There will be plenty of time to break down the Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference finals in the coming days, especially considering the series seemingly won’t start until mid-July. But even before you get into the nitty-gritty of the matchup between the conference’s two best teams, it’s not hard to realize the potential of this series.
A Bruins-Penguins series has the potential to be everything we ask for in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It features two teams that are big, tough and talented. It features undeniable star power. Perhaps most importantly, it features two teams with a history with each other that could lead to some real bad blood over the course of what is hopefully a long and hard-fought series.
There are just layers and layers of stories that jump off the page when you think about these two teams meeting.
All you really need to do is rewind about two months back to the NHL trade deadline. Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins had all but locked up Jarome Iginla in a trade with the Flames — “We thought we had a deal,” Chiarelli said — before Iginla had a change of heart. The future Hall of Famer instead opted to waive his no-trade clause to join the Penguins, not the Bruins, believing Pittsburgh gave him the best chance to win a Stanley Cup. Now the Bruins stand between Iginla and the second Cup Final of his career. Oh, and on the other side of the ice, Matt Bartkowski — a Pittsburgh native who was one of the main pieces headed to Calgary in the proposed deal — is a crucial part of the Boston blue line.
There’s also a good deal of bad blood between the two franchises. The name Matt Cooke is still preceded or followed with some sort of vulgarity when it’s mentioned in the Boston area. Cooke’s blind-side cheap shot on Marc Savard is still fresh on the minds of B’s fans, and Cooke remains one of the city’s biggest sports villains even three years after the hit. It’s not the first time Bruins fans have felt like a shady Penguin cut short the career of one of their favorite players. You can probably assume that B’s president Cam Neely would love to beat the Mario Lemieux-owned Penguins given the fact that Ulf Samuelsson used to don a Pittsburgh sweater. You know, because of this.
Speaking of Lemieux, his former partner in crime will be involved in this series as well. While Jaromir Jagr has struggled to find his scoring touch since joining the Bruins (the apparent fall-back plan after the inability to acquire to Iginla), maybe seeing his former team across the sheet will get him going. No matter how Jagr is received by Penguins management and the fans these days, there’s no denying his importance in the franchise’s history, and another chapter in that history will be penned in this series.
Above all, the ECF features the two best teams in the conference. The B’s may have fallen to the No. 4 seed in the East, but when they’re playing their best hockey — which they are right now — they’re right up there among the league’s elite. There’s a reason these are the last two standing in the East.
Now, if this series would just get started.