Blood, Sweat, and Beards: Bruins Playoff Run
by Jeremy Gross on Friday, June 7th, 2013
The Boston Bruins have a shot at winning one of the greatest trophies in all of professional sports, the Stanley Cup. The Bruins’ desire to repeat their 2011 playoff run and win the Cup for the second time in three years is clear from their gritty, intense, “blue-collar” style of play. Almost every Boston fan set high expectations for the Bruins as they entered this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. In a series preview of the first-round Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series, ESPN.com analyst Scott Burnside, wrote that he “still believes in the Bruins’ ability to rediscover the old Bruins.” Although most expected the series to be a hard-fought battle, the Bruins were the favorites to pull out a victory.
In accordance to the predictions of many analysts and fans, the Boston-Toronto series turned out to be a true nail-biter. Much hype surrounded former Bruin and current Toronto forward, Phil Kessel, and current Bruin, Tyler Seguin, for whom Kessel was indirectly traded. In Game 1, the Bruins dominated and defeated the Leafs with a final score of 4-1. In Game 2, however, the Leafs struck back, defeating the Bruins 4-2 in Boston. In Game 3, despite playing on the road, the Bruins fought hard and defeated the Leafs once again by a score of 5-2. A suspenseful game four took place in Toronto. Both teams came to play and showed a strong desire to win. After thirteen minutes of overtime hockey, Bruins forward David Krejci scored his third goal of the night, landing a hat-trick to win the game for his team. Both teams played ideal playoff hockey throughout the series: fast-paced, aggressive, and hard-hitting. Knowing that one more loss would result in their getting kicked out of the playoffs, the Maple Leafs rallied back, winning the next two games 2-1 and 2-1. Game 7 was the definition of suspense. By the beginning of the third period, the Maple Leafs had a commanding 4-1 lead, but the Bruins, inspired by Boston Marathon bombings, came back, scoring a goal with eleven minutes left in the game. With about two minutes left, the Bruins pulled their goalie in order to have an extra forward on the ice and scored two straight goals, an incredible feat, to tie the game at 4-4. The Bruins completed one of the most amazing comebacks in NHL playoffs history, with long-time Bruin, Patrice Bergeron, scoring the game-winning goal just six minutes into the overtime period.
In round 2, the Bruins took on the New York Rangers – a strong team with a quick goaltender. The Rangers, like the Bruins, were still fatigued from beating the Washington Capitals in seven games in their first round series. The Bruins won the first three games of the series, defeating the Rangers 3-2 and 5-2 at the TD Garden in Boston and 2-1 at Madison Square Garden in New York, and rode strong performances by their three rookie defensemen, especially Torey Krug. Also playing a key part in the series was the Bruins energy line, or “fourth line.” Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton provided timely goals and brought energy and effort off the bench when called upon. Sports analysts and fans alike were confident that the Bruins would sweep the Rangers, but when the Rangers beat the Bruins in Game 4, fans were concerned that a repeat of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs would occur, when the Bruins were up three games to none against the Philadelphia Flyers and lost four straight games, losing the series and getting kicked out of the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Bruins defeated the Rangers with continued strong play by Krug and the fourth line, winning the series and moving on to the conference finals, disposing of any last-second doubt.
The Bruins are currently up 3-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Eastern Conference #1 seed, which is led by three of the most talented players in the NHL: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jerome Iginla. Iginla was nearly traded to the Bruins at the trade deadline in April, but went to Pittsburgh at the last minute. The Penguins pose a major threat to the Bruins, with a deadly offense led by Sidney Crosby, arguably the best hockey player in the NHL, and a sharp goalie in Thomas Vokoun. The first two games were all-Bruins, though, as they outscored Pittsburgh 9-1 and took both on Pittsburgh’s home ice. Pittsburgh played with a necessary sense of urgency in Wednesday’s game 3 in Boston, as they tallied more shots, hits, and face-off wins than the Bruins. However, on the back of goaltender Tuukka Rask, the Bruins claimed the victory with a Patrice Bergeron redirection late in the third period to claim a 3-0 stranglehold over the favored Penguins. It will be particularly difficult for the Penguins to shut down the Bruins’ high-power offense and lockdown defense in game four in Boston. The key for the Bruins going forward is to reduce mistakes and turnovers, while capitalizing on power plays, an aspect with which they struggled on Wednesday night. Tonight in Boston, the Penguins have a final opportunity to salvage the Eastern Conference finals. The puck drops at 8:00, so celebrate the end of school while the Bruins and Penguins battle for a berth in the Stanley Cup.
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