Tue 17 Apr 2012
True poetic justice would have seen rookie Chris Kreider score the lone goal in the New York Rangers 1-0 win in Game 3 as the replacement for the suspended Carl Hagelin. Well, the fickle finger of fate had the right school (Boston College) but the wrong eagle (Brian Boyle).
While Boyle provided the game’s only offense, it was The King who shined brightest among the Blueshirts. Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves in posting his fourth career shutout, but none were bigger than the ones he made in the final minute. After stopping a sharp angle shot from the left wing corner, Lundqvist stoned Kyle Turris in front to preserve the victory.
There was some disappointment at not preserving the Game 1 shutout, but when you have a four goal lead in the third period it is always good to hold on to those shutouts when you really need them – like last night.
Fans have come to expect that type of dominating performance from Lundqvist. However, the same can’t be said about the roll Boyle is on. After struggling for most of the season to find his offensive game, Boyle is as hot as any player can be – scoring eight goals in his last 12 games, including one each playoff game.
Lundqvist is not surprised by Boyle’s run of offensive prowess.
“He’s doing all the things he’s been doing all year, but now he’s scoring some big goals or us,” Lundqvist explained to Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun. “And I’m not surprised. He’s a really skilled player. He’s been really hot in practise the last few weeks. We need guys to step up right now, and he’s doing that.”
Boyler was quick to pay back Lundqvist’s praise.
“Once again, as has been the story all year, No. 30 back there, the guy was unbelievable,” Boyle said to Dave Lozo of nhl.com. “He was the biggest difference, I think.”
Boyle is relishing his role as Ottawa‘s Public Enemy Number 2 (obviously, Hagelin takes the top spot).
“If I’m the villain to them that’s good,” Boyle admitted to The Canadian Press. “If I knew (I would score this often) I probably would have tried to do it a lot earlier. It’s been fortunate bounces.”
Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were spot on when they said that no player has stepped up their play like Boyle. In a way, that is placing the Rangers in a Catch-22 situation. On a team with the likes of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Ryan Callahan, your best skater can’t be Brian Boyle. It is a recipe for a playoff upset.
Yes, the Rangers do need secondary scoring – a problem they encountered throughout the season. However, they need to see production from their primary scorers as well. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if a couple of secondary scorers (like Brandon Dubinsky) followed Boyle’s lead.
One of those potential secondary scorers could be Kreider. Fresh off winning his second NCAA championship in the three years, the young forward did not look out of place as he is the first rookie to make his NHL debut in the playoffs since Lauri Korpikoski did so in 2008. Of course, Korpikoski had the advantage of playing 162 AHL games before making his NHL debut.
Kreider saw just over 11 minutes of ice time before giving way to Derek Stepan midway through the third period. Coach John Tortorella wanted to let the youngster watch up close how the Blueshirts defended their lead.
You had to wonder if it was going to be another one of those nights where the bounces were not going to go the Rangers way, especially after watching the puck pinball in the crease with 11 minutes left in the second period. Senators’ goaltender Craig Anderson and captain Jason Spezza combined to keep the puck out of the net.
Did anyone else wonder if that had been a Ranger skater scrambling to keep the puck out of the net that a penalty shot would have been called?
Perhaps Brendan Shanahan’s screwball logic when it comes to suspensions has me paranoid to the point of questioning every call and non-call. However, just because I am not paranoid does not necessarily mean people aren’t out to get the Rangers
There is one glaring example that caught my attention. At least three times during the game, I heard a referee warn the Rangers to “watch the crease” and “stay out of the blue”. I never heard a referee offer the same warning to Ottawa – even after Zenon Konopka jabbed at Lundqvist. It was bad enough to warrant a response from Lundqvist who went after Konopka and then complained to the referee.
I know that Tortorella is persona non grata when it comes to the NHL and their “precious” officials, so it might be time for President/GM Glen Sather to come out of hiding and get in front of this “crease crashing” from the Senators because you can expect even more of it as the series progresses.
“We ran into a hot goaltender (Monday),” Anderson told The Canadian Press. “We just have to find a way to get more traffic and put a couple by him.”
In addition to dealing with the onslaught of bodies in front of Lundqvist, the Rangers will need to stop being so tentative with the puck in their own end. With about eight minutes or so left in the third period, the Rangers ran into a stretch of play where they just could not bang the puck out of the zone and were getting badly outworked along the boards.
Speaking of the boards, the Rangers definitely want to be mindful of the lively boards and glass at Scotiabank Place. More Blueshirts need to follow Daniel Girardi’s lead (as he did on the lone goal) and fire pucks towards the net with the intent of utilizing indirect passes off the boards and playing the caroms and bounces into scoring chances.
Another key to Game 4 is making sure they are able to contain Erik Karlsson. The Senator blueliner had 10 shots and a goal in their Game 2 win while combining for eight shots in their two losses.
The Rangers have been up two games to one in a seven-game series 18 times in their history, posting a 13-5 series record.
By the way, thanks to my wife Roe for coming up with the “Boyler Maker” headline. Just goes to show, behind every good man is a better woman!
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