Bruins sweep top seeded Penguins to win Eastern Conference Title
The Boston Bruins are headed to the Stanley Cup Final after winning a hard fought defensive battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 in Game 4.
The Bruins battled with the Penguins on home ice tonight and walked away with a victory after Adam McQuaid found the back of the net in the third period. That would turn out to be the lone goal in tonight’s game and seal the 1-0 win that would send Boston to the Stanley Cup Final. It was a defensive battle along with some great goaltending that lead to the close finish tonight.
Each team had three power play chances tonight, none were successful tonight, no power play goals were scored all series.
As they have all series, the Penguins lead the Bruins in total hits, 33-25.
Boston had the slight edge in faceoff wins tonight 31-28.
In total shots, Pittsburgh barely lead with 26 with Boston having 24.
Adam McQuaid was the star of the game with his game winning goal, he ended with 2 shots and a +1 rating. Tuukka Rask earned another well deserved second star with his 26 save shutout.
So, how did Boston band together and defeat a team that many were saying before this series began could easily win the cup? The way I saw it there were two huge things that have propelled the Bruins this far, and could potentially help them towards another Stanley Cup.
Number one is easy to choose, Tuukka Rask. There was a lot of talk about how well Rask could really hold his own in the playoffs, and if he would be able to stop the likes of Crosby and Malkin coming into this series. He went above and beyond in this series, performing at a higher level than most people had expected. He’s only had two post season shutouts in his career, and they both came in this series, one of them on the road. In the entire series he allowed just two goals against a team that was averaging more than 4 goals per game. Many were comparing this team to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Bruins in how they had a lot of same pieces, but how Tim Thomas was incredible that year and they may not make it as far without a goaltender standing on their head. Bruins fans may have even doubted Rask’s ability after nights like Game 4 against the Rangers when he had a few mistakes that let in goals that shouldn’t have happened. Any doubt that Rask is a great goaltender should be gone after this series. To perform as well as he did against a team that is notorious for a fast and dangerously powerful offense is truly remarkable, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma even called it “Elite”. Now with a .943 save percentage and 1.75 goals allowed average in the playoffs, he has improved through every stage of the playoffs. If Tuukka Rask can continue to be strong in net and perform at the level he’s been playing, there is no reason Boston shouldn’t be able to play one more great series and give them a shot at the cup.
The number two reason the Bruins have come this far is a remarkable defensive effort. Boston’s defensive play in this series has looked better than they have throughout the playoffs. They held some of the biggest stars in the league back in this series. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the most feared and offensively skilled forwards in the world, and thanks to the Bruins defense in this series, they were both unable to contribute a single point. This was the same case for Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang, two players who have consistently been big parts of the Penguins offense were also unable to score in any way. It was all done by staying tight on defense and not giving these superstars the space they needed in order to set up a big play. They also did a good job of staying in position in front of their own net and controlling rebounds to make sure that Pittsburgh was unable to tip in any rebounds given up by Rask. This great defensive effort lead Boston to the series sweep with a goal differential of +10 overall.
One more key point that also deserves a mention is the Bruins depth and teamwork. Boston doesn’t have players that are watched every season to see if they’ll lead the league in goals or overall scoring. They play hockey as a well built team that knows their line mates well and knows how to work with each other, especially in clutch situations. Last series against the Rangers, many were talking about how well the 4th line was playing. In this series the offense was effective due in great part by David Krejci and the first line. That goes to show that Boston doesn’t rely on a few all-stars to carry their team. Everyone on the roster knows how to contribute their best and make great things happen. This team’s got some heart, and that’s not something you’ll see in a box score.
These are some big factors that the Bruins will need to utilize in order to be successful in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Boston will await the winner of the Western Conference Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.
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