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NHL on NBCSN: Hot Penguins, Bruins collide

Mar 12, 2013, 8:05 AM EDT

Patrice Bergeron v Sidney Crosby Getty Images

NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins at the Consol Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.

With just under half the season remaining, both teams are serious contenders for the first seed in the Eastern Conference, and while that might not be a shock, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion going into this season.

These teams had serious question marks when the lockout ended. For the Boston Bruins, the big concern revolved around their goaltending and whether Tuukka Rask would make a smooth transition from strong backup to starting netminder while Anton Khudobin, with little prior experience, emerge as a a viable backup. Both have long since squashed those fears.

In the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the concerns were largely injury-related. Could Sidney Crosby, plagued by concussion problems in recent years, stay healthy? So far he has.

In fact, Tuesday’s match will feature the top offensive team in the Penguins facing off against the third best defensive team in the league.

Even with Evgeni Malkin sidelined, the Penguins have four players that are averaging more than a point-per-game and two of the top-four highest goal scorers in the league.

33-year-old forward Chris Kunitz in particular has proven to be a major weapon for the Pittsburgh Penguins and one of the season’s biggest surprises. He’s already had two hat tricks in 2013 – including one on Sunday – and will enter tonight’s clash with 36 points in 26 games.

To put Kunitz’s numbers in perspective: If he maintains his current pace, he will set new career-highs in goals and points, despite the fact that this is a shortened season.

That being said, to bill this match purely as a classic contest between offensive and defensive juggernauts would be misleading. The Boston Bruins have plenty of offensive weapons of their own and a deep core of forwards that should keep the Penguins on their toes.

Given that Penguins goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have struggled this season, the Bruins might be able to match Pittsburgh blow-for-blow even if this turns into a high-scoring affair.

One thing is for sure: This game will feature a lot of stars and two teams that can’t be taken lightly.

Probable goaltenders: PIT – Fleury (12-5-0, 2.71 GAA, .902 SV%) | BOS – Khudobin (4-1-0, 2.42 GAA, .910 SV%)

Top scorers: PIT – Crosby (12-33-45, 26 GP) | BOS – Patrice Bergeron (6-15-21, 23 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Pittsburgh – Forwards: Malkin (upper body)
Boston – Forwards: Marc Savard (concussion), Chris Kelly (leg)

  1. pens87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    Two of the hottest teams in the East right now. Should be a great one. Can’t wait!

  2. 5hole26 - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    easy win for the pens

    • miketoasty - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      As a Pens fan, I think you are an idiot.

  3. steelpenbucs87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    The Sens did the Pens a huge favor last night by making Boston play for a full 65 minutes of hockey. I know these guys are superb athletes but going back to back like this on the road is always a challenge.

    This feels like a 4-2 Pens win including an empty-netter. I think Crosby is going to get Chara and Bergeron quite a bit today, so look for the Neal – Sutter line to pick up the scoring, maybe find a PPG somewhere in there as well.

    • homelanddefense - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      yeah unfortunately for Boston they have to play pitts twice in the next week, both times on the second night of a back to back. Tough sledding. At least the 2nd time Pitts is on a back to back too

    • jpelle82 - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      crosby has seen the best every team has so far has and it hasnt slowed him down. he dominated phaneuf the other night, he should have similar success against chara if he keeps his cool. they need to keep jeffrey off line 2, i’d rather see vitale up there i know thats a stretch but jeffrey wasnt that good and they need a faster grittier guy than jeffrey to play with 2 skill guys like bennett and neal. i dont want them breaking up sutter, cooke, kennedy though, they were real good against the tavares line sunday night.

      • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        I understand where you’re coming from on Crosby v. Opponent’s #1s, but generally speaking I think the B’s represent a wholly different task when you consider we’re talking about some of the best overall team defense out there. Even if Crosby can make some of his moves along the wall I don’t know that Kuni will find himself wide open in the slot with the same amount of frequency :).

        Unfortunately I don’t think you’ll see Vitale on the 2nd line, although I would love to see that kind of hustle playing with those skill guys. Instead I think it’ll be Sutter and hopefully not Jeffrey. I know breaking up Sutter, Cooke and TK is a little scary, but I just don’t think Bylsma will be happy with his options at 2nd line center.

