It’s impossible to draw conclusions from a game featuring one team taking a playoff approach, because it’s desperate for every point in the standings, and one club that’s just fine tuning for the postseason.
But we can at least look at the Bruins’ 5-3 loss at New York today and see there are certain weaknesses in this Boston team that the Rangers were able to exploit and other teams might be able to take advantage of over the course of a best-of-seven series.
Here’s a quick rundown of the concerns the Bruins should have after squandering a 3-0 lead on Broadway:
•Nathan Horton scored his 25th goal of the season, and David Krejci and Milan Lucic both recorded an assist. But it looked like after Boston got up 3-0, its first line couldn’t wait to get on the charter back to the Hub. Lucic, who was hit by a puck in the warm-up and played stitched up above his right eye, didn’t record a shot on net all night and Krejci took two lazy stick penalties in the offensive zone. Horton finished with just two shots on net.
If an exhausted Marc Staal and Dan Girardi can take the Bruins’ top line out of a game like they did tonight, other top defense pairs might be able to do so as well — especially if Lucic, Krejci and Horton don’t give a 60-minute effort. Again, it’s understandably tough to focus at this time of year with little to play for, but the Bruins aren’t going anywhere without plenty of production and physical intimidation from the HuLK Line.
•The Bruins drew just one power play against a desperate Rangers team. That comes on the heels of earning just one man-advantage against Atlanta Saturday and none against Chicago last Tuesday (they picked up five chances against Toronto in between last Thursday). This has been a problem all season for the Bruins, and it’s all about generating more speed, especially through the neutral zone, and transitioning the puck from offense to defense quicker. The power play finally started to produce late last month. But it can’t do anything if it can’t get on the ice. Expecting to win playoff games with just 5-on-5 goals is a fool’s errand, so Boston has to apply itself better to draw more penalties.
•The third defense pair of Adam McQuaid and Andrew Ference isn’t supposed to be noticed on the ice because of its ability to keep things at their simplest, make almost no mistakes and then get off. Tonight they were atrocious and both had the minus-2 to show for it. Ference was outmuscled in the corners, and McQuaid was out-quicked along the walls and behind the net. Especially on the road, teams are going to be able to work out a favorable match-up against Boston’s bottom duo. Those two are going to have to bear down or the Bruins are going to have to considering shuffling its D pairs.
•If Tyler Seguin was still in the race to be in the Boston lineup for the postseason even after Shawn Thornton returns, he pretty much played his way out of it tonight. Head coach Claude Julien cut Seguin down to just 8:03 of ice time, and that was too much.
There’s no doubt Seguin has improved a ton over the last couple months and has a bright future. But he lost every battle in front of the nets and failed to enter the corners at any time against the Rangers. He’s just not strong enough to play in a tight-checking NHL playoff game, which this basically was from the Rangers’ perspective. Maybe against a finesse team like Montreal, the Bruins could get away with Seguin in there. But when they have more experienced players at their disposal, they probably shouldn’t take the chance.
The Bruins are still in great position heading into these playoffs as no worse than the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Their strengths outweigh their weaknesses. And again, they have to be given some benefit of the doubt for losing to the Rangers, considering what was (or wasn’t) at stake.
For their sake, however, the Bruins must take the next week to look at what the Rangers were able to do to them tonight and make the necessary adjustments to prevent another club — or maybe even the Rangers — from duplicating New York’s Bruins-beating performance once the second season starts.