This was the match-up that fans and members of the media were hoping for. The Boston Bruins will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins with a ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.
This Eastern Conference Finals series features two of the top teams in the league. Although the Bruins have been known over the years for their depth, the 2013 Penguins have assembled a virtual All-Star team from front to back.
They were incredibly busy at the trade deadline, most notably for acquiring Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames just as it looked like he was set to join the Bruins. The stories will write themselves in the series from a media perspective. Just think about it; Iginla must go through the team he chose not to go to in order to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
From a Bruins perspective, Jaromir Jagr will be skating against his old team for one last hoorah in the spotlight. We have to remember that Jagr was on the Pittsburgh squad that won two Stanley Cups in the early 90s. The sports writers were already salivating over all of this once the second round concluded.
The key for the Bruins in this series is going to be to try and neutralize Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and any other player you want to name from their high-powered offense. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will have their hands full all series long.
Besides Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic had a great series against the Rangers. He did not produce the numbers, but he threw his weight around and showcased his speed by driving the puck to the net. Since the Penguins have question marks about their goaltender and some of their defensemen, Boston would like to expose that by doing the things that Lucic has done so far in the playoffs.
Speaking of that, the legend that has been given the name Torey Krug continues to grow around Beantown. He became the first rookie defenseman to record four goals in his first five playoff games post-expansion era. His offensive capabilities have been well documented so far in his young career.
However, all of that begins with his exceptional, yet, underrated puck-moving abilities. He carries the puck with confidence from blue line to blue line and that is something that the Bruins have lacked over the years. The Penguins love to take chances up ice, so his speed with the puck could benefit Boston in this series. Pittsburgh has one of those guys in Kris Letang, so Krug will be the answer for him.
As deep as the Penguins are right now, their fourth line does not match up too well against the Bruins fourth line. Throughout most of the playoffs, Pittsburgh has sent out Jussi Jokinen with Tyler Kennedy and Craig Adams. They have a combined nine points while the fourth line of the Bruins (comprised of Gregory Campbell flanked by Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton) has a combined 13 points.
Although the Bruins have the edge there, the third line match-up heavily favors the Penguins. Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and Tyler Seguin have not played well over the last couple of games as they all struggle to find the back of the net. They may be doing their job on the defensive side, but the lack of offensive production has become problematic.
On the other hand, Brenden Morrow, Brandon Sutter, and Matt Cooke have executed their style of play very well and have become a line that can be trusted.
With all facets of this series being split right down the middle as far as individual match-ups, it will come down to the goaltending. Will it be Tomas Vokoun or Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins? Either way, Rask has been the better goaltender. He will certainly see his fair share of shots against this team.
This is fixing to be a highly skilled, highly physical series and it all starts in Pittsburgh.