NEW YORK – The Rangers are seemingly fading out of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs faster than a New York minute.
Former Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards is a healthy scratch. That was confirmed by John Tortorella in a phone conversation between the two.
Tortorella, himself, is under fire and is being scrutinized by the media for his decision to scratch a player whose cap hit is north of $6.6 million over the next 12 seasons. In addition, Torts was also short with the media (again) in his 19-second press conference before the Blueshirts took the ice for their morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
All of this, along with Roman Hamrlik replacing Anton Stralman on the Rangers blue-line, makes for one hot mess in Manhattan. And the Boston Bruins need to take advantage of this.
During the course of the playoffs, head coach Claude Julien described his team as “jekyll and hyde“. Their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a perfect example of that sentiment.
But in this series, the B’s have been the better team. They are finding a way to solve Henrik Lundqvist. They are getting pucks deep against a Rangers defense that pride themselves on blocking shots. They are getting contributions from all four lines. They are getting a pleasant surprise from three young defensemen: Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. They are getting stellar goaltending from Tuukka Rask.
Most of all, the Bruins have all the momentum on their side as they look to sweep their second round series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons.
“We’re here to win a hockey game tonight,” said Julien, “and we’re going to do whatever it takes.”
While the Bruins have the opportunity to advance, there’s no denying that they’ve struggled closing out series. They are 7-12 under Julien in closing situations, that includes their collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010.
The fourth victory is always the toughest to get, but there’s no excuse for the Bruins to prolong the series.
“We’re focusing on this game,” said forward Chris Kelly. “The fourth one, you’ve heard it before, is always the hardest to win.”
Even though they would have another chance to clinch the series on Saturday in front of their home crowd should there be a Game 5, the Black and Gold would like to finish the job, get some rest and prepare for the Penguins or Senators in the conference finals. But the B’s are focused on the task in hand and not looking ahead to round three.
“That would be nice, but we know and we’ve learned as a team that the last one is the hardest to get, even the last series. We’ve got to get ready [Thursday] and play it just like a Game 1,” forward David Krejci said after Wednesday’s practice.
“They lost three games, so they’re going to change something up and we expect that. All we can do is focus on ourselves and our game and not worry too much about what they’re going to bring.”
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