As is our custom, we were able to catch up with our SB Nation counter-part, Sarah from Stanley Cup of Chowder to talk about some interesting aspects about the Boston Bruins as we gear up for the Eastern Conference Finals.
#1 – What’s the deal with Tyler Seguin? His stats are down, is he still getting a lot of opportunities? From the half-eye I have had on Boston, I don’t really sense him being the dangerous player he usually is. Any injury concerns there?
Not really injury concerns, but yeah, he's an enigma these playoffs. He definitely hasn't been playing badly, he just hasn't been able to finish on his scoring opportunities. The Bruins moved him to play with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, moving Jagr up to the Bergeron line....so faily linemates might be dragging him down a bit, as well. That may change this series, but who knows.
#2 – Boston’s young defenders have stepped up and played great, which makes me wonder...Hypothetically if this week break heals everyone and all defensemen were eligible to play, what defensive pairs is your best educated guess for what they’d deploy for Game 1?
This is definitely something we've all been mulling over a great deal this week. Likely what you'll see is Torey Krug continuing to get good ice time, and Andrew Ference in over Matt Bartkowski. So the pairs will be Chara-Seidenberg, Boychuk-Krug, and Ference-McQuaid. Ideally, I'd like to see Dougie Hamilton over McQuaid, but that will never, ever happen. If it does, I'll do something drastic like drink an Iron City or something. Yuck. It's really interesting though, that Krug and Bartkowski have suddenly emerged; if this isn't just a fluke that they're playing well, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ference go somewhere else as a UFA this summer, and Barts end up as the seventh defenseman in Boston next year. The kids are pretty alright.
#3 – What’s the verdict on Tuukka Rask in the playoffs? Seems like he’s been largely very good, but not quite Tim Thomas 2011 level, fair to say? Anything more to expect from Rask, or has his play been satisfactory?
Tim Thomas was on another plane of existence in 2011, so I'd say that's a very fair assessment. I think our D is a little tighter this year, despite "depletion"; there's no Kaberle playing soft minutes. Everyone is defensively responsible. By the numbers, Rask was one of the best goaltenders in the regular season this year, not bad for his first real full season as our #1. I'd say aside from his epic flub job in game four against the Rangers, he's been fairly stellar.
#4 – After playing Toronto (who like to play more wide-open) and the Rangers (who like to play tighter defensively) which game do you think Boston is more suited for?
Definitely the Rangers' style, since it's so similar to the Bruins' own. Toronto gave them fits.
#5 – What do you think the Bruins key to beating the Penguins is?
Get the defensive matchups down pat -- limit the Malkin/Neal line's opportunities, get Bergeron out there to stick to Crosby like glue, and aside from that, just pepper Vokoun. The Bruins haven't struggled to get the puck into the offensive zone hardly at all these playoffs; if they can keep getting chances, I think they'll do ok.
#6 – Ok, flip side of the question- if you had to remove bias and were asked for a key of how Pittsburgh can beat Boston, what would you say?
Exploit the Ference-McQuaid pairing. They're going to be our weak link this series, probably; if Ference doesn't play, Bartkowski-McQuaid will still be the softest pairing. Don't try to out-muscle the Bruins; try to out-finesse them. Toronto got damn close to succeeding playing that style.
#7 – Other than Rask, if the Bruins win this series who do you see being the team MVP for this series?
Honestly - I hope it's either Torey Krug or David Krejci. Krejci because it seems like everyone outside of Boston forgets about him all season, then suddenly remembers hey, he's actually pretty good at hockey! in the playoffs. I'd really like it to be Krug because America and college hockey and also I've never watched a rookie defenseman play for this team with the skillset he has. So we'll see!