Last night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was one of the wildest Stanley Cup Playoff games in recent memory. It took not one, but two overtimes for the Bruins to break the 1-1 tie and go up 3-0 over the Penguins. With Patrice Bergeron’s game-winner, Boston is now just one game away from their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in three years. How did the Bruins win this one, why did the Penguins lose, and is this series all but over? I discuss.
How the Bruins won
Tuukka Rask saving 53 of 54 shots. I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to Tuukka, but he really is the best goaltender this postseason. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the kind of barrage he had to face in this one, especially in the 2nd, 3rd, and overtime periods. Sprawling out and making glove saves, stick saves, saves on breakaways, saves on rebounds, Rask did it all. After Kunitz scored for Pittsburgh, Tuukka endured 71 minutes of slap shots, wrist shots, and shots off the post, while never once getting rattled. That kind of composure is what champion goalies are made of.
- Gregory Campbell’s inspirational shift. Midway through the second period during a Penguins power play, Evgeni Malkin, who has one of the hardest shots in the National Hockey League, fired a slap shot. Gregory Campbell, one of the Bruins’ best penalty killers, sacrificed his body to block the shot, a normal play in the game of hockey. Campbell blocked the tough shot with his leg however, and had plenty of trouble getting up. Even though the fans and players could tell Campbell was seriously hurt, he eventually got up and finished the shift, successfully killing the power play. He would not return to the game, and today it was announced that he had a broken fibula that ended his season. That kind of sacrifice provided the inspirational lift necessary to propel the Bruins, seeming to fight even harder for their injured teammate.
- Patrice Bergeron’s heroics. With last night’s winner in the second OT, Patrice Bergeron has added to his history as a clutch performer for these Bruins. First, the game-tying and winning goals to complete the comeback against the Maple Leafs, and now a goal when Boston needed it the most in a pivotal third game. If he has any more clutch shots up his sleeve this June, he’ll go down in Bruins lore as a legend.
Why the Penguins are Down 3-0
Crosby, Malkin, and Iginla point droughts. Neither Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Jarome Iginla have registered a point in this series, and the three have a combined plus-minus of -10. The Penguins cannot win a game in this series if their stars can’t get the puck in the net. Iginla looks like a non-factor compared to Jaromir Jagr, who the Bruins picked up after Iginla chose to go to Pittsburgh instead of Boston.
- No goals in the third period. The Penguins have failed to score in the third period in each game of this series, and they’ve given up four goals in the same frame. They need to step up when it counts the most and they need smarter shots; they’ve shot the puck 35 times in the third, to no avail.
- Powerplay. The Penguins are 0-for-12 on the powerplay in this series. They’ve had plenty of calls go their way and plenty of opportunities to capitalize on them, but the offense is in such a funk right now that they have failed to score at all with the man advantage. They have to score on their chances in Game 4 if they hope to prolong the series Friday.
- Is it over? I’m not necessarily saying that the Bruins are going to complete the sweep on Friday night, but I will say that the series as a whole is essentially over. The Penguins were confident coming into this series, but their confidence is shot, and it shows on the ice. Nothing is working offensively and Sidney Crosby has yet to put the team on his back in the face of adversity. The Bruins look confident and are firing on all cylinders. When they had a bit of a drought offensively, they focused on getting good shots and playing exceptional defense. The Bruins look like a Stanley Cup team right now and Pittsburgh doesn’t. Right now, this series looks all but over.