PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will open up their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals series with the Boston Bruins Saturday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
So, who will win the series? What are the keys to victory?
I asked some of my colleagues here at KDKA-TV what they thought.
KDKA-TV Morning News Co-Anchor Rick Dayton:
Pittsburgh wins in 5 games. Here’s why:
Recent Playoff Experience
Boston is in a familiar place. This is the Bruins’ second trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in three years — and they rolled all the way through the NHL’s post-season tournament in 2011 on the way to hoisting the Cup. Despite all the talent on the Penguins, they haven’t been this far in the playoffs since winning the Cup in 2009. Advantage: Boston
At this stage of his career, few outside Allegheny County would argue Tomas Vokoun is a better goaltender than Finnish-born Tuukka Rask. Yet the numbers might not back up their claims. Rask is just 1-4 in his career against the Penguins. In the 2013 playoffs, Vokoun has racked up six wins since replacing Marc-Andre Fleury in the New York Islanders series. His goals against average is a paltry 1.85 and an impressive .941 save percentage. Advantage: Pittsburgh
The Jagr Factor
As the NHL’s trade deadline approached, the Bruins made runs at Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, but it was the Penguins that landed both gritty forwards. Boston settled for the aging Jaromir Jagr who started his career in the NHL in Pittsburgh as a teenager during the George H.W. Bush administration. While Morrow has fought through injuries this post-season, Iginla has been a solid scorer for the Pens — and is doing precisely what Ray Shero thought he would when the Pens got him from Calgary. Jagr on the other hand, has been missing in action in the playoffs. In 12 games this spring, No. 68 has just four points and has yet to score a goal. Advantage: Pittsburgh
Power Play & Penalty Kill
Safe to say the Penguins’ power play has been electric during the first two series against the Isles and Ottawa. Pittsburgh has been scoring at a 28.3 percent conversion rate with the man advantage.\ Conversely, the Bruins’ penalty kill has been a lowly 81 percent. If those trends continue, it is going to be a very long road for the B’s. Advantage: Pittsburgh
“The Other Guys”
Boston has some guys who have racked up playoff points. David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic. All of them have double-digit point totals after a dozen games — and Brad Marchand isn’t far behind with nine points. The missing men have been Boston’s third line. It has produced only one goal (the same number of goals Beau Bennett and Tanner Glass have scored for the Penguins this spring). The Bruins’ defensive corps and fourth liners have picked up the slack by scoring 11 goals, but the gaping void from the Bruins third line can’t be ignored. Advantage: Pittsburgh
KDKA-TV Reporter Ross Guidotti:
Oh boy, is this thing going to be a fight to the death.
There’s a potential for a classic.
I look at the Bruins and I can’t help but think, ‘Where’s all this scoring coming from?’ They’re near the top of the league in the playoffs so far when it comes to lighting the red lamp.
What really blows my brain to bird seed is how many pucks are going in from their blue liners, especially that Torey Krug. The kid has been amazing. He’s not the next coming of Bobby Orr, but he’s impressive.
Matchups make the game. I see Patrice Bergeron being the man who shadows Sid while Geno and Chara are going to do some dancing down low.
Tuukka Rask’s had some blunders in net, but they are exceptions rather than the rule. If their forwards produce and take the body, the big bad Bruins have a good shot of beating the Pens.
Sidney Crosby is the greatest player on the planet!
Their offensive punch is amazing, they follow up Crosby with Malkin.
I worry about the Pens’ defense, but sometimes good goaltending can only save a scary defense from elimination for so long.
Tomas Vokoun is the hot horse. Keep riding, but please save me the “Fleury’s done, he’s a bum” talk. He’s a premier goaltender who has won big games and can do it again. And I hope they go to him and he proves those naysayers dead wrong.
It will go seven, but the Bruins win in a tight series.
KDKA-TV Sports Anchor Bob Pompeani:
This is the first time since 1945 that that Final Four in the Chase for the Stanley Cup are the last four winners of the Cup – (Los Angeles Kings in 2012), (Boston Bruins 2011), (Chicago Blackhawks 2010), and (Pittsburgh Penguins 2009).
It will make for two very hotly contested Conference Finals.
In the East, The Penguins are the favorites and should be as they are currently averaging over four goals per game in the post-season. The last team to do that and WIN a Cup was the Edmonton Oilers in 1990.
The big question in this series, can the Bruins stop the highly-skilled Penguins? They can IF Tuukka Rask plays like Jonathan Quick and IF the Bruins are disciplined enough to stay out of the penalty box. The Penguins ‘power play has been lethal and can be the biggest difference in this series.
Aside from special teams, how will the Bruins stop two of the highest scoring lines in the playoffs? Evgeni Malkin missed all three regular season games with Boston, yet the Penguins still won all three.
You can expect to see a lot of the Bergeron line matched up against the Crosby line. Zdeno Chara will also be on the ice against Crosby and company as much as possible.
But, who then is responsible for the Malkin line? I don’t think Boston has an answer there.
As for the Bruins, they will need big efforts from their big forwards. Lucic, Horton, Krejci, need to play like they did in regular season. They also need more from Jaromir Jagr, who can still win puck battles in the corners, but he needs to convert and show up on the score sheet, which he has yet to do this playoffs.
Tyler Seguin has been horrible in the post-season. They gave him big money, but he has not produced dividends. If he doesn’t in this series, Boston will have issues.
Peverley and Kelly were also big components in Boston’s Cup Championship team two years ago. So far Kelly has NO points and Peverley just one goal.
Boston DOES have a terrific fourth line of Paille-Thornton-Campbell. So far they have a combined six goals, four assists, and 38 hits. They are also a collective plus-13.
The wild card for Boston might very well be recent call up Torey Krug, who entered the NHL record books by recording four goals in his first five playoff games as a rookie. He’s a blueliner who gives Boston an element they have not had, especially on the power play.
Overall, This will be a hard fought, physical series. Special teams will have a big effect. So will goaltending, but In my opinion, the Penguins simply have too much offense that Boston cannot match.
I like the Penguins to advance in six games and meet the Los Angeles Kings, who I suspect will continue to ride Jonathan Quick to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.
See you at the rink.
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