One of the top storylines coming into Game 1 was how the Boston Bruins intended to utilize Zdeno Chara in a matchup role and who he would be paired with. Do they go for the matchup against Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin?
That was among the burning questions, and, as expected, the Bruins went for the Patrice Bergeron – Sidney Crosby matchup, while going for the Chara – Evgeni Malkin matchup at even strength.
The first wrinkle Bruins head coach Claude Julien threw was splitting up his top pairing of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. With Andrew Ference returning to the lineup, Julien was comfortable enough to pair Johnny Boychuk with Zdeno Chara and go with Ference and Seidenberg in a primary shutdown role against the Crosby line.
The Bruins effectively neutralized Crosby who had no points, a minus-2 rating, 4 shots on goal and was 6 of 17 (35%) on faceoffs. Crosby had just 2 shots at even strength.
The Bruins expected advantage on faceoffs was going to be a key area to watch and they won 67% of faceoffs in the game and their top-3 centers dominated on faceoffs in the game.
Bergeron was 10-16 (63%), David Krejci 5-6 (83%) and Chris Kelly was 9-12 (75%). Kelly went an excellent 3-4 (75%) on offensive zone draws and 6-8 (75%) in the defensive zone.
Crosby was 2-8 (25%) on draws against Patrice Bergeron, through Crosby was effective in offensive zone draws, winning 6 of 10 (60%). The lone bright spot for the Penguins in the faceoff circle was Jussi Jokinen who won 6 of 10 draws (60%) and was 5-8 (63%) in the defensive zone.
Brandon Sutter (3-10, 30%) and Evgeni Malkin (1-6, 17%) did not perform well in the faceoff circle, especially in the offensive zone where Sutter went 1-5 (20%) and Malkin 1-4 (25%).
If Jussi Jokinen stays in the lineup, it might be a good idea for the coaching staff to get Jokinen more opportunities for offensive zone draws and get him some situational shifts on the top-3 lines. Jokinen had no offensive zone faceoff attempts in Game 1.
ON CHARA – MALKIN MATCHUP
Zdeno Chara logged a team-high 26:32 of ice time, was a plus-2, had 3 blocked shots and 3 hits in the win. At even strength the Bruins looked to get Chara on the ice against Malkin at nearly every situation.
Through two periods, Malkin had 13 shifts in total, 10 at even strength and Chara was on the ice for 9 of Malkin’s 10 even strength shifts after forty minutes. The one even strength shift for Malkin through two periods that Chara wasn’t out against him was at the start of the game when the Bruins started Chara and Boychuk, and Pittsburgh countered with the Crosby line.
Overall in the game Chara was on the ice for 12 of Malkin’s even strength shifts. Malkin had 18 shifts in total and when including the power play, Chara was out against Malkin for 15 of Malkin’s 18 shifts.
While Malkin was pointless in the game, Chara didn’t necessarily limit Malkin’s offensive opportunities. Malkin was a force in the first two periods and the best player on the ice as he showed great jump in his legs.
At the end of the day, it was Sidney Crosby that Chara would have the biggest impact on and in a negative way for Crosby.
Chara got into Crosby’s head with his physical play in front of the net and the barking between the two at the end of the second period is well noted. That’s a win for the Bruins as they got into Crosby’s head.
Chara was on the ice for 7 even strength shifts against Crosby. Two of those shifts included Crosby and Malkin being on the ice at the same time with Chris Kunitz immediately following a Penguins penalty.
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