BOSTON – It was about an hour too late, but Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg came up with a solution to Boston’s problem of shooting the puck into New York Rangers defensemen and forwards more often than it reached goaltender Henrik Lundqvist today.
“Instead of winding up for one-timers, you might want to – or I might want to – fake the shot and just wrist it,” said Seidenberg after the Bruins dropped a 1-0 decision at TD Garden. “I think that might’ve been more effective. But at the end, you always know better after. So I think next time we play them, we have to fake them, try to get them down and then they can’t move, right?”
Seidenberg didn’t really need that advice considering he only had one of his shots blocked. But Zdeno Chara (5), and Adam McQuaid and Andrew Ference (4 each) were a huge part of the Rangers racking up 29 blocked shots in the victory. New York is second in the league in that department, but nearly 30 blocked shots – Lundqvist needed to make just 26 saves – is pretty ridiculous.
“They’re a pretty dedicated group at getting in the shooting lanes,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “They’ve always been that way and that’s what they did tonight. Obviously you want your guys to find those shooting lanes and you want to get those pucks through, but even at the end when we were firing away late in the third, they were all collapsed and doing whatever they had to do to block shots. They were willing to pay the price.”
The Bruins to a man refused to use any sort of a letdown from Thursday’s emotional blowout victory over Montreal as an excuse for their lackluster performance through today’s first 40 minutes. That’s fine, considering they still had a chance to at least earn a loser point despite only playing near their peak performance level for one third of the game.
Had they made the necessary adjustment to the Rangers’ lane-clogging ways, they probably would’ve solved Lundqvist at least once and not wasted Tuukka Rask’s fine performance (22 saves) down the other end.
Based on their standing in the league in blocked shots and their performances against the Bruins this season in two prior meetings, Boston had to know what it was in for. But while the Rangers slid, dove and spun into every position imaginable to keep the puck away from the goal, the Bruins stood still and continually made life easier on the Rangers – except for the puck-sized bumps and bruises they probably left town with.
“I mean, it’s tough,” said Ference. “Obviously they play very good in the lanes, play it very tight in their own end. And if you don’t [want to] get shots blocked, you’d be passing around the perimeter the whole game. You have to take the shots and you have to try to get it through. But they do a good job [of blocking them]. You’ve got to get it through three or four guys. Some games you get good bounces and some of them will go in. It was tough, they did a good job.”
Boston didn’t practice yesterday in the aftermath of the Canadiens battle. They still must’ve watched tons of video of the Rangers’ shot-blocking ways. Several times this season during media briefings Julien praised the Rangers’ ability to front the shots, so you know he and his staff had to have passed that info onto the players.
Still there was a failure to execute and adjust. Part of it was effort and part of it was stubbornness. Maybe the Bruins thought they could break the Rangers’ will by clobbering their shin pads, hips and rear ends enough times. If the game was 120 minutes long, that might’ve happened. In a 60-minute affair that just wasn’t going to happen.
The Bruins get another shot to apply Seidenberg’s strategy against the Rangers a week from Monday. They could also put it to work Sunday night in Philadelphia, as the Flyers are the fourth-ranked shot-blocking team in the league.
A couple victories this week featuring plenty of points from their back end might’ve caused the Bruins to think these things are going to come easy. Hopefully for them the Rangers’ block party alerted them to how much harder they have to work for their offense during the rest of the stretch run.