It Won’t Continue To Be This Easy, But Bruins Should Win Series

Before the series, I wrote a little bit about shooting percentages and how the Penguins have been much more efficient shooters than the Bruins all season. Naturally, through two games the Bruins are shooting at a 15.3-percent clip, while the Penguins have scored just one goal on 56 shots — a 1.8-percent success rate.

As you would imagine, it’s been a perfect storm that has led to this vast disparity. The Penguins have turned the puck over way too much, leading to a bunch of quality chances for the Bruins. The Bruins have generated more quality chances by finding soft spots in a Pittsburgh defense that has been, well, soft. Most importantly, the Bruins have buried those chances.

At the other end of the ice, the Bruins have forced the Penguins to work for their chances. Whereas the Penguins have given the puck away 20 times through two games, the Bruins have given it away just three times. That means fewer opportunities for odd-man rushes.

When the Penguins have gotten into the Bruins’ zone, the Bruins have done about as good a job keeping them to the outside as any team could realistically hope for against such a skilled team. On the few occasions when the Penguins have gotten close to the net, they’ve either missed their mark or run into a brick wall named Tuukka Rask.

The question now — with the Bruins up 2-0 and outscoring the Penguins 9-1 — is, can it really be this easy? Will the Penguins really go quietly? My gut says no.

The Penguins won the top seed in the Eastern Conference by nine points. They had the second-best record in the NHL this season. They scored three or more goals in 10 of their 11 playoff games coming into this series. Although they haven’t shown it in this series yet, they’re a very good team. They’ll be much better in the next two games than they’ve been in the last two.

Will they come back and win the series? I doubt it. I think the Bruins are too good to let that happen. I think they learned a lesson in the first round, when they took their foot off the gas and let the Maple Leafs come back from a 3-1 deficit to not only force a Game 7, but then go up by three in that Game 7.

But are the Penguins going to continue to be this bad? I doubt that, too. Even if they wind up getting swept, I would at least expect these next two games in Boston to be competitive. Their top six forwards, who have a grand total of zero points this series, will score at some point. They’re too good not to. As great as Rask is, he won’t maintain a .982 save percentage for the whole series. At least I don’t think he will.

Even if the Penguins do start to score, though, they still won’t have much of a chance to win if they don’t improve defensively. Given that defense has never been the Penguins’ strength, it’s a lot harder to envision a turnaround there. The Bruins aren’t the best offensive team in the league, but they’re more than good enough to continue to force mistakes and take advantage of what the Penguins (literally) give them. Without a great goalie to bail the Penguins out, a lot of those mistakes will continue to end up in the back of the net.

The Penguins will probably start scoring more, and if all they had to was close a gap, that might be enough to still win the series. But they need to close a canyon. They’ve been outscored by four goals a game through two games. I don’t expect that to continue, but I don’t expect them to turn the tables enough to win four of the next five games either.

I don’t see any way the Bruins lose this series unless they just completely collapse. As long as they continue to play the way they’ve played so far, this series should be over in four or five games, six at the most.

 

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