Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bring on the Penguins

We all have come to realize that a series is never over until that fourth game is done and final. This applies especially to this particular Boston Bruins team .

Any athlete will tell you that winning the first three games of the series is the easy part. The more challenging feat is to actually seal the deal and close out that fourth game. It is difficult because the team who is trailing will come out fighting like their backs are against the wall. 

This has certainly been the case for the New York Rangers.

After a thrilling and exciting overtime victory on Thursday night, the Rangers forced a game five on Saturday. Nobody is saying that the series was over heading into game five, but the Rangers still had an incredibly large hole to dig themselves out of despite Tuukka Rask's record in close-out games (2-8). 

It was good to see Tyler Seguin get on the board for the first time this postseason in the previous game. Let's hope that will propel him into doing something more this playoff run. Now, we all wait for Jaromir Jagr to break through. 

Anyway, all of these things were encouraging signs heading into game five. Dennis Seidenberg made his return to the lineup in place of Dougie Hamilton. With him back in, it took some of the pressure off a very fatigued Zdeno Chara. His tiredness was evident during that awful giveaway in game four that led to a Ranger goal. 

Prior to the game, it was announced that the Bruins recalled Providence Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg to help during practices and give Rask some rest. 

In this game, the Bruins dominated through the first two periods. Henrik Lundqvist showed the world why he is one of the league's top goaltenders, but he had to prove himself because the B's kept pouncing the puck in on him for several scoring chances. 

The Bruins held a 2-1 lead as they entered the third period. Torey Krug and Gregory Campbell recorded the tallies for the Black and Gold. The Rangers made their late rush towards the end of the game, but Rask came through with some huge saves and Campbell added an empty-netter to clinch the series. 

Bring on the Penguins.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now The Series Switches To New York

Most likely, the best case scenario for the Boston Bruins was that they were hoping to split the first two games of the series at home before everything switched to New York. 

Fortunately, the Bruins got the best of both worlds.

Not only did they take the first two games of the Eastern Conference semi-final series with the New York Rangers, but they have taken firm control of the play on ice. The issue seems to be that the Rangers are playing the worst hockey of the season while the Bruins are clicking at the right time. 

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed five goals in game two, something that has become very rare for him. The goal for New York heading into games three and four was to get him back on track. They put Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh back together as their shutdown defensive pair. Hopefully, that was the spark that the Rangers needed to get things going.

As for the Bruins, there has not been much to say. Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden made the trip, but it was still a question mark as to when they will actually make their return to the lineup. The three youngsters on defense have been playing so well that it would be hard for Claude Julien to mess with that. 

Could this series reach its conclusion or will the TD Garden see at least one more game with the Rangers before the season ends? 

Tuesday night was game three between the two teams, a game that went in favor of the Bruins. The game was tied at 1-1 in the third period when Daniel Paille came through with the game-winning goal after a massive flurry in front of the net. The fourth line was the best line out there in this game and it showed on both goals. 

The issue in game three was the lack of consistency with the calls on the ice. The B's did not receive a power play, but several players literally left their blood on the Madison Square Garden ice on some missed high-stick calls. 

On Thursday night, the B's looked to close out the series with their commanding 3-0 lead. Riding the momentum and stellar play of Tuukka Rask, would this series come to an end? 

Prior to game four, it was announced that Brad Richards did not skate for the Rangers as he was a healthy scratch. The Bruins sent out the same lineup as the previous game.

In this game, the Rangers prevailed in what turned out to be a back-and-forth overtime thriller. Chris Kreider netted the game winner for New York. The Rangers capitalized on complete laziness from the Bruins during two key moments of the game. Regardless, Lundqvist was great in this game and that was the main reason why the Rangers came out on top.

Tyler Seguin finally got on the board in this one by scoring his first goal of the postseason. Also, Nathan Horton and Torey Krug recorded power play goals and scoring those types of goals will be huge going forward. With the way Krug has been playing, many fans will start to wonder if this kid will have a "big boy" contract waiting for him in the off-season. 

On a negative note, Rask would have liked to have some of the goals back that he allowed in game four, but all signs point to the Bruins closing out this series sooner rather than later. 

Game five will be Saturday night (5:30 p.m. start time) back at the TD Garden. The Bruins now lead the series 3-1.

*Johnny Boychuk is ranked third on the team in goals scored. He has four goals thus far during the postseason. He only recorded one goal during the regular season. This is pretty impressive coming from a defenseman who is not known for his offensive ability. That slap shot seems to be the difference maker. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (So Far)

It still seems a tad bit surreal to be continuing to write this blog this season. In what looked like a disappointing end to the series and the season, the Boston Bruins completed one of the most historic comebacks in all of sports.

As great as that was to witness, it was time to put all of that behind us. We had at least another two weeks of hockey in front of us after the conclusion of the series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Up next for the Bruins was the New York Rangers. They were coming off a grueling seven-game series themselves against the Washington Capitals. The Rangers took the season series against the Bruins (2-1), but those three games took place within the first couple weeks of the season. This is a new-look Rangers team.

They still have arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league in Henrik Lundqvist, but they traded away Marian Gaborik and acquired a couple of grinders in order to change their style. 

The Bruins looked to break through their shutdown style of play and get some good scoring chances against Lundqvist. Tuukka Rask needed to stand on his head in this series to silent the skilled players on the Rangers like Brad Richards and Rick Nash. 

The issue for the Bruins was that they were coming into this Eastern Conference semi-final series with half of their defense out due to injuries. Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, and Wade Redden did not start the first couple of games in the series. Torey Krug was recalled from Providence and he joined Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton on the blue line.  

