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Saturday, 08 June 2013 10:17

Bruins Sweep Penguins With Second Shutout of ECF

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Zero.  

Zero goals scored by Penguins players.  Zero goals (and points for that matter) scored combined by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jerome Iginla, James Neal and Kris Letang.  Zero words heard by Tuukka Rask in Coach Julien's pre game speech Rask said in a post game interview that he didn't listen.  Zero doubt that Rask has silenced every critic of his in Boston and made them look foolish in the process.

Game 4 has never so much felt like a Game 7 in any playoff series I have ever watched.  From puck drop, the Garden was rocking, urging on the B's to the sweep.  Every single play, every clear, every hit had a sense of immense urgency behind it from both teams.  Gigantic saves by Rask and Tomas Vokoun changed the ebb and flow of the game all night.  Frustration on the faces of Penguins players and extreme focus on the faces of Bruins.  It was as much a "must win" game for both black and gold teams as there could be with one of them being up 3-0 in the series.

Up and down action dominated the game and there was hardly a time when play was sloppy from either team.  The pace at times frenetic with scrambles for pucks in front of the net, including one heart stopping minute at the end of the game.

With Boston protecting the narrowest of leads, Pittsburgh pulled Vokoun with 1:30 left for the extra attacker.  All the Penguins big guns were on the ice. Crosby, Malkin, Iginla, Neal.  The B's had multiple opportunities to put the game away with an empty netter, but the desperate Pens back checked their hearts out to prevent even a shot. 

Then the mad scramble that everyone will remember.  With Rask down and out of position and the puck on Malkin's stick, Geno dangled around Zdeno Chara who sold out to block a potential shot.  Chara, while face down on the ice and beaten, whipped his left arm around and saved the game with his hand.  Big Z and his big reach corralled a wrister point blank from Malkin with the inside of his hand.

Rask got back to his feet in time to glove a clean shot off of Iginla's stick for a poetic and emphatic end to the game and the series.  Sweep of the highest scoring team since the Cup winning Edmonton Oilers complete.  Only one thing left for Rask's legendary playoff performance to be complete and it was echoing off the rafters of the Garden well before the final whistle.

We want the cup.

Adam McQuaid made that chant possible five minutes into the third period.  After getting stymied by Vokoun most of the game, Brad Marchand took a pass from Patrice Bergeron up the left side boards, stopped on his signature curl away from the half boards and sent the puck into space. McQuaid skated onto it with Iginla reaching out to poke it away and unloaded an absolute seed into the upper 90 over Vokoun's glove.  McQuaid may not get the run that the rest of the D men get and maybe not even as much as Torey Krug is currently getting, but he can bring it from the blue line and his defense is underrated.  He was the recipient of the Ranger blouse at the end of the game.

The Bruins then had to survive the next fifteen minutes of utter desperation and pressure from the Pens.  Tuukka turned away 26 shots for the game while the D blocked 19 of thier own, with seven of them finding Dennis Seidenberg's battered body.  Boston had their opportunities to put the game on ice during the flurry of Pittsburgh attacks.  Since the Penguins were selling out on the offensive end, the stretch pass for odd man rushes was open for business.  No play was more open than Danny Paille on his clean breakaway that stopped hearts as he just missed the net wide of the catching glove of a falling Vokoun.  That would have been the end of the game right there.

In the end, it was Boston remaining disciplined in every aspect of their game.  A worrisome penalty kill that looked like a shell of itself leading into the playoffs and through the first round solidified in the Eastern Conference Final, making the Penguins go 0-16 when they had been cashing in at a 25 percent clip heading into the series.

Boston has put the rest of the league on notice after dangling precariously on the edge of elimination to Toronto.  They ran through the Rangers and shut down a team that had beaten them three times in the regular season.  The dismantling of the Penguins after no one nationally had given them even a chance at the series has lit a fire under this team.  They would do well not to underestimate them again.