Gritty guys who work hard. Tough guys who can out-muscle their opponents in the corner.
Those things describe the Boston Bruins. If they are going to win a game, they are going to play brute hockey. They'll leave the artistic game to the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and the (ahem) Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins have dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. They have outscored the Pens 9-1 in two games at the Consol Energy Center, and they haven't done it by beating up the Penguins.
The Penguins have been credited with 71 hits in the first two games, while the Bruins have 38.
The Bruins have out-skated, outsmarted and out-skilled the Penguins. David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton have gotten the best of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla.
Boston has handled the puck as if it were a yo-yo. Pittsburgh has been dumbfounded by the ease the Bruins have had when making plays in the offensive zone.
In the Game 2 6-1 shellacking, the Bruins took advantage of an early gift as Brad Marchand capitalized on a Crosby giveaway at the blue line. The Little Ball of Hate gathered the bouncing puck, streaked toward the net and fired a forehand shot to the cookie shelf in the top corner of the net past a bewildered Tomas Vokoun.
That's the kind of play that Crosby would normally make, but he only had a spectator's view as Marchand raced away from him.
The second goal was more typical of Bruins hockey, as heady rookie defenseman gathered a poor clearing pass from Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang, fired a shot/pass on net and Horton used his strength and skill to maneuver the puck into the net.
But it was the third goal of the first period that left hockey fans agape. The Bruins' top line of Krejci, Horton and Milan Lucic had control of the puck. As the girthy Lucic sprinted into the offensive zone with speed, he passed the puck between his legs. Horton picked it up and made a quick delivery to Krejci.
The ever-patient Krejci had no reason to wait on this occasion. He simply blasted the puck by Vokoun, who really had no chance. It was his eighth goal of the postseason.
That was the end of the night for Vokoun, who was replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury. The Bruins added three more goals against the fill-in, and their stellar playmaking was on display again when Patrice Bergeron took a slick pass from Jaromir Jagr in the third period and whipped the puck past the confused Fleury.
The Bruins also had two picture-book goals in their Game 1 3-0 victory over the Pens.
What's going on here? Have the muscular Bruins and the slick Penguins switched uniforms?
There's a lot more to Boston than banging bodies, hard-edged defense and consistent goaltending. It is a skilled bunch who can make jaws drop when it has room to operate.
The Penguins are giving them plenty of that commodity.
Vokoun and Fleury may have to take the blame for the six goals the Bruins scored, but the Penguins defense has been pitiful, in terms of both the play of defensemen and coverage by forwards. They have simply given the Bruins freedom to make all they plays they desire in the offensive zone.
That's the most troubling part of this equation for the Penguins. The skill of Crosby, Malkin and the other stars could come back into play in Game 3 in Boston. But just when do they plan to learn to play defense?
Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik addressed the situation after the game.
“I think we're an old enough team to know what needs to be done here,” Orpik told Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You should never have to address it at this point in the season. But we are in this position. We created it. It's up to us to dig ourselves out right now.”
Orpik knows the Penguins have to work much harder and more effectively in the defensive end. That effort has not been there through the first two games and the Boston Bruins have sliced and diced the Penguins.
The Penguins seemingly have to climb an Everest-sized mountain to stop a very skilled team in black and gold.
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