      • bigt12789 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM

        I agree that Crosby is the best and can score or create against anyone in the league, but are you really comparing Chara to Dion Phaneuf??? Regardless, the Pens O is on fire right now no matter who suits up for them. B’s better start strong and not fall behind by a couple goals again like last night or else this could be a long tough game, especially if Khudobin gets the start.

      • jpelle82 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        he has had nothing but success against chara in the past and i was just pointing out what he does to the opposing top d man on any team. chara is obviously better than phaneuf but who else has he faced this year better? the only team that has really kept him in check WAS nj by committee, you look at one on one defensemen, there isnt a guy in the league he hasnt had success against this year

      • bigt12789 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        Agreed, no one has been able to stop him he’s been a beast all year. But the B’s play great team D and I’m sure Crosby will be seeing alot of the Bergeron line tonight. Either way it should be a great game and a win by either team will be a big statement in the east.

  4. orangandblack - Mar 12, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Back up goalie against the best offense in the league? Does Boston even want to win? Put Rask in

    • mgp1219 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Don’t underestimate Khoudobin.

    • bigt12789 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      I’m sure this is foreign for a flyers fan, but you know alot of good teams actually have TWO goalies that they feel comfortable with… Remind me again how Bryz has been doing playing every night?

  5. eaglesbest - Mar 12, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Did jpelle just compare phaneuf with chara lol!!!! Are you slow. Chara is in a whole different class then phaneuf. You Pittsburg forget the B’s are 17-3-3 and only have one regulation loss on the road this year.

    • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:02 AM

      You forgot that there’s an H on the end of Pittsburgh, and while you are correct that the B’s are a formidable opponent, I would caution you about that record. The Bruins have played substantially fewer games than the rest of the NHL which means they have had the benefit of lots of rest early on.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      phaneuf is the best guy for toronto, wasnt a problem. chara is the best guy for bruins, what i’m saying is he wont be a problem either and history proves it – 15 pts in 11 games in the past 4 yrs against chara reg season…11 of those 15 pts have been in pittsburgh.

  6. stratomaticfan - Mar 12, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    Pens fans are funny. They always fall into the same trap. While I respect their offense (how can you not), they look like the same old, same old. Plenty of scoring power, and a shoddy defense that will ultimately keep them from reaching the top of the mountain. The B’s are the epitome of team. They don’t have an offensive superstar, just a collection of hard working, grind it out players who know how to win. Defense, goaltending, and opportunistic scoring. That’s how you do it.

    • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      There it is – it usually doesn’t take long for Bruins fans to use some semblance of the phrase, “the right way” when talking about the B’s defensive prowess and their team.

      The reality is that the maxim of “good defense always beats a good offense” is not always the case in less the defensive team gets the ‘opportunistic scoring’ before the offensive team gets on the board. If Pittsburgh pots one earlier on it will force Boston to extend themselves. In 3 out of 4 Boston losses this year they were behind early…

      Again – not calling this an easy win, or even a win necessarily for the Pens. I just caution people that think their defense is impregnable.

      • stratomaticfan - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        Yes…they have been behind in 3 of their 4 losses, but they’ve also come back from 2 goal deficits on a handful of occasions this year. There is no quit in them.

        Nothing is always the case, as you point out. But do you dispute the fact that you lost last year to an inferior Philly team because your defense was atrocious? Come playoff time, it’s about defense and goaltending more often than not. It’s like the Yankees in baseball….sure they can outslug you and get to the playoffs, but when its crunch time and you have to grind it out, they’re not built for it.

        I have no clue who will win tonight, nor will it make or break either team’s season. I just know that unless the Pens find some defense it will be early exit for them come playoff time. A good defense in front of him turns Fleury from a decent goalie to a really good goalie.

      • ironyisadeadscene - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        There it is – it usually doesn’t take long for Bruins fans to use some semblance of the phrase, “the right way” when talking about the B’s defensive prowess and their team.

        Fun Fact: He is one person and not an entire fanbase.

      • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        Irony – noted and understood. Probably a bit of a cheap shot there on my part.

