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Sunday, 17 March 2013 16:29

Penguins vs Bruins: Beasts of the East

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[caption id="attachment_58714" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins are the Beasts of the East right now. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins are the Beasts of the East right now.[/caption]  It's hard to imagine a better matchup to have than the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Boston Bruins. Why? Because both these teams are displaying why they are at the top of the Eastern Conference along with the Montreal Canadiens. In their matchups this season, including today, Pittsburgh has come away with victories. Neither was easy though. That has to be credited to the Bruins fantastic defensive play and penalty killing. The Penguins have possibly taken a page out of the Bruin's playbook in that sense. Since the Penguins have gone on their latest win streak they have killed off their fair share of penalties and haven't given up many goals. Both teams clearly know how to scratch and claw for wins. Both right now, appear destined for the playoffs. In the first matchup the Bruins kept the Penguins off the board until the last few minutes of the 3rd period. They had been as quick to the puck as I've seen any team be this season. Claude Julien and Dan Bylsma both have to be happy with the efforts that their teams have displayed. That is especially true of some of the youngest players on both teams. Beau Bennett, the Penguins youngest forward has started to make his mark on the scoresheet. Bennett has also made some fine defensive plays that many rookies do not make with such ease. Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins rookie defenseman has been impressive as well. Hamilton has a booming shot and doesn't appear to have any 'bambi feet' on the ice that some rookies with his size show. During today's matchup the puck was being pushed back and forth between both teams with regularity. It took some battling in the corners and some forechecking before Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis set Sidney Crosby up for the games first tally. Crosby had been working down low on Zdeno Chara for several shifts before breaking free and lifting the shot over Tukka Rask's glove and shoulder. The lead did not last long though for Pittsburgh as Johnny Boychuk was able to skate towards the halfway and fire a shot that was blocked off some Penguins and Bruins legs. Tyler Seguin was waiting patiently down near the left circle. He took the rebound in stride and fired it top shelf on Vokoun's right side. Once the game was tied the tight checking returned. This was all during the 1st period, mind you. With only about half a minute left in the 1st period, the Penguin's 4th line scored. Craig Adams, more known for his shot blocking and penalty killing, created a chance. Maybe Adam's Harvard education had a part in the smart play. Who knows? Adams skated into the zone to dump the puck in. Instead of tossing the puck to the corner he took a glance towards Rask and fired a shot down low. Rask fought it off but Joe Vitale quickly made a play on it. Vitale dove and chipped the puck up into the net. That was all the scoring this game would have. The Penguins have now won 9 straight. No easy feat. The Bruins may not have come out with a win, but they showed once again their toughness against an offensive team and kept them in check. With the number of goals that the Penguins have been scoring per game it is quite a defensive display to only allow 2 goals. Unfortunately, aside from the statistics of the game, there are also injuries to talk about. Penguin's defenseman Kris Letang left the game in the 1st period after taking a hit or slash from Bruin's forward Brad Marchand. Letang stayed until his shift was over, but did not return. He was said to have a lower body injury. For the Bruins, forward David Krejci left the game after taking a shot off his knee from Johnny Boychuk. Krejci was trying to employ a screen when the shot was taken. He jumped to clear himself of the shot but could not avoid it. For the benefit of both teams and players, I hope they are alright. The forwards and defensemen in the games have been stellar. So have the netminders. Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have been growing better as the season has gone along. Tukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have also been excellent. It hasn't seemed to matter which netminder is in goal for their teams. If there is anything to take away from the games these teams have played against each other, it is that they are tough. They hit and scrap as well as make some beautiful plays. More than anything else, they know how to win. Coaching, talent and organizational intelligence has a lot to do with it. Keep an eye on both these teams to make some minor adjustments to their respective rosters going forward. The playoffs are not too far off. Both these teams know it. They may be battling with Montreal for the Eastern Conference lead for the remainder of the season. If so, that should make for some very exciting hockey. I plan to keep enjoying all the hockey I can. I hope you do too.