Category: Playoffs

Scouting the Playoffs: the Boston Bruins

Hockey.

Hockey.

With the playoffs on our doorstep, reminding us that our Rangers have yet to clinch a spot, it’s time to continue our look ahead at teams that we’ll definitely be seeing through late April at the very least.  Though the focus has been mostly on the west, the East is also somewhat settled up. The reigning Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Bruins, have been in destruction mode all season and don’t seem to be letting up.

The Bruins, cashing in with 113 points as of today, are making quick work of nearly everyone who comes their way. Much like last year in the playoffs, they’re a terrifying group to look at, which is useful as the Rangers come down the home stretch and need them to make work of rivals like the Flyers. With their defeat of Philly yesterday, they clinched the best record in the East and home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference finals, something that’s a huge deal as they’ve got the best home record in all of hockey.

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Magic numbers and the importance of clinching early

Six points in three games please.

Six points in three games please.

With Columbus’s loss to Chicago last night, the Rangers magic number to clinch a non-wild card playoff spot is down to just four. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one (meaning they can clinch tonight as long as the game gets to overtime). The magic number to clinch home-ice against the Flyers is seven. With five games remaining, the Rangers are all but guaranteed two of these, but home-ice will take a few days to clinch.

The Rangers have three gimme’s of their four remaining games: Three home games against Ottawa, Carolina, and Buffalo. Those are three games where they should gain six points, assuming they don’t throw in the towel like they did the last time they played against Carolina. Those six points are pretty crucial for the playoffs. It guarantees them a non-wild card playoff spot, and –at the very least– gets them to one point of home-ice in the first round.

Why is all this important?

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Examining the teams in the race for the final playoff spots

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.03.19 PMOn Monday, Dave pointed out that though things have seemed a little hairy lately, the team’s playoff chances were still at 94.4% according to SportsClubStats.  Those odds improved to 97.9% after New York beat Phoenix in overtime and Philadelphia lost in regulation to Los Angeles on Monday night, and St. Louis beat Toronto, the Capitals lost to the Kings in a shootout and the Blue Jackets beat the Red Wings on Tuesday.

In other words, barring a monumental collapse, the Rangers will be in the postseason.  Of course, we’re still inclined to worry about the supposed 2.1% chance that does happen, so I figured we ought to check in on the teams that could ruin New York’s spring.

Philadelphia Flyers

If you thought the Rangers had a bad start to the year, then what would you say about the Flyers, who fired their coach after just three games?  But the Flyers have really been among the league’s better teams for several months.  Claude Giroux leads the way for Philly, averaging over a point per game, but the Flyers also have six other players with 15+ goals on the year.  As always, Philly has a high-powered offense, but – and this won’t surprise you – the Flyers’ Achilles heel is their goaltending and team defense.  Steve Mason and Ray Emery have combined to give up an average over 2.8 goals per game.  Philadelphia will visit the Blueshirts tonight in a game with huge implications, and the Flyers still have tough games left against Boston (twice), St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

Points: 83 Games remaining: 11 Home/road split: 5/6

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Playoffs in sight

Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today

Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today

I have a feeling that the title of this post is going to draw a lot of ire across Rangerland. After all, I’m clearly jinxing them, and now the team is going to lose all ten remaining games and miss out. But let’s just get this out of the way: This team is headed to the playoffs barring an epic collapse. SportsClubStats has them at 94.4% for making the playoffs, so at this point they are just jockeying for position.

Why is that percentage so high? For starters, New York has a three point lead on the Washington Capitals with ten games remaining. Certainly not a lock, but the Rangers the tiebreaker (ROW) on the Caps, so they would need to gain four more points than our Blueshirts in the next ten games to take over the three seed. Possible, but not probable. Columbus, who has a game in hand on the Rangers/Caps, are four points out. The Rangers have the tiebreaker on them as well.

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Rangers/Bruins series: Where it was lost and where it could have been won

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

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

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Goal breakdown: Bruins send Rangers home with Game 5 win

Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Bruins –the better team throughout the series– sent the Rangers home today with a 3-1 win in Game Five. Torey Krug was an absolute killer in this series, and he scored the game tying goal in this game. That’s the season, so here’s the final goal breakdown of the year:

Rangers 1, Bruins 0

Lots of things done right on this shift.

Lots of things done right on this shift.

The Rangers scored on the powerplay for the second game in a row.

