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2013 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Mark Albano |
June 1, 2013 | 12:14 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Sidney Crosby has been an offensive machine this postseason. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia)
Sidney Crosby has been an offensive machine this postseason. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia)

This Saturday, the offensive and high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins and the defensive and workhorse-like Boston Bruins suit up to play each other in Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, while the Bruins paraded the grail through the streets of Boston in 2011. With both teams having tasted the Cup so recently, it is certain they will do anything to hoist it again.

Regular Season Matchup

The first-seeded Penguins won all three games against the fourth-seeded Bruins this year:

3-2 on March 12th, 2-1 on March 17th, 3-2 on April 20th.

So Far In The Playoffs

This postseason, and all season really, the Pens have been a well-oiled scoring machine, averaging 4.27 goals per game. Pittsburgh, riding this offensive efficiency, has been able to breeze through their two opponents so far. They went six games to top the New York Islanders, and then romped to a 4-1 series win over the Ottawa Senators last round.

The Bruins, on the other hand, have had an eventful playoff run, which included an amazing Game 7 comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, where they came back from a three goal deficit in the third period and then won in overtime, 5-4. In Round 2, they got their momentum back, absolutely dismantling the struggling New York Rangers 4-1.

The Pens and B’s now face their toughest opponents of the playoffs. Pittsburgh is up against an experienced and defensive minded Bruins club that will surely challenge the Penguins offense in new ways, while the B’s will need to combat the Pens offense, the caliber of which they have yet to see this postseason, while also looking to match it.

Keys For This Series

While obviously there are many things to watch for this series, I have highlighted a few key areas and players that I feel will be big difference makers in this series.

The Power Play:

Don’t be surprised if this series is decided by the power play.

The Bruins, who had a strong power play kill this season, stopping 87.1% of short-handed chances, have slipped a little this postseason, down to 81.1%. This does not bode well for the B’s, considering the Pens come into the series with a blistering power play conversion rate of 28.3%. If Boston does not step it up defensively, then Pittsburgh will use the power play to get ahead in the series like they did to the Islanders and Senators.

On the other hand, the Bruins have to improve their notoriously weak offensive power play conversion rate, 14.8% in the regular season. The power play will be a rare time in the series where the Penguins will be playing more conservatively, meaning the B’s will be getting more offensive chances. Boston has to convert on these offensive advantages if they wish to be able to keep up with Pittsburgh’s impressive scoring pace.


Much of the conversation this series has been about how well these two teams are playing as a whole, with players from every line making an impact on the game.

For the Penguins, the difference maker has been the depth at the forward positions. While one can expect stars Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin to put the puck in the net, the third and fourth lines have been strong too. Kennedy and Cooke each have two goals, and the Pens have managed to create a system where the offensive push never lets up, forcing their opponents to play tough D for the whole 60 minutes.

For the Bruins, it is their fourth line that has been causing some noise, especially after some big games against the Rangers last series. They have been able to come out and make big offensive plays, scoring five times along with eight assists, giving the B’s a needed lift. Also, look for Defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Rookie Taylor Krug to continue to make some noise offensively as they have both scored four times this postseason.

Bruins forward Tyler Seguin needs to get out of his scoring slump. (ericabreetoe/Wikimedia)
Bruins forward Tyler Seguin needs to get out of his scoring slump. (ericabreetoe/Wikimedia)

Tyler Seguin:

The Bruins forward had success against the Pens earlier this year, netting three in the matchups between the teams. That said, his playoff production has been disappointing as he has only scored once this entire playoffs, shooting a dismal 2.2%.

While the defense and fourth line of the Bruins have been able to help offensively, Boston needs to look to score more this series than last as the Pens are a much stronger offensive team than the Rangers.

Pittsburgh scored 22 goals last series compared to the Bruins' 16, both series went five games, meaning the B’s need to find a way to make up for this scoring difference. Players like Tyler Seguin, who are normally reliable players, are going to have to step up and break out of their slumps in order to keep the B’s alive.


Both Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Pittsburgh’s Tomas Voukun have played phenomenally this postseason. Rask has seamlessly taken over for the brick wall and anchor of the 2011 championship team, Tim Thomas, after he left hockey, while Voukun has replaced the Penguins' starter Marc-Andre Fleury after four terrible showings by him against the Islanders.

Though this is the furthest in the playoffs either goalie has played before, both must continue to play at their elite rate, with Rask averaging 2.22 goals allowed per game and Toukun averaging a strong 1.85, if either team wishes to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Players To Watch

Here's a couple of things to keep in mind that might make this series even more exciting than it is looking like it will be.

Jaromir Jagr:

The current Boston forward was actually on the Pittsburgh Penguins for 11 years, winning two cups with them in 1991 and 1992.

The Bruins traded for the 41-year old in April from the Dallas Stars, and while he is certainly in the twilight of his career, look for him to be aggressive against his former team. He has yet to score this postseason, but he was getting some good shots on Lundqvist and the Rangers. With a scoring pedigree like his, netting the puck 78 times throughout his postseason career, it is only a matter of time before he scores and lights a fire under this series.

Jarome Iginla:

A vital part of Pittsburgh's offensive powerhouse, scoring four goals this postseason matched, Iginla was not actually a Penguin earlier this season. After seven years with the Calgary Flames, Iginla looked for a trade, citing the Kings, Penguins, Bruins, and Blackhawks as teams he was willing to go to.

Many believed that the Bruins had locked him up, but in the final hours he chose the Penguins instead.

While whether or not Iginla chose the right team to win the cup with is unknown, ironically all four teams still remain in the postseason. Do look to see if the Boston defense plays him a little harder than the rest, simply out of spite.

The X Factor?

This Pittsburgh bar has vowed to stop selling Sam Adams beer during the course of the series and that could be the difference maker for the Penguins.

But in all seriousness, these are two hockey towns that take their sports and teams seriously. Look for the rinks to be loud for the whole 60 minutes and for the fans to be rallying the players, heightening their energy.


While the Penguins swept the Bruins in their regular season matchup this year, they will not get out of Boston unscathed, especially with the way Boston dismantled the Rangers last series. That said the depth that the Penguins possess in their front line will certainly give the Bruins trouble and limit their own offensive productivity. Look for a strong, physical series as Boston will try to slow the Pittsburgh offensive juggernauts, but in the end, the Penguins will come up on top.

Pittsburgh in six.


Reach Staff Reporter Mark Albano here or follow him on Twitter.



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