The Rangers ran out of steam yesterday, and bowed out of the 2013 playoffs with a disappointing 4-1 series loss to the Bruins. Many were excited to play the Bruins because of the regular season success over the past few years, but this Rangers club was not up to the task of making this series interesting. The Rangers were, for the second year in a row, victimized by the opposition’s fourth line. The Bruins depth is what beat the Rangers.
The Bruins did get their fair share of luck (see: Game Three game winning goal), but that wasn’t the only factor to their series win. They were better in every facet of the game, and they beat a very vulnerable Rangers team. Unlike against the Caps, the Rangers were simply unable to get key plays when they needed them, and are now waiting until next season.
Where it was lost: Depth
The first reason why this series was lost is also the most obvious reason why this series was lost. The Rangers simply did not have the depth to deal with their multiple injuries suffered. While the Bruins were able to slot in Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Matt Bartkowski, the Rangers needed to dress Roman Hamrlik, Micheal Haley, and Kris Newbury. This isn’t a matter of coaching, it’s a matter of not matching up on paper after the top-six.
Where it was lost: Board play
The second reason why this was lost is the one that none of us expected. The Rangers were absolutely dominated along the boards all series, and all playoffs. However, the Bruins are made to capitalize off board-wins, and it burned the Rangers. Claude Julien uses a very passive 1-2-2 and 1-4 forecheck to stifle the opposition’s offensive flow. The way to beat that is to dump and chase, win the puck battle deep, and cycle to get chances. This is exactly what happened on the lone Rangers goal from yesterday. That was the first and only time we saw them win a board battle and turn it into a goal. Very un-Ranger like.
Where it was lost: Point shots
This is two-fold. As we pointed out yesterday, the Krug goal was a product of Steve Eminger being out of position, which forced the forward (Ryan Callahan) to cover the slot man lower in the zone, which left the weak side point open for a one-timer. Those breakdowns happened early and often in this series. The second part is the relatively ineffective nature of the Rangers strong-side overload in the defensive zone (note: Board play mentioned above), which meant more time collapsing into a low-zone box. The Rangers keep their forwards around the top of the circle when in the low-zone collapse, which leaves a lot of room for point movement and shots. The Bruins countered that very well, and at some points even setup in an umbrella powerplay formation at even strength to take advantage. Claude Julien is one smart coach.
*-Worth noting that when the Bruins set up in the offensive zone with three men up high, the Rangers forwards played much higher and forced the puck down low, where the Bruins were outnumbered. This (the umbrella formation for the Bruins at even strength) only happened once or twice in the series, but it was something that caught my eye.
Where it could have been won: The penalty kill
The Rangers are known for being beasts on the penalty kill, and the Bruins are known for being like the Rangers on the powerplay (awful). But the Bruins wound up with a conversion rate higher than 30% with the man advantage in this series. The Rangers found a way to turn a great matchup in their favor into a crushing defeat.
Where it was lost: Injuries
Ok, don’t jump on me for this one. I know injuries are never a reason to lose a series, but this played into the depth factor mentioned above. The Rangers were without a top pairing defenseman (Marc Staal), a top-nine physical winger who dominates the boards (Ryane Clowe), and a top penalty killer and major fourth line player (Darroll Powe) for the entire series. They were without another top-four defenseman for the final two games (Anton Stralman). Those are all key injuries that the Rangers didn’t have the depth to slot in viable replacements.
Where it could have been won: Defensive miscues
This is another aspect that is two-fold. The Rangers had way too many defensive miscues on their end, which led directly to several B’s goals. Those are covered in our goal breakdowns. The other aspect is that the Bruins were playing three rookie defensemen, and the Rangers never took advantage of this. They never made Krug, Hamilton, or Bartkowski feel pressure in their own end.
Where it was lost: Scoring
The Rangers couldn’t score. They got nothing from Brad Richards, who was eventually a healthy scratch for the final two games of the series. They got little from Rick Nash on the scoreboard. They got nothing from Carl Hagelin. They got little from Ryan Callahan. When the leading scorer is Derick Brassard, you have issues.
It does make you wonder though. What would have happened if the Rangers stole Game One in overtime? The entire complexion of the series changes. Do the Bruins win the next four straight? Is there added pressure on the kids that forces them into making turnovers? That’s the one game where I think the entire series could have changed had the Rangers came out with a victory. Alas, it was not meant to be. The Bruins were the better team throughout the entire series, and they made quick work of the Rangers.