Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bruins end Ranger streak at three

Last night, the Bruins halted the Rangers' win streak at three, posting a 3-2 win at The Garden. It was their first game debuting the elegant Heritage jerseys, which looked great with the New York across in red as compared to the original white when our club was born in 1926-27. Too bad they couldn't come out with a 'W,' making too many mistakes against a well schooled Claude Julien club that plays a similar style to the old Jacques Lemaire Devils.

There was plenty of tight checking making for plenty of battles for space. Our club killed two Bruin power plays with superb penalty killing, continuing their recent run after starting the year so poorly. Brandon Dubinsky was high-sticked leading to a double minor. The first three minutes were dreadful as they couldn't even get a shot on Tim Thomas, mostly due to Boston's aggressiveness. If not for a great pass from Henrik Lundqvist, which Ryan Callahan pushed off the boards for a fortunate bounce right to a streaking Dubinsky, they don't score. Instead, Dubi made the most of the opportunity beating Thomas with a quick snapper for the Rangers' only lead. It was his club-leading 11th.

One of the themes in this match was John Tortorella matching the Homegrown Line (Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan) against the Bruins' No.1 line of Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton. A match-up Julien didn't shy away from. A turning point came when a forechecking Horton forced Dan Girardi to make a quick reverse in the right corner leading to a turnover due to Artem Anisimov not being in the right spot. Bergeron stole the puck and then dished across for an open Lucic, who buried it five-hole to tie it. Girardi was expecting Arty to be along the wall but he was caught out of position leading to the goal against.

A second critical mistake led to the Bruins' second straight. This time, the guilty party was Matt Gilroy, who foolishly tried to keep a rolling puck in on his backhand. He was so awkward that it never stood a chance. Especially in a tie game against an opportunistic opponent who pounces on errors. After he fumbled the puck, 18 year-old rookie Tyler Seguin blew past him up the right wing and fired an absolute laser top shelf past Lundqvist for his third of the season. The No.2 overall pick had been criticized due to little scoring of late. However, here he made a great defensive play and turned on the jets making no mistake to put his team ahead. For Gilroy, who isn't good defensively, it won't put him in Tort's good graces. One positive is that Hobey's been more aggressive, getting involved offensively utilizing his speed and puck carrying ability. When Michal Rozsival returns, they really should consider shifting Gilroy to forward. He could be an asset on say the fourth line. The way Mike Del Zotto is struggling, don't write Hobey off just yet.

Trailing by one, the Rangers had a chance to make another statement. They came out strong but a brutal goal allowed by Lundqvist to ageless wonder Mark Recchi really hurt. The 42 year-old Recchi took a simple shot from a sharp angle that somehow eluded Henrik going just over the red line, deflating the crowd. Just like that, Boston had scored three in a row and were up 3-1.

There was plenty of time to comeback. One thing about this team. They never are out of a game. Urged on by the Garden Faithful who also can sense the fight in our guys, they responded by taking the play to the Bruins, forcing Thomas to make tough saves. Finally, the constant pressure resulted in a goal when resurgent rookie Derek Stepan forced a turnover and then made a perfect backhand pass to a cutting Marian Gaborik, who shot over Thomas' blocker for his fourth in three games. Just a great read by Stepan, who Tortorella moved up to the top line after Erik Christensen got little accomplished. Given how he threw Sean Avery under the bus and how much of an enigma he is, refusing to shoot early on a wide open chance, you have to conclude he's the odd man out once Chris Drury is back. Christy just isn't doing enough to stay in the lineup. At this point, D-Step's regained his confidence and deserves to center Gabby and Alex Frolov when they visit the Avs tomorrow.

Still trailing 3-2, the Blueshirts kept the pressure on. However, Thomas was up to the challenge, stopping everything in his way. If last year, he lost his job to then rookie Tuukka Rask, then this year, he's regained the form that won him a Vezina in '08-09. His two biggest saves were equally impressive. First, he somehow got a piece of a Gaborik redirect of a Girardi point shot, diving across to keep it out to moans. Even me and Dad couldn't believe it didn't go in. Then, on another powerless five-on-three in which they did little to the shock of no one, the best chance came when Ryan Callahan had Thomas down and out but couldn't stuff the puck past him off a faceoff. The Boston goalie later admitted he got lucky there. Sometimes, lucky is better than good. Considering how he sprawls around making every save an adventure, it sure is fun to watch. Even if it drove us nuts.

After the penalty kill, Boston got their legs and put together a couple of strong shifts just working the puck down low which ran time off the clock. That included their big top line keeping us pinned late before Tort pulled Lundqvist to no avail. The Bruins simply didn't allow our team to get the kind of opportunity needed to tie it, earning a hard fought win to improve to 7-1 away from TD Northbank Garden. Interestingly enough, they're only 3-4-1 at home. Go figure. What's most impressive is that they're off to a good start without Marc Savard, who may return. David Krejci is still out as is Johnny Boychuk who skated in warmups. Marco Sturm also remains out. What happens when they get a full roster? Obviously, Michael Ryder will probably be moved clearing room. This Bruin team has the feel of a contender. They do it by grinding opponents to death. Will they have enough offense? Who knows. But it'll be an interesting race between them and Montreal.

For the Rangers, it's back to work. They know why they lost. Too many miscues along with Lundqvist getting burned for the crusher. Throw in the power play failures and they earned the loss. Was it winnable? Absolutely. But against a team like Boston, you can't afford to make those kind of mistakes. So, no four-game winning streak spoiling Heritage Night. Now, it's on the road for a tough game in Colorado, who already beat us once. Hopefully, someone will remember to take Chris Stewart in front. Our team's grown since that game back on Oct.18 which saw the Avs get two in a row literally for a 3-1 win at MSG. Historically, we don't fare well in the Rocky Mountains. I could care less. This team's different. They fight. We owe them. Let's get it!

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