In many ways the NHL events that took place on March 27 and 28 makes this 2013 Eastern Conference Finals between the Bruins and Penguins now seem almost predetermined.
A few days before the league trade deadline, it appeared that Flames forward and future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla would be flipped to Boston, except at the last minute he chose the Penguins instead. That meant Bruins prospect and defensemen Matt Bartkowski (a Pittsburgh native and Penguins fan growing up) would stay with Boston and the B’s later ended up trading for former Penguins great Jaromir Jagr, who was then in Dallas. It’s indisputable that Iginla (four goals, eight assists this postseason) has been better than both Jagr (four assists) and Bartkowski (one goal, one assist) combined but nonetheless the Bruins have found a way to win two rounds in the playoffs with each guy playing a decent sized role.
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The Penguins have been the top team in the Eastern Conference all season so the fact that they reached this stage is less than surprising given their abundance of world-class talent in Sidney Crosby (seven goals, eight assists), Evgeni Malkin (four goals, 12 assists), Kris Letang (three goals 13 assists) and James Neal (six goals, four assists) among others. After eliminating the Rangers last Saturday, Bruins forward Milan Lucic even went so far as to compare the Penguins to the Miami Heat, given that their roster is flooded with big-name talent.
Jagr had 439 career goals when he was a superstar in Pittsburgh from 1990 to 2001 and had 65 goals in the playoffs over those 11 seasons in the Steel City. Given his recent struggles scoring the puck, the B’s are hoping Jagr might be given an adrenaline boost for a few weeks against the Pens, playing in a big-time hockey atmosphere in a city that he once owned.
-Former Bruins center Marc Savard has never officially hung up his skates and he’s only 35-years-old but Penguins enforcer Matt Cooke effectively ended his career on March 7, 2010 with a vicious headshot (that somehow went unpunished by the NHL) in a game at Consol Energy Center. The B’s never really responded to Cooke’s dirty play and though now is certainly not the time to mete out justice years later, it’s another interesting sidebar in this series. Cooke (three assists, 18 penalty minutes) has a much bigger role on the Penguins now than he did back then.
Three local college hockey products are on the Penguins: former BC defenseman Brooks Orpik (one goal, 1 assist, plus-6), former Harvard star Craig Adams (one assist, plus-2) and Northeastern’s Joe Vitale (one assist) have all played in at least four games this postseason for the top seed in the East.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate