Last night the Boston Bruins hosted the New York Rangers for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Despite the Rangers being able to get on the board first, the Bruins fought their way back on the scoreboard and sent the Rags to the golf course, winning 3-1 and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins are the last team that stand in the Bruins way of making it into the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons. The tw0 have met up in the playoffs just five times in history, the last time dating back to 1992, a time when Jaromir Jagr belonged to the Penguins and helped them advance to win the Stanley Cup. The story lines that surround these two teams are endless, from the Jarome Iginla trade that went South for Boston, the irony of Jagr sporting the ‘other’ black and yellow jersey and of course the need/want for revenge on Matt Cooke after a mindless and senseless hit ended Marc Savard‘s hockey career back in 2010. Putting the stories aside, the fact that remains is that the Penguins swept the Bruins easily in the regular season and have commanded the playoffs, showing no mercy on their former opponents.
Breaking Down The Rangers:
It took five games to control the series against the Rangers and continue on, a feat that didn’t seem possible given the injuries to Dennis Seidenberg, Wade Redden and Andrew Ference. However, the rookies stepped up to the plate and performed above and beyond the expectations set for themselves, instilling much needed confidence in the team and fan base as well.
Contributions from the entire team helped to boost the morale and add to the confidence the rookies instilled, paired with an enthusiasm and energy from Krug that seemed to be the secret weapon of mass destruction. The Merlot line consisting of Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton has been one of the best lines throughout the series and arguably the best fourth line of the league. With Thornton’s tenacity and readiness to drop the gloves at any given point to inject energy into his team, Paille’s speed and diligence paired with Campbells drive, dedication and determination, any team is going to have a hard time stopping them. It’s because of their efforts that the Bruins were able to wrap up the series against the Rangers and advance.
Another strong deciding factor is the physicality of Milan Lucic. He has been comparable to a freight train throughout the postseason, running over anyone that gets in his path and using his body to make his way to the net. In game 5 Lucic had numerous opportunities, never giving up until his body hit the ice and the puck had trickled its way to the net or tape of a teammate’s stick. When he was asked about the upcoming series against Pittsburgh he stated;
“No doubt they’re a great hockey club. In my mind they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they have. Probably the two best players in the world and a 40-goal scorer and the former 50-goal scorer, a future hall of famer and a Norris Trophy candidate on their team,” said Lucic. “They definitely have a lot of weapons and in saying all that, I think what makes them successful is they play real well as a team…I think that’s what you’re going to probably see going into this next series, is two well-rounded teams going at it. For us, we’ve got to be ready and excited for the challenge.” (via CSNNE.com)
Beasts of the East, What to Expect:
The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins have been arguably the best two teams in the Eastern Conference for the duration of the 2013 NHL regular season. The Penguins have been an offensive power house ever since the combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin was established. However, over the course of the past two season, GM Ray Shero has added more depth to his offense and veteran presence.
The combination of Crosby with the likes of Chris Kunitz has been among the league’s best pairings for the season. Kunitz registered 22 goals and 30 assists for a total 52 points. The only person in the series to register more points than that? His teammate and line mate Sidney Crosby who had 56 total points and missed 12 games due to injury.
Defensively, the Penguins have a fairly solid front with Brooks Orpik and Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang. The likes of seeing the Penguins defensive core slip up and give away two turnovers like we saw Roman Hamrlik do for the Rangers is highly unlikely and the Bruins are going to have to step up their offensive play if they stand a chance at breaking through this barrier.
The Bruins are going to have to have strong puck control, use their strong forecheck and get the pucks to the net. With Vokoun between the pipes, the Bruins are going to have to wear him down. The only way to do that is to keep the shots on him and place them in the right places at the right time.
The series is yet to have an official start date as the Western Conference is still trying to wrap things up, but by the week’s end we should have at least the first game of the series underway. Believe me when I say, this is one series you are NOT going to want to miss. To keep up with the opposition, check out Black Tie Required.