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June 11, 2013

Special teams could prove crucial in Stanley Cup finals

(Continued)

Pittsburgh had converted an NHL-best 28.3 percent of its power-play chances heading into the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, but the high-powered Penguins went 0 for 15 with the man advantage during the Bruins’ impressive four-game sweep.

One of the lasting images from Boston’s postseason run came with Pittsburgh on the power play in the second period of Game 3. Bruins forward Gregory Campbell broke his right leg when he dove to block Evgeni Malkin’s hard shot, then limped around for more than 30 seconds until Boston cleared the zone and he was able to get off the ice.

Campbell’s gutsy display served as inspiration for the Bruins, and they went on to finish off the Penguins with a 1-0 victory on Friday. But Campbell will miss the remainder of the playoffs, presenting a challenge for the series against Chicago.

“It just means some other guys have to step in and do the job,” Julien said. “(Campbell) is an elite penalty killer for us. Like anything else, when you lose a player like that it certainly hurts your team. But at the same time, there’s also guys that come up and step up and do a great job just like our young Ds did when our three Ds were hurt.”

When it comes to scoring on Boston, whether it’s even strength or on the power play, the last line of defense may be the most difficult one to solve. Rask has been terrific throughout the playoffs, making an NHL-best 497 saves.

Led by the 26-year-old Finn, Boston has yielded seven goals in 52 power-play opportunities for an 86.5 percent kill rate in the postseason.

“We’re facing a goalie that in the last round was as good as any of the goalies we’ve seen over a segment of two years in the playoffs,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

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