’ll need to cut out more of his mind-bogglingly bad turnovers in this series, because if he doesn’t the Bruins will do what the Senators were unable to do so often, score. And then there’s the offense: a strong, quick-moving forecheck is absolutely the key to this series for the Pens. The Bruins are a little thin in terms of who they can send out to cover Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis AND Iginla-Malkin-Neal constantly skating around in their own zone will likely break this team given enough time.

As per everyone who saw the morning skate the forwards will remain the same as they were at the end of the Senators series:

Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis

Iginla-Malkin-Neal

Cooke-Sutter-Kennedy

Morrow-Jokinen-Adams

For all the seemingly dozens of people I follow on Twitter who saw the morning skate nobody mentioned what the defensive pairings seemed to be. I can tell you that Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin will both be in the lineup, playing together, Matt Niskanen and Douglas Murray will both be playing today as a pairing and Kris Letang will definitely be in the lineup with either Deryk Engelland or Mark Eaton as his partner. As with Ottawa, this seems like a perfect series to play Eaton, he’ll be safe and responsible and he won’t have any skating issues against the big slow Bruins.

The Penguins have 8 wins, they need 8 more to win the Stanley Cup. It’s time to go get number 9 tonight.

Don’t stupid. The race to one starts tonight. Go Pens.

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