Rangers not getting job done
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
Pick your reason why the Rangers are staring at a chasm in this series with the Bruins.
Not tough enough on the forecheck. Not tight enough in their own zone. Not effective enough on the power play. Not lucky enough to get the bigger bounces.
Whichever one you choose, it's not enough. This Rangers team took a long time to jell in the shortened season, never gaining the sort of grinding momentum it built through the incredibly successful 2011-12 campaign that stretched to within two wins of a Stanley Cup Finals.
This season has featured a decent stretch run and a rally to knock out the less-than-clutch Caps. But there just hasn't been the same energy, the same forcefulness that sustained the Rangers a year ago.
They came up huge in the biggest moments last season, even when not at their best. Tuesday night, the Rangers were far from their best, but Henrik Lundqvist and a seeing-eye goal gave them a 1-0 lead entering the third period.
That was enough last season. Tuesday night, the Bruins' lunch-pail guys produced one seeing-eye goal to tie, then a crazy-bounce goal to win it. The Bruins have been the relentless ones, sending wave after wave to wear down the thin Rangers' defense and using their own speed in transition to keep the Rangers from playing their dangerous cycle game.
The Bruins are outgrinding the Rangers, and perhaps that's what hurts the most in falling into this 3-0 hole.
"Everybody does a great job, making everybody else's job easier,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
His team is confident, and rightly so. The Bruins were 10 minutes from blowing a 3-1 lead in the opening round before their insane comeback to beat the Leafs in Game 7. In this series, the Bruins have dropped three rookie defensemen into the mix and not missed a beat.
John Tortorella has struggled to find the right mix all season. The trio of players acquired for Marian Gaborik gave him a boost, but now is when the Rangers miss Marc Staal most of all, needing to use Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi every other shift to try and contain David Krejci's top line, or Patrice Bergeron's No. 1-A line.
They did that well enough Tuesday night, with Henrik Lundqvist standing tall. But Gregory Campbell and the Bruins' fourth line got offensive zone time and produced both goals, with the Rangers unable to plug all the leaks.
"I'm working with a real short bench and it's a bit of a Catch-22,'' said Tortorella, who lost Anton Stralman after two periods and was juggling five defensemen. "They kept their lines rolling.''
President Glen Sather has work to do to restore this team to its hard-hat mentality, with a few fresh faces needed on the blue line and among the depth forwards to keep this team from being a one-year wonder.
He worked some real magic by padding the roster with three young, useful players from Columbus and gave the Rangers some financial wiggle room. But there's more to be done, as the Bruins have shown by rolling 18 players effectively.
"We're not done by any means,'' Brian Boyle said. "We've got more hockey to play.''
Tell that to the Bruins, who have beaten the blue-collar Rangers at their own game. The Rangers rose to nearly every occasion last year.
This time around, it's just not been enough of anything.