NHL: Pugnacious Penguins Tangle With Bruising Bruins

Joe LaTengo | Updated Apr 03, 2012


While this preview is supposed to focus on Tuesday night’s game in Boston between the Bruins and the Penguins, Pittsburgh’s clash with Philadelphia on Sunday is the talk of the hockey world. It even prompted analyst Mike Milbury to jump into the fray, calling Penguins captain Sidney Crosby “a little punk.”

More on that later: first, let’s look into the game at hand. The Pens have slipped a little lately, losing four of their last six games and yielding 29 goals during that span; meanwhile, Boston seems to be on the upswing at just the right time, winning five of their last six and seven of their last nine, giving up only 16 goals in that streak. Head coach Claude Julien appears to have his team pointed in the right direction.

Nevertheless, the NHL betting line has the visiting Penguins as the favorites. This could be because of the historical context: in their last 10 regular-season meetings dating back to November of 2009, Boston has won only three times as the home team. Also, Pittsburgh has beaten the Bruins in five of their last seven visits to Beantown. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has not been stellar lately but he always seems to find an extra gear when playing against the Bruins, posting a 6-2 record while allowing only 14 goals in those eight games.

If they win again on Tuesday, it will be the fifth straight time the Penguins have done so. Look for Pascal Dupuis to lend a helping hand in the effort; the Pittsburgh forward has notched at least one point in the club’s last 14 games, tops in the league this season.

Of course, there could be fallout from Sunday’s game which extends beyond the fines and the acrimony. Will playing in a game like that weaken the Penguins? It’s hard to say. Certainly it’s proven to be a big distraction; it’s what hockey fans seem to be discussing most.

To recap: an all-out brawl erupted near the end of the game on Sunday that saw several fights breaking out on the ice and coaches from both benches yelling at each other. The league fined both Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato for their roles in the melee. Now Milbury has stepped back from his previous comments by issuing what looks like a half-hearted apology.

The Penguins and the Flyers will meet again on Saturday. There could be revenge on the minds of some of these players, but that’s not all. These two teams will likely meet in the first round of the playoffs, so home-ice advantage will be at stake in that game as well.