Time Out For Sports Talk: Start Spreading The News, Bruins Survive To Add Another Chapter To The Boston-New York Sports Rivalry
TOST Question of the Week: What were your thoughts on Game 7 of Bruins/Maple Leafs and what are your predictions on the upcoming Bruins/Rangers Eastern Conference Semifinal series?
Todd: Was there any other way the Bruins were going to win that game Monday night other than the incredibly dramatic way they did? This team has only played their best this season while staring adversity right in the eye and not blinking even once.
Just when B’s fans thought they could relax after the Black and Gold won two games in Toronto to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Leafs came back and won a pair of nail-biters to even up the series. And if that wasn’t enough torment, how about Boston facing a 4-1 deficit early in the third period of Game 7 while down three of their veteran defensemen? Let’s not forget that in the nearly 100-year history of the NHL, no team has ever come back from three or more goals to win a deciding seventh game.
But two sixth-attacker goals in the final 90 seconds of regulation and one overtime game-winner later, the Bruins made history instead of becoming history. It was their first 3-goal comeback to win a playoff game since April 11, 1990 at the Hartford Civic Center (now known as the XL Center) against the former Hartford Whalers (now known as the Carolina Hurricanes), a game which could have given the Whale a 3-1 series lead. (Leave it to an old fan of the Brass Bonanza to recall this crushing loss.)
Going even older ‘old school’ than a Whale reference, the Bruins now face off against the N.Y. Rangers in the playoffs for the first time since 1973, and it’s also the first time the B’s have faced two Original Six teams in the same postseason since 1978. Despite the long absence between Bruins-Rangers playoff games, this marks the 10th postseason matchup between the teams. Boston has won six of the previous nine matchups, and it’s interesting to note that on four of those winning occasions the B’s went on to win the Stanley Cup.
This time around these two teams are evenly matched, possessing strong defense and stellar goaltending, but have struggled to score on the power play. They were separated by just six points during the Readers Digest-regular season, with the Rangers winning two of three hard-fought games (in overtime and by shootout).
Special teams could be a big key in this series. While the Bruins were unsurprisingly just 3-for-20 with the man advantage against the Leafs, it was somewhat shocking to see the B’s penalty-killing unit allow five power play goals to Phil Kessel and friends. The question is whether the Rangers, who were just 2-for-28 on the power play in their opening round series against Washington, can take advantage of Boston’s recent lapses.
Offensively, things are looking up for the Bruins, with their top line of Lucic/Krejci/Horton playing their best hockey of the season, while the Bergeron/Seguin/Marchand second line could be rounding into form just in time after Bergeron impressively tied and won it for the B’s Monday night. But now they face Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a finalist for the award again this year. All Lundqvist did in New York’s win against the Capitals was post a 1.65 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, which included back-to-back shutouts in Games 6 and 7.
The puck drops tonight at TD Garden in what should be a great series. I like the Bruins in seven very close games, and for Rangers coach John Tortorella to have one of his classic tirades somewhere along the way.
Mike: Honestly, I’m still not quite over Game 7 of the Toronto series yet. I almost shut the game off a couple of times, but instead, since I was watching it on a slight delay (putting my daughter to bed-thank goodness for DVRs), I settled for just fast-forwarding through a chunk of the third period. I saw the Bruins score to cut it to 4-2, and I thought “hmm…there might be something here.” But never in my wildest dreams, did I think I would see such an epic comeback!
But now, it’s back to square 1, a new series and a new opponent, as the Bs continue their tour through the Original 6 with a matchup against the upstart New York Rangers, a team coming off an upset over the No. 3-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round. It was a lucky upset for Boston too, as now they get to avoid top-seeded Pittsburgh until the Eastern Conference finals.
But they need to get there first.
As you pointed out Todd, special teams could be a big factor in the series. I can’t figure out why the Bruins can’t score on the power play, it’s unbelievably frustrating to watch as they continually go an entire power play without generating a shot on net. Sure, they won the Cup in 2011 without much of a power play, but I think that was kind of a fluke, and to get much further in this year’s playoffs, the Bruins need to generate some offense on the power play.
Entertainment-wise, it’s going to be hard to top the Toronto series, as all seven games were very fun to watch, with a lot of end-to-end hockey and great goaltending on both sides. As the Bruins get ready to drop the puck tonight for Game 1 of the semifinals, it’s a temptation to go with the trend and say Bruins in 7, since it seems all of their playoff series go seven games lately. But I’m going to buck the trend and say Bruins take it in six.