Game one actually went into overtime. Be aware fans: you may see a couple more of these in the series. In an extra period that was completely dominated by the Bruins, they ended up getting the game-winner at the hands of Brad Marchand. Patrice Bergeron made a beautiful cross-ice pass and it landed right at his stick for him to tap in. Zdeno Chara and Krug recorded the regulation goals for Boston while David Krejci continues to lead the NHL in points as he picked up another assist in game one. Rask was solid in net, stopping 33 shots. 

After two days off, the teams were back on the ice Sunday afternoon for game two of the series. In this game, Krug recorded another goal and an assist. The kid continues to be a scoring machine and his puck-handling ability has been ridiculous (in a good way). 

For the Rangers, Nash got on the board for the first time in the playoffs during game two. That got lost in the mix as the Bruins defeated the Rangers in game two by a score of 5-2. Krejci posted another two assists in this game.

Jaromir Jagr has struggled so far in this series. He seems to be fatigued very often and he controls the puck way too much. He may see a reduction in ice time as the week progresses. Also, the Rangers are woefully awful on the power play. You thought the Bruins were bad? New York has been worse.

Since the young defensemen have been playing solid so far, the question now becomes what will head coach Claude Julien do when his three veteran blue liners are healthy? Seidenberg is a no-brainer, he will be back in. As far as Ference and Redden, we will see what happens.

Game three will be played on Tuesday night in New York with the Bruins holding a 2-0 series lead.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Two Greatest Words In Sports: Game Seven

The Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs laced up their skates on Monday night for what was set to be the final game of the season for one of these two teams. 

This series had gone back and forth despite the recent surge by the Leafs during the last two games. Usually, players will never admit that momentum has any affect on a particular team. However, even the Bruins have to own up to the fact that Toronto headed into this game with all of the confidence in the world. 

After game six, B's head coach Claude Julien was very snippy with the media as he refused to answer questions about his struggling players. Perhaps he was mad at himself, since the Bruins have a horrendous record in close-out games under his reign. Monday was a chance to end all of the criticisms and advance to the next round. 

In this game in front of the Boston faithful, the Bruins fell behind as the Leafs piled up a 4-1 lead. Dennis Seidenberg was injured very early in the game, causing the B's to shorten their bench and utilize two young defensemen in Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton. 

Things could not get any worse, right?

In the third period, the Bruins recorded three unanswered goals, two of them with the goaltender pulled. Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron had the tallies to send the game into overtime. Once the game went into the extra frame, Bergeron netted his second of the game to send the Leafs home. 

Now up next for the Bruins will be the New York Rangers. 

As for the series, Phil Kessel showed what type of player he could have been when he was in a Bruins sweater. He recorded four goals in the series where Tyler Seguin posted just one assist. Really? Also, Tuukka Rask was outstanding despite the lack of tight play and production in front of him.

Bottom line: the B's were the better team and they should not have been in this situation in the first place.

Friday, May 10, 2013

It Is Not Over Yet

The result of Friday night's game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs was definitely a little misleading. Even though the Leafs knocked off the B's by a score of 2-1, the game really should not have been that close.

The first period was horrible for Boston. The Leafs took it to the B's and they showed that they were a team that was desperate to keep their season alive. It was after a silly mistake by Andrew Ference that allowed Tyler Bozak to record a short-handed goal for Toronto. Clarke MacArthur recorded the second Leafs goal in this game.

The Bruins turned it on in the last two periods. Believe it or not, the Bruins actually finished with more shots on goal. It felt like Tuukka Rask made way more saves than he actually did. Either way, he was clearly the best player on the ice for the Black and Gold. 

Zdeno Chara had the lone goal for the Bruins. David Krejci, who had an assist on the goal, continued to add to his impressive postseason scoring streak. Other than a few good performances from Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr, there was not much else to say.....

Well, maybe the fact that the Bruins put about 15 shots wide of the net. They made the Toronto defense and goaltender look solid when in reality they are just average at best.

This particular entry was a little all over the place, which is understandable considering the ring that the Bruins put us all through during this game. Fans were jumping out of their seats while the fans at home were exhaling deep breaths of air. You have to love playoff hockey.

Unfortunately, this series will extend just a little bit longer. The Bruins will attempt to close out the series yet again on Sunday night in Toronto.  

*Matt Bartkowski skated in his first NHL playoff game on Friday night. He replaced Wade Redden, who was not in the lineup due to an undisclosed injury. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Boston Strong? Toronto Stronger? Bruins Strongest (So Far)

After three games played so far in this first-round matchup, the Boston Bruins hold a 2-1 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Most recently, the Bruins snagged a 5-2 victory on Monday night up in Toronto. That city has not hosted a playoff game in over three thousand days, so no doubt that place was eager to see some postseason hockey.

This series has not disappointed thus far as both teams have certainly had some bright spots offensively. The difference has been the production from the unlikely candidates (for a lack of a better phrase) of the Bruins. Wade Redden, Adam McQuaid, and Johnny Boychuk all have recorded at least one goal during the playoffs. The Leafs have multiple goals from Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, their top scorers. 

If the Bruins can get some production from players like Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron, they should run away with this series.

Tuukka Rask has outplayed James Reimer in net and that has not been a surprise. Rask has seen more shots, but he has come up with some big saves to keep his team in it. Reimer, on the other hand, has always had trouble making clean saves. He is a rebound-producing machine.

Finally, Leafs captain and defenseman Dion Phaneuf continues to play like a clown. He is all over the ice and chooses to go for the hit or score a goal than play his position. It plays into the Bruins hands to have him on the ice believe it or not. 

So far, so good for the Black and Gold. The series resumes on Wednesday night.