I just so happened to be watching NHL tonight on the NHL Network this afternoon when they were talking about last night’s game-2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
As we all know by now, the Bruins dominated the Penguins on Monday night and prevailed with an impressive 6-1 win. Which helped them to take a commanding 2-0 series lead back to Boston.
Everything is going the Bruins way right now and in-large part because of the play of Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask. He’s been a wall between the pipes up to this point and has stopped 55 of 56 shots through the first two games of the ECF. He’s playing like a man possessed, however fortunately for the Bruins there is another man playing like he’s possessed and his line-mates are coming along for the ride.
David Krejci is not only the leading points getter for the Bruins so far this playoffs, but he also leads the entire NHL in playoff points (20) and is currently tied with Chicago Blackhawks forward, Patrick Sharp, for the lead in goals (8).
Krejci is no stranger to playoff success, he lead the Bruins and NHL in scoring during Boston’s Stanley Cup run in 2011 and he appears to be back at it again in 2013. Even with all his talent, points and his aforementioned success, Krejci is not considered a superstar in the NHL and you won’t hear his name spoken a lot unless its playoff time.
There could be many reasons for this, his game just looks so effortless or he’s a soft-spoken guy with a funny accent who comes off overly humble and well, he just doesn’t really put up the kind of numbers in the regular season that guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin do.
Whatever the reason one thing is certain, when it comes to playing under the bright-lights of the Stanley Cup playoffs, very few excel like Krejci and speaking of those “very few that excel like Krejci”, thankfully the Bruins have another one on their roster in Nathan Horton.
Horton came to Boston in 2010 having zero playoff experience in his 5-year career spent entirely with the Florida Panthers. You could tell from his day of arrival that Horton couldn’t be happier to be in a hockey-crazed town like Boston and on a team that appeared to be headed in the right direction after a few years of disappointments. But many still questioned if he could thrive under the microscope and if he could handle the pressure that comes along with performing in the playoffs.
All Horton did was go out and score some of the most memorable goals in Bruins playoff history on his way to becoming the first player in NHL history to score two game-7 game winning goals in the same playoff season. Like Krejci, Horton is back at it again this playoffs and is second in the NHL for points (17) and is currently tied for second in the NHL in goals (7). Horton is also the league-leader in +/- with a ranking of +19.
The 3rd guy on their line, Milan Lucic, has been solid as well, creating time and space for Krejci and Horton with his bruising style of play. He’s no slouch in the points department either with 12-points in the playoffs, 3 goals and 9 assists.
This line accounted for all 3 of the Bruins goals in game-1 and factored into two of the 6 goals from game-2. Needless to say, this line is getting it done individually and as a whole.
On the other side, for the Penguins we have Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Slouches by no means, as Crosby is easily the best player in the world and is currently 5th in playoff scoring with 7 goals and 8 assists, good for 15 points. Dupuis has 7 goals so far in the playoffs, while Kunitz has 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists).
However, none of these 3 have done anything overly positive through the first two games, in fact they’ve done quite the opposite.
Versus the Bruins, Crosby has 0 points and is a -3, he also committed 4-giveaways Monday night and one of them led directly to a Brad Marchand goal. Dupuis also has 0 points and is a -3, while Kunitz is a touch better, he has 0 points but is only a -2.
Now, to be fair to the Penguins, like the Bruins, they basically have two”first-lines” but that second line isn’t doing much better. Evgeni Malkin, arguably the second best player in the world, also has 0 points and a -3 rating. Jarome Iginla? Take a guess… (I’ll give you a hint, it’s the same as Crosby and Malkin’s). James Neal on the other hand is easily doing the worst of the six, he has 0 points and is an even uglier -5 for the series.
Needless to say, the Penguins haven’t been very good and its easy to see why they are in an early 0-2 hole. If they wish to get out of it, their first line needs to get a whole lot better and so does the rest of the team, especially the goaltending.
But it starts with your stars and your top players, and right now, only one team’s stars are playing. How does that saying go? “Hardwork beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”