Last night’s Bruins/Rangers Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals was a nail-biter.. sort of.. After the Rangers took a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the second period, I said to my friends “ugh! This is going to be a 2-1 game with lots of stress.” I was right. The stress comes from the fact that the Bruins had to come back from behind.. and once they tie it, then it’s still stressful waiting for them to take the lead. This was how many of the games in the previous series against the Maple Leafs went. It’s tough on the die-hard fans like us who are so deeply involved in these games. It drains us emotionally as much as the players get drained physically.
Luckily, fans that understand the flow of the game could see that there wasn’t really as much reason to be stressed as when we fell behind in some of the games against Toronto. This is because the play in this matchup has been mostly one-sided in favor of the Bruins, unlike the back-and-forth play of the Toronto series, or even at some points early in this series. We have dominated this series and never more than in Game 3. The only real source of stress was the fact that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was finally playing to his Vezina Trophy-winning potential. Still, him standing on his head wasn’t enough to get the Rangers a win, which is a very good sign for the Bruins. If he was going to steal a game for them, last night would’ve been it.
You could just tell right from the start that we were going to run this game. The first minute and a half straight of this game had the Bruins in the Rangers’ zone working the offense and getting scoring chances. That shift set the tone for the entire game. We had so many shots that hit post or that would’ve gone in if Lundqvist was up to par. I so badly wanted young defenseman Torey Krug to score his third career NHL goal in his third career NHL playoff game. After scoring a goal in each of the previous two games this no doubt would’ve been some kind of record. He did come close a few times, though. As I’ve been saying, he, as well as the other young defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton, have been surprisingly impressive. They’re making smart plays and being effective on both sides of the ice. Krug, though, has shown the most offensive skill, with some sweet moves and dangles, and a great shot.
While we ran some great offense, getting 34 shots on goal, it wasn’t the only aspect of our game that earned us this win. As I said, the defense was solid, but Tuukka Rask was even more solid in net. He stopped 23 of 24 shots including two of two during Rangers power plays. He finished with a .958 save percentage. While he didn’t have to make a lot of saves, he had to make some pretty spectacular ones that changed the game, as he has throughout the playoffs. Worth noting, through the first 10 playoff games, his statistics are actually very similar to those of Tim Thomas in his first 10 during the 2011 Stanley Cup run. He has even kept opponents to two goals or less in seven games, compared to Thomas’ six at this point. He is making his job look easy, even with three rookie defenseman playing in front of him. As much as Lundqvist is considered one of the best, the eye test would tell you that Rask is out-playing him. I’m loving Rask right now.
The other aspect of hockey is the physical play, and while the Rangers tried to step up, we still fight harder. At the same time, their “physical play” was comprised mostly of cheap shots. Their captain, Ryan Callahan led the way early on with a huge douchebag move. A few minutes into the game, he checked Zdeno Chara up high, then wacked him in the face with the stick. He drew blood, which should’ve earned him a four-minute minor penalty, but of course, the refs “didn’t see it.” He even game Gregory Campbell a face wash on his way of the ice, but still nothing was called. I can’t tell you how many times I heard call out dirty moves by the Rangers that the “refs didn’t see.” NHL conspiracy? You know it’s better business for them if this series goes longer. They don’t want a sweep. More possible evidence of a conspiracy to make sure the Rangers won came when the Bruins took a shot late in the game that Lundqvist deflected up into the air. It landed right on the goal behind him, but somehow, defying physics, it bounced away from the goal. It looked like they used magnets to pull it away from the goal. Lucky for us, both Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton were there to knock it back in. I don’t really believe there’s any conspiracy, I just thought some of the things that went on were a bit fishy.
