Coming into the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins, not many of the hockey pundits gave the Boston Bruins much of a chance to win the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins are loaded with great talent led by Sidney Crosby, one of the best hockey players in the world. The Boston Bruins were just a bunch of second line players with no real super stars. On paper, it didn't look like this series would even be close.
As most of you know, hockey is played on the ice and not on paper.
Now that the Boston Bruins have swept the Penguins, and they're going back to the Stanley Cup Finals - for a second time in three seasons - we can finally give the Bruins their due.
How bad has it been for the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals? Wrap your hands around these numbers; through four games against the Boston Bruins, the high flying Penguins scored two goals. That's not a typo. The Penguins scored two goals against the Boston Bruins.
I broke it down for you so you can see it for yourself. The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the series averaging 4.27 goals per game. Against the Boston Bruins, the top players for the Penguins disappeared, Evgeni Malkin (0g-0a-0pts) -5 Sidney Crosby (0g-0a-0pts) -2 Jarome Iginla (0g-0a-0pts) -4.
On the other side of the ice, it was much better for the Boston Bruins; Brad Marchand (2g-2a-4pts) +5 Patrice Bergeron (2g-2a-4pts) +3 Nathan Horton (2g-3a-5pts) +6.
Both teams power-less plays
On the power play, the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins were 0/14 and the Boston Bruins were 0/12 on the powerless play as well. It's not much of a shock for the Boston Bruins, because they didn't score a power play goal in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Seriously, supers star Sidney Crosby scored (15g-41a-56pts) in 36 games during the regular season has scored zero points in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, his all-star side kick Evgeni Malkin (9g-24a-33pts) in 31 games during the regulars season has scored zero points in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No, this is not a miss print.
The story for the Boston Bruins, was their smothering defense led by Zdeno Chara, shut the Penguins down. The Boston Bruins were a miserable team to play against and when the Penguins got through the Bruins rear guard, Tuukka Rash was there to stop the puck.
Tuukka Rask (Savonlinna, Finland) has made Boston Bruins fans forget former all-star goalie Tim Thomas, as he has been absolutely amazing. Here's Rask's line during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: 12-4, .943 save percentage, 1.75 goals against average. During the series against the Penguins Rask stopped 134 of 136 shots. Breaking it down further, that's 4-0, .044 goals against average and a .986 save percentage. That's nothing short of amazing.
There's no "I" in team
I am going to return to something that I wrote in an earlier article. There is a parallel between the Boston Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. I believe that the Minnesota Wild resemble the 2010 Boston Bruins before they won their Stanley Cup in 2011. While the Wild don't have a lot of "super stars" per se, they do have quite a few young players that ready to step forward and make a contribution.
Also, after watching the Eastern Conference Finals, the moral of the story is, you don't have to load up on expensive overpriced super stars, you just have to find talented players that buy into a system and get the job done. The Wild are on the cusp of being a great team, with the addition of the right pieces, could be going deep into the month of May and possibly June.
Lastly, Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton is an unrestricted free agent that the Minnesota Wild might want to take a look at in the offseason.