PITTSBURGH – The Bruins not only bested the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday — they shut out the league’s highest scoring team from the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs.
Led by Tuukka Rask’s 29 saves, the Bruins kept the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang off the score sheet all night to prevail 3-0 and grab the first game of the best-of-seven series at CONSOL Energy Center.
Game 2 is scheduled for Monday night at the same venue. Between now and then, the Bruins won’t be putting video of their Game 1 win in their Hall of Fame. In fact, one could argue that for one night, the Bruins beat the Penguins at their own game, and that moving forward the Bruins will need to be a lot better if they’re going to claim three more victories before Pittsburgh does.
Of the 29 shots Rask had to get a body part on, only a handful weren’t high quality chances that you’d find during a 2-on-1 practice drills. Only Rask’s excellent vision and anticipation prevented him from flailing all over the place for saves a la Tim Thomas.
Rask faced 22 shots through the first 40 minutes until the Bruins started to look a little more like their normally stingy selves.
“We got caught into a run-and-gun type of game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I think we all know we’re not a team that does well in those run-and-gun games. In the third period, we settled down, played more of our game. … I thought there was some average puck management in the second period, too. That’s what I mean, some of the passes they would intercept, we tried to hit our D, they would cut those off.
“Luckily, whatever little mistakes we made, Tuukka was up to the task.”
By Rask’s own count, the Penguins hit three posts over the evening as well. So there was some luck involved in the defensive effort. Going forward, the Bruins are going to need actual score-sheet contributions from lines other than David Krejci’s. They’re going to need better puck management from all their lines, including Krejci’s (Milan Lucic has got to stop the up-the-middle turnovers). Their power play has to revert to its form from the first two rounds and not be the Penguins’ momentum-turner like Game 1.
There were other deficiencies in the Bruins’ game that will need tidying up. So it might be best for them to report to practice Sunday as though they had lost. The Penguins are only going to get better. The Bruins will need to also.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.