Bruins vs. Penguins: Grit Silences Glamor as Boston Grabs Lead in East Final

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 01:  Andrew Ference #21 of the Boston Bruins celebrates a first period goal by David Krejci #46 of the Bruins against the Pittsburgh Penguins  during Game One of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on June 1, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the glamor team in hockey's version of the Final Four.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are supposed to light up the scoreboard any time they take the ice. They certainly have done just that through the first two rounds of the playoffs when they averaged 4.27 goals per game, by far the most of any team in the postseason.

But the Penguins did not have their glamor players functioning at a high level against the grit of the Boston Bruins. The Pens were blanked 3-0 in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Final by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

The Penguins attacked the Bruins with speed, puck movement and skill. Sometimes, they came out in waves.

But there was no sense of panic from Boston. The Bruins kept their structure, worked hard to clog the neutral zone and operated with precision below the goal line when they had the puck in the Pittsburgh zone.

Rask was up to the task when the Penguins fired away at him, and he recorded the first playoff shutout of his career. .

The Bruins may not have a lot of glamor players, but they have hard workers like David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, who weren't the least bit nervous or scared about facing Pittsburgh's more famous headliners.

Krejci, not Crosby or Malkin, is the NHL's highest scorer in the playoffs. He had two goals in the victory and has seven goals and 12 assists in the postseason. His 19 points are three more than Malkin and four more than Crosby.

Horton, a proven playoff performer in Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run when he scored two overtime goals against the Montreal Canadiens and the series winner against the Tampa Bay Lightning, had a goal and two assists against the Penguins. Horton is an NHL-best plus-17 in the postseason, and he is proving to be one of the Bruins' most opportunistic players so far.

Frustration hit the Penguins early in the series. When they couldn't score a goal late in the first period to tie the score, they came out in the second with a nasty edge.

Matt Cooke checked Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid face-first into the glass early in the period, and that move earned him a five-minute boarding major, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Cooke will likely a disciplinary hearing with Brendan Shanahan, as he is a repeat offender.

At the end of the period, an unlikely fight broke out between Malkin and Bergeron while Crosby was jawing and challenging Chara. Malkin appeared to get the best of Bergeron, but it came at a price. He was in the penalty box for the first five minutes of the third period.

The Penguins' frustration level was somewhat surprising, considering it was just the first game of the series. While they didn't like being down by a goal, they were still right there at the end of the second period. But the scrum at the buzzer may have taken much of the team's focus away.

The Bruins scored two goals in the final period—from Krejci and Horton—and they also kept the Penguins from mounting much of an attack. Boston out-shot Pittsburgh 13-7 in the third period and 30-29 for the game.

Whenever the Penguins tried to pass the puck through the middle of the ice, the Bruins simply wouldn't allow it. The Bruins controlled the neutral zone with their active sticks and their well-placed defense.

In the end, the Penguins may have made a big mistake. They tried to get tough and dirty with the gritty Bruins. But that's not their game. They have the glamor players who are capable of highlight-film-type plays.

There's still plenty of time for the Penguins to get back in the series, but Round 1 goes to the tough guys with the spoked B on their chests.