Bruins complete sweep, advance to Stanley Cup Finals
This current run that the Bruins find themselves on almost defies logic. Somehow, the same team that was down 4-1 in the third period to the Maple Leafs Game 7 in the first round, but recovered, beat the Rangers in five games then swept the seemingly unbeatable Penguins to reach the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals (for the second time in three years).
Boston has won nine of its last 10 games after a thrilling 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night at TD Garden.
Fittingly, for a team that has received contributions up and down the lineup, Adam McQuaid had the game-winner. The snipe in the top corner past Tomas Vokoun (23 saves) at 5:01 of the third period was McQuaid’s second goal of the playoffs and 15th for a Bruins defensemen. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron had the assists.
“It was nice to get a little offense from our defense,” said McQuaid. “Marchand made a great play and I was just trying to get a shot on net. I had come on a line change and looked back to make sure that nobody was behind me. It feels good when you don’t normally score.”
Tuukka Rask (26 saves) pitched his second shutout of the series as the Bruins set a franchise record by allowing only two goals in four games. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang combined for a grand total of zero points in nearly 14 periods of action vs. Boston. Pittsburgh’s top-ranked power play was 0-for-15 in the series, including 0-for-3 in Game 4. Head coach Claude Julien talked about how the long layoff before the series allowed the Bruins’ coaching staff to focus on Pittsburgh’s lethal power play unit.
“We had a lot of time to make adjustments because we knew they had such a good power play,” Julien said. “We knew we had to be at our best to beat this team.”
Other than Game 2, which was a blowout for Boston, the other three games were tightly contested and as Julien pointed out, the difference in the playoffs often comes down to a lucky bounce here or there (Pittsburgh hit numerous posts in the series). It also helped that the Penguins never led in the entire series.
“You grow from the tough times, it makes you a better team down the road,” Julien said. “I’ve been here for six years and I think that I’ve been fired five times. Winning hockey games is what matters.”
Boston awaits the Western Conference champion, with the Blackhawks leading the Kings 3-1 with Game 5 Saturday night in Chicago. Either way, the Bruins haven’t seen any teams from the West because the lockout limited them to only Eastern Conference opponents. Fans of the Original Six are rooting for Bruins-Blackhawks since that particular matchup has never happened before and the last Original Six Stanley Cup Finals was 1979 (Canadiens vs. Rangers). Facing the Kings wouldn’t be bad either since they are the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate