The Bruins are 17-1 all-time when leading a playoff series 3-0. Of course, when down 0-3 in a playoff series, the rest of the teams in the NHL have come back only once from such a deficit since 1976.
The Boston Bruins may or may not indeed – it’s OK to say it – s-s-s-sweep the New York Rangers, come Thursday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series, but whether or not they finish off John Tortorella’s overmatched crew in four, five, or six is a debate past expiration. The Bruins have dominated the Rangers to such a degree in this series, including most notably Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory, that it’s natural to wonder where the line should be drawn at the point where the Bruins have proved superior or the Rangers have simply quit.
It must upset Pierre McGuire greatly to summon such a thought, but the Rangers look like a defeated squad in tune with its fate, even with the series only 2-0 heading back to New York Tuesday. The Bruins have worn New York’s anemic attack down to the point where it has almost become a caricature of itself, with NBC ice-side reporter McGuire ranting about “freelancing” in an odd show of emotion during a fruitless Rangers power play.
Now, down 3-0 to the Bruins, a team that was 10 minutes away from an early summer vacation and a franchise overhaul just a little more than a week ago, the Rangers can only look to the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers for inspiration. If they want it.
These Rangers don’t seem so inclined.
New York fans can point to Henrik Lundqvist for Example No. 1 as to why their team hasn’t completely thrown in the towel. Lundqvist (32 saves) was dynamite – did his NBC Fan Club get that through to you? – in Game 3’s losing effort following so-so and worrisome performances in Games 1 and 2 in Boston. The way the national announcers would have you believe, Ryan Callahan leads the NHL in points this postseason based on the incessant laurels tossed in his direction. He has two goals and two assists through 10 games. Derick Brassard, whom the Rangers picked up in the greatest New York coup since Babe Ruth – at least according to NBC – has just one assist in this series and still leads his team in playoff points with 10. Rick Nash should scare the Bruins every time he touches the ice. The only people he’s instilling fright into are the people paying his salary.
“Brassard had an outstanding opening round against the Capitals in his first NHL playoff experience, but hasn’t delivered against Boston,” the New York Post’s Larry “Brooksie” Brooks writes in the wake of Game 3. “Callahan is relentless, but is hardly having a standout playoff. Derek Stepan has been negated. Ryan McDonagh has been good, but not a difference-maker.
“Lundqvist has been the only difference-maker and even he hasn’t been able to make a difference. As far as the Blueshirts and creating legacies are concerned, we’re still waiting.”
New York can keep waiting.
It’s fair to wonder whether or not Tortorella, an entertaining sound bite, but maybe as it turns out, not such a great leader with his style of demeaning individuals, is soon to be out of a job. The holes that have been exposed in the Rangers indeed speak of a team whose attitude stems from turning off leadership. Give the Bruins this: As maddening as they can be to watch play at times, you never get the sense that they don’t have faith in what Claude Julien preaches. And though we’ll likely call for his head again at some point, his success rate has gotten to the point where we have to call him one of the best Bruins bosses of this generation.
Unless Boston loses David Krejci to injury once again, and New York gains the services of the likes of Simon Gagne, another 3-0 comeback isn’t happening. For the fourth time in five postseasons, the Bruins are one win away from the Eastern Conference finals, likely to be a showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the second time in four postseasons, they’ll get there, whether it takes four, five, or six games.
If it potentially takes seven, well, then we’ll talk. But that’s not going to happen. Not with these Rangers, clearly overwhelmed and about to roll over in defeat.