A common sentiment after two games of the Eastern Conference finals between the Bruins and Penguins is: Who saw this coming?
Many believed this series would be an intensely close and dramatic clash of two top teams.
Instead, the rugged Bruins have dominated, first thwarting a spirited Penguins effort in Game 1 with brilliant defense, then by completely embarrassing Pittsburgh in Game 2 on both ends of the ice.
What has turned a competitive matchup on paper into a laugher on the ice? Here are five observations.
1. Clean saves: It does not appear that there are stats for goalies about how many shots are stopped by either catching the puck cleanly or stopping a shot without a rebound, but it’s hard to imagine Tuukka Rask wouldn’t be near the top of the list if there were. He has been so good at not allowing second chances that it has likely led to some level of frustration on the part of the Penguins, who appear to be flinging relatively tame shots at Rask hoping for rebounds to capitalize on.
2. Disruption: The Bruins have been getting outhit by the Penguins by a huge margin (71-38), but when the Penguins are advancing, the Bruins have been disruptive in other ways, such as getting in the way, poking pucks away, and taking away passing lanes. The Penguins have repeatedly found themselves with the puck under their skates, reaching to control the puck or their sticks being manipulated.
3. Defending their own zone: When the Penguins are able to gather themselves inside the Bruins’ blue line, they’ve found themselves swarmed. The Penguins thrive on finesse play, puckhandling and passing, but the Bruins are taking it away. A telling stat: Through two games, the Bruins have blocked 27 shots. The Penguins have blocked 19.
4. Faceoffs: The Bruins held a massive advantage in faceoff wins in Game 1, 32-16, that included even Shawn Thornton winning a faceoff over Sidney Crosby. The stats evened out in Game 2, when the Bruins held a 29-28 edge, but the Bruins are winning an awful lot of faceoffs when it really seems to matter.
5. Penguins play poor defense: While defense starts with goaltending — and the Penguins have been shaky at best in that department — the play in front of Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury has been nothing to brag about. The Bruins have found themselves with clear looks at the goal, unchallenged possessions, and have been able to outskate the Penguins blue liners.