The Bruins swept the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, beating the top-seeded team 1-0 Friday night. The win sends the Bruins to their
second Stanley Cup Final in three years where they'll face the Chicago Blackhawks.
Yet, before the puck dropped in Game 4 for the Bruins and Penguins, there was a distinct feeling in hockey circles that the Eastern Conference Finals series was already over. It was just a matter of whether or not it would end in a sweep or in Pittsburgh in Game 5. There were few that thought, after the first three games, that the series would last six or even seven games. But when did this thought process take over? That's where you come in. Let's try and pinpoint when the series irreversibly swayed in the Bruins' favor together. There were a number of moments that hinted at the Bruins' Stanley Cup destiny. Here are five, in no particular order.
1. Patrice Bergeron's double overtime goal in Game 3. Not only did it put the Bruins up 3-0, but it also served as a mental gut punch to the Penguins, who had clearly outskated Boston in regulation.
2. In Game 2, Brad Marchand scored in the first minute of the game against Tomas Vokoun. It was the start of an opening-period flurry of four goals en route to a 6-1 win. It was demoralizing for the Pittsburgh faithful, who were scrambling for reasons to explain away what was occurring to their proud franchise.
3. Also in Game 2, Vokoun was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period on 12 shots. Nothing screams of a series loss like having to pull your goalie in the first period.
4. Tuukka Rask recorded his first career playoff shutout against the Penguins in Game 1. It was an improbable outcome, particularly because of the clean looks the Penguins were getting and their prolific scoring throughout the playoffs. (The Penguins still currently lead all playoff teams with a 3.27 goals per game average.) Rask went on to record his second career playoff shutout in Game 4 and held the Penguins to two goals over four games. That first game was a sign of things to come.
5. After Game 3, when the Bruins realized that Gregory Campbell had played with a broken leg, the team was inspired by his gutsy performance. You could say it gave the team more motivation, despite already being up three games in the series. A team with that kind of motivation is usually dangerous.
So when do you think the series shifted unalterably for the Bruins and against the Penguins? Let us know in the comments.