Pittsburgh (1) vs. Boston (4)
Penguins (36-12-0, 72 points)
Bruins (28-14-6, 62 points)
1. These teams don't like each other
Even though the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins haven't met in the playoffs since 1992, there is plenty of dislike between the last two Stanley Cup championship teams from the Eastern Conference. Take your pick as to the reasons why. There's former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla choosing Pittsburgh over Boston as his preferred destination at the NHL trade deadline. There's former Pittsburgh great Jaromir Jagr now wearing Boston black and gold. But the biggest source of hatred just may be the blindside hit from Penguins third-liner Matt Cooke on Bruins star Marc Savard on March 7, 2010.
Last month, when each team announced its nominee for the Masterton Trophy, Bruins broadcaster Jack Edwards was reminded that Pittsburgh reporters nominated Cooke in 2012. This prompted Edwards to remark during a Bruins-Penguins game on Apr. 20, "Nominating Cooke for the Masterton is about the equivalent of nominating Sirhan Sirhan [who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968] for prisoner of the year. An outrageous lack of judgment on the part of the Pittsburgh press." Edwards later issued an apology on Twitter after Penguins general manager Ray Shero verbally scolded the play-by-play man.
2. Boston quieting Pittsburgh's high-flying offence
With talent like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Iginla, the Penguins have scored 47 times in 11 games, including 13 power-play goals. They have put together an offensive show that the Stanley Cup playoffs haven't seen in two decades.
Highest-scoring playoff teams since 1992-93 (10 games minimum)
1. Pittsburgh, 2012-13: 4.27 goals per game (47 G in 11 GP)
2. Pittsburgh, 1992-93: 4.17 goals per game (50 G in 12 GP)
3. Los Angeles, 1992-93: 3.88 goals per game (93 G in 24 GP)
4. Vancouver, 1992-93: 3.83 goals per game (46 G in 12 GP)
5. Philadelphia, 2011-12: 3.73 goals per game (41 G in 11 GP)
The New York Islanders could not shut down the Penguins in the opening round. Neither could the Ottawa Senators in the conference semifinals. But captain Zdeno Chara and the Bruins are capable of playing better team defence against Pittsburgh. They should be able to skate with the Penguins and certainly have the ability to be more physical than the Islanders and Senators.
3. Vokoun's solid goaltending for Pittsburgh
When 36-year-old Tomas Vokoun was named starter for Game 5 of the Penguins' opening-round series against the Islanders, he entered the fray with only 11 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience. Seven games later, he has lost only once and only Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings has a better save percentage at .948 than Vokoun's .941. The Bruins will provide Vokoun's best challenge yet. They rank second in offence at 3.17 goals per game through two rounds, have scoring depth and dominate the faceoff circle. Vokoun also knows he's one bad performance from being replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury. The heat is on the veteran goalie, who has responded so far.
Season series: Penguins 3-0-0; Bruins 0-3-0
Mar. 12 -- Penguins 3-2 at Pittsburgh
Mar. 17 -- Penguins 2-1 at Pittsburgh
Apr. 20 -- Penguins 3-2 at Boston
Prediction: Penguins in 7
Overall selection record: 8-3
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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