        Strat – I completely agree that last year the porous defense and the WOEFUL goaltending were the reason for their downfall, but I also believe that their defensive woes were exacerbated by a lack of composure across the board. Guys were flying around the ice looking for hits that either a) left them out of position, or b) drew penalties by the Flyguys.

        I guess what I’m saying is that the defense and goaltending has improved over the course of this year, and unfortunately stats don’t reflect that because of a few ugly games and some injuries. Martin and Letang have both missed multiple games and unfortunately their usual partners have reflected that. Compound that with two head scratching games by Vokoun against Philly and Florida and the numbers get ugly in a hurry.

        I’m not saying the defense is good, but I don’t know that it would preclude them reaching the top of the mountain – especially if we can add another stay at home guy at the deadline.

    • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Wow – those are some taunting, ignorant remarks! We’ll see how that works for you, good luck to both teams and hopefully Boston doesn’t panic and try to take out any players in a dirty way like they’ve done countless times before. At any rate I think Steve MacIntyre needs to suit up tonight. Hopefully Bylsma agrees…you don’t beat goons with a finess game.

      • bigt12789 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM

        Oh boy if the Pens are gooning up then the B’s better all wear their Kevlar shin protectors! Front and back! I’m not trying to bad mouth the Pens I think they’re a great team who has as good a chance as anyone to win it all, but my god man you don’t feel even a HINT of irony when using the term “goon” so freely while Matt Cooke is still on your team?

      • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        I do not, my good man. Cooke has been a player who plays the body first, then the puck, in his career. He does not play that way anymore – and actually doesn’t really even play the agitator role anymore, which is why he saw time on the second line. The issue with Karlsson was not intentional, but certainly I feel bad for the guy. I wouldn’t call that a ‘goon tactic’. Now, ramming a guy’s head into a stanchion, running a defenseless goalie, and even Chara jumping Emelin, those, my friend, are goons.

      • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        However – I don’t want my thoughts on two or three guys on that team to take away from the fact that there are also some gifted ATHLETEs on the B’s squad. Just takes away from the team for me.

      • homelanddefense - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        you dont beat the Bruins by trying to play them physical, that plays right into their hands. You do beat them with finess, the Bruins have a ton of trouble with teams that are fast. And usually take some stupid penalties against teams who wont engage them physically (Montreal)

        I actually LOVE it when teams try to out tough Boston, it seems to motivate them.

      • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        Like Buffalo?

      • homelanddefense - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        oh and I have no problem with my captain “jumping” a guy who cross checked the Bruins best scorer and snapped his stick over his back. None whatsoever.

        The stanchion thing is debatable. Lucic did run the goalie, cant defend that.

      • homelanddefense - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        congrats, you picked one game in the past 4 years. Try watching them for hundreds of games and maybe you will see

      • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        Not sure I have the stomach for that. Either way – two great teams, I just don’t want to see people like Neal having to spout off with Chara, if it’s going to come to that I hope the Pens put someone like Mac in, and let him throw with Thornton or Lucic. Should be a great game – thanks for the debate – for what it’s worth, I agree with your statement that trying to out “tough” the B’s is not the way to win against them, in general.

      • bigt12789 - Mar 12, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        I can respect your opinion good sir. I’m not gonna defend any of the goon moves the B’s have had in the past, just like I wouldn’t expect you to defend any of the Pens previous questionable plays. I feel like players from all teams cross the line from time to time but the B’s just catch more crap for it because they play such a physical style. The B’s are not at the top of the conference because they’re goons, just like the Habs aren’t at the top because they “embellish”, and just like the Pens aren’t at the top because Crosby gets all the calls… Or they fixed the draft for a number of years… (Or whatever the creative excuse of the week is I don’t live in Philly so I don’t keep up on that) They are all just good teams who happen to play different styles. The last Habs game is the one time this year that the B’s actually “gooned up” and we all know that didn’t work too well. Outside of that this team has played in control the whole season and as you can see its working.

      • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        That’s actually true. Hopefully it’s a great game on both sides – the B’s are impressive, no doubt.

  7. 5hole26 - Mar 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    yea stratomaticfan patrice bergeron will take you to the promise land lol loser

    • upyourstodd - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      Patrice Bergeron did take the Bruins to the promise land. You would love him on your team and you know it.

      • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Yeah – not the most cogent argument I’ve seen out of you 5hole.

        Patrice is great and aside from DK and TT he was as big a reason as any that they went the distance. With that said, I’ll take Geno and Sid over PB.

  8. govtminion - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. The Bruins look great this year, the Penguins look just as good, and while the exhaustion factor for Boston is a very real concern (stupid Senators!), this is a fun opportunity to watch two of the best teams in hockey collide. The B’s exhaustion probably trumps out over Pittsburgh not having Malkin in the end, call this one a very rough 3-2 win for the Penguins… and two very sore hockey teams on Wednesday morning.

    • theblakfox - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      I agree its gonna be really close. Pittsburgh’s goaltending has not been very good lately, which is surprising because we all know both fleury and vokun are good. On the other hand, khdoubin has not played a team with such offensive threats yet in his nhl career. To me this will be a real test for him. The B’s team d will give them a chance to win, but I think this game is gonna come down to goaltending.

  9. btlpper68 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    I hope this gets high scoring half of my fantasy team are bruins and penguins

  10. 5hole26 - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    yea with his 6 goals. haha he could probably play on the 4th line with craig adams and dustin jefferey bro

    • jpelle82 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      bergeron is in the selke talks every year, he is a faceoff wizard and can play with anyone out there. he would be a top 3 forward on most teams and can play in any situation. shut your ignorant mouth up and stop making pens fans look bad

      • homelanddefense - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        yeah, not to mention his is one of the best penalty killers out there. OH, and when he played in a less defensive system (before Julien) he put up a 30 goal season in his second year.

  11. eaglesbest - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Not saying Pittsburgh is terrible just saying that you can’t take the B’s lightly. Pittsburgh’s defense is horrible so even with their strong offense probably the best in the league they are the same team that will go no where until they learn to keep the puck out of the net Those 8 loses aren’t impressive.

  12. yougotgirouxed - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    My two favorite teams are the Flyers and whoever is playing Pittsburgh

    • jpelle82 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      you should be hoping the pens beat anyone they are playing so you guys might have a chance at making the playoffs this year…

  13. hockeywithdrawal - Mar 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    Is it just me or are there a lot of Boston fans already making excuses about people being tired? They haven’t even played the game yet! Back-to-backs are just something every team has to deal with.

    Hoping it’s a clean game, no need to goon it up and try to hurt players. Seen that a time or two from Boston. MacIntyre will hopefully be in the line-up.

    • homelanddefense - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Its not an excuse, its the reason Im picking the Penguins tonight. The Bruins had a very slow schedule early this season. Starting a few weeks ago they play at least every other night for the whole month. It takes a toll. PLus they played OT last night. Its a factor you cant ignore.

  14. 5hole26 - Mar 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    id take a sack of nickels over giroux

    • amartland - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      given that there were no parameters set as to the size of said sack, i’m unable to wholeheartedly disagree with you

      that being said, that would have to be a HUGE sack.

      also, disregard that i just said “huge sack”.

      • theblakfox - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        fun fact, apple paid samsung thousands of dollars in trucks of nickles

  15. 5hole26 - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    bruins suck plain and simple and tonight the pens will expose them like they do to every other team.

    • govtminion - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      Just keep on drinking that kool-aid, kid.

    • upyourstodd - Mar 12, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      I have a strong feeling you dont get out much nor attempt to justfiy any garbage that you try to pass off as an educated thought.

  16. nicknyhc - Mar 12, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    As a Rangers fan I have to give Boston my blessings. Please bang up Cindy and the Canadian Olympic Diving Team.

  17. ironyisadeadscene - Mar 12, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I’m just glad we won’t have to deal with Geno AND Crosby (hopefully in either game this week)

  18. phlyerzpwnu - Mar 12, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Why list Marc Savard on the injury list here…what are they trying instigate the trash talk here? Give more incentive to have someone take out Cooke? I don’t get it…
    btw Giroux > Crysby

  19. 8man - Mar 12, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    It’s almost like Patriots-Steelers. Exciting. I wonder what the ratings will be.

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