By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
While the New York Rangers fans and media speculate over the future of head coach John Tortorella and
superstar roster player healthy scratch Brad Richards, the Boston Bruins are quietly preparing themselves for the final blow.
Much has been made of the elusive fourth win in a best-of-seven series, and with good reason. Boston struggled in the final games against Toronto and barely escaped that series. And of course, Bruins fans don’t have to look back very far to find another infamous example of Boston failing to close it out. However, don’t let any of this distract from the fact that Boston will eliminate the New York Rangers, possibly tonight.
Despite the best efforts of prognosticators such as Stan Fischler, the story can not be spun in New York’s favor. The numbers tell the whole story. In the history of the National Hockey League, teams that have held a 3-0 series lead have gone on to win 170 times, and only 3 teams (1.7%) have mounted a comeback from 0-3 down.
It’s game over for the Rangers.
Henrik Lundqvist might be the best goaltender in the world, but he’s suffered in this series due in part to New York’s battered defense. Tuukka Rask, on the other hand, has shined thanks to the strong defensive effort of Boston’s mix of veteran and rookie D-men.
The consistency Boston struggled to find for the majority of the regular season finally appears to be in place. Reinforcements are on the way, with their #2 defenseman Dennis Seidenberg nearing a return, and “black aces” soon to be called up from Providence. For the Bruins, their games have become structured, the effort has been there, and the results have followed suit. All of this despite flatlining playoff performances from Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Kelly, and Rich Peverley.
Looking ahead, should the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bruins will no longer be able to take solace in imagining how good they could be once all four lines find their game. They’ll need those players (all of whom can be impact players with proven playoff history) to be at their very best. After all, the last two times Boston was eliminated in the Conference Finals, a young Jaromir Jagr and his stacked Pittsburgh Penguins club were the very team that beat them.
Pittsburgh is not unbeatable, but they’re close to it. Their talent and depth does a great job of covering for any shortcomings, and an opportunistic Boston club will have to make the best of the limited chances they’ll receive. Even then, they may not be able to match the Pens.
However, for now, the Bruins have to put all of this to the side and concentrate on the task at hand–capitalizing on a dazed and staggering Rangers group, and sending a message to the remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup: this Boston Bruins club is for real.