PITTSBURGH -- It would be easy for the Boston Bruins to say they have already accomplished what they came to Pittsburgh to do, and that is why coach Claude Julien wants to make sure his players see Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final as an opportunity that should not be squandered.
After an impressive 3-0 win in Game 1, the Bruins have a chance to head back home up 2-0 in the series if they manage to win Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's hard to win games in the playoffs, it gets harder as you move forward," Julien said. "So every time you get a chance you have to make the most of it and don't waste that opportunity by saying at least we won one out of two. You have to go out there every game and challenge and want to win that game, because nothing guarantees you those home wins. And I think Pittsburgh knows that."
The Bruins are hoping they figured something out in the second intermission of Saturday's game that can carry over to Game 2. The Bruins were outshot 22-17 and gave up a number of high quality scoring chances to the Penguins over the first two periods of Game 1, but they largely carried the play in the third period to not only protect a 1-0 lead, but build on it with two goals.
The Bruins' top-four on defense of Zdeno Chara with Dennis Seidenberg and Ference with Johnny Boychuk has remained intact over the last three years, including Boston's Stanley Cup win in 2011. That familiarity is especially important when facing a team with two dangerous top lines like the Pittsburgh Penguins have, and it should serve the Bruins well again in Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's just that we've played together for a while and it's just being comfortable with each other," Boychuk said Monday. "Not that I'm not comfortable with Matt [Bartkowski], because we played well together as well. But we've played together, me and [Ference], for the last three or four playoffs, so we kind of know what to expect from each other."
What a difference a week makes. Last time I wrote, the Chicago Blackhawks were on the brink of elimination against the Detroit Red Wings and now they're just two wins away from ousting the defending champion Los Angeles Kings and returning to the Stanley Cup Final. The conference finals have tons of storylines, but with two games done out West and Game 2 coming Monday night in the East, this is what I've noticed so far.
THE BLACKHAWKS ARE BACK
Chicago didn't look quite the same over the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but after two wins to start the Western Conference Final against Los Angeles, the Blackhawks are starting to look like the team that dominated in the first half of the season. They've won the last two games against the best defensive team in the Western Conference and they did it with a remarkable amount of composure. Chicago outplayed L.A. badly in the first period and still ended up trailing when the Kings scored first. That could have easily escalated in frustration, but the Blackhawks continued doing what they do. They didn't panic. They attacked Jonathan Quick, they looked faster than L.A., they were much more in control and they just kept shooting and going to the net and they got rewarded.
PITTSBURGH -- Throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins' dressing room, a common theme was repeated: Stay the course, play the way we did over the first two periods of Game 1, things will be OK.
Be it a subtle message to his players along those lines or a simple evaluation leading to the same result, coach Dan Bylsma appears to agree when it comes to the personnel.
Judging by the line combinations and defense pairings during the morning skate, Pittsburgh will go with the same lineup it used for Saturday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final when it takes the ice for Game 2 against the Boston Bruins 8 p.m. Monday at Consol Energy Center.
"I don't think our mindset changes; I think we want more of the same," veteran forward Craig Adams said. "There's just some things we can do better, and we'll try to do those better."
"I watch the NHL Network, so I've heard it talked about," Bylsma said. "So yes."
When pressed further on if he'd considered going back to erstwhile starter Marc-Andre Fleury after starting Tomas Vokoun for the previous eight games, Bylsma said, "I heard people talk about it on the NHL Network, so it did cross my mind."
Other than listening to commentators on television, though, not nearly enough to make a switch.
CHICAGO – The Los Angeles Kings lost their first two games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road against the St. Louis Blues, but still won that Western Conference Quarterfinals series in six games.
After dropping Game 1 of the Western Conference Final in a 2-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at United Center, the defending Stanley Cup champions are again faced with a possible 0-2 hole should they lose the second half of back-to-back contests in Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Don’t, however, ask Kings coach Darryl Sutter if his team’s first-round experience might be something to draw confidence from if they’re flying home again down two games to none.
It just wasn't clear how dramatic that edge would be.
The Bruins as a team won 32 of 48 faceoffs in Game 1 Saturday night, including 22 of 30 at even strength, giving them an opportunity to start with the puck two thirds of the time.
The Penguins have not been a great faceoff team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sitting at 48.2 percent, but the dominance in other areas of their game allowed them to perhaps sweep that weakness under the rug.
Now, facing a series deficit for the first time this postseason, this one wart in Pittsburgh's game is a bit more exposed and it's something the Penguins want to improve on for Game 2 Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
It's been 25 days so far.
And just because Tomas Vokoun finally lost his second game -- his first while allowing more than two goals -- it doesn't mean Bylsma is prepared to turn back to erstwhile starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost his spot after Game 4 of the first round against the New York Islanders.
"We don't get this win, (but) the win and the loss isn't necessarily an indicator of what we're going to do with the goaltending situation," Bylsma said early Sunday afternoon, about 14 hours after the Penguins lost, 3-0, to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
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I don’t know if it was more relief for me that [Stamkos] scored or the power play scored. It was a whole compilation of Alka Seltzer.