When the Boston Bruins started Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 1st most people expected the Penguins to begin their route of the Boston Bruins. However from moment the puck dropped at the start of Game 1, the storyline changed. The Boston Bruins shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1, being the first team to do so since February 2012. The Bruins followed up that extraordinary Game 1 performance in Game 2, striking early on Vokoun and pepper him with shot after shot. Vokoun would let in 3 goals before the end of the first period and we would be pulled and replaced with Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury would surrender 3 goals late in the game as the Boston Bruins routed the Penguins 6-1 on their home ice.
Now the series shifts back home to Boston, with the Bruins riding an incredible momentum wave; the question becomes whether or not the Bruins can handle themselves with their huge momentum spike. The Bruins handled one momentum spike following Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and it carried over into the Rangers series and despite losing 1 game to the Rangers, the Bruins were able to not let the one loss get in their way and closed out that series in 5 games. The Bruins can handle the momentum spike and so far they’ve shown that they can handle the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins defense has done a fantastic job shutting down Crosby and Malkin and taking away the slot and vulnerable areas of Tuukka Rask. The defense also has been exposing the holes in the Penguins defense as well as the Penguins poor neutral zone break outs, constant turn overs have given the Bruins a large sum of scoring chances and the Bruins have capitalized on several Pittsburgh turn overs (all of which have come along the defensive blue line and neutral zone) , the Bruins have the power to smother the Penguins offense and continue to create scoring chances and they can do it with or without the home ice fans behind them.
Another major factor that the Pittsburgh Penguins have to deal with is their goaltending situation. Both Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury have crumbled at the hands of the Boston Bruins. Vokoun let in 6 goals in 2 games, and Fleury 3 goals in 1 game and while it’s obvious both goalies are having significant struggles, it also needs to remembered that when it comes to solid goaltending, it’s 1 part goalie and 1 part team defense. The Boston Bruins can play strong defense, and have been for the last 7 games, they’ve helped Rask significantly in minimizing the time opposing teams have for their scoring chances and have also done great work controlling the rebounds that Rask can’t. The Pittsburgh Penguins on the other hand, have done minimal help at best for Tomas Vokoun and Fleury. The only reason that the Bruins didn’t get more than 3 goals past Fleury for the 2 periods he was in net was because a lot of the times he had a clear enough view of the puck that he could stop it because his defense wasn’t covering him. The Penguins are relying too much on their offense, and they are starting to crack. The Bruins can play two way hockey better than any other team in the NHL and it’s showing now against the star powered Penguins.
Fleury is the most likely candidate to start Game 3 in Boston, but the goalie doesn’t matter. What matters is if the Boston Bruins can continue to abuse the lackadaisical defense off the Pittsburgh Penguins. Putting all their stock in Letang and Murray isn’t working anymore, and the Bruins have found their way on getting the puck to the goal with no major issues.
Is it possible that the Penguins could make a come back, yes. Is it possible that the Bruins will repeat their stunning game winning formula of Game 2 and squash any comeback hopes? Absolutely.
Game 3 is Wednesday June 5th on NBC Sports, 8 PM (EST)