Wed 22 May 2013
If the New York Rangers want to return to the Eastern Conference Finals, they have one more hill to climb – and it is Mount Boston. Given the way the Blueshirts have been playing it might as well be Mount Everest.
After winning Game 7 on the road to eliminate the Washington Capitals, the Rangers will look to become only the fourth team to overcome a 3-0 deficit. The only potential saving grace is that one of the three teams to blow a 3-0 lead was the 2010 Boston Bruins, who were beaten by the Philadelphia Flyers.
In addition to the memory of 2010, Boston only has to think back a couple of weeks to realize they were about 10 minutes away from wasting a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is a point the Bruins are cognizant of.
“That fourth game is going to be the toughest one and out of any team in the NHL we should probably know that the best,” Johnny Boychuk said to Dan Rosen of NHL.com.
Bruins coach Claude Julien is well aware of his team’s problems closing out a series, but he believes his team is stronger now because of its struggles in the past.
‘‘We can talk about it all we want, but that’s in the past. We had to live with that and we still have to live with that,’’ Julien said to Ira Podell of the AP.
‘‘The Toronto series, I didn’t think our team was in the zone the way it is right now. I anticipate — knowing my team — that we’re going to come out the same next game and certainly not be the Jekyll and Hyde team that we were in the first round.’’
The Rangers have no one to blame but themselves for the predicament they find themselves in. They have not been able to build on any momentum they have gained in the series. The biggest condemnation has been their inability to score goals on any consistent basis – and more importantly – their inability to extend the two one-goal leads they have had in the series.
In Game 1, the Rangers took a 2-1 lead on Derek Stepan’s goal 14 seconds into the third period. However, that lead didn’t even last three minutes before Torey Krug’s power play goal tied the game.
Last night, the Rangers seemed content with Taylor Pyatt’s goal early in the second period as they took their skates off the throttle. That goal pretty much sums what the Rangers need to be doing more of in this series: winning faceoffs, getting shots on goal with traffic at the top of the crease in front of Tuukka Rask.
Sadly, for Rangers fans, their team has not been doing that enough while the Bruins have been winning games doing it – just look at Dan Paille’s game-winner in Game 3.
For years it has been my contention that to win in the playoffs you have to have offense and score goals because, for the most part, the very nature of the playoffs lends itself to tighter defensive play. That is why special teams play is so important because power plays give teams a better chance to score goals – unless of course you are the New York Rangers.
Rather than look to take the play to the Bruins, the Rangers sat back and turned the game over to Henrik Lundqvist. While he played like The King last night, save for the giveaway on the Bruins tying goal, it is too much to ask any goaltender to make a one-goal lead stand up for 36 minutes – especially when the team in front of him doesn’t have much of a clue defensively (more on that later).
Just how one-sided did the game become? The Bruins outshot the Rangers 25-10 following Pyatt’s goal.
Ryan Callahan summed up the team’s play during the second half of the game.
“They grabbed the momentum in the middle of the second and we never got it back,” the Captain admitted to Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “I don’t think we handled their surge correctly.”
One of the earliest notes I made in the game was that the Rangers “ice balance” was off. Again they were getting caught watching the puck in their own zone which, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to plays from the weak side – a problem throughout the series.
The Rangers ice balance is taking a real beating when it comes to defending the Bruins defensemen at the points. Because they are continuing to pack the slot area in an attempt to clog the shooting lanes, the Bruins blueliners are having free reign at the point – which is a huge mistake given that Boston’s defensemen have scored 11 of the teams 31 goals.
That problem gets compounded when you don’t block shots because of the traffic in front of Lundqvist. The result is you have tying goals like Boychuk’s goal in the third period.
The idea of ice balance has become a truly foreign subject in the offensive zone. Despite watching their first goal occur as result of traffic in front of Rask, the Blueshirts continually refuse to make life difficult for Rask. The Bruins netminder had a game almost as easy as Braden Holtby did in Game 2.
Their ice balance is off on the forecheck because, as Pierre McGuire pointed out early and often, the Bruins were having an easy time breaking out of the zone. If the Rangers are not going to go harder, and more balanced, on their forecheck, then they have to switch to a forecheck that looks to contain and slow down the Bruins breakouts.
“At times we struggled to get through and when we got through, we just didn’t sustain our forecheck,” Tortorella admitted to Steve Zipay of Newsday. “A team that is rolling their lines like they are, we need to have some time in their end zone. As the game went on, we were there less and less. So it pops up on you.”
Tortorella and his Rangers have a road ahead of them, but they can’t concern themselves with winning four straights games. They have to concern themselves with just winning one game.
‘‘We’ll meet (Wednesday), practice, and we’re going to try to win a game,’’ Tortorella told Podell. ‘‘That’s all you can do. Down 3-0, it’s a very tough situation, but I have full faith in our athletes. They will be ready to play another game.
‘‘You try to win one and see where you go from there.’’
It looks like the Rangers could be shorthanded heading into Game 4 and beyond. Anton Stralman appeared to suffer a possible concussion after being rammed into the boards by Milan Lucic late in the second period. Chris Kreider caught an inadvertent stick to the eye in the third period and did not return.
If Stralman can’t go, Tortorella will have to turn to Matt Gilroy with either John Moore or Steve Eminger having to step up to top four defensemen minutes.
Here are my random Ramblings for Game 3:
• The other two teams to erase a 3-0 series deficit were the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.
• Since Boston trailed 4-1 in Game 7 against Toronto, Rask has allowed just five goals.
• According to NHL.com, last night’s loss was the first time the Rangers lost a game when they led going into the third period. They won 16 games during the regular season and two in the playoffs. To take it one step further, the Blueshirts had gone 99 straight games with a regulation time loss when leading after two periods. The last time they lost in regulation after leading going into the third period: February 4, 2010 against the Capitals.
• McGuire’s rather loud rant against the Rangers power play was spot on and well-deserved. However, he did throw Torts a bone about his PP prowess as an assistant coach to John Muckler with the Buffalo Sabres. As annoying as McGuire can be, he was right in this case. Tortorella was an assistant for six years in Buffalo (1989 through 1995) and the Sabres has a Top 10 PP four times (including the #1 unit in 1991-92 and the #2 unit in 1993-94). The other two seasons the Sabres PP was 14th and 11th (lockout shortened 1994-95).
• Here is a solution to stop McGuire’s vaunted Bruins 4th line’s forecheck. The Rangers need to play solid man-to-man defense. Wingers cover the defensemen at the points and the center and the two defensemen concentrate on the Bruins forwards. With the Bruins’ point men covered, their forwards have one of their major outlets cut off.
• The Bruins have outscored the Rangers 5-1 in the third period in this series.
• The Game 3 loss ends the Rangers nine game winning streak at Madison Square Garden and marked just the fourth loss at MSG suffered by Henrik Lundqvist in 16 decisions against the Bruins (12-4-0).
• On a personal note, I write this Blog and do these Recaps because it combines two of my great passions: writing and hockey. It also helps to relieve the stress and aggravation that builds up during the hockey season and especially during the playoffs. With that said, I believe the Bruins could put my 49-year-old broken down arse in goal and I would be able to beat the Rangers – and possibly even shut them out – even though I haven’t played competitive hockey in any form for almost 20 years!