Ask any of the Penguins players which team they would rather face in the second round of the playoffs, and they’ll all most likely give the same stock answer, “It doesn’t matter to me” On the other hand, I’m sure like me, you all have a preference about which team you would like to see the Penguins face. Let’s take a look at the four games the Penguins played against each team this year and see if we can get any indications as to whether one team would be preferable over the other.
The Penguins went 3 – 1 against both the Bruins and the “Habs” this past season in both cases winning both games at home and splitting on the road. Against the Canadiens, the Penguins outscored them 15 – 9 in the four games with Montreal only scoring more than two goals in one game that being the final meeting of the season in Montreal back in February, a 5 – 3 Montreal win. In two of the games, the Penguins faced now back up goalie Carey Price, but they did get to face current goalie, Jaroslav Halak in two of them, the 5 – 3 loss and a 6 – 1 win back in October where he was chased out of the game after giving up 4 goals on 23 shots including a Hat Trick by Sid the Kid. Halak struggled down the stretch going 3 – 6 in Montreal’s last nine games, but two of the three wins were back to back shut outs of Philadelphia and Buffalo. He got off to surprising start in the playoffs stopping 45 shots in Game 1 to get the win in Washington. The wheels really started to come off as he gave up six in a Game 2 loss and then was pulled after giving up three on 13 shots in a Game 3 loss. The Canadiens made a goalie switch for Game 4 and went with Carey Price. They ended up going right back to Halak when they lost Game 4 badly. In Games 5 and 6, Halak stopped 80 of the next 82 shots taken by Montreal and won both them. So right now, Montreal has a confident, hot goalie although one you can apparently get a lot of shots off at. The Canadiens are a small team up front as evidenced by their “Smurf” line of Gionta, Gomez and Cammalleri, but they have a lot of team speed. Montreal also has a decent second line made up of Tomas Plekanec and the Kostitsyn brothers. On defense, they are anchored by former Penguin Hal Gill who has been playing some of the best hockey of his career in helping to shut down Washington’s big guns. AHL call up P.K. Subban adds a little speed to their defense as well.
Now for the Bruins. The Penguins won the season series 3 – 1 with two of the games early on in November and the other two coming as the season wound down in March. The Penguins were shut out 3 – 0 in the first game, a game they played without Evgeni Malkin and then went on to win the next three. Now, only one of the games featured current Bruin goalie Tukka Rask who has taken over pretty much full time from last year’s Vezina Trophy winning Tim Thomas. In the one game, the Penguins faced Rask, Marc Andre Fleury recorded his only shutout of the year, a 3 – 0 win in Boston in what was supposed to be the Matt Cooke retaliation game for his concussion inducing hit on Marc Savard 11 days earlier. Boston has struggled to score goals all season especially in light of the fact that they traded away their top scorer from last year, Phil Kessel to Toronto for a bevy of high draft picks. Boston really thought they had a core of players that could make up for Kessel’s goals in the form of David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic. What they ended up with was a league low 206 goals scored, 51 fewer than the Penguins. Boston’s leading scorer through the first round was former Penguin Mark Recchi who along with Krejci potted three goals. What got Boston past Buffalo was a stingy defense and solid goaltending from Rask. They only scored more than three goals in two of the six games against Buffalo. Boston’s top two defensemen right now are Zdeno Chara, he of the 6′ 7″ frame and hardest shot in the league, and Dennis Wideman who really makes their power play go.
So Pens fans, after reading all of this, who would you rather see us play in the second round?