How Bruins Can Avoid Repeating Regular Season Failures vs. Penguins

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 17: Sidney Crosby # 87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a move around Johnny Boychuk # 55 of the Boston Bruins during the first period on February 17, 2013 at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Vincent Pugliese/ Getty Images)
Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins played the Pittsburgh Penguins three times in the regular season.

They lost all three games.

Even though each decision was by one goal, the Bruins did not appear to have the right mindset in any of those games.

The Bruins are a lusty and hard-hitting team that want to assert themselves with physical play. They want to be aggressive and dictate the pace of the game. The Bruins did not play that way in any of the games against the Penguins.

Instead of taking it to Sidney Crosby & Co., the Bruins sat back a large portion of the time and tried to withstand the Penguins' surges.

That strategy—whether prescribed by the coaches or adopted by the players on the ice—was problematic. It was as if the Bruins believed the Penguins were the better and more talented team and if they were going to keep from getting embarrassed, they would have to concentrate fully on defense.

The first meeting with the Penguins was perhaps the most troubling. In that March 12 meeting at the Consol Energy Center, the Bruins were in the protect mode from start to finish.

They happened to get two early goals from Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin to take a 2-0 lead before the 15-minute mark of the first period, but it seemed like the Bruins lost all desire to mount an offense after they took that lead.

The Bruins were outshot in all three periods by a wide margin. Pittsburgh had a 34-16 edge in shots on goal for the game, and it seemed the Bruins were content to get possession of the puck, skate it to center ice and then dump it in.

At no point after Seguin scored to give the Bruins their 2-0 lead did it appear they had any interest in attacking vulnerable Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

As a result, the Penguins came at backup goalie Anton Khudobin in wave after wave. The Bruins kept the Penguins off the scoreboard until the latter stages of the third period.

However, after Chris Kunitz broke through and got the Penguins on the board with less than seven minutes to play, the Penguins were not going to be denied.

Brandon Sutter finished the comeback by tying the game less than a minute after Kuntiz's goal and he added the winner with just over two minutes to go.

The two teams met again in Pittsburgh five days later, and the Penguins secured a 2-1 victory. All the goals were scored in the first period, with Seguin scoring for the Bruins while Crosby and Joe Vitale scored for the Penguins.


CJ on Rask: "we've got another round here that will be more challenging than the first two, and we'll need Tuukka to be at his best" ^CS

— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 27, 2013


The Bruins tried to turn it on in the third period when they outshot the Pens 12-3, but the Bruins' thrust did not resemble the Penguins' pressure in the previous game.

In the April 19 game in Boston—a game that had been delayed by a day while local authorities conducted a manhunt in the city for the remaining Boston Marathon bomber—the Bruins dropped a 3-2 decision.

In that game, the Bruins came out charging and Brad Marchand gave Boston an early 1-0 lead. However, after the Penguins tied the score in the second period, it seemed as if it was just a matter of time before the Penguins got the lead.

That happened early in the third when Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang scored to give the Pens a two-goal lead. Seguin scored in the final seconds to close the final deficit to one goal.

The Bruins may not have the offensive firepower that the Penguins have. The Penguins come to the ice with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Iginla, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Letang.

The Bruins don't have the star power.

However, after winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and beating two Original Six teams in the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers, they can play formidable hockey.

They depend on all-around stars like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton.

The Bruins won't beat the Penguins by sitting back and letting them come at them in waves. They must use their size, strength and speed through the neutral zone to create their own opportunities and dictate the pace of the playoff games.

If they do that, the Bruins have a chance to push this series to the limit and come away with the Eastern Conference crown.