The Bruins talked ad nauseum about how they expected the Penguins to be much better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
Boy, were the Bruins wrong.
The Penguins were even worse in Game 2 — a 6-1 Bruins win — but that only tells half of the story. Despite the fact that the Pens were awful in the second game of the best-of-seven series, it shouldn’t overshadow too much the fact that the B’s were also really, really good. Boston dominated play for 60 minutes, and because of that, they get to go home with a 2-0 series lead.
That 60-minute effort started early when the Bruins were able to squash any hopes the Penguins might have had for a quick start. Just 28 seconds into the game, Brad Marchand took advantage of a Sidney Crosby giveaway and gave the Bruins the 1-0 lead. Really, the rout was on from there.
The Bruins poured it on for much of the first 20 minutes, and when the horn sounded on the end of the first, the Bruins had themselves a 4-1 lead. Even after the Penguins cut a 3-0 Bruins lead to two in the final minute of the period, Marchand was there to bookend the period with his second goal of the game 25 seconds later with just 9.1 seconds to play in the first.
“We knew they would come out very hard tonight, and we wanted to make sure we kind of weathered that storm,” Marchand told NESN’s Naoko Funayama after the game. “A bit of a lucky play there to get that early goal, but it was big for our team to make sure we got the lead early. We built some confidence off that and kept going. “
The narrative that was established before the series began was that the Penguins were the more talented team. Through two games, however, it’s looked like the complete opposite. Not only are the Bruins outworking the Penguins, they’re also looking good while doing so. The top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton is clicking on all cylinders, and they added two more goals in Game 2, including a gorgeous tic-tac-toe tally for Krejci.
While the Penguins were running around trying to hit everything in sight in the game’s opening period, the Bruins withstood that physical charge, and they fought back by burying their chances. While the Penguins had 40 minutes to respond, they showed no signs of getting up off the mat after some hellacious offensive blows from Boston in the opening 20 minutes.
“The confidence certainly builds pretty quickly,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of his team’s blazing fast start. “Starting off with the early lead in the visiting building you’re certainly happy with that start. I thought our guys did a good job of playing a solid game, a solid two-way game with some great plays.”
While the game was pretty much over after one, the Bruins made sure there would be no comeback. They eventually added two third-period goals, but that was just pouring it on. The CONSOL Energy Center painted a grave picture for the home team and its crowd, but the score only told part of the story. The Bruins owned Game 2, and they let the Penguins know that for 60 whole minutes. It was arguably the Bruins’ best performance all year, and maybe even their best performance since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
The passing was crisp. The defense was tight. They buried their chances. They didn’t get too involved with any chippy stuff, but they didn’t back down, either. It was a perfect team effort, and it’s one that the B’s will certainly feel good about for the next couple of days.
“We pretty much dominated the game,” goalie Tuukka Rask said after the game.
In full disclosure, though, this series is far from over. While the Penguins have failed to live up to expectations through two games, no one really believes they’ll just roll over without a fight, right?
There’s no doubt the Bruins will once again be expecting a better effort from the Penguins when the puck drops in Boston for Game 3 on Wednesday night. With that in mind, the B’s are well-aware that they must continue to get better, even after playing a seemingly perfect game in Game 2.
“Any time you leave a building up 2-0, you gotta be happy,” Julien said. “The concerns are gonna be in our game and after every game, we critique it with the players. It’s not so much about what we’re doing well — we’ve got to continue to do that — but there’s areas you want to improve after every game and we’re a team that’s responded well to that.”
The Penguins will probably be better, but they certainly have a pretty sizable game of catch-up to play with the way the Bruins are playing right now.