As many expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. To me, it’s the series I was looking forward to as a hockey fan, but as a Penguins fan, I couldn’t have been pulling harder for the Rangers. I think that the Bruins defensive scheme and the way they take advantage of turnovers (are you listening Geno and Tanger?), could haunt the Penguins. On paper, the Penguins are better and I hope my prediction of Bruins in seven games is off.
While this isn’t an exact preview of the series, it is a preview of the storylines that will dominate the best of seven series.
– Jaromir Jagr returning to Pittsburgh: Do you guys remember #JagrWatch on Twitter? For days, fans stayed glued to their Twitter timeline to see if Jagr made a decision as to where he wanted to play during the 2011-2012 season. After saying his heart was in Pittsburgh and how much he respected Mario Lemieux, Jagr shocked the hockey world after he seemingly had an agreement in place for a contract with Pittsburgh when he bolted to Philadelphia for, what else, the money. Instead re-establishing himself as a hockey icon and the second best hockey player to ever play in Pittsburgh (not quite yet, Sid), Jagr pulled a, well, Jagr by leaving for the money. This offseason, Jagr signed a one-year deal to play with the Dallas Stars, but was traded to the Bruins at the deadline. Jagr will return to Pittsburgh and as expected, will be booed and receive a one-finger salute from the fans. Jagr was traded to the Bruins because……
– Iginla’s last-minute decision to go to the Pens instead of the Bruins: Again, as is a lot of news nowadays, Twitter was following the NHL trade deadline when a member of TSN tweeted out that Jarome Iginla agreed to a trade from Calgary to Boston. That was that. The Pens would have to be okay with just Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray at the deadline. That is until the middle of the night, around 1:30 a.m., the news broke that Iginla had in fact nixed the deal to go to Boston and instead went to Pittsburgh. The talk radio shows in Boston were full of outraged callers. Iginla will be booed when the Pens travel to Boston. He received some boo-birds in Boston when the Pens played there for the first time after the deadline, but the fans weren’t really into the game as much because their thoughts were elsewhere such as….
– The Boston Marathon bombings: It was a tragedy that no one saw coming. The World Series or the Super Bowl were more likely in my opinion. The two bombs that went off in Boston left three dead and millions affected from all over the country. We’ve seen when a sports legend dies, people will say ‘Win it for so and so.’ This is bigger than sports. As the saying goes, the whole country was “Boston Strong.” The Bruins will be looking to win just eight more games to bring a Stanley Cup back to Beantown.
– The hit by Matt Cooke: I’ll be the first to admit that a few years ago, Matt Cooke had my vote as the dirtiest player in the game. He was a cheap-shot artist and had no business being a Penguin anymore. I’ll also be the first to admit that I can tell he changed his ways. The Erik Karlsson ‘stomp’ this year was an accident. What wasn’t an accident was the hit that Cooke delivered to Marc Savarad in 2010. Think different? Check out the video:
Cooke ended Savard’s career with the dirty hit and the fans haven’t forgiven Cooke yet. The result was eerily similar to….
– Cam Neely Vs. Ulf Samuelsson: In 1991, the Bruins had a hot-shot star on its team in Cam Neely. Neely had 36, 42, 37, 55 and 51 goals in his first five seasons in the league. Neely was an electrifying player for the Bruins, but in the series against the Pens, Neely was hit in the thigh by Ulf Samuelsson. The muscle started to calcify from the hit and additional damage to the cartilage forced Neely to miss quite some time. Neely played in just 22 games over the next two seasons and while he enjoyed some success throughout the rest of his career, he was never quite the same.
– The battle of Black and Gold: In 1979, there was no stopping Pittsburgh sports. The Pirates and Steelers just won the World Series and Super Bowl respectively in their black and gold uniforms. The Penguins decided they wanted to swap its powder blue and royal blue sweaters to wear some uniforms that matched the Steelers and Pirates. The league had a rule that two teams cannot have the same two primary colors. The Bruins claimed that they held the rights to those two colors and tried to stop the Penguins from adopting the color scheme. The Penguins did their homework as they cited the Pittsburgh Pirates (NHL) team and their jerseys they had to secure permission.
If you look closely, there are probably more storylines that I forgot about. One thing is for sure; these two teams have a history and there are going to be many different angles to the series. I can guarantee you both teams only care about one part of the story.
Photo Credits: Providence Journal