Forecheck, backcheck…checkmate? Bruins on verge of sweeping Rangers


Boston Bruins’ coach Claude Julien told his team not to worry about the New York Rangers heading into Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night, instead suggesting that his team would be better served to worry about their own game…

…which included surviving the onslaught that was certain to come from a desperate Rangers’ team that had surrendered five goals to the Bruins in Game 2 and needed some momentum.

May 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) is in the middle of a scrum against the New York Rangers during the third period in game three of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Boston won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

What the Rangers got was the wall in-net that is Tuukka Rask, and when they had spent their energy, the Bruins’ energy line made sure they could never recover – scoring twice as the Bruins took a commanding 3-0 lead in their best of seven Eastern Conference semifinal series with a physical and bloody 2-1 victory over the Rangers at MSG on Tuesday night.

Again, the Bruins played a bit of Rope-a-dope, concentrating on their backcheck and keeping the Rangers out of the slot, save a few breakaways that Rask brushed aside deftfully.

The Rangers settled for 11 first period shots, many of them from long range as the brace of young Boston defensemen forced the Rangers to play from the wings and high point, effectively eliminating open ice…

…one of those long range shots finding the mark just into the second period, Ryan McDonagha firing a rocket from the high point just inside the blue line that Taylor Pyatt redirected to Rask’s back side for the only goal that New York would score…

…because from that point forward, the Bruins shoved the tired Rangers around at will, putting them back on their heels for the rest of the contest, and it was only a matter of time before the Bruins started finding the twine.

So dominant were the Bruins in the latter half of the second period and all of the final frame that the Rangers managed to get off only 13 shots – including two power plays – while Boston peppered New York Goalie Henrik Lundqvist with twice as many, finding the back of the net twice in the process, and it was only because of Lundqvist’s amazing quickness that it wasn’t at least twice that.

Boston flexed their muscles in the neutral zone, young greyhounds Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski physically standing up the Rangers’ puck handlers as they tried to cross into the offensive zone, disrupting their flow and taking the puck away while Zdeno Chara continued his stellar board work, brandishing a fresh set of stitches along the bridge of his nose…

…Johnny Boychuck showing off his fine new scoring style, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs after logging just one in the regular season – the goal a direct result of the intensity of the Bruins’ fourth line keeping the exhausted Rangers pinned in their own zone, completely defensive and frustrated.

The Rangers lone goal came on a rare Patrice Bergeron turnover – Rask stopping a drive by McDonagha from the left circle after a face off, Bergeron trying to clear the puck on the rebound but passing it right back to the Rangers’ defenseman who fired just inside the blue line that Pyatt redirected for a 1-0 lead – a lead that held through the second intermission, though the momentum had turned in favor of Boston.

Boychuck tied the contest on a one timer from the top of the right circle, taking a feed from Daniel Paille and beating a screened Lundqvist for a 1-1 tie just three and a half minutes into the third – then Paille poking in a loose puck in the crease that the besieged Lundqvist lost track of after a Shawn Thornton drive from the left wing clanked off of his facemask, went airborne and took a funky bounce outwards when it hit the ice.

The Bruins can expect the same sort of desperation type effort from the Rangers on Thursday, again at Madison Square Garden, and it will again be a matter of surviving an initial push, perhaps even some gamesmanship to instigate a brawl to try and take the Bruins’ focus – this time maybe being able to get a shot or two past Lundqvist early to take away the Rangers’ will and sweeping one of the preseason favorites to take the Cup…

…then waiting and resting and healing while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators slug it out in the other Conference semifinal, which the Pens lead by a tally of 2-1 with game four tonight at the ScotiaBank Place in Ottawa – a Senators’ win making that series at least a six game affair.  However if the Penguins can take the road win, they could close things out at home in Game 5.

As much energy as the Bruins are putting forth in dominating the Rangers to this point, they’d like to finish things up in New York on Thursday to give them at least a few days to get some R&R before what promises to be a tough conference finals series, no matter which team they face.