Bruins: Three keys to victory over Penguins
With home ice on their side and an All-Star lineup, the Penguins are the undisputed favorite to win the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Bruins. Still, Boston will not be an easy out by any means and if they are solid in a few key areas, they could certainly pull off the upset and beat Pittsburgh to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons. Most expect a great series between the two best teams in the East who will both have a week of rest before Game 1 at CONSOL Energy Center – reportedly on Saturday night – finally begins.
1. Slackers delight: Tyler Seguin’s (1 goal, 3 assists, minus-2) struggles this postseason have been well documented but his less talented linemates, Chris Kelly (0 goals, 0 assists, minus-6) and Rich Peverley (1 goal, 0 assists, minus 4), have been equally as inept offensively. To beat a team that is just as deep, the Bruins will need contributions from all four lines to get past the Penguins. Boston’s fourth line was superb against the Rangers in the semifinals but Pittsburgh has a similar amount of talent there and a wash is likely. That means that the third line for the B’s will need to step up since Boston’s top two lines are sure to have their hands full with Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla
2. Accentuate the positives: It is often said that the Bruins are the best five-on-five team in the NHL and they’ll need to play to that strength against the Penguins. Boston simply cannot afford to take stupid penalties (think David Krejci in Game 5 vs. Rangers) against Pittsburgh. The Penguins have the best power play in the postseason (13 for 46, 28.3 percent) which is one of the main reasons why they also lead the playoffs in goal-scoring (4.27 per game).
3. That’s the goal, here: The only area that one can point to with certainty as an advantage for the Bruins is in goal. Tuukka Rask (8-4, 2.22 GAA, .928 save percentage) has been Boston’s No. 1 goaltender all season, as opposed to Tomas Vokoun (6-1, 1.85 GAA, .941 save percentage) who was supposed to be Pittsburgh’s backup goaltender but was thrust into the spotlight after Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t get the job done against the Islanders in the first round. Vokoun’s numbers in a smaller sample size are better than Rask’s but if you’ve seen Penguins games, you know that he’s been shaky and can be beaten if the Bruins get traffic in front of him and crash the net – two things they did with force against New York’s Henrik Lundqvist.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate