Bruins looking for statement game vs. Rangers

652958.jpg

Bruins looking for statement game vs. Rangers

The Bruins have experienced plenty of statement games already this season with mixed results. Some have been wildly successful and others have been anti-climactic. Theyve got another on tap with the New York Rangers coming to town for their second Boston invasion on the last three weeks.

The Bruins were able to topple the Flyers and Penguins on the road when each team was leading the Eastern Conference earlier this year, but the Rangers have run away with the East down the stretch. The Blueshirts quietly matched the Bruins win-for-win during their hot stretch in November and December, and have kept right on winning as the Bs have tailed off into a .500 hockey club since early January.

The Bruins have dropped big home games to the Vancouver Canucks and these very-same Rangers on the TD Garden ice over the last six weeks, so now is the time to file some of the so-called statement games back into the home win ledger.

Theres no better test than the top team in the East right now, said Milan Lucic, simply and correctly. Weve come up short in a couple of these big games and marquee match-ups at home lately, so hopefully we can find a way to win one before we head out on the road.

In many ways the Bruins and Rangers are cut from the same roughly-hewn cloth: blue collar at their core with elite goaltending, excellent leadership and an opportunistic offense that jumps all over mistakes from their opponents. That presents the Bruins with a unique challenge against a hockey club thats consistently been their most difficult regular season opponent over the last five years.

Everybody knows who the Rangers are, how good they are and what they represent, said Claude Julien. I dont think thats necessarily an issue. Were a team that likes to put the focus on ourselves rather than who were playing or how good theyre playing.We need to look at ourselves because thats what has given us the most success in all the years that Ive been here.I think thats where we have to be right now. Nashville was a really good team coming in last weekend and all of our focus was on how well we were going to play. I think we need to do the same thing against the Rangers. We understand what New Yorks strengths are and you bring that to the attention of the team. But its really about how good and how hard are we going to execute the game plan.

Just look at the stats: the Bruins are 7-10-4 against the Rags over the last five years while building into one of the NHLs best franchises.

The Rangers hold a slight 33-29 scoring edge over their last 18 games, but an amazing 15 out of those 18 contests have been one-goal games with six of them decided in overtime or the shootout.

Plenty of that has to do with the elite goaltending at both ends of the ice, and thats also the reason the Bruins havent scored more than three goals against the Rangers since a Jan. 20, 2004 win.

That was obviously before the Henrik Lundqvist era on Broadway, which has been a truly stingy time for the Black and Gold. To put the offensively bereft BostonNew York rivalry into further perspective, the last time the Bruins put up a four-spot or more against the Rags Carl Corazzini, Jiri Slegr and Andrew Raycroft were the three stars of the game. A whole new generation of Bs followers probably doesnt even realize that all three were wearing Bruins sweaters on that day eight years ago. That is truly Old Time Bruins Hockey.

It seems like since Ive been here there have been a lot of 1-0 games and 2-1 games against the Rangers. I think 3-2 is the highest scoring game since Ive been here, said Lucic. They play a really stingy style. They play committed to their game plan. Theyre blocking shots and theyre being physical.

They do all the little things really well and I think thats what has given them a lot of success this season. Were going to have a find a way to battle through their defensive layers and push that pace like we did in the last game. Theyre a complete team and Lundqvist really makes them a complete team.

Theres more to Tuesday nights game beyond making a statement against the Rangers, however. Its about putting together two straight hard-working, solid performances over a 60-minute span against quality opponents rather than the fits and starts that have plagued the Bs over a six-week stretch. Shades of mediocrity have hung with the Stanley Cup champs since an emotional loss to the Vancouver Canucks in early January.

It would seem that another tight-checking, blue collar tilt against the Blueshirts will be exactly what the Bruins need to set them on the righteous hockey path with only two months left to fine tune before the postseason.

McAdam: Ortiz failing in the clutch would be more surprising at this point

red-sox-david-ortiz.jpg

McAdam: Ortiz failing in the clutch would be more surprising at this point

BOSTON -- David Ortiz has spent his entire Red Sox career supplying dramatic moments. As he begins the final weekend of his last season, there are no apparent plans to change.

Why, after all, would you mess with success?

Ortiz supplied another booster shot for Fenway Park, lining a laser shot down the right field line for a tie-breaking, two-run homer in the Red Sox' 5-3 comeback win over Toronto.

"You expect it,'' marveled Dustin Pedroia, who has been Ortiz's teammate in Boston longer than any other current Red Sox player. "It's (strange) to say because it's so tough to do. But he makes it look easy.''

Ortiz has set such a ridiculously high standard that the shock happens when he doesn't come through, rather than when he does.

You expect it.

Like Tuesday night in New York, when Ortiz came to the plate in the ninth inning, with the Red Sox trailing by two and two runners on base. The expectation was that, of course Ortiz was going to belt a three-run homer to 1) beat the Yankees and 2) secure the division title.

When he didn't, when he went down swinging, it was, however unfairly, a letdown.

That's how good he is. That's how often he's come through in such situations.

Anything less than heroics is somehow a failing.

"I don't know that you could write a script any better than what David did tonight offensively,'' said John Farrell. "He turned this place upside down, given (where we were in) the game and what was needed. Almost a storybook night for David.''

Another in a long series.

What gets lost in the drama and clutch nature of his at-bats is the smarts he utilizes.

Ortiz was facing lefty Brett Cecil, whom Toronto manager John Gibbons had summoned expressly for Ortiz, who had limited Ortiz to a .194 (6-for-31) batting average in his career, including 10 strikeouts.

The two faced each other earlier this month in Toronto, and Ortiz, as he frequently does, was taking notes.

"I kept track of my at-bat with him,'' said Ortiz. "Last time I faced him, he started me off breaking ball, breaking ball, then finished me off hard. Cecil has that god breaking ball, and his fastball is 94 mph, so you can't pick both. You've got to give him something.''

Ortiz "gave'' Cecil the curveball, and got three in a row. But when Cecil fell behind 2-and-1, he had to throw a fastball and Ortiz was ready.

Two games remain in his last season and Ortiz has 38 homers. What, he was asked, would he think of hitting 40 homers in his age 40 season?

"Forty-forty-forty,'' chuckled Ortiz. "What can I tell you? It's a pretty good season. If it happens, it happens. And it's all gravy.''

Don't put it past him. The guy has a habit of doing remarkable things that you somehow expected him to do.

Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

bruins-ryan-spooner.jpg

Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

GOLD STAR: Solid night’s work from Ryan Spooner, who finished with the OT game-winning strike and was solid throughout the game as the de facto No. 1 center. He had four shots on net, six generated shot attempts and won 12-of-19 face offs as he continues to improve in that area while training camp rolls along. Spooner is trying to hold onto the No. 3 center spot in the lineup despite the addition of David Backes via free agency, and Friday night’s big boy performance with speed, playmaking and skill showed exactly what his potential can be when he puts it all together. It was also a nice little bounce-back from an up-and-down game on Wednesday night against the same Detroit team when he struggled in the face off circle and was part of a team-wide malaise.

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t necessarily a bad night for Brian Ferlin, but it was more of the invisible variety with just a registered hit and one face-off taken in 13 minutes of ice time. The forward earned some NHL time with the Bruins a couple of years, has battled concussion woes over the last year plus and is trying to push his way back into the crowded forward picture during this training camp. While he certainly showed some toughness and skill around the net a couple of years and didn’t seem shy about going there on Friday night, the results just weren’t there and Ferlin didn’t have much of a presence in the game. In general it was a pretty decent performance for the Bruins, so Ferlin’s game was quiet more than problematic.

TURNING POINT: Credit the Bruins coaching staff for switching up the lines in the third period, and that sparked the offense a bit after zero goals through the first 40 minutes against Detroit. Zach Senyshyn was moved with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash, and they became a threat in the third period before Heinen broke through for the game-tying goal from his knees. That score allowed the B’s to push things into overtime, and then Spooner made it a quick extra session by snapping home a shot from the slot after a good effort from Joe Morrow down low. It all was made possible by the adjustment to the lines that took place between the second and the third periods.

HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Morrow is battling to hold onto his NHL roster spot with the Bruins, and that is absolutely underscored by the news that Christian Ehrhoff is being brought to Boston on a PTO. So it was expected that the young D-man would come out with something a little extra after a mediocre performance in his preseason debut, and the left shot D-man was an impact player in the win for the Black and Gold. Morrow dropped the gloves with young tough guy Givani Smith in the second period as part of a B’s group that played with a little bit of an edge on Friday night, and then he won a battle down low in overtime to set up the Ryan Spooner game-winner. Morrow had two hits, two shot attempts, the assist and the fight in 19:48 of ice time, and showed that he’s ready to battle in camp to hold onto his spot.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of goals in two preseason games thus far for Danton Heinen, who scored important game-tying goals in both instances in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and Friday night’s overtime win against the Wings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0 [on Wednesday night], I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about it, and we expect a better effort for sure.” –Ryan Spooner on Friday morning prior to going out and snatching the win away from the Red Wings in Detroit with an OT game-winner.