Fri 24 May 2013
Down 2-0 with a little more than 32 minutes left to play, and facing elimination, the New York Rangers playoff run was at a crossroads. They could follow the example of the Washington Capitals who folded like a cheap suit in Game 7. Or, the Blueshirts could decide to fight back and play with a desperation, urgency and resiliency that has been lacking in this series. If they were to choose the latter option, they were going to need a break.
Well, one break coming up, courtesy of Tuukka Rask who certainly will not be winning Dancing With the Stars any time soon. Just 58 seconds after Rangers nemesis Torey Krug scored his third goal of the series, Carl Hagelin’s backhander trickled past the prone Bruins goaltender after Rask stumbled and fell to the ice.
“Probably the ugliest goal I have ever seen,” Henrik Lundqvist commented to Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “It turned it around for us, and that’s hockey.
‘‘We need to be more focused, I need to be more focused,’’ Rask explained to Ira Podell of the AP. ‘‘I just took a step to the side in what I think probably was a skate mark or something. I lost my balance and the rest is history.
‘‘We gave them a couple of gifts and it cost us the game.’’
The other “gift” was Derek Stepan’s goal 75 seconds into the third period to tie the game as he picked Zdeno Chara’s pocket and stuffed home the tying goal. After the game Chara said he didn’t know Stepan was near him – which is understandable given that FrankenChara (copyrighted by my wife Roe) is like eight feet tall on skates and probably thought Stepan was a gnat buzzing around his head.
“It certainly gave us life,” Stepan stated after the game. “It’s a timely goal at the right time.”
The Rangers resiliency was tested again as Boston scored two seconds after Ryan McDonagh’s borderline call for Goalie Interference expired as the Bruins scored after Henrik Lundqvist made a flurry of stops late in the Boston power play.
However, less than two minutes later a month of Sundays hit the calendar, pigs started to fly and cats and dogs were living in harmony as the Rangers power play woke up from its doldrums to tie the game midway through the third period.
Credit Brian Engblom for pointing out the two things the Rangers did right, for a change, on their power play and the big mistake the Bruins committed.
For one of the few times on a man advantage, the Blueshirts were able to gain the Bruins zone while carrying the puck. Combine that with some puck movement and player movement and you have Brian Boyle’s power play goal.
The one main point Engblom pointed out was how the Bruins got caught watching the puck and no one was looking at the weak side and that allowed Boyle to skate into position in the slot. For the rare time, it was Boston that got burned puck-watching – not the Rangers.
I hope John Tortorella puts the following quote up on the bulletin board in the TD Garden prior to Game 5 as a reminder of what the Rangers need to do on Saturday.
“When we get a power play we need to be determined enough to go out and make a difference,” Boyle said to Dan Rosen of NHL.com. “We need to do it. It has to work. The games we lost, if we get a power-play goal it’s a different game.”
The King rallied his teammates with a pre-game speech and then went out and backed it up – especially in overtime as he counted key stops on Patrice Bergeron, Jaromir Jagr and Brad Marchand among his 37 saves.
“I told the guys before the game there was no way we were losing this game,” Lundqvist said. “We want to keep playing. We owe it to ourselves, to our fans. All our focus today was just on this game. Now we move our focus to the next game and the first period of that game. We will see how far that takes us.”
All of Lundqvist’s talk and play would mean nothing without Chris Kreider’s overtime winner. Again, puck and player movement played a key following a huge faceoff win by Derick Brassard. Lost in Hagelin’s “flukey” goal was the gorgeous flip pass Brassard made to spring the Swedish winger.
The game-winning goal goes to show that good things happen when players go to the net and pucks are put on goal or at least in areas of the ice where deflections turn into scoring chances and eventually goals.
While Rick Nash’s pass was precise as he managed to elude Chara’s wingspan, it was a defensive breakdown by one of the Bruins rookie defenseman that paved the way for Kreider to send the Garden faithful home with a smile and a dream.
Dougie Hamilton got caught on the outside of Kreider instead of being on the inside. The key to playing defense is to either put yourself between the puck and the goal or to put yourself between the puck and the man you are checking. Hamilton did neither and the series heads back to Boston for Game 5.
