The kids are alright. And I'm not referring to the 60's era song by The Who but rather the kids patrolling the blue line for the Boston Bruins. Injuries to veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden forced the B's to sound the alarm and summon Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug to join Dougie Hamilton, who at 19-years-old was the seasoned vet amongst the three.
Bartkowski has proven to be a solid two-way defensemen who isn't afraid of keeping the puck in the offensive zone. He was the bait the Bruins dangled to Calgary in order to bring Jarome Iginla to Boston for the playoff drive. However, Iginla spurned Boston via his no-trade clause and subsequently waived it to become a member of the Penguins. While Iginla would certainly bolster any offense, the Bruins seem to be doing quite nicely thank you very much, with Jaromir Jagr as the consolation prize and keeping 24-year-old Matt Bartkowski in the fold, who may prove to be a vital member of the Boston Bruins long after Iginla has hung up the skates for good.
As good as Bartkowski has been, the player everyone in Boston is buzzing about is 22-year-old Torey Krug. After jumpstarting an anemic power play with three of his four postseason goals coming with the man advantage, NHL fans all over are asking, where did this kid come from? He left Michigan State as a junior and signed with the B's as a free agent before this season and was immediately sent to their minor league club in Providence. He and Bartkowski toiled there throughout the season but both have opened eyes with their nose for the puck and an offensive minded approach to defense.
The Pens are simply stacked offensively as Sidney Crosby leads the league in postseason goals while Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jarome Iginla are amongst the league leaders in points. Even without the services of Iginla during most of the regular season the Penguins were still the top team offensively, averaging 3.4 goals per game. But they have ratcheted up the intensity even more in the postseason, averaging over four goals per game, clearly outdistancing their closest rival (which happens to be Boston) by over a goal per game.
The Achilles heel of the Penguins almost cost them a first round exit when the Islanders continued to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. But finally head coach Dan Bylsma woke up and replaced Fleury with veteran Tomas Voukon. People dismissed Voukon as a backup but the savvy NHL fan understands that he is a two-time All-Star who has played with some lousy teams. Voukon has sparkled since being inserted into the starting lineup, generating a 1.85 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
This should be a dandy of a series but the Bruins will have to ask themselves whether they want the fearlessness that the kids bring to the table or will they instead welcome wounded warriors Seidenberg, Redden and Ference back into the fold? Torey Krug is going nowhere but Bartkowski and Hamilton are the question marks. It would appear Hamilton will be the odd man out but whatever combination the Bruins use, they would be better off with the veterans against the potent weapons that Pittsburgh brandishes.
The edge in offense clearly goes to Pittsburgh while the defensive edge goes to Boston. At this moment in time, I will say confidently that the goaltending is a wash. Voukon's GAA and save percentage are actually better than Rask's and those who have seen Voukon play in the past understand why the Penguins gave this guy $2 million a year to ride the pine. He's a legitimate starter.
As we look for value in our NHL odds we cannot ignore Pittsburgh's offensive depth. My heart may say Boston but my wallet is telling me Pittsburgh.Play Pittsburgh in the series at Bet365.com.