Haggerty: Rangers a bad playoff match for B's


Haggerty: Rangers a bad playoff match for B's

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Never mind that the Bruins fell into the exact hangover game trap as the last time following an emotional win over the Montreal Canadiens the second instance this season they dropped the next home game in emotionless fashion after a cathartic beating of the Habs.

Its true that it wouldnt have been any more of a Hangover Game for the Bruins if Mike Tysons pet tiger jumped out upon opening the door to the Bs dressing room for the first period intermission.

Claude Julien certainly wasnt having any of the hangover talk.

I think that would be a weak excuse. Were certainly not going to use that as an excuse, said Julien. This is the time our year where you got to make sure that youre able to push those games aside.

There are a lot of emotional games coming up in the future here, in the near future, and weve got to be able to respond night after night. It was more of our team maybe not being as good as the other team tonight as far as the will to win those battles early on and being heavy on the stick.

But The Hangover wasnt the biggest impression following Saturday afternoons tilt.

Forget about Bostons 7-9-7 record during weekend games this season a stat that reveals a pretty healthy lack of focus during a very specific portion of the regular season.

Thats not the point either.

The biggest thing gleaned from Bostons spectacularly dull 1-0 loss to a grimy, determined Rangers bunch that blocked 29 shots at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon was a warning visit from the ghost of Stanley Cup playoffs future.

The Bruins got a sneak preview into a potential first round matchup against the Blueshirts one of three likely first round opponents between the Rangers, Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning given the current standings with only a handful of games remaining and it wasnt playing to rave reviews.

Nobody would have blamed the Bruins if they recounted tall tales of a brick wall wearing a Rangers sweater that stymied their shooting and passing lanes because the middle of Bostons offensive ice was permanently blocked.

I know for a fact that those guysI mean you watch the last few minutes they blocked every shot, said Dennis Seidenberg, who knows a thing or two about blocking shots. We didnt seem to get pucks through. Maybe we couldve done a better job. It definitely helps the goalie when guys are going hard at the shooter and trying to block those shots. That was good defense.

The victorious Rangers pulled into a tie with the Habs for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with the victory, and stand as a very strong possibility for the Bs in the first round of the playoffs.

In the last three seasons, an amazing 10 out of 11 games with the Rangers have been nip-and-tuck one goal games between a pair of big, strong, disciplined defensive minded teams with outstanding goaltenders.

The Bruins have lost seven of those 11 games to the Rangers over the last three seasons, and the Blueshirts are one of those teams that are incredibly effective against Boston.

Why is that?

In essence the Rags and Bs are very similar hockey clubs, and the Bruins have experienced serious difficulty piercing New Yorks collapsing defense over the last three seasons with the same cast of roster characters for both sides.

The Bruins have pretty clear strength and toughness advantages over either Montreal or Tampa Bay, and thats a huge point when the playoffs reward teams with those attributes around the net. The Rags are Bostons equal in many of the brawn and bruising categories, and block more shots than any other team in the NHL in front of their All-Star goaltender.

The big bodies like Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Wojtek Wolski up front and a defensemen corps thats all well over 6-feet tall and 200-pounds isnt going to be rag-dolled by the Bruins.

If and when the Bs do manage to maneuver their way through New Yorks layered defense, Henrik Lundqvist and his NHL-leading 11 shutouts will be crouched in wait to make the saves as he did while snatching Rich Peverleys top shelf wrist shot out of thin air in the third period.

Lundqvist has long been a dominant force against the Bruins between the pipes, and that was again the case on Saturday afternoon. Theres no reason to think that would any different in the playoffs where the Bs would no longer have a discernible advantage in the goaltending department.

That was pretty obvious when Lundqvist remained calm and tall between the pipes while stopping 12 shots in the third period during a frenzied assault by the Black and Gold.

Because the Rangers tend to strictly execute their defensive system, hustle and grind their way through blocking shots in front of the net, they are the worst kind of Bs adversary: the team that simply lets the Bruins sleep without waking the sleeping bears.

Thats like the Carolina Hurricanes team that caught the Bruins sleeping two years ago in the playoffs, and its the kind of team thats always given them fits.

Teams that are physically strong enough, defensively sound and strictly disciplined give the Big Bad Bruins their most difficult runs, and those reasons make the Rangers a squad to be avoided during the first round of Stanleys playoffs.

Watching the Rangers clamp down around their net and withstand the Bs final five minute onslaught -- and thoroughly shut down David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton should have been more than enough to give anybody pause about a collision course between the two Original Six teams early in the playoffs.

This time of year youre going to see a lot of those tight, grinding kinds of games, said Andrew Ference. I mean those are the goals that go in and youre not going to have a ton of great chances. Were going to run into good goalies the rest of the way, so get used to it I guess.

The Bs hope theyll have to get used to a soft, finesse, skill team when the playoffs begin that Bruins can power in, over, through and around.

Because entering into a first round alley fight with the Broadway Blueshirts might be exactly what the Bruins want to avoid if theyre hoping for a fruitful Cup run.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both. 


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?

While the good news is that it doesn’t appear that Tuukka Rask is dealing with a knee injury, there are still some significant muscular issues to work with concerning his left leg. 

According to former Bruins defenseman and NHL analyst Aaron Ward on CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast, the Bruins franchise goaltender has been dealing with a hamstring issue that’s also become a hamstring and groin issue as he tried to play through in the first week of the season. Rask clearly tweaked something in his left leg opening night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, missed the Saturday night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils. 

According to Ward, it’s hamstring and groin issues for Rask as the Bruins attempt to survive without him while potentially working toward a possible return for the Finnish netminder this weekend vs. the Red Wings. Rask hasn’t skated with the Bruins since finishing out the 2-1 win over the Devils last Thursday night, and tweaking the problematic left leg in the process. 

“What I was told is that it was left leg, and that at first it was hamstring and now it’s possibly hamstring and groin,” said Ward to CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty on the Great American Hockey Show podcast. “You’re always concerned when you’re a goalie and it’s your legs, right? It’s the push-off. The crazy part was watching it on video where the shoot came from the left side and went wide, and the next time he injures it shot comes from the same spot, misses it wide and [Rask] is in the exact same position wincing.

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“I think [the Bruins] are smart rather than trying to play a guy that’s 90, 80 or 70 percent, whatever it is, to just get it over with. Endure the short term pain to get the greater gain, and that’s having Rask in there. There’s no greater endorsement to keep him out than seeing the [bad losses without him] because you need a healthy Tuukka to let the rest of the team settle.”

It’s been disastrous without Rask, of course, as the Bruins have allowed 11 goals in back-to-back losses to the Wild and Rangers with rookies Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre between the pipes, and Anton Khudobin out for three weeks while sporting a cast on his right hand in the last B’s game at TD Garden. 

Meanwhile, Rask (3-0-0, 1.67 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage) is trying to heal and time it perfectly so he returns once he’s past the danger of potentially blowing out the muscles in his left leg and making the situation even worse than it already might be. 

Ward also discusses his relationship with "Toucher & Rich" and the "Cuts for a Cause" charitable event that he helped start.