On to Pittsburgh.
The Boston Bruins closed out their second round series with the New York Rangers with a 3-1 win in Game 5 in Boston Saturday evening, winning the series 4-1 and advancing to the Eastern Conference Final where the red-hot Penguins await.
While Pittsburgh will be the biggest test yet for the Bruins, this Boston team is starting to get that feeling of destiny about it. The Bruins' miraculous comeback from a 4-1 hole in Game 7 against Toronto in round one seems to have awakened a hibernating beast.
On Saturday, the Bruins weathered the early part of the game when New York was in control of the tempo and led 1-0. A game-tying goal from rookie defenseman Torey Krug (his fourth goal) started to sway the pendulum.
By the midway mark of the middle frame, Boston had control. A strong penalty kill denied the Rangers a chance to reclaim the lead and shortly after that the Bruins' deadly fourth line came up big again as Gregory Campbell netted the game-winner.
New York, kept alive once again by the strong goaltending of all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist, continued to press but could not break though. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had his moment to shine as well, denying Rangers captain Ryan Callahan's breakaway bid with a blocker save with 11:22 remaining in the game.
An empty net goal from Campbell put the game and series on ice and set up a meeting with the Penguins. While it has not been the 40 years it had been since New York and Boston last met in the postseason, it has been a span of 21 years for the Bruins and Penguins.
Pittsburgh is the top seed in the Eastern Conference and, after finding its footing in the first round 4-2 series win over the New York Islanders, rolled over Ottawa 4-1.
What could have been a stumbling block, a double-overtime loss to the Senators in Game 3, instead was just a minor speedbump as the Penguins went on to outscore Ottawa 13-5 in Game 4 and Game 5.
The biggest challenge for the Bruins will be slowing down the Penguins offensive attack, led by superstars Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh scores in bunches, but the star players are not physical so roughing them up early and often will probably be on the Boston "must-do" list.
The Penguins are also riding a strong wave from goaltender Tomas Vokoun, the 36-year-old goalie who came on to relieve Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 of the first round series and has played very well.
The Eastern Conference Final is a collision course for two teams who have both won Stanley Cups in the past five years and have core players who know what it takes to get it done. The styles are drastically different, but anything less than a seven-game series seems unlikely.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.