BOSTON – It’s easy to assume that the Bruins had one of those “hangover games” Saturday afternoon against the New York Rangers.
Coming off an emotional 7-0 victory Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens, and a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils Tuesday, the Bruins came out flat in Saturday’s contest for the majority of the game and found themselves down 1-0 when Derek Stepan tipped in his 20th goal of the season past goaltender Tuukka Rask.
However, head coach Claude Julien didn’t buy into that excuse after the loss.
“I think that would be a weak excuse,” he said. “We’re certainly not going to use that as an excuse. This is the time of the year where you have to make sure that you’re able to push those games aside. There’s a lot of emotional games coming up in the near future and we’ve got to be able to respond night after night.”
Even though the Rangers benefited from a missed offsides call from the officials just seconds before the goal, which ultimately resulted in Rask taking a faceoff in the Bruins’ own zone, the Rangers held on after a third period surge from Boston as Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves for his league leading 11th shutout of the season.
The Rangers also improved to 27-0-0 when leading after two periods.
“We found a way to get the job done in the defensive zone and played real sharp,” Stepan said. “That’s the way you have to win hockey games. It shows our character and it’s exactly how you want to play on the road.”
“They were coming,” Lundqvist said about the Bruins’ effort in the third period, where they outshot the Rangers, 12-1. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in ourselves and in the way we play. The guys battled hard today and it was great to see us bounce back from the other night [after the loss to Ottawa].
“You could see they were coming out hard, especially in the third. But we were ready.”
During the past several days there’s been a lot of talk from the hockey media on how the Bruins and the Habs could potentially meet in the first round of the playoffs. But after the win, the Rangers are now tied with Montreal (who plays Washington tonight) for sixth place in the Eastern conference standings.
While there’s still nearly two weeks left in the regular season, the Bruins could have their hands full against the Blueshirts if the two teams were to meet beginning in the middle of April.
“I felt like it was a playoff game today, because the scoring chances were tough to get the pucks through the net” said Rask, who made 23 saves on the afternoon. “You never know what would happen come playoff time, but it would definitely be a tough matchup.”
Although the Bruins have nearly secured a playoff spot, the Rangers are still in the middle of a race with the Sabres and Hurricanes for the final playoff spots in the East. Right now, their focus is to make sure they do the little things to make it.
With Lundqvist’s ability to steal a series or two, the team could potentially do some damage in the postseason.
“We are trying to get into the playoffs. We don’t want to take anything for granted,” said Rangers forward and Boston College alum Brian Boyle.
“There are a few teams that are a potential playoff matchup against us. These teams are playing good hockey right now, so we are just coming out and trying to get a win. We are not going to treat it any differently, and if we meet them in the playoffs, we might have the same mentality.”
Tomorrow night, the Bruins travel to Philly for another playoff caliber matchup against the Flyers. Although the two teams would most likely not meet until the conference semis or finals, the Bruins will look to bounce back and get a 60-minute effort against a struggling Flyers’ squad.
“I think we just have to look at tomorrow like we did the last few games,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “You have to approach the game like a playoff game and have the right mindset; getting pucks deep, sticking to the program and play a simple game.”