Looks like its time to break out the brooms in Boston. After the Boston Bruins outlasted the Pittsburgh Penguins in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals, a number of reporters asked members of the team if they were beginning to look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who was the best player on the ice in game three, put it best when he said:
“You can’t fall into that trap when you’re up 3-0. As I said every game means more and more than the one before,” he said. “So we just have to focus on what we have to do to win the hockey games and not look too far ahead in the future.”
Rask, along with many of his teammates remember the emptiness of blowing three straight games in a playoff series, but right now 2010 is too far in the rearview mirror to trouble this team. As exciting as Wednesday night’s victory was, the fact that the Penguins outplayed the Bruins in regulation seems to get lost in the post-game elation.
If the Bruins can complete their sweep of the Penguins tonight, they will be able to kill two birds with one stone. For starters, the B’s will be able to quiet the few remaining critics who still question the Bruins ability to close out a series. On top of solidifying their confidence, the Bruins would earn some well-deserved and much needed time off. After game three, this series has become a matter of if not when the Bruins will advance. After imposing their will on Pittsburgh in this series, the only question that remains is, how hard will the black and gold make things on themselves.
1) How will Head Coach Claude Julien replace the injured Gregory Campbell?
In what might go down as the longest minute in Boston sports history, Gregory Campbell battled through a broken leg to help the Bruins kill off a Penguins penalty. Campbell’s contributions will never be forgotten, but now the B’s head coach will need to find the best possible replacement.
Campbell’s injury effectively ends the superb run of the Merlot line, and leaves the Bruins bottom two lines in a state of flux. Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly will probably be kept together, but Campbell’s injury allows Claude Julien some flexibility. At least for game four, Julien will likely look to move Daniel Paille up to the third line, while subsequently moving the struggling Rich Peverley down.
The Bruins do have a few options, but given how he played in the first round of the playoffs, the safe money would be on Kaspars Daugavins to take Campbell’s vacant roster spot. The dog man was very active filling in against Toronto, and with Carl Sodderberg’s lack of adjustment to the NHL, and Jay Pandolfo showing his age in the regular season, the waiver-wire acquisition is the best possible option for the Bruins going forward.
2) Do the Penguins have anything left to give in this series?
You get the feeling that Thursday night’s game three was the Penguins last gasp for air. The Penguins poured fifty-four shots on Tuukka Rask, and got tremendous effort from all of their best players, including an unlikely standout performance from beleaguered goalie Thomas Vokun. Even after the Pens gave the Bruins their best shot, the black and gold refused to yield an inch. Pittsburgh did manage to show significantly more life when playing in Boston, but now that they face a three games to none series deficit, one has to wonder how many of the team’s players can deny the writing on the wall, even if they continue to do so publicly. In the face of defeat the Penguins players and coaches have said and done all the right things, and tonight we’re going to find out if they really do believe they can win just one game.
3) Can the Bruins maintain their closers mentality?
Since Boston’s near series collapse versus the Maple Leafs, the Bruins have twice come up huge in game three’s. The B’s followed up their strong game three win against the Rangers with a fluky inconsistent effort that was riddled with sloppy play in game four. But that was then and this is now, and the Bruins have been victorious in every game they have played since. Even when the Bruins were being outplayed by Pittsburgh in game three, the team’s strong heart and will (not to mention goaltending from Tuukka Rask) made you feel that the home team would ultimately prevail. In the NHL playoffs it is a tall order to beat a team four straight times, but its starting to feel like the Bruins aren’t just any team.
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