Penguins take East Division lead after shutting down Bruins

When you think of playoff hockey, you think of nerves. Maybe some nastiness. But sometimes playoff hockey boils down to rarely giving an inch, and thus developing a laser-focus on the defensive end. The Bruins and Penguins engaged in that form of playoff hockey on Sunday.

Ultimately, the Penguins ended up coming out on top vs. the Bruins. They did it during regulation, too, winning 1-0.

That’s mostly good news for the rest of the East Division, including the longshot Rangers. Pittsburgh’s now won four games in a row. They’re also 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, and the Penguins crept into first place in the East Division.

Space tough to come by between two sound teams

Through the first two periods, neither the Penguins nor the Bruins scored a goal. Officials didn’t whistle either team for a penalty, either. (There was ultimately only one penalty, as Patrice Bergeron was whistled for high-sticking late in the game.)

It wasn’t until the third period that Jake Guentzel scored a pretty 1-0 goal after a Sidney Crosby setup. Even then, it wasn’t because of some huge defensive lapse. Instead, it was about two talented players executing at a high level.

(Speaking of which, Jake Guentzel deserves some accolades alongside Sidney Crosby. During the past three seasons, Guentzel’s scored at a point-per-game rate, as he’s now at 171 points over his last 170 games played.)

Chalk up this low-scoring Bruins – Penguins game to a few factors. To start, both teams played that lock-down defense previously discussed. The goalies also were sharp, with Jeremy Swayman continuing to be a steadying force for the Bruins. People might not expect this from the Penguins, unless they’ve been paying attention to part of what makes the 2020-21 version successful.

Updated NHL East Division Standings after Bruins Penguins

For now, the Penguins moved into a tenuous East Division lead, while the Bruins lost a chance to gain ground in the top four.

Penguins: 32-14-3, 67 points in 49 games played
Capitals: 31-13-4, 66 points in 48 GP
Islanders: 29-14-5, 63 points in 48 GP
Bruins: 27-14-6, 60 points in 47 GP

Rangers: 24-18-6, 54 points in 48 GP.

Again, the Rangers would need a lot to go right to catch the Bruins, but the Penguins at least did them a favor on Sunday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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