Eastern Conference Finals Preview

May 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Jarome Iginla (12) and center Sidney Crosby (right) celebrate a goal by Crosby against the New York Islanders during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After making short work of their opponents in the second round of the playoffs, the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins will meet for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. It’s not very often that you have the top two seeded teams face off in the eastern conference finals, the last time that happened was back in 2003 when the top seeded Ottawa Senators played the New Jersey Devils.

The story lines surrounding the series couldn’t be bigger. At the deadline it looked like Jerome Iginla to Boston was all but done. Then at the last second the Pens scooped in and picked up the future hall of famer for a first round draft and two prospects playing in the NCAA. In Iginla’s place the Bruins went out and acquired another future hall of famer in Jaromir Jagr. Thus far it was been Iginla who has had the better start with his new team. Jagr has looked his age and looks gased out on the ice and slumping, while Iginla his playing his role to perfection.

Keys to victory

For Pittsburgh they have to play their game. They have to attack an injury depleted defense core. Rookie Torrey Krug played very very well against the New York Rangers scoring four goals and making plays with his offense. Now he and the rest of his blueliners will be really tested with the force known as the Penguins scorers. You can take it to the bank that Zedeno Chara will be matched up with Sidney Crosby‘s line. If anybody can shut down Sid the kid, it’s Chara. The Bruins are built on defence so this will be a tough matchup for the high flying Pens.

For Boston it’s easy, just keep attacking the much maligned defense that Pittsburgh sends out there. Tomas Vokoun has played well since taking over as the starter, but keep in mind this is his 3rd team in as many years. Creep into his head that they can get to the net and put it in. Also be physical with the Pens, they won’t shy away from it but they have to prove they can take it to them physically. Last but not least they have to stay out of the box not to give the explosive Penguins many chances on the power play. It’s already tough enough to keep them at bay even strength.

X-Factors

The Penquins are going to have to lean on their offense, but Paul Martin will have to log big minutes to take the heat off Kris Letang. The Bruins know that the Pens have a weak defense and will look to wear them down through a 7 game series. Martin will have to step up defensively and contribute more on the offensive end as Letang has done for years.

The second X-Factor for Pens is going to have the be netminder Tomas Vokoun. He isn’t used to being the starter and playing this much this consecutively. He will now face his toughest team yet. While Boston won’t set the world on fire with offense, they can hang in there with the best of them. vokoun will have to limit the opportunity and be mindful of the offense Boston has from the points. The Bruins look to feed the point any chance they get. Tomas and the defense are gonna have to recognize that.

For Boston I think Brad Marchand is going to have to be on his game. I hate the term pest, but Marchand is going to have to be

May 16, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Brad Marchand (63) celebrates after scoring the winning goal in overtime on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) in game one of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. The Boston Bruins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

just that. In particular to Evgeni Malkin. He is very easy to get off his game and into his head forcing Geno to take some bad penaltys. On top of that he has to be able to play in both ends like he does for the Bruins to have any shot.

the last one for the B’s is their captain Zedeno Chara. He is going to have his hands full with the best offense the game has to offer anchored by the game’s best player. If he can shut down Malkin and Crosby like he was able to stop the combo of Nash and Stephan it will make things difficult for the Pen’s to score with the depth the Bruins have in their four lines.

Who will win?

I am taking the Boston Bruins in 6 games. I think Boston shouldn’t be worried about not having home ice. That’s not because the atmosphere is bad in Pittsburgh, which it’s not. I just think Boston is built to play very good road games in the playoffs. I think they are built for the playoffs. Great defense, very good goalie and a forward group that can both attack and defend. I think they take it to the Pens and exploit their weak back end and suspect netminders.

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Tags: 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Boston Bruins Eastern Conference NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Predictions Preview

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