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BOSTON (CBS) — Already, visions of a Bruins-Penguins conference finals have begun to dance in the heads of hockey fans in Boston, but with just two games gone in the Bruins-Rangers series, there’s more than enough reason to pump the brakes on any such thoughts.
While the Rangers looked to be in near-complete disarray in Game 2, the chances of them winning four of the next five games are not slim, as they’ve proven able to do just that several times this year.
From Feb. 7-17, New York went 4-0-1, with three of the wins coming at home at Madison Square Garden and the other coming in a shootout in Boston against the Bruins.
On Feb. 28, after a four-game losing streak during which they were outscored 12-6 by opponents, the Rangers went on a 4-1-0 stretch, with pairs of wins at home and on the road.
And following a mediocre 3-3-1 funk late in the season, the Rangers pushed to finish the year by winning five of their last six games, part of a bigger stretch of winning seven of their final nine games.
Of course, none of those instances had the same intensity of the playoffs, and certainly, their season was not at stake. But their season was on the line in the first round against Washington, when the Rangers were also trailing 2-0 after two games but managed to go 3-1 in the following four games, all decided by one goal, before winning Game 7 by a 5-0 score.
So it’s clear that when it comes to winning four out of five games, it’s more than possible for the Rangers. Doing so four times in a lockout-shortened season really drives that point home.
That’s not the only reason the Bruins can’t get ahead of themselves or start looking ahead to the next round. They need to be worried about Henrik Lundqvist.
While “King Henrik” didn’t look to be too frightening in Game 2, the fact remains that it’s very, very rare for Lundqvist to play poorly in consecutive games. Before Sunday, he hadn’t allowed five goals in a game all year, but he had allowed four goals on four separate occasions. In the four games that followed those performances, Lundqvist is a perfect 4-0-0, with a .934 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average.
Last year, Lundqvist also didn’t allow five goals in any game, but he allowed four goals seven times (playoffs included). In the games that followed, he posted a 5-1-1 record, .925 save percentage and 2.20 GAA. It wasn’t quite as dominant, and he did allow four goals in back-to-back games in late October, but there’s plenty of reason to believe Lundqvist’s current .900 save percentage and 3.54 GAA this series is going to improve greatly in the coming games.
And aside from the Rangers, the Bruins need only look at their own history to know that nothing is even close to being decided in this series. They seemed to think they had their first-round series in the bag when they took a 3-1 lead over Toronto, only to see their season very nearly coming to an end. It took a true miracle to keep the Bruins’ season alive, with a Game 7 finish that might never happen again in the sport.
So, based on the results of the first two games of the series, the Bruins do look to be on their way to the conference finals. But based on what we know about the Rangers and the potential of their all-world goaltender, this series has a long way to go before anything is decided.