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Penguins vs Bruins

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Penguins vs Bruins - 2013 Eastern Conference Final

Penguins' Cooke ejected after hit on McQuaid

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH – The Matt Cooke storyline in the Eastern Conference Final got amplified in Game 1 on Saturday night.

The Pittsburgh Penguins forward was ejected from what turned into a 3-0 Boston Bruins victory early in the second period following his hit on defenseman Adam McQuaid into the boards from behind.

Cooke was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind, his first major penalty since the 2010-11 season.

McQuaid stayed down for a few moments as he composed himself while the Bruins went after Cooke and looked to be somewhat disoriented. He got back on his feet before taking a knee again as a Bruins trainer attended to him before getting back up and leaving for the dressing room. He returned to Boston's bench a few minutes later and finished the game, playing a regular shift from the midpoint of the second period onward.

Penguins aren't discouraged by Game 1 shutout

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH – It had been a long time since the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game without seeing the red light go on behind their opponent's net.

The 16-month anniversary of that game came Saturday night, and the Penguins celebrated it by seeing their 96-game run of shutout-free hockey come to a crashing halt.

The timing couldn't have been much worse.

However, Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss at the hands of goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins – now the only NHL team not to be shut out this season – in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final did not leave many of the Penguins players hanging their heads.

On the contrary, the Penguins feel the number of scoring chances they generated – particularly in the first half of the game – gives them something to build on for Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"We need to do a lot of the same things," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had a frustrating game. "If anything, just limit a couple of mistakes and make sure that our focus is in the right place. But I thought we did a lot of good things and we need to continue to build off that."

Bruins weather the storm in Game 1

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- In order to have a puncher's chance of knocking out the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, the Boston Bruins know they are going to have to weather some pretty intense barrages.

They not only survived the first prolonged flurry from Pittsburgh's vaunted offense in the opening minutes of Game 1, they pulled themselves off the mat and scored a telling blow with a perfectly timed counter punch, setting the stage for 3-0 victory in Game 1 at Consol Energy Center.

"I think they had pretty good start," said David Krejci, who landed the big punch for Boston with his game-opening goal at 8:23 of the first period. "They had some good chances. They played in [our] zone a lot. We were getting [into] some troubles. We couldn't get a puck deep, couldn't get a forecheck going.

Julien, Bylsma matchup another key part of ECF

Saturday, 06.01.2013 / 2:15 PM / Penguins vs Bruins - 2013 Eastern Conference Final

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- In an Eastern Conference Final series featuring a variety of intriguing matchups, the two coaches involved have plenty of important decisions to make. For two of the NHL's longest-tenured bench bosses, it all starts with a strong mutual respect.

The Boston Bruins' Claude Julien is the NHL's third-longest tenured coach after taking over the team in 2007. Less than two years later, Dan Bylsma was hired by the Pittsburgh Penguins and he ranks seventh in tenure among coaches with their current team. Each has led his team to a Stanley Cup championship and won a Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year.

"I have a lot of respect for the way their team is coached," Bylsma said of Julien's Bruins. "They're very well-coached system-wise and how they play responsible -- not just defensively but throughout their game. You've seen that for a long period of time from their team, not just right now."

Five items that can decide Eastern Final Game 1

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- The Eastern Conference Final has been on a slow simmer for a week.

The fourth-seeded Boston Bruins and top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins have been idle for at least seven days each. Though that rest has allowed for players to get healthier and for the teams to better prepare for each other, it also allowed the series to be dissected in every way possible.

But with Game 1 finally on the horizon Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) at Consol Energy Center, it is clear there are some discernible tipping points.

Here are five areas that should be watched closely; they will have a profound impact on Game 1:

Letang shares some similarities with Chara

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Considering Zdeno Chara is 10 years his senior and already has a Norris Trophy on his resume, Kris Letang could learn a lot from the Boston Bruins captain.

Zdeno Chara
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 11
SOG: 42 | +/-: 7

Indeed, the Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman looks up to his counterpart -- literally and figuratively. But in giving up 9 inches and more than 50 pounds to Chara, there are some things Letang simply can't emulate.

"He's a guy who's going to use his body to defend and be physical and be tough to play against," Letang said Friday. "I don't have that in my bag."

Put them side-by-side on the ice, the 6-foot, 201-pound Letang and the 6-foot, 9-inch, 255-pound Chara figure to have little in common. But each is among the best in the world at his position, and in that respect the two blueliners might as well be twins.

"Aside from the obvious differences, they're pretty similar -- in the way they control the game, the minutes they play, the situations they play in," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "He's their best player on their defense and [Letang] is our best player on the back end. They're both outstanding defensemen."

Malkin looking for repeat ECF performance

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Averaging about a point-and-a-half per game and tied for the scoring lead on a team he's helped into the Eastern Conference Final, the reigning NHL MVP has yet to peak in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 16
SOG: 46 | +/-: 3

"Geno," Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said, referring to Evgeni Malkin, "has got another level."

If Malkin proves it in this coming series against the Boston Bruins -- which begins Saturday at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) -- it won't be the first time he does so in a conference final.

Malkin's most recent appearance in the Eastern Conference Final is often cited as the pinnacle of his career, which includes two scoring titles and the 2011-12 Hart Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player.

Though held scoreless in Game 4 of a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009, Malkin finished the series with six goals and three assists. It was a stretch that ultimately earned the Russian playoff MVP honors after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings.

Crosby, Penguins 'prepared and rested up' for Bruins

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby has had enough down time -- even if he knows the resumption of Stanley Cup Playoff hostilities could come with a hefty physical price.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 15
SOG: 46 | +/-: -1

After eight days without a game -- the Pittsburgh Penguins haven't played since knocking the Ottawa Senators out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last Friday -- Crosby can't wait until Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Even if that game will be against a Boston Bruins team known as one of the most physical in the NHL.

"It's been productive," Crosby said of the extended layoff. "We've prepared and rested up. We all know what is coming and we'll be ready for [Saturday]."

What is likely coming for Crosby is a steady diet of physical forwards and wave after wave of punishing defensemen, led by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Siedenberg.

Bruins' Chara adding offense to shutdown defense

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The man widely known as the most dominant defensive defenseman in the NHL might not have put up the gaudy offensive numbers in the regular season that capture the attention of Norris Trophy voters.

However, entering the Eastern Conference Final, which begins Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), he's putting up the type of postseason points that might be able to power the Boston Bruins to another Stanley Cup championship.

Through two rounds of the 2013 playoffs, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has 11 points (two goals), second to Kris Letang of the Penguins (16 points) among NHL defensemen.

Penguins' great depth means some must learn to sit

Thursday, 05.30.2013 / 4:50 PM / Penguins vs Bruins - 2013 Eastern Conference Final

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Tyler Kennedy will do anything to win -- even if it means taking in a game from the press box in a suit.

He usually makes more of a noticeable impact, though, while in uniform and on the ice.

The speedy, feisty wing broke into the NHL more than five years ago and has been a regular in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup ever since. A stalwart on what many associated with the team in recent years proudly referred to as "The Best Third Line in Hockey," Kennedy hasn't had much experience being a healthy scratch.

Though that's changed at times during these Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kennedy would gladly trade the risk of a forced night off to play on a team with a legitimate shot to win the Stanley Cup.

"When you play hockey, you do anything to win," Kennedy said after practice as the Penguins prepare for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday (8 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS). "If it's sitting, you know you have to do it because it's kind of part of the game -- but you've got to push to get back in the lineup. That's part of a good depth team: Guys pushing each other to be their best every night."

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