The most glaring aspect of Sunday’s victory against the Bruins was that at no point did the Penguins appear to be overmatched by Boston; Tim Thomas made zero momentum-stealing saves, the Bruins’ special teams were entirely pedestrian, their much-lauded systemic team defense was nonexistent, and their deep, healthy offense managed only 25 shots to the Pens’ 34. Even taking account Boston’s season-high 8 shorthanded situations, absolutely nothing about this game indicated that the Penguins would be in over their heads in a playoff series against the East’s number one team.
As for those 8 shorthanded situations, today was the second straight horribly-officiated Penguins game, with the majority of the chincy calls both today and in the Ottawa game Saturday going in the Pens’ favor (though Petr Sykora’s even-up call today was exceptionally laughable). The Pens at least cashed in twice with the man-advantage today but I can’t imagine this run of crappy new-NHL calls going in their favor will keep up, unless, as every Flyers fan knows, the NHL is rigged to get Crosby into the playoffs (yet not rigged to get the damn Rangers and Maple Leafs and their giant cities with far more revenue poten….never mind, it’s an unwinnable argument.)
The four goals Boston did score were mostly the result of isolated fluky chances that they wasted no time burying; Brooks Orpik’s pass up the middle to Michael Ryder for Boston’s only power play goal was a pee-wee caliber lapse in judgment, and Sergei Gonchar showed flashes of the Gonchar of ’05 with his lazy, spastic drift into the corner on the Bruins’ shorthanded goal. Still, the Pens’ team defense never faced any crazy 20-shot-period onslaughts, their penalty kill appeared reasonably competent against the NHL’s #4 power play, and even after allowing the aforementioned gift-wrapped chances and receiving no life-raft saves from Mathieu Garon, they won this one in regulation and convincingly.
Boston has been going through a rough patch, going just 3-5 in the month of March with 2 of the 3 victories coming against the Islanders and Senators (who can’t beat the Senators, right?), perhaps indicating that they’re coasting a little with such a comfortable playoff spot. One can hardly judge anything from a single March regular season game, especially when both teams played the day before and were a bit wonky, but was that team we saw today seriously the best the East has to offer? The playoffs are now looking more up-for-grabs than even the most naive Penguin fans could have foreseen. It’s also impossible to be too afraid of a team that uses Mark Recchi on its top powerplay.
Oh also, just so we’re covered – NO GIVEBACKS, Anaheim.