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The Bruins have another long couple of days ahead of them. For the second time in as many weeks the team will play three games during a four day stretch. This time they start off the long week with a tough game against what is sure to be a fired up Pittsburgh team.
Many hockey fans will remember the embarrassing smackdown that the Bruins laid on the Penguins in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. In a lockout shortened season the Penguins entered the playoffs as the number one seed and the Bruins as the four seed. Many expected the speedy Penguins to move past the Bruins en route to the Stanley Cup Finals and a likely matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins had other plans as they made quick work of the Penguins in a four to nothing sweep.
During the entire series Boston kept Pittsburgh in check with physicality. To viewers it appered as though Penguins players wanted no part of the Bruins. Bruins players threw their bodies all over the ice in order to throw big hits and block shots. Tuukka Rask and the defense were able to limit the high powered Pittsburgh offense, including Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby, to just two goals for the entire series. Boston on the other hand was able to beat Tomas Vokoun for 12 goals.
The series was an embarrassment for the favored Pittsburgh team and surely left a bitter taste in their mouths.
Tonight will be the first time that the two teams have seen each other on the ice since said conference finals. It is the first of three meetings between the teams this season. And considering both teams recent history, those three games could have implications on playoff seeding.
However, since this is the first game between the two it is still early in the season and both teams are evenly matched. Pittsburgh currently has a two point lead on Boston with 16 points on the season but they have also played two more games.
The edge in this game much like in the postseason will likely come down to defense. Boston has the clear advantage as it is currently ranked third in the league with a 1.7 goals against average. Pittsburgh is eighth with a 2.4 average. Both teams are pretty even offensively as Boston is ranked eleventh to Pittsburgh’s tenth.
Although Boston is only one rank higher than Pittsburgh in the penalty killing department the disparity is likely much larger as the Bruins ranking dropped drastically after allowing four power play goals to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
The Penguins have two factors on their side right now. The first is home ice advantage as they will be playing in CONSOL Energy Center for NBC Sports Network’s “Rivalry Night.” The second is motivation. Not only should they want to redeem their conference finals performance but they have also lost three of their last four games.
Of course the Bruins have their own motivation as they want to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to the Devils. Oh, and they now have Jerome Iginla who snubbed them last season in order to go the Penguins. They’ll probably want to show Iginla that he made the right choice this offseason during free agency.
Look for the Bruins to eek out a tight one goal game. Regardless of the outcome this is set up to be one hell of a hockey game. And while there will be a playoff game going on in Boston it’s sure to feel like there is one going on in Pittsburgh as well.