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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bruins Head Back To Their 2nd Eastern Conference Finals In 3 Years

There is not one person in the universe that thought for a second the Bruins would get to the Eastern Conference semifinals this season when they trailed 4-1 in the third period against the Maple Leafs in Game 7, yet here we are. Boston dispatched the Rangers in a tidy five games (who would have believed that either?) with a 3-1 win tonight at TD Garden, booking their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh.

This was a prototypical victory for the B's since all four lines contributed and their three goals were scored by Gregory Campbell (2) and Torey Krug-not the first names you'd think of. New York actually took a 1-0 lead at 10:39 of the first period on Dan Girardi's power play goal. Matt Zuccarello and Brian Boyle assisted on Girardi's second goal of the playoffs. David Krejci took a dumb cross checking penalty leading to New York's second power play strike in as many games and Boyle screened Tuukka Rask (28 saves).

No worries since Krug potted his fourth goal of the series and third on the man advantage at 3:48 of the second period. His laser went over Henrik Lundqvist's (29 saves) shoulder, assisted by Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. 9:57 after that, Campbell scored the game-winner after fine work from Shawn Thornton (who had a fight in the first period) and Daniel Paille. The puck bounced in front of New York's goal and Campbell was able to get to it before he was checked to the ice.

There were some sketchy moments for Boston in the third period but Rask stood tall, stopping Rick Nash with a kick save then Ryan Callahan on a backhanded breakaway. Campbell fittingly closed it out with an empty-netter at 19:09 from Nathan Horton. That was Campbell's third goal of the playoffs and he steered it in with one hand on his stick.

It's not hard to figure out why New York's style of play won't be successful in the long run. Head coach John Tortorella plays not to lose, rather than allowing his talented players to be more active offensively. The Rangers scored 10 goals in five games, compared to 16 for the Bruins. Lundqvist might be a better goaltender than Rask but nobody will be able to single-handedly win a series in the NHL with 10 goals from his teammates.

This win was vital for many reasons since Boston missed out on a chance to end it on Thursday and Pittsburgh sent Ottawa home with a win in Game 5 last night. To have any chance against the Penguins, the B's couldn't afford to waste any more energy on a team that they had mentally beaten by the time it was 3-0 in the series. The Bruins and Penguins haven't met since the 1992 playoffs but there are a boatload of storylines: Jaromir Jagr's return to Pittsburgh, Jarome Iginla's refusal to go to Boston, Matt Cooke's cheap shot that ended Marc Savard's career prematurely and overall, two great American sports/hockey cities.

The two series out West are still going on so the Eastern Conference Finals will be put on hold until those are settled. This ensures that Bruins-Penguins will be the best series that it can possibly be. Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg returned to the lineup tonight for the first time since skating a few shifts in Game 7 vs. Toronto. He wasn't quite himself but just his presence alone was a good omen for the B's. This gives him more leeway to ease back into game action when it matters most.

UPDATE 5/27: Forgot to mention that with Saturday's win vs. Rangers, the Bruins now have to give up a first-round draft pick to the Stars in the Jagr deal. I'm sure they don't mind given how the postseason has progressed.

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