Claude Julien

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

Bylsma doesn’t want to trade chances with Bruins

Dan Bylsma, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke
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The Pittsburgh Penguins may be the highest score team in the NHL, but head coach Dan Bylsma doesn’t want his players trying to run and gun with the Boston Bruins.

“We don’t like the number of chances we gave up last game for the Bruins and don’t like the opportunities we gave them,” Bylsma said this morning ahead of tonight’s game at the Consol Energy Center.

“There was another two-on-one they had that they didn’t get a shot on that we didn’t like about our game.

“So we’re not looking to play an 8-to-6 game or a 7-to-5 game and hope we can outscore — I think the first team to score a goal is going to win this hockey game tonight.”

The Penguins, of course, didn’t score a single goal Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, a 3-0 victory for the Bruins.

And the idea that the Penguins, blessed with offensive talents Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, should try to open it up against the B’s has a certain amount of merit. So far in the playoffs, Pittsburgh has been involved in seven games where at least seven goals have been scored. The Penguins won five of those seven games; the other two were won by the New York Islanders in the first round.

But even if the Penguins did want to trade chances, they might not have a willing partner in the Bruins, who did a great job of protecting the lead in Game 1.

“I think in probably the latter, I’d say, 35 minutes of the game, we got away a little bit from our execution,” Bylsma said Saturday. “Brought pucks back, tried to make plays through the neutral zone.

“They had all five guys back. We weren’t able to get through that.”