Milan Lucic has his sights set on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. (AP)
Now, the road gets a lot tougher.
The Bruins enter the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins as decided underdogs. The Bruins might have the better goalie in Tuukka Rask and may have won the Cup more recently (2011) than the Penguins (2009). But the Penguins have their version of the “Big 3″ in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla, reminding one player on the Bruins of a powerhouse in the NBA.
“Well, no doubt they’re a great hockey club,” Milan Lucic said after Saturday’s series-clinching 3-1 win over the Rangers at TD Garden. “In my mind, they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they got. Probably the two best players in the world and a 40-goal scorer and the former 50-goal scorer, a future hall of famer and a Norris Trophy candidate on their team.
“So, they definitely have a lot of weapons and in saying all that, I think what makes them successful is they play real well as a team and I think that’s what you’re going to probably see going into this next series, is two well-rounded teams going at it and for us we’ve got to be ready and excited for the challenge.”
Lucic and the Bruins proved they can beat at least one NHL superstar in the playoffs by dispatching of Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in five games.
“It was big for us,” Lucic said. “I think the mindset in this room was that we didn’t want to be denied and we knew that he was going to be the best player on their team, and he was in this series for them and he kept a couple of games closer. He stopped me four good times here tonight, but he’s a great goaltender for a reason and he played well and like I said we did whatever we could to try to get to him and we were able to do that.”
What will be the key to beating the Penguins?
“We just got to play a strong team game and play to our strengths,” Lucic said. “We’re a team that plays in your face type of hockey and I think what worked for us this series was we were able to establish our forecheck and we got to keep doing that and they’re a team that you don’t want to turn the puck over against because they have more than enough weapons to make you pay for it. So, puck management is going to be huge for us, and in saying all that, I think tonight and tomorrow we need to enjoy what we accomplished so far in the playoffs.”
Claude Julien wanted no part of talking about Pittsburgh preferring to bask in the glow of eliminating the Rangers, reflecting the mood of most inside the Bruins dressing room not named Milan Lucic.
“I’m not going to talk about the Penguins tonight, we just finished against the Rangers. I’ll stick to that, if you don’t mind,” Julien said.
John Tortorella has no such problems giving his opinion about Boston’s chances.
“I think Boston has a really good chance,” Tortorella said. “I think Claude and that staff has done a heck of a job with their club. I can’t believe some of the people, how they second-guess him, just being in the city for a few days, and the type of job he’s done here. That’s a good team. They’re very well-coached, and they’re seasoned. They’ve been through it before, and I give them a lot of credit, as far as what they’ve done with their club. They’re a good hockey team.”