It's a collision course both teams saw coming and did absolutely nothing to avoid.
"We knew that if we were going to get to this point, we were probably going to have to play them eventually," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said of the Boston Bruins.
"That's the way it worked out."
The Penguins and Bruins are the final teams standing in the Eastern Conference and will begin a best-of-seven playoff series this week that will send one to the Stanley Cup final against the Western Conference champion.
"I've always thought we would have to go through them at some point to get to where we want to go," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said of the Penguins.
The Penguins won the Cup in 2009, the Bruins in 2011. Each has been considered a contender to win it again in the years since.
Toward that end, Chiarelli and his Penguins counterpart, Ray Shero, have made depth a priority for their clubs.
"You don't get this far without depth," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "Both teams have used that a lot and rely on all four [forward] lines. There will be a lot of matchups, and that's maybe a big factor in this series, I think."
The depth on both teams comes on multiple levels.
The two clubs accounted for the top six postseason scorers -- led by Boston's David Krejci with 17 points in 12 games -- and eight of the top 11 before Sunday's game. The Bruins also have one of the top two-way centers in Patrice Bergeron, who leads the playoffs with a 63.5 percent success rate on faceoffs.
"In building teams, you want to be deep and you want to be deep with quality," Chiarelli said. "You never know what things might get thrown at you in the course of a series, and you're able to give different looks -- out of necessity or out of your own desire if things aren't working."
The Penguins and Bruins have skill, speed and grit throughout their lineups beyond the top two lines or top defensive pairing. Both teams also have highly capable replacements sitting out each game and have gotten a spark from players inserted into the lineup at times.
"They play four lines -- not equally, but I would say they play their third and fourth line more than a lot of teams," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said of the Bruins. "They tend to roll them, and they've got a lot of good players up front. Guys with different roles, certainly, but they can all play. The new guys on the back end have been really good for them."
Those two new guys are rookie defensemen Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, a Mt. Lebanon native.
Krug, in particular, got as much as or more attention in the second round than Boston captain Zdeno Chara, a 6-foot-9 defenseman and former winner of the Norris Trophy.
Krug, 22, who was not drafted, had played in three NHL games when he made his playoff debut in Game 2 of the Bruins' second-round series with the New York Rangers. He has four goals, three of them on the power play, and an assist in five games.
"I don't know him very well," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I just know what he's done in the last five games for them, adding the offensive jump, the speed he's played with on the power play, the shot. His skating ability is a big part of his offense.
"It's a different dynamic to their team. With him back there, there's a different dimension to their power-play unit."
The Bruins defensemen have come up with 13 goals and 30 points this postseason. The Penguins defensemen have eight goals, 35 points.
Both teams' fourth lines -- not always pivotal in the playoffs -- are producing.
For the Bruins, center Gregory Campbell and wingers Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton not only are physical but also have combined for five goals, 13 points and have a collective plus-minus rating of plus-13. Campbell scored the winning goal plus an empty-netter Saturday when Boston eliminated the Rangers, 3-1.
"Their fourth line is playing well and getting some big goals," Sutter said.
The Penguins have had a revolving cast on their fourth line.
The Bruins have physical players throughout their lineup. Their 474 hits top the playoff list while the Penguins rank sixth with 319.
"They have a well-structured game and they stick to it," Niskanen said. "They'll try to grind you down by rolling those four lines and with a forechecking game. They've got some big bodies mixed with some speed and skill.
"They're a well-balanced team. It's going to be a challenge."
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly First Published May 27, 2013 4:00 AM