PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 03: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins scores a goal on Tomas Vokoun #92 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first period during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on June 3, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Bruins look to battle Penguins to edge

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The Los Angeles Kings avoided falling behind 3-0 in the Western Conference finals. Now the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to do the same…

Boston Bruins host Pittsburgh Penguins (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Boston leads 2-0

With all the focus on what’s gone wrong for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins are perhaps not getting enough credit for their accomplishments. They’ve taken one of the most loaded teams in recent memory and made them look silly.

If Pittsburgh’s strategy was to overwhelm the Bruins offensively, so far it’s failed spectacularly. Boston’s defense has risen to the task and Tuukka Rask has been nearly flawless so far.

Still, Boston hasn’t won this series yet and Bruins coach Claude Julien understands that this would be a terrible time for his squad to feel content.

“Our team is really playing good hockey right now, without a doubt the best we’ve had this year, and that has to continue to beat these guys,” Julien said, according to the Ottawa Sun. “We were in the same position as Pittsburgh a few years ago and we worked our way back.

“I think we understand the situation here. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves and understand these next games are crucial for us.”

“These next games will be a lot tougher I’m sure,” Boston’s Shawn Thornton added. “These guys are a very dangerous team.”

For Pittsburgh, there are any number of adjustments they might make, but perhaps the most useful ones would be mental. After suffering a 6-1 loss on Monday, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma talked about the Penguins’ need to adjust their attitude. Although he didn’t go into detail, that likely speaks to competitiveness and patience, but also not getting scared or frustrated.

“Maybe after that first game, we played Game 2 scared to lose instead of trying to win it,” Pittsburgh forward Brenden Morrow told the McKeesport Daily News. “We were slow to pucks all night, and that’s why. We were doing too much thinking. We can’t do that again.”

We’ll see if the Penguins can enter this game with renewed focus or if the Bruins can push their backs against the wall.

The Bruins are tough to beat because of their ‘layers,’ says Julien

Claude Julien
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Boston coach Claude Julien wasn’t about to share his entire game plan with reporters today, but he did say something that’s become frustratingly apparent to the Pittsburgh Penguins after two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we have layers,” said Julien. “Our guys are committed to come back and just making sure that there’s layer after layer that make it hard for them to get to our net.”

The Bruins, with their layers, have surrendered just one Pittsburgh goal so far. And combined with clutch goaltending from Tuukka Rask — another layer in itself — Boston has a commanding 2-0 series lead, with Games 3 and 4 on home ice.

“Our team’s playing probably its best hockey this year right now, but so is Tuukka,” said Julien. “I think he’s been unbelievable so far in this series. He’s been good throughout the whole playoffs, but he seems to have brought his game up a notch here as well.”

The Bruins — who boast one of the NHL’s top defensive forwards in Patrice Bergeron and one of the best shutdown defensemen in Zdeno Chara — have shut down potent offenses in the past.

In the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, they limited the Vancouver Canucks to just eight goals in seven games. Now they’re thwarting a Pittsburgh side that came into the conference finals averaging over four goals per game in the playoffs.

On the flip side, the Canucks once led the 2011 finals by the same score the Bruins now lead the Penguins, a fact that Julien acknowledged today.

“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves here,” he said. “We need to understand that these next games are crucial for us, just as much as it is for them.”

Related: Crosby preaches patience for struggling Penguins’ offense

Discover ‘Road to the Cup’: Boston Bruins

BostonBruins
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So, who saw this coming?

After two games of the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Bruins find themselves up on the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins by a series of almost unbelievable numbers:

— Two games to none

— Nine goals to one

— Six power plays conceded, zero PP goals allowed

Add it all up and you’ve got one of the most stunning storylines of this postseason.

Even the Bruins themselves are having a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” Milan Lucic told CSNNE.com when asked what he would’ve said if someone told him the Bruins would be in this position.

“We’re just trying to create opportunities, and bear down when we do get them. It was what was lacking most during the season for us. It has thankfully come at the right time.”

The Bruins have imposed their will on the Penguins though, to be fair, they’ve really been imposing their will on all comers since the third period of that fateful Game 7 against Toronto in the opening round.

Boston has outscored opponents 31-11 since then, winning seven of eight playoff games with its lone loss coming in overtime.

But in this series, that dominance has been on display more than ever before.

Nobody has overpowered Penguins like this at any point during the regular season and/or playoffs — Pittsburgh hadn’t been shut out in 96 games prior to Game 1’s 3-0 loss and their star players have been completely shut down.

According to NHL.com, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Jarome Iginla combined for 88 points in the first 11 games of the playoffs.

They have combined for no points and a minus-25 rating in the past two games.

As such, the Bruins have now completely stolen home-ice advantage from the Penguins and head back to Boston with a chance to close out the series at TD Garden.

If they can do that, they’ll be on their way to a second Stanley Cup finals appearance in the last three years.

Who’da thunk it?

Discuss: Bruins crush Pens, take 2-0 series lead

hortonseguingetty
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The Boston Bruins might have embraced the role of the underdog coming into the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, but they’ve made an emphatic statement that the Pittsburgh Penguins had every reason to respect them through two dominant wins to open the series.

After beating them 3-0 in Game 1, the Bruins really poured it on in Game 2, throttling the Penguins 6-1 in a game that seemed like it was over once the second period started. Let’s get the discussion started.

  • We’ll have a poll up later, but we might as well start the debate here: should Dan Bylsma tab Marc-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun in Game 3?
  • One of the few bright sides for Pittsburgh is that they’ve been strong on the road. Can they get back in the series as it shifts to Boston?
  • Goaltending is far from the only problem for Pittsburgh. Who needs to step up the most: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang? Are any of those three getting unfair treatment?
  • Tuukka Rask has quietly allowed just one goal in two games. Is he officially the goalie of the future for the Bruins?
  • Is the Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton line the best combo in the 2013 playoffs. If not, who takes the cake?
  • If this series doesn’t turn at all, should Bylsma worry about his job security? Could there be any other big changes in Pittsburgh?

Video: Sidney Crosby struggles against Bruins

crosbymcdsgetty
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Even the best players have off nights.

It’s a comforting thought for normal folks, although sometimes it means that those same people have to watch their sports teams fall flat.

Sidney Crosby’s had such a rough Game 2 against the Boston Bruins on Monday that some are wondering if it’s the worst they’ve seen of the Pittsburgh Penguins in years. PHT will leave the historic talk to the comments, but this video should illuminate the 25-year-old’s tough evening quite well: