For the second time in three seasons the Bruins will appear in the Eastern Conference Finals; this time the Bruins will take on the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins as the series is set to kick off Saturday evening in Pittsburgh.
The Bruins and Penguins met three times during the regular season with the Penguins winning all three contests by one goal. Penguins’ star Evgeni Malkin did not play in any of the three games.
Pittsburgh is coming off of a five-game series victory over the Ottawa Senators. Let’s take a look at what the Bruins will need to do in order to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bring Tomas Vokoun back to Earth
I think it’s safe to say that Tomas Vokoun has been the best free agent acquisition in the league this season. Since taking over for Marc-Andre Fluery—who allowed 14 goals in four games— in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with the New York Islanders, Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun has been lights out with a 6-1-1 record, 1.85 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. Vokoun was a huge reason as to why the Penguins were able to hold of the pesky Islanders and advance on to eventually beat the Senators in the next round. If the Bruins are to have any chance against the Penguins in this one the Bruins will need to bring Vokoun back down to earth as the veteran goaltender is living on cloud nine. Vokoun won both of his matchups against the Bruins during the regular season.
Jagr needs to salute Boston by showing up
He’s gotten better as the playoffs have rolled along, but Jaromir Jagr still isint producing the way the Bruins would like, that needs to change as the Bruins take on the team that drafted Jagr with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 National Hockey League Entry Draft. Jagr has just four points, all assists, in the 12 games the Bruins have played this postseason. Maybe a hard fought series with the Penguins is exactly what Jagr needs to find the back of the net for the first time this postseason. Jager has shown some good chemistry with line-mates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Bruins will need all of that chemistry to knock off the Penguins.
Stay out of the penalty box
The Penguins have a pretty dangerous power play, that’s no secret. The Pens are the league leader in playoff power play percentage with a 28.3 success rate. From a talent standpoint no power play unit can match the one the Penguins offer. Dumb penalties could be costly in what is sure to be a tight series. Look for Matt Cooke to do what he does best and get under the skin of guys like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic who are known for losing their cool and taking dumb penalties.
Third line needs to score, and score big
The Bruins third line trio of Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley has just one goal combined in the playoffs. That one goal came off the stick of Tyler Seguin and was a power play tally. Clearly these three need to be better. After a series against the Rangers where 11 combined goals were scored by either a Bruins defensemen or a Bruins fourth line grinder, it’s time for the third line to make some noise. The Penguins are a deep team, maybe the deepest in the league. The Bruins will need to match the Penguins punch for punch and will need the third line to get going in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Rookie defensemen need to remain solid
Filling in as injury replacements for the Bruins series against the Rangers, rookie defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug exceeded expectations, and then some. This time around things will be a bit more difficult for the two rookies as they will be looked upon to stop guys like Sidney Crosby, Malkin, James Neal and Jarome Iginla. With the Bruins getting the last change in Pittsburgh, it looks like one, if not both of these rookie defensemen will be seeing some action against two of the league’s best stars. If the Bruins can get shutdown defense from Bartkowski and Krug, things could get better for the Bruins and another chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup could be at stake.