Now back to the physical play. Another thing that I thought was worth mentioning was how the Rangers’ tough guy Derek Dorsett tried to get under our skin and fight. The whole game he was poking and prodding Brad Marchand trying to get him to fight or do something stupid to take a penalty. I thought this was pretty telling of how physical the Rangers really are. Marchand is tiny and Dorsett is one of the bigger guys in the league. Pick on someone your own size? Anyways, Marchand never bit, but when it became apparent what Dorsett was doing, our tough guy Shawn Thornton stepped in. He gave Dorsett a talking to and also gave him the option to fight. Dorsett backed down from Thornton, making the Rangers look (and probably feel) pretty lame. It was obvious that the Bruins were tougher team. One last bit of evidence of this was our hybrid tough guy/scorer Milan Lucic. In the second period, he made a great effort to prevent an icing call. He skated hard from one end of the ice to the other against Anton Stralman. When he got to the puck he hit Stralman hard with all his 225 pounds of momentum. Stralman would end up not returning to the ice in the third period. Boom!
The Bruins own the Rangers. The main reason is how much depth we have. While we don’t have a superstar scorer we have a whole team of effective players. Tyler Seguin was supposed to be our star, but he has struggled this year. He hasn’t scored yet in the playoffs, though he did hit post and have some great chances that would’ve gone it if Lundqvist wasn’t in the Rangers net, and if he wasn’t standing on his head in Game 3. But getting back to our depth, I would consider it the strongest and most important aspect of our team, as it was in 2011 when we won the Stanley Cup. A very telling statistic is that the top three players in the league right now for +/- rating are all ours: David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic. The highlight of our depth, though, is our fourth line, which is more productive than the third or even second lines on many other teams. We call them the “energy line” and boy to they bring it. This line, built of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton, is always hustling, hitting, and getting good scoring chances. Unfortunately for Paille, he is held back a bit by the much lesser skills of his linemates. He is one of the most underrated players in the league because of this. But those who have been on the other end of his great defensive plays, steals, breakaways, and shots, understand what he can do. Interestingly, the Bruins have a 6-0 record in playoff games when Paille scores a goal. He is the favorite Bruin of one of my friends, and that friend keeps hoping for a Paille game-winning goal, which is totally plausible as we’ve seen it so many times. Last night, he finally got his wish as Paille was the one to knock in the bouncing puck near the end of the game.
Our first goal came from a great shot from the point by Johnny Boychuk. As quiet as he is in the regular season, this was already his fourth goal of the playoffs. This goal was scored while the fourth line was on the ice too. Paille and Campbell had assists on it. As NBC announcer Pierre McGuire kept saying last night, the Rangers have no answer for our fourth line, and it was very apparent. You have to love our depth and this unique “energy line.” It’s not just our depth that gets us wins, though, it’s our determination and focus too. The later in the game we get, the better we play. While we’ve outscored them 10-5 throughout the series, the more important statistic is that we’ve outscored them 5-1 in third periods. This shows that we’re able to close out games, which we’ve struggled with in the past. Furthermore, we’ve shown we can come back from behind. This all looks very promising for the Bruins.
The Bruins/Rangers matchup may have faded as a rivalry since these two teams haven’t met in the playoffs for 40 years, but it will certainly be rekindled now.. no matter who wins. If we sweep them, we will really embarrass them, and they will hate us. Even if we don’t sweep them, we still made them look silly with three straight wins, so they will still hate us. And in the extremely unlikely event that they come back and win the series, we will really, really, really hate them like we did the Flyers when they did that a few years ago. If that does happen, though, then like the Flyers, we’ll have to come back the next year and sweep them out.
Nobody predicted this series being so one-sided, and they thought it was a sure thing that neither team would sweep. Now it’s looking like the Bruins may actually take the series tomorrow night in Game 4. The Rangers will have a serious lack of confidence, and that will help, but we just simply are the better team. So, even if the Rangers actually get their first win tomorrow, we will almost surely close it out in Game 5 in Boston. Still, no matter what happens, Bruins fans, you must always..
Here are some videos from Game 3:
Extended Game 3 highlights (HD):
Short Game 3 highlights (SD):
Johnny Boychuk scores to tie the game:
Daniel Paille knocks in the loose puck for the game-winning goal:
Thanks for reading,