The Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals by shutting down the 'pretty hockey.' The Penguins stars were not amused.
If NBC is to be believed, midway through the second period of Game 1 of the National Hockey League Eastern Conference final, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien told his team: "No more pretty hockey."
By the measure of black-and-blue Bruins hockey, however, the rest of the game was beautiful.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have averaged more than four goals a game in these playoffs, the fact that they were shut out, 3-0, will not be the biggest concern. Nor will the goaltending of Tomas Vokoun, who was not too much better than average.
Rather, it will be the fact that for those last 30 minutes, the Pittsburgh Penguins apparently forgot they were the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin got into a fight (which is not why he is paid $7.5 million a year), and Sidney Crosby looked as though he was auditioning for the part of Draco Malfoy in "Harry Potter on Ice," casting sneering comments from behind hulking cronies.
In short, they looked suspiciously like another team that was faster and more talented than the Bruins but that was lured into running their mouths and swinging their fists instead of playing hockey: the 2011 Vancouver Canucks. That didn't work out so well for the Canucks, who lost the Stanley Cup final to the Bruins in seven games. And it is a trap that the Bruins would dearly love to spring on the Penguins this year.
After all, the Penguins are all about "pretty hockey." Why dump the puck in when you can weave your way through five defenders, pirouette with balletic grace along the end boards, and then drop a no-look pass perfectly onto the stick of one of your trailing defenseman? When the Penguins are on their game – as they were on occasion Saturday night – it looks as if the NHL never abandoned FoxTrax. The puck moves from stick to stick so rapidly it is only a blur.