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BOSTON (CBS) — This is what we know:
- A week’s rest can only help the Bruins at this point.
- The Penguins swept the three games they played against the B’s in the regular season– all by a single goal.
- The Bruins can rally from behind; does anyone remember Toronto?
- It’s the Eastern Conference finals, and the Bruins cannot afford to play from behind, not against the Pens.
“There’s not much that doesn’t get looked at. That’s the way hockey is today,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said this week. “But the regular season is one thing, playoffs are another. So we’re certainly not hanging our hats on the fact that our record wasn’t good against them this year. There’s only three goals difference at the end of the day. So I don’t think in three games that’s a big thing to worry about.”
I’ll admit it, I’m a little worried.
The Penguins look strong offensively and their defense is also getting the job done. Oh and one more thing, after benching Marc-Andre Fleury for game 5 of the New York series, Tomas Vokoun hasn’t given up more than three goals in a single game. Don’t get me wrong, Tuukka Rask has been impressive, but we’ve all been witness to some of those soft goals he’s given up, gaffes he cannot afford to make, not against the Penguins.
Torey Krug and Mt. Lebanon, Pa., native Matt Bartkowski have taken every opportunity to prove how much they can help this team win, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re skilled enough to productively fill in against the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference. Looks like Julien faces a tough decision as to what to do with his lineup. On the other hand, veteran David Krejci leads the NHL in playoff points, with 17 in 12 games. Nathan Horton has 12. And let’s not forget about Big Z, whose all around play has been tremendous.
“A lot goes into it,” Julien said. “At one point you make a decision and it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy one, because it’s not. We’ll deal with it when the time comes. We did it with [Dennis] Seidenberg. And if [Andrew] Ference becomes available we’ll have to deal with that, too.”
The Penguins have a knack for wearing teams down with their speed and physical play. You can bet that type of physical hockey is going to continue, which will make them a tough team to beat. If the Bruins can remain focused on defense first, good breakouts through the neutral zone, and being more physical, they should be able to overcome the Pens’ speed and attack.
The way these playoffs have gone, it’s anyone’s series. Teams that get to this point are playing good hockey and the determination that comes with the desire to bring Lord Stanley home just increases with each game.
The Bruins and Pens have met in the playoffs four times, each winning two series, but not since 1992 when the Penguins swept the Bruins in the conference finals on their way to their second straight Stanley Cup championship. This could be a series for the ages — and better yet, everything a hockey fans asks for in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I can’t wait for Saturday.
Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.