SERIES PREVIEW: 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bruins defense.

We've already looked at the Bruins' offense.

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Bruins coach Claude Julien shook things up at a practice leading up to this series.

On the left is how the Bruins have been rolling.
On the right is what Julien was playing around with at practice on Wednesday.

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If you've been watching the playoffs, all of these names ring a bell. The Bruins' defense isn't flashy or even well known, but the fact of the matter is they play well as a unit. Coupled with Rask, this defensive corps has a 2.33 GAA in these playoffs, which is better than the Penguins.

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Mike Colligan of The Hockey Writers has already laid out what should be the Pens' game plan:

From a forechecking perspective, the Penguins need to 'invest' themselves early in this series.  What does that mean?  Toronto did it perfectly late in their first round matchup against the Bruins.  Chip the puck into the corner, let the Bruins defensemen pick it up, then punish them physically.  Over and over and over again.  The chip-and-chase approach isn't ideal for winning a single game, but making the physical investment early in a series will pay off in later games.

Some coaches refer to this as "taking a chunk out of the defensemen".  Every hit from Kunitz, Dupuis, Neal, Iginla, Cooke, Morrow, Vitale and Kennedy is another chunk.  Chara and Seidenberg will have time to recover a bit during the long layoff, but make no mistake — they're battered.

Now we're gonna take a look at all the Bruins defensemen…

 

ZDENO CHARA – 6'9", 255 LBS

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Chara will be matched up against Crosby or Malkin. Probably Malkin. A lot of respect for Chara, but if Rick Nash can do this…

…imagine what Malkin could do in this series.

As Colligan mentioned, the big thing to watch for is the Penguins pounding Chara into submission with every forechecking forward. Don't discount Brenden Morrow's impact in this area. Got a feeling he's gonna have a big series.

The Bruins likewise will be doing the same thing to Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen all series. These two teams have been the Eastern heavyweights since the beginning of the season. Expect a war.

DENNIS SEIDENBERG – 6'1", 210 LBS

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The guy doesn't put up points, but he averages 22 minutes a night. He missed the first four games of the Rangers series due to a lower-body injury. He and Chara are probably the best shutdown pair in the NHL. But that all gets thrown out the window if Julien decides to split them up.

MATT BARTKOWSKI – 6'1", 196 LBS

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Bartkowski grew up in the joketown of Mt. Lebanon and says he wouldn't be a hockey player if it wasn't for Mario Lemieux. He's playing with a chip on his shoulder because he was gonna be headed to Calgary in the Iginla trade to Boston that didn't pan out.

He's one of two Bruins defenders who are sopping-wet behind the ear when it comes to playoff experience. It will come into play big-time, whether he's paired with Seidenberg or Boychuk.

JOHNNY BOYCHUK – 6'2", 225 LBS

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Boychuk sees the second-most ice time among Bruins defensemen, behind Chara, so you know he's doing something right. Just a nondescript guy who probably sucked in high school.

TOREY KRUG – 5'9", 180 LBS

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The clown somehow scored 4 goals in the 5-game Rangers series. This is his first real taste of the NHL, and it's the playoffs. A veteran team like the Penguins will expose him. He's nowhere to be found in the defensive zone, so expect Malkin or Crosby to hop over the boards when Krug is trapped out there on an icing call.

Hell, it may not be a good time for Krug no matter which Pens forwards are on the ice against him. The Penguins aren't the Maple Leafs and they aren't the Rangers.

ADAM MCQUAID – 6'5", 209 LBS

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No clue what this guy is all about. A serviceable 6th defensman on one of the league's best blue lines.

 

WAITING IN THE WINGS

DOUGIE HAMILTON – 6'5", 193 LBS

Sucks. Good news for the Pens if he plays.

WADE REDDEN – SUCKS

Sucks. Good news for the Pens if he plays.

ANDREW FERENCE – 5'11", 189 LBS

Sucks. Good news for the Pens if he plays.

 

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The Pens' ability and the frequency at which they expose these three guys is gonna be a key part of the series.

 

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