Raise your hand if you thought this was how the series would go.
The Boston Bruins, the same team that couldn’t string together consistent performances to save their lives just a couple weeks ago, now has a 3-0 series lead over the New York Rangers. After winning Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bruins have a chance to complete the sweep Thursday night.
Here are a few observations from Boston’s 2-1 Game-3 victory.
Henrik Lundqvist was on his way to stealing Game 3. Then, Boston stole it back.
Bruins fans had to be afraid of the worst as this game went on. New York’s Vezina-nominated goalie was looking unbeatable early on, stonewalling every opportunity Boston created.
The NHL Awards ceremony could just show the first period alone when putting together Lundqvist’s highlight reel.
So when the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the second period, it was looking like it would be a night where the goalie steals the show.
It would’ve been a shame, too. Boston was clearly looking like the better team. But as anyone who’s watched a Stanley Cup Playoff game can tell you, a hot goalie can always prevent the better team from winning.
But then, the Bruins showed the kind of reserve and fortitude displayed against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7.
They refused to let the Swedish brick wall in New York’s net get them off their game, and before you knew it, Boston’s fourth line grinders scored twice in the third to take the win.
Speaking of which.
Can your team roll four lines deep in the playoffs? Boston can.
Coach Claude Julien takes a lot of flack for consistently rotating all four lines during playoff games. Many teams shorten their bench as soon as the postseason starts.
However, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton all get significant play regardless of how deep Boston goes into the playoffs.
Consider tonight an example of Julien getting it right.
The Merlot Line, as they’re called, effectively shut down any Rangers forwards they played against. Then they inexplicably started Boston’s rally to win the game.
Johnny Boychuk put home the game-tying goal, his fourth of the playoffs. 15 minutes later, Paille slammed the door on the Rangers by playing an awkward bounce and putting it right behind Lundqvist. Thornton assisted on both goals.
The most significant part of that last stat; Thornton now has more points this postseason than Rangers center Brad Richards.
I think there’s a slight salary difference between the two.
Now, with their foot on the Rangers throat, can the Bruins finally close out a series without drama?
Seriously, Boston, we don’t need to play the whole “let’s let them right back into it” game again. Not this time.
Not only do the Bruins have a commanding 3-0 lead against New York, they’ve been the better team throughout the majority of this series. If they keep this up, there’s no reason to believe they can’t send the Rangers golfing Thursday night.
But do they have the ability to do so? They had the Maple Leafs on the ropes, then all of the sudden were ten minutes away from being sent home early.
It may be a different situation this time around, though.
Toronto was fast, scrappy and tough. They refused to go down quietly, and definitely earned the respect of Boston in doing so.
The Rangers? It’s always tough to call out any team for not showing up, but New York just hasn’t looked too invested in this series. The seem to slowly but surely be giving up on coach John Tortorella‘s playing style, and it’s showing.
The worst thing Boston could do is reignite the Rangers by giving them a Game 4 victory.
It took just a few days for the Bruins to be right back in this position, pushing an opponent to the edge with a chance to thrust the final dagger.
Let’s see if they finally figured out how to close out a series with authority.