Merlot Line Proves Worth For Umpteenth Time And Other Leftover Bruins Thoughts
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BOSTON (CBS) — For the Bruins, Game 2 came relatively easily. Game 3 did not.
On the road, facing a locked-in Henrik Lundqvist and dealing with referees determined not to give them any power plays, the Bruins rallied in the third period to beat the Rangers in the most Bruins way possible. The goals came from doing the dirty work, they came with the fourth line on the ice, and they came from two simple instances of the Bruins displaying more effort than the Rangers.
That really shouldn’t be possible, yet with the prospect of a 3-0 series deficit staring them in the face, the Rangers hit the ice with a decidedly lifeless effort. They took advantage of a Patrice Bergeron turnover early in the second period and took a 1-0 lead, and they spent the next 14:07 getting exactly two shots on net. They hoped to let Lundqvist lead them to a 1-0 victory, and he was nearly good enough to do it for them.
But the Bruins wouldn’t let it happen. All it took was effort.
Before we start thinking too much about what could take place Thursday night in Game 4, let’s run through some of the leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ 2-1 win in Game 3.
–It’s good that the Bruins won, because it means we can examine the refereeing situation without a flood of dopes calling such analysis “sour grapes” or “whining.”
The officiating was a real problem in this game. And the NHL smells a whole lot like the NBA. I wrote about it more in-depth here, but I swear that was Joey Crawford and Bennet Salvatore out there in ice skates. In the last three playoff games at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers have gotten 11 power plays, and opponents have gotten two.
–I don’t think there was a big Gary Bettman-inspired conspiracy to let the Rangers get all the calls in Game 3. Or, at least, I didn’t think that until that puck literally jumped away from the goal line like it was being pushed with the opposing force of a magnet or something. Daniel Paille jumped on the loose puck and scored, so the suspicion temporarily subsided, but I’m not picturing Bettman personally installing some high-tech magnetic device from the 1960s and cursing incessantly in a back room at MSG while holding a giant remote control.
–I’m ready to say that Torey Krug absolutely cannot come out of the Bruins’ lineup, no matter what. There was a long stretch in the second period where he was the engine of the Boston offense. He carries the puck with speed into the offensive end, he sends smart shots toward net and he never panics with the puck on his stick. He had a big bump in ice time, up to 18:18, and he was tied for the team lead with four shots. In just three games, Krug has shown how valuable his offense can be.
–With that, the common belief is that Dougie Hamilton must sit down, thereby keeping Matt Bartkowski in the lineup as well. That may be so, but don’t forget in the midst of all the credit the fourth line is getting that it was Hamilton’s intentionally wide shot that started the wild sequence leading to Daniel Paille’s game-winning goal. I wouldn’t be shocked if McQuaid got scratched. Either way, Claude Julien has a problem most coaches wouldn’t mind having this time of year.
–Patrice Bergeron did his postgame interview with Pierre McGuire, standing on the ice with a sewn up face and blood stains on his white jersey. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why the city of Boston appreciates him so much. (It’s also why the whiff on the clearing attempt that led to the New York goal will have been forgotten by sun-up on Wednesday.)
–By far, the most bizarre part of this game came when a little post-whistle shoving and shouting match broke out between … Rick Nash … and … Jaromir … Jagr?
What in the world could have precipitated that? Jagr has shown the emotion of a washer machine in his time with the Bruins, yet there he was, mixing it up against his old team. Interesting.
–Jagr missed a golden opportunity on his own rebound in the first period, which was too bad for the Bruins. But frankly, if he’s going to produce images such as this one, I think it can be forgiven.
If Jagr’s hockey career comes to an end this year or next, at least he’ll always have a career as a hockey-playing villain in movies to fall back on. The Czech Shadow.
–Tuukka Rask also has this photo to hang above his mantel, if he so chooses.
–It wouldn’t be a leftover thoughts column without a quick run-through of Tuukka’s Greatest Hits.
For simplicity’s sake, we’ll just go with a greatest hit, and it’s his toe save on Rick Nash with nine minutes left in a tie game. The Rangers broke into the zone on a 4-on-2 rush against Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski. Mats Zuccarello smartly passed to Nash, the Rangers’ most lethal goal scorer, who unleashed a low shot toward the left post. Rask calmly moved left to right and extended his right pad, not only making the save but also directing the puck far enough out of trouble to prevent any second-chance opportunities.
It was an underrated stop — you don’t get to add a flourish to a kick save — but it was a doozy.
And because I’m keeping an eye on it and don’t want to keep any secrets from you, here’s how Rask compares to Tim Thomas in 2011 through 10 postseason games:
Rask — 7-3 record, .930 save percentage, 2.19 GAA
Thomas — 7-3 record, .935 save percentage, 2.13 GAA
–Are we completely sure that Zdeno Chara is a human being like the rest of us?
–I found it to be perfect that in a huge game on the road in the playoffs, against the best goalie in the sport, it was Claude Julien’s fourth line that generated the two goals and accounted for five of the six Bruins’ points on the night. The trio of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton were as big a reason as any that the Bruins won Game 7 in Vancouver two years ago, so Tuesday’s performance was hardly unprecedented.
Still, people sometimes question why the Merlot line gets as much playing time as it does, particularly when they go on long scoreless stretches. Julien explained why perfectly after the Game 3 win: “You utilize them because they’re good, not because you have to.”
–The Rangers had to treat Game 3 like a Game 7, because teams just don’t come back from 3-0 deficits. Yes, the 2010 Flyers did it, but countless other teams haven’t. It just doesn’t happen, and it’s just not going to happen.
The Rangers, who looked ready to call it a season after both games in Boston, are just about guaranteed to come out flat in Game 4. Their effort, Lundqvist notwithstanding, in Game 3 was “meh” at best, and if you think they’re magically going to come out with a fire under their butts in Game 4, then I fear you haven’t been paying attention.
That means it’s simply up to the Bruins as to whether they want to finish this thing off Thursday night or mess around and make it hard on themselves by extending the series. If they can win in Game 4, they can give Seidenberg an extra week to recover without having to play, and they can sit back on their couches and watch the Penguins and Senators wear each other down for at least a five-game series.
The Bruins’ sweeping the Rangers is crazy to think of now, after just about everyone in the universe predicted a seven-game series, but it’s a very real possibility for the Bruins. Seemingly, all they have to do is bring more effort than the men in blue. So far, that’s been no problem.