The Boston Bruins won the Eastern Conference for the second time in three years. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Why Boston won: Once again the Bruins played nearly blemish-free hockey and when they did have defensive zone breakdowns, goalie Tuukka Rask turned aside each and every one of Pittsburgh’s offensive menaces, stopping all 26 Penguins shots for his second consecutive shutout. Credit also has to go to center Patrice Bergeron, who dominated his matchups against Sidney Crosby and was a beast in the faceoff circle (winning 17 of 26 draws). And although Adam McQuaid scored the game’s only goal five minutes into the third period, it was the Bruins’ collective patience with the puck and controlled aggression that the Penguins ultimately had no answer for.
Why Pittsburgh lost: The Pens showed little willingness to battle in front of Rask for most of the night and the series. When Kris Letang has more shots (six) than Crosby (four) and Evgeni Malkin (1) combined in an elimination game, that’s an indication the Bruins’ defenders did a big number on Pittsburgh’s biggest threats. But when you score two goals in four games, it’s not only about the opposition containing you. It’s about not being able to adapt and the Penguins’ inability to match Boston’s energy.
Play of the game: McQuaid’s goal was a shot from the point that went off the stick of Jarome Iginla and over the glove of Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun. Given that Iginla spurned the Bruins just prior to the trade deadline in favor of Pittsburgh, there was a great deal of irony. At the time, Bruins fans may have dreamed an Iginla deflection of a McQuaid shot would win the Eastern Conference title for Boston, but not quite like this. That said, they’ll certainly take it.
1. Tuukka Rask: After three rounds, Rask had the best save percentage (.943) and second-best goals-against average (1.75) of any playoff goalie. Tim Thomas who?
2. Dennis Seidenberg: Chara was the most effective Bruins defenseman in the series, but Seidenberg led Boston in ice time (27:34) in Game 4. Seidenberg also finished with a game-high seven blocked shots.
3. Tomas Vokoun: The veteran netminder was not the reason the Penguins lost, turning aside 23 of 24 shots. He deserved a better fate, but got no support from his teammates.
What's Next: The Bruins get a few precious days of rest and await the winner of the Hawks/Kings series. Their confidence has to be cresting and if Rask and the rest of the team play with similar patience and smarts in the Stanley Cup final, they’ll have a fantastic shot at winning their second championship in three seasons. The Penguins, on the other hand, face an off-season with big questions and perhaps bigger transactions. Iginla and Pascal Dupuis are unrestricted free agents, but the real focus will be on goaltending and Marc-Andre Fleury. There’s no way the franchise can entrust him with the starter’s job for another year knowing how awful he’s been in the past two post-seasons. Change in that area is all but certain to come.