Editors’ Note: #Pens’s scribe Adam, wrote a perfectly competent preview to the Eastern Conference Final, but then Eddie, our Bruins writer and wartime consiglierei, obtained (subpoenaed) the document and offered his [bracketed] editorial assistance.
Well, this is pretty much what everyone saw coming in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins and Bruins will take the ice at Consol Energy on Saturday in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in a battle that, though anticipated by most, has people justifiably excited. There are some pretty noteworthy storylines built into the series: Jarome Iginla’s decision to play in Pittsburgh instead of Boston (because, um, he knows what’s up [Which got the Bruins an arguably as good player, and let us keep second round star Matt Bartkowski. So hey, thanks, Jay Feaster’s complete incompetence]), Jaromir Jagr’s second series against the Penguins since coming back to the NHL, the Matt Cooke/Marc Savard incident of yore… Oh, and they’re kind of great hockey teams [Matt Cooke is still a festering boil on the ass of hockey. Just ask Eugene Melnyk and his CSI squad].
Let me say this right off the bat: the Boston Bruins are the best opponent the Pittsburgh Penguins will face in the Eastern Conference, hands-down. The roster, from Bergeron to Seidenberg to Krejci to Chara to Rask and errrrrybody in between, is loaded with pretty tremendous talent. They’ve won the Stanley Cup recently, clearly know what it takes to win hockey games (even if they arrive late to the party. Sorry, Toronto.) [This was in fact deliberate and exquisite timing. It’s a fundamental rule of hockey that Leafs fans must have their hopes crushed at the moment of victory. The Kerry Fraser non-call in 1993. Wade Dubielewicz. And now, surrendering a 2 goal lead in the last 2 minutes. It totally wasn’t the Bruins almost blowing it, ok?].
The Boston Bruins are also the best team in the Eastern Conference that will lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference in 5 or 6 games [Dream on, sunshine. This series is going 7. And I seem to recall a couple of years ago the Bruins had quite good luck with a 7 game first round, easy second round, and 7 game conference final]. In fact, I think that the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs were the two teams in the East that, in terms of how they matched up with Pittsburgh, made me sweat the most. While they might not have the same names and star power of, say, the Boston Bruins, their style of play posed a bigger threat [So what you’re saying is you have a gut feeling and can’t really justify it. Right.]. In short, I kind of like the way Pittsburgh matches up, and if the regular season was any indication of what’s to come, the games will be tight, but ultimately the Penguins come out on top. But why?
Well, we know the Penguins can score. They’re doing it at a near-historic rate, actually. But in their previous games against Boston, there were some pretty, um, notable absences: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Kris Letang were all out for at least one of the games against the Bruins. Pretty sure their defensemen are going to have their hands full when they realize that after Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis finally comes off the ice, they’ll see the smiling faces of Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal. Oh, and then their BFF Matt Cooke with Brandon Sutter and Pittsburgh’s favorite runt (sigh) Tyler Kennedy. Did I mention that Brenden Morrow and Jussi Jokinen are on the FOURTH line [This is surprising? At this stage of their careers they’re basically 4th liners on a good team] ? No? Oh, okay, well…they are. Good luck with that, guys. Did I mention Tuukka Rask’s horrible record against the Penguins, as well? [Stupid narratives about Tuukka Rask have had such a good record these playoffs. Please, keep indulging in them]
The Penguins defense has had its ups and downs, to put it mildly [More down than up]. But they’ve seemed to right the ship after finding which pieces fit where, and they’re getting the job done at both ends of the ice. Kris Letang is on an absolute tear, Paul Martin’s allowing fewer even-strength goals per 60 minutes than all but Slava Voynov and Rob Scuderi, and Douglas Murray (yeah, really, though) will just run you over if you don’t like it [Douglas Murray is also terrible at hockey, but hey, don’t let that stop you pretending he’s a strength. In fact, stop pretending that the Pens D can actually defend. They can’t (honorable exception of idiot Pens fans whipping boy Paul Martin aside). Pittsburgh’s made an industry of winning 8-6. This doesn’t suggest competent D in their own end].
Ah, but there’s goaltending, right? The infamous Achilles heel of the Pittsburgh Penguins these past few years in the postseason has seen a new addition in the form of Tomas Vokoun, and he’s a big reason the Pittsburgh Penguins will go to the Stanley Cup Finals. Sure, he ain’t glamorous, and sometimes you wonder if, like the wobbly hubcap on that old-ass Caprice Classic you see parked outside, he might just fall apart, he somehow manages to keep the puck out of the net. His numbers are better than any goalie not named Jonathan Quick, and that guy sets the bar kind of…high. Two of the Penguins’ three victories over Boston saw Vokoun in net, and in one of the games, the Bruins only made it a one-goal game on a throwaway marker with under 20 seconds to play.
In Boston. The guy’s calm, confident, and unflappable [He also leaves massive rebounds right up the slot. During the regular season, our crease crashing line of Lucic-Krecji-Horton were playing like utter crap. Note that they’ve been our best line in the playoffs. Enjoy the free rebounds lying uncleared in the slot by your crappy D and being potted by a rampaging Lucic]. You also have to think he’s motivated by the fact that he spent so many years on absolute dirtball crappy teams in Florida praying for a chance to win this. As much as people want to see guys like Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow hoist the Cup, I’m all-in on the Tomas Vokoun hand [This I actually have to agree with. Aside from the fact that they Pens are in the B’s way for a second trip to the SCF in 3 years, Wouldn’t mind seeing the long-suffering Vokoun and Iginla win a cup.]. I want this guy to win the Stanley Cup more than anyone else. THAT IS A NARRATIVE.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t lose many games this year, but most of them were against teams that didn’t make the playoffs. They elevated their game against the big-name opponents, and I think that’s exactly what we’re going to see in this series. Again, there are going to be some tough, tight games (wouldn’t be surprised if they were all 3-2 Penguins victories, in fact), but I just like this Penguins team and matchup too much [I understand the reason for your confidence; the Pens forwards are an intimidating, fantastically talented group. However, I think you underestimate just how bad the Pens D is 5 on 5, and overestimate the stability in goal. I wouldn’t be surprised for a similar series to the 2011 SCF, with the Pens playing the role of the Canucks. Hopefully with less rioting].
The Boston Bruins are a really, really good team. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye [Agree totally. Will shed many a tear when the Pens choke on their own complacency and hit the golf course].