Ok, now that this has sunk in, the Rangers didn’t really have a strong powerplay shift until this goal. Michael Del Zotto started by fighting off a forechecker and making a one-handed pass to Chris Kreider in the defensive zone. Kreider skated through and dumped the puck in, and more importantly, took a hit on the chase to move the puck to the weak side. Dan Girardi eventually wound up with the puck, and drew Danny Paille to him while flipping a backhanded pass to Mats Zuccarello between the top of the circle and the blue line. At this point, Gregory Campbell cheats down a bit, and Girardi reads this and gets in a position to shoot at the point. His one-timer went through everyone, including a Brian Boyle screen in front, and to the back of the net.

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ECSF Game 5 preview: Send it back to New York

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

After Thursday night’s dramatic comeback win, the Rangers are now in Boston with hopes of sending the series back to New York. A lot of people looked at this as winning four in a row, but the Rangers just need to win one. You can’t look ahead to more games when your season relies on winning the game at hand. One win at a time. This team has proven they can come from behind, and now they just need to execute. Torts is 6-1 in elimination games. Making it 7-1 will make Boston sweat.

Series Previews:

Game 4 goal breakdown
Game 3 goal breakdown
Game 2 goal breakdown
Positives/negatives of Game 1
5 keys for success for the Rangers
Rangers/Bruins second round preview

Five keys for success against the Bruins
Scouting Tuukka Rask and his goaltending style
Previewing the Bruins and their systems/styles of play

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Torts (rightfully) defends Richards in post game presser

After the Rangers overtime win last night, coach John Tortorella held his usual post-game press conference. This one was a lot different than his previous press conferences, as the coach was very candid and very passionate about his defense of Brad Richards. You can watch the video above for the full interview, but the Richards excerpt is below:

“I think it’s important to spend a couple of minutes on that out of respect to Brad. By no means is this a situation where I take him out where I’m blaming him. I’m playing Brad on the fourth line, he’s playing seven or eight minutes, it’s not good for him, it doesn’t work playing Brad Richards that way. I also feel some other guys have played better so that’s where he is right now in our lineup. It just doesn’t work, I’m not playing him the proper way but I can’t put him on the other lines becausre I think the other lines have stepped up. I look at the fourth line, I’m looking to get some kind of life, some sort of identity on that fourth line and that’s where Brad comes out. You get some fresh legs some enthusiasm.

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Thoughts following the most recent elimination game

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Rangers were able to keep their season going/salvage some dignity last night with a dramatic OT win over the Bruins at MSG.  My sister-in-law, who is an ER nurse, was working last night and catching bits and pieces of the game on a hospital TV.  Between the third period and OT, she posted on Facebook, “Ok Rangers, I kept my patient alive, you can keep this game alive!”.  It was a nice microcosm of the attitude of Ranger fandom, and her defiant faith was rewarded.  The Blueshirts still have quite the task ahead, but as they say, “one game at a time”.   Since we are heading back to Boston tomorrow, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the game and series in general…

  • Henrik Lundqvist was stellar again last night.  The funny thing about The King in this series is that he gets blasted for Game 2 (simply due to the number of goals allowed), but I thought he was hung out to dry big time in that game.  For me, if the Rangers fall say, one game short, the missed opportunity will have been Game 1.  Both of the regulation goals in that game were stoppable, and the complexion of this series could have been very different going to New York.
  • As Ranger fans, we tend to focus on our team’s shortcomings in the event of failure.  Let’s not forget in this instance, the Boston Bruins are a very good team.  They can roll four lines for 60 minutes and have plenty of system depth.  We didn’t have a Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski to slot into the lineup when Marc Staal got hurt.  Many fans are going to lament the teams goal scoring woes, and seek to bolster the offense in the offseason, but I think quality depth is the number one priority at this stage. Read more »

Not done yet: Game 4 goal breakdown

One game at a time. Kreider with the OT winner.

One game at a time. Kreider with the OT winner.

Chris Kreider, he of much debate this season, gave the Rangers at least two more days of their 2013 season with his overtime winner. This series is a long way from being over, but the Rangers have a long way to go before gaining significant momentum. Henrik Lundqvist kept them alive through overtime with magnificent saves, and then the kid got himself out of the doghouse. Game Five is Saturday at 5:30pm in Boston.

Bruins 1, Rangers 0

After Kris Newbury takes a pretty boneheaded penalty, the Bruins got a bit of a lucky goal with the man advantage. The Bruins gained the zone and Nathan Horton had the puck at the bottom of the off-wing circle. He passed to the middle, but David Krejci was expecting shot, so he jumped out of the way. He left his stick on the ice, and the pass actually hit his stick and went right back to Horton. Hank was in position for the pass, but not the redirection back to Horton. Horton’s shot went through the legs of a sliding Lundqvist. That’s the type of series it’s been for the Rangers.

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