While addressing the media following the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien would not press the panic button.
“There is no panic here,” Julien said. “Had we been outworked and not been there at all we would be talking differently here, but we didn’t get outworked. All it was, as a team, was we didn’t execute as well as we have been. We have to go back home and play a better game.”
While there might be no panic, there might be some concern given the team’s history – blowing a 3-0 series to lead to Philadelphia in 2010 and nearly frittering away a 3-1 series lead to Toronto. There is also the specter of the Providence Bruins blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.
As Pierre McGuire said, there are three things you need to create in a playoff series: concern, doubt and fear. If the Rangers can force a Game 6, it puts the seed of doubt in their mind. If the Blueshirts manage to extend the series to seven games, doubt will be replaced by fear.
Of course, all of that is moot unless the Rangers win Game 5.
Here are my random Ramblings for Game 4:
• It sure is nice to watch a game on any of the NBC family of channels and not have to listen to Pierre McGuire gush over all things Bruins. One note to CNBC, please ditch the stupidly annoying logo superimposed on the screen.
• The Rangers overtime was their first in four tries this year in the playoffs and was the Bruins first overtime loss in four tries. Lundqvist raised his playoff overtime record to 4-11.
• As big a story as the Rangers win is, the Brad Richards benching runs a close second and would have been an even bigger story had the Rangers lost. It was not an easy decision for Tortorella to bench one of the team’s leaders and Alternate Captains – especially given the relationship between the two, but it had to be done. Tortorella was correct when he said he was doing the player and the team disservice by playing Richards on the fourth line – especially if he is not going to produce on the power play.
• In the press conference Tortorella said, ‘‘By no means is this a situation where I take him out and I’m blaming him,’’ Tortorella said of Richards. ‘‘I need to make decisions about what I feel is right for our team to win tonight’s game, and that’s why I made that decision.’’
• Interesting opinions expressed on Twitter in reference to the Richards saga. Brett Hull tweeted “Coach T has lost his mind Richards has ability to change a game’s outcome”. Exactly when did Hull become such a brilliant hockey mind? How did that stint running the Dallas Stars turn out? Oh yeah, he ended up paying Sean Avery almost $2 million a year to play for the Rangers.
• Former Rangers center and current Boston Bruin Marc Savard decided to weigh in as well via Twitter: “Tortorella should get fired right after the game he has ruined all of his players’ confidence.” I guess those post-concussion syndrome blues must be in full bloom because the Game 4 Rangers did not seem to lack for any confidence. Savard did clarify his position later: “I’m just mad at Torts because if I recall in 2004 Richards helped him win the cup #connsmythe all I’m saying is live or die with your guy!!!” Given how long Torts stuck with Richards, I’d say the coach played him for as long as he could. Besides, Tortorella’s main responsibility is to the Rangers and doing whatever he thinks is best for the team.
• Andrew Gross of The Record pointed out that Lundqvist is 5-0 with a 0.98 goals against average, a .966 save percentage and two shutouts in elimination games at the Garden. Also, Gross wrote the Game 4 victory is the Rangers fifth overtime win in their history when facing elimination. The last time it happened, well, do the words, “Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau!” ring a bell?
• The Blueshirts are 5-6 in Game 4 elimination games when they face a 3-0 series deficit.
• The Rangers problems scoring have been compounded by their defensemen’s inability to produce goals. Last year, Rangers blueliners produced 11 of the team’s 43 goals (25.6%) through 20 games. This year, through 11 games, the d-men have scored three of the Rangers 25 goals (12%). Of course, Marc Staal (three goals) has yet to play and Anton Stralman (three goals) might be done for the series.
• With the Rangers finally breaking through on the power play, the biggest slump in NYC belongs to Mets 1B Ike Davis (1-for-38).
• The Bruins have had 18 previous attempts at a playoff sweep and accomplish the feat 13 times.
• The Rangers HAVE to find a way to account for and slow down the Bruins defensemen. The Boston blueliners have accounted for 12 of the team’s 33 goals.