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

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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.”

Turtle Wax Weekend Recap: Bruins frustrate Pens, ‘Hawks chase Quick

Saturday and Sunday proved to be very interesting in terms of opening up the Eastern and Western Conference finals.

In the East, the underdog Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 series lead and stole home ice advantage thanks to a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

The Bruins did it in their usual fashion — hard checking, asserting physicality — a strategy that really seemed to work.

The Penguins hadn’t been shutout in 96 games since the Toronto Maple Leafs did it on Feb. 1, 2012, and hadn’t been blanked in a playoff game since a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of their first-round series in 2011.

The Bruins also managed to goad the Penguins in 28 total penalty minutes on the night, including a second period that ended with the unlikeliest of players — Evgeni Malkin — engaging in a fight with Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.

Out West, the ‘Hawks took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Kings with back-to-back wins at the United Center.

In doing so, Chicago may have figured out the key to this entire playoff: How to beat Jonathan Quick. The Kings goalie, who has been virtually unbeatable this postseason, looked flat in allowing six goals on 47 shots before being yanked in favor of Jonathan Bernier in Game 2.

Quick allowed four total goals in Game 2, which was a rarity — the last time he had allowed four goals in a postseason affair was April 25, 2011, when the San Jose Sharks needed overtime in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals to eliminate the Kings.

“Whoever is shooting the puck, we feel as a team that we have the confidence that it’s going to go in at some point,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “So we’ll keep shooting the puck, creating those chances and trying to take his [Quick’s] confidence away.”

The Morning Skate: Will Vokoun, Penguins rebound vs. Bruins?

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 14: Tomas Vokoun #92 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save in the second period against the Ottawa Senators in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 14, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Senators 4-1. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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A quick look at the Eastern Conference finals and notes from Chicago’s impressive win against L.A., including Corey Crawford’s NHL first.

Game 2: No. 4 Boston Bruins at No. 1 Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. ET (on NBCSN and live online) – Bruins lead series, 1-0

After a surprisingly dominant performance in Game 1, the Bruins will look to take a firm grip of their Eastern Conference Final series when they meet the Penguins tonight at Consol Energy Center.

In the series opener, David Krejci scored two goals (his first two since posting a hat trick in Game 4 of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series vs. the Maple Leafs), linemate Nathan Horton added another, and Tuukka Rask stopped all 29 Penguins shots for his first-career postseason shutout. The Penguins got nine shots on goal combined from top centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the team as a whole appeared unfocused and largely frustrated by the Bruins for the last two periods. The captain told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the gameplan shouldn’t change too much in Game 2: “We have to do a lot of the same things. If anything, just eliminate a couple of mistakes and make sure our focus is in the right place.”

Coach Dan Bylsma was coy in his off-day press conference yesterday when referencing his starting goaltender. Tomas Vokoun was shaky at times in Game 1, allowing three goals on 30 shots, but there is no indication that Marc-Andre Fleury (the backup since Game 5 of the first round) will step in. Vokoun won two of the three regular-season meetings vs. the Bruins.

Despite not getting a goal from a defenseman for the first time in seven games, the performance of the Bruins’ defensive unit was exceptional in Game 1. The blueline corps, already boasting depth, was bolstered by the return of veteran Andrew Ference, who logged 17:27 after missing seven games with a foot injury.

DID YOU KNOW?

Only one team, the 1944-45 Detroit Red Wings, have lost Games 1 & 2 at home in a NHL semifinal or conference final, and gone on to win the series. The Wings’ opponent that postseason was the Boston Bruins.

WHO ON EARTH IS … TUUKKA RASK?

Mention Bruins trade acquisitions from Toronto, and most people will think of the first-round draft picks that became Tyler Seguin (2010) and Dougie Hamilton (2011), in exchange for Phil Kessel. Even more valuable during the Bruins’ 2013 playoff run, however, has been #1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was acquired from Leafs Nation in 2006 for fellow goalie Andrew Raycroft. This postseason, Rask is 9-4, with a 2.06 GAA, .933 save % and his first-ever playoff shutout in the Eastern Conference Final opener.

Rask served as the Bruins’ backup to Tim Thomas in 2011, and got his “Day with the Cup” in his hometown of Savonlinna, Finland, a town best known regionally for its abundance of lakes and annual summer opera festival. The 26-year-old netminder assumed the starting gig in 2012 when Thomas decided to take a leave of absence. During the lockout, he went to the Czech Republic and suited up for eventual Extraliga champions HC Plzeň, making it a possibility that he plays for two champions in one season.

In his off-day press conference yesterday, Bruins coach Claude Julien used the words “stable” and “normal” to describe Rask, as opposed to Thomas the “battler.” Judging by the meaning of his last name in the official languages of his home country, the 6’3”, 169-lb. goalie can be characterized in other ways. Rask means “quick” in Swedish, and raskas means “heavy” in Finnish. He has done some heavy lifting this postseason.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Chicago 4, Los Angeles 2 (Blackhawks lead series, 2-0)

The Blackhawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead on goals by Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus, and cruised to a 4-2 win over the Kings in Game 2 to take a two-games-to-none series lead. Defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick was pulled for only the second time in 47 career postseason appearances after giving up all four goals in the first 29:20 of the game. Quick had gone an NHL-record 34 straight playoff games (since April 25, 2011) without allowing more than three goals before tonight. On the other side of the ice, Corey Crawford made 29 saves to become this postseason’s first 10-game winner.

The Kings’ leading scorer, Mike Richards (10 points), was scratched after pregame warmups with an upper-body injury sustained late in Game 1 on a hit by the Blackhawks’ Dave Bolland. Richards was replaced by rookie Tyler Toffoli, who contributed with a goal and an assist in the loss.

The series moves to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Tuesday evening, on NBCSN. The Kings are a perfect 7-0 at Staples Center this postseason, outscoring their opponents, 18-8.

Player Team

Games

Last goal

Rob Scuderi Penguins/Kings

68

2009 ECQF, Game 3 (April 19, 2009) w/PIT
Shawn Thornton Bruins

55

2009 ECQF, Game 3 (April 20, 2009)
Michal Rozsival Rangers/Coyotes/Blackhawks

45

2008 ECQF, Game 5 (April 18, 2008) w/NYR
Niklas Hjalmarsson Blackhawks

44

2010 WCQF, Game 5 (April 24, 2010)
Mark Eaton Penguins

33

2009 ECSF, Game 6 (May 11, 2009)
Jarret Stoll Kings

24

2012 WCQF, Game 5 (April 22, 2012)
Matt Cooke Penguins

23

2010 ECSF, Game 2 (May 2, 2010)
Viktor Stalberg Blackhawks

22

2011 WCQF, Game 2 (April 15, 2011)

LINKS

  • Matt Cooke faces the music for his hit on Adam McQuaid [CBC]
  • Angry birds crash in series opener [Postmedia News]
  • Penguins need to control emotions, faceoffs [Globe and Mail]
  • Corey Crawford adds new role in Game 2 win [CSN Chicago]