The Pittsburgh Penguins looked unstoppable heading into the 2013 Eastern Conference final; instead, the Boston Bruins swept them in stunning fashion.
However you look at the numbers, the end result was a total offensive collapse for the Pens, who topped the NHL in scoring last season before lighting up the New York Islanders (scoring 25 goals in six games) and Ottawa Senators (22 in five games) in the opening two rounds.
One round later, a team built by GM of the Year Ray Shero — and loaded up with deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow — scored a measly two goals in a baffling four-game sweep.
Maybe most stunningly, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin failed to score a point.
Let’s take a game-by-game look at how this shocking series turned out.
Game 1: Boston wins 3-0
The B’s battered Pittsburgh in a game that was so wild, even Crosby, Malkin and the likes of Patrice Bergeron engaged in the nastiness. You know things are bad when the NHL’s 26-year-old poster child blames the officials for things getting out of control.
But boy, did things sure get out of control:
Game 2: Bruins dominate 6-1
Crosby’s assessment of the June 3 loss was succinct and sufficient.
“Tonight was terrible,” Crosby said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”
Rare relief for Crosby, Malkin and other Penguins scorers came with the distraction of a goalie controversy, as people debated whether Marc-Andre Fleury should get his starting job back from Tomas Vokoun.
Game 3: Penguins fall in double-OT thriller
The Penguins made some changes when the series shifted to Boston, including dumping Iginla to the third line. Pittsburgh pushed Boston to a second overtime period, yet a nice bit of work by Jaromir Jagr and a mistake by Kris Letang opened the door for another huge Patrice Bergeron game-winning goal:
After the contest, Letang’s assessment was blunt:
This seemed to stand in contrast to the all-out Bruins; their work ethic was highlighted most dramatically by Gregory Campbell during this memorable moment:
Game 4: Bruins end sweep with shutout
Fittingly, Boston ended the series by showing off its staunch defense:
Crosby believed that the Penguins deserved better, yet the sweep opened up a flood of criticism … which the Penguins’ front office mostly ignored.
- The Penguins didn’t trade Malkin.
- Head coach Dan Bylsma stood by Fleury.
- Pittsburgh remained loyal to Bylsma via a two-year extension.
- Ray Shero received an extension of his own, then he re-signed key players such as Malkin and Letang.
And, hey, that patience has worked out lately … although many will argue that it won’t matter until the Penguins make it happen in the postseason.