MORNING PENS BUZZ
The Pittsburgh Penguins (18-8-0, 36pts) and Boston Bruins (17-3-3, 37 pts) clash tonight at the Consol Energy Center in what could be a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview between the two teams.
Boston in back to back situations played in Ottawa last night, winning 3-2 in a shootout, improving to 17-3-3 and have now earned points in 20 of 23 games this season.
The Bruins and Penguins who are regarded by many as the two top Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference are different teams system wise.
The high scoring Penguins are first in the NHL with 97 goals, averaging 3.65 goals per game and have the 3rd ranked power play at 25.7%. Defensively the Penguins are not as fortunate to be ranking near the top of the league. The Penguins enter Tuesday’s action 21st in the NHL giving up 2.92 goals per game and have penalty kill issues dating back to last spring, ranking 22nd in the NHL at 78.1 on the PK.
The Bruins by contrast are the more complete team as they roll four lines, wear the opposition down due to a physical/grinding style and play a great team defensive game, but still have enough skill upfront to give you problems.
Boston is 10th in the NHL, averaging 2.91 goals per game and defensively are year in and year out among the NHL’s best. The Bruins are 3rd in NHL giving up just 2.13 goals per game and boast the top penalty kill unit in the NHL at 92.3%. The only area of concern for the Bruins is a 23rd ranked power play at 15.5%.
Because of the Penguins inconsistencies defensively, on the penalty kill and in goal, a few evaluators I’ve heard from feel they are going to be a team playing with fire come playoff time who are running into a hot goaltender of having another short playoff run.
Senators coach Paul MacLean has faced the Penguins twice this season, both losses for Ottawa but see’s Boston as the best team in the East and “probably in the league.”
“They just do everything right,” Senators coach Paul McClean said on Monday prior to the Bruins-Senators game. “They’re the best team, probably, in the league. From top to bottom, depthwise, from the goaltender on out, they’re very good. They’re very hard to play against. They play the game and wear you out. They just keep coming over and over and over again. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the best team in the East.”
The word in Penguins circles is that management feels the Penguins are built personnel wise to give the Bruins problems just like the Penguins do against the New York Rangers. The Penguins will be looking to make the Bruins play fast and I don’t get the sense these next two games vs Boston are going to be huge evaluation tools for management leading into the trade deadline.
My guess if the Penguins don’t play well against Boston tonight and on Sunday, they’ll just look at it more as “we didn’t have Evgeni Malkin.”