With all due respect to the 2nd seed Montreal Canadiens, (no,wait, scratch that, no respect for the Montreal Canadiens is due) the two most talented and deepest teams in the Eastern Conference are playing for the chance to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. These two teams are chock full of experience, talent and leadership. So, who will come out on top? Lets take a look.
The Penguins have lit up the opposition so far this playoff. They are averaging 4.27 goals per game. Not to be outdone, the Bruins haven’t exactly had a problem finding the back of the net. They have the 2nd ranked offense in the playoffs. They have the top 5 playoff scorers between them.
Here is how the lines match up:
On any given night, either team could break out for a big offensive output. With the explosiveness down the middle, this should be each team’s toughest competition to date. Each key player has also had periods of time where they have been invisible, but other have picked up the slack so far.
The key to the series might be how the Penguins handle the Bruins rugged and dogged fourth line. They ran roughshod over the Rangers and if they can do the same to the Penguins defense, they can make for some tough minutes.
Veteran presence on the Pittsburgh side, while the rookies on Boston have been impressive, most notably Torey Krug. Zdeno Chara has been his rock-solid self, and it remains to be seen what the Boston defense will look like, with Wade Redden and Andrew Ference poised to return at some point. Will they get back in, and if so, who comes out? Will the likes of Krug and Bartowski be able to handle the Penguins dynamic offense or will they be in over their head? You know what you are going to get from the Penguins, but I don’t think you can say the same about the Bruins.
In the matchup between Tuukka Rask and Thomas Vokoun, there are some interesting factors. Although Rask is the undisputed #1 in Boston and Vokoun the backup in Pittsburgh, the edge might just go to the Penguins. Rask has the highest GAA and the lowest Save Percentage of the final 4 teams. Vokoun hasn’t always looked pretty, but he has gotten the job done after taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 4 of round 1.
The Penguins have the decided advantage in both segments of the special teams game, so they would like nothing more than a penalty parade. The can kill off the penalties and also make you pay for taking them.
Both Claude Julien (2011) and Dan Bylsma (2009) are less than 5 years removed from guiding their team to the Stanley Cup. Whichever coach harnesses his team’s emotions more effectively will probably end up the winner. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a true push-back yet the likes of last year’s first round series against the Flyers. Hopefully for them, they have learned from their mistakes and Bylsma will not let his team get mixed up in extra-curricular activities with the likes of Milan Lucic.
JARED: These teams are more closely matched than many other predictions seem to think. This will be a knock-down, drag-out series that will go at least 6 and probably 7. The Penguins are getting better with every game, but the Bruins found a new life with their stunning game 7 win against the Leafs. In the end, the Penguins have the two best players in the game, and that will end up being the difference. PENS in 7.
PHIL: The Penguins will finally face an opponent who should be better built to give them a good fight. Many people wrote off the Bruins after they had a hard time against the Leafs but they proved themselves in the second round. They might not have the same offensive power the Penguins do but what they have is a better goaltender in Tuukka Task. In the end I think the Penguins offense will be too much for the Bruins and Tomas Vokoun might play just well enough to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Pens in 7
JAMIE: The Bruins have a grindy 3rd and 4th line that can put up some points and cause a lot of concern for Defensemen. I thought that this would be a problem in the Ottawa series, but the Penguins D corp held strong. While Vokoun can be a liability in net, the D held it together and that will be a key to this series. The Penguins offense will just overpower the Bruins running all 4 lines. Penguins in 6.