PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to even up the Eastern Conference Finals when they take the ice for Game 2 tonight against the Boston Bruins.
It didn’t take long in Game 1 for the series to become very physical and heated.
From the opening shift, bodies were flying and it continued for much of the game. However, a questionable hit by Matt Cooke on Adam McQuaid in the second period escalated the tensions to a boiling point. Cooke was assessed a five-minute major for hitting from behind and a game misconduct.
Personally, I think it should have only been two minutes considering McQuaid put himself in a vulnerable position by turning his back to the hit. While Cooke certainly had time to lessen the blow, he was also impeded by Torey Krug as he went to chase the puck in the corner.
With time winding down in the period, Brad Marchand responded with a questionable hit of his own on James Neal and was only given a two-minute minor for boarding.
The tensions came to a head when Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron dropped the gloves at center ice after the period came to an end.
The Penguins had their chances in the game, but the difference was that Boston capitalized on theirs. Pittsburgh’s timing was just a little bit off and you could certainly attribute that to the long layoff between rounds.
Now, the Penguins will need to find a way to win tonight’s contest to avoid heading to Boston in an 0-2 hole.
Tuukka Rask stopped all 29 shots he faced in Game 1, but I wouldn’t say he was necessarily brilliant in the contest. He came up with a couple key stops at big moments in the game and also got some help from his metal friends.
To me, the game had a feel that if the Penguins could just get one behind him, the dam would break.
You’d even be hard-pressed to place blame on Vokoun for any of the three goals he allowed in Game 1. The Penguins made a couple of defensive mistakes in either coverage or puck management and the Bruins made them pay. It’s as simple as that.
Game 2 Keys To Victory
Utilize Speed Advantage
Game 1 pretty well showcased the Penguins’ overall advantage in the team speed category. The Bruins didn’t have much of an answer when the Penguins attacked them with speed. Eventually, Boston started to clog up the neutral zone to protect the lead and the Penguins tried to get too cute with east-west plays.
When they had chances in the game, it came from playing their north-south style with speed.
Get Traffic In Front Of Rask
Again, full credit to Rask for his performance in Game 1. He wasn’t spectacular, but he didn’t need to be. If the Penguins want to increase their chances of getting pucks behind him, they need to take his eyes away by getting bodies in front of the net.
I’m looking at Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Chris Kunitz specifically here. By the end of the game, Rask should be able to recite from memory how many thread stiches are in each of those three players’ name plates.
With how emotional Game 1 was, the Penguins need to keep their emotions in check in Game 2. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were great at times in the game, but then they got sucked into the post-whistle scrums and more.
The Penguins obviously need the two of them at their best to help break through Boston’s defense. Being in the penalty box or on the bench as the team kills a penalty only hurts the team’s chances.
Skate away from the scrums and skate away from Marchand. If the Bruins want to engage in post-whistle activities, let them as they will end up being penalized.
The puck is set to drop at 8 p.m. and you can watch the game on NBC Sports Network.
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