April 15, 2012
Eastern Conference battles a Tale of Two Series
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
PHILADELPHIA - In the first 144 minutes of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers series, the two teams have combined for 26 goals.
In the first 144 minutes of the Boston Bruins-Washington Capitals series, the two teams have combined for four goals.
Having been granted the privilege of covering portions of both matchups, yours truly has just one question.
Are these guys playing the same sport?
Just five days into the 2012 Stanley Cup marathon, it has become a tale of two series.
At least as far as this pair of clashes are concerned.
Let’s start up in Boston, where Claude Julien’s defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins are deadlocked at 1-1 heading into Game 3 at the Verizon Center on Monday after a pair of overtime battles.
On the surface, you would think it would be the Caps who would be talking about how their offence has been stifled. Remember, this is a Washington team with offensive starts like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.
But coach Dale Hunter’s defence-first philosophy has changed the entire character of the Caps, leaving Julien to wonder how his Bruins can break through Washington’s tight checking.
When did you ever think you’d hear that?
“They play a patient game,” Julien told reporters in Boston.
“Their system right now resembles a little bit to one of Tampa's. It’s something that we’re probably not used to seeing from Washington because it was not that same type of hockey that they played before ... more of an up-tempo and more of offence going.
“Right now they’re just sitting back when we have the puck in full control of it, and they’re just waiting for their chances.”
Talk about a juxtaposition of personalities between two teams.
The goaltending situations are another headscratcher.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury has won a Stanley Cup and has been to the final twice. Yet in the series against the Flyers, one his Penguins trail 3-0, he has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots for a brutal save percentage of .798.
Yes, this is the same Marc-Andre Fleury that many observers, including yours truly, have been pimping to be the starter at the 2014 Olympics in Sochy - if NHLers go there, that is.
Meanwhile, down in Washington, Caps rookie Braden Holtby has been beaten just twice in more than seven periods of hockey. Keep in mind that, prior to the series against Boston, he had never played in an NHL post-season game before.
Boston’s struggles in the first two games reminds forward Milan Lucic of last year’s opening round against the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins lost the first two games of that series before eventually coming back to win in seven.
“It feels a little bit (like Montreal) for myself,” Lucic said on Sunday. “Looking back at that series I wasn’t really able to get anything going in the first two games and I feel like I haven’t really gotten anything going here in the first two games.”
The Bruins had better get the act together in Game 3 Monday or they will be behind the eight ball.