The New York Rangers fans have to absolutely hate 2 things in this world: Tuukka Rask and the Merlot Line.
Remember the November game when Paille and Thornton scored and Rask went 43 of 44 for a 2-1 win? This was pretty damn close, except there was finally more scoring for the B’s. Campbell scored twice, and Rask went 39 of 42, including going 19 of 20 in a horrible first period for the rest of the team. I usually avoid narratives like this, but you have to wonder if the Bruins’ mindset would’ve been damaged enough to bounce back if Rask had let in, say, 3.
The 1st line looked awesome, and they combined for 6 points. The 3rd line looked great again, and maybe there really is something to keeping the line the way it is. Kelly even seems to play better when surrounded by the better offensive tandem of Soderberg and Eriksson than he has in the past. If you think about it, when he had top-of-his-game-Peverley and offensively-underrated-Pouliot in 2012, he played his best hockey. Maybe making sure that he’s with great playmakers like the Swedes is a good idea after all. Let’s keep Smiddy on the 2nd for a little longer, but I still feel that they’ll have to put him at 3RW before the playoffs to capitalize on having Bergeron, Eriksson, and Marchand together defensively.
Biggest negative? That’s easy, because it was the biggest negative in the first 2 games after the break also: Defense after Boychuk. Chara is elite, Boychuk is passable/ok for a 2nd defenseman… and the B’s are lacking after that. Hamilton played well offensively tonight, getting 3 points but even he struggled at times. Krug shouldn’t get top 4 minutes for a contender, and Bartkowski is probably a 4th/5th defenseman at even strength. I like to look at it this way: The B’s have an elite #1 Dman (Chara), a good #3 (Boychuk), two ok #4 or good $5 defensemen at even strength (Hamilton and Bartkowski), a good #5 and great power play specialist (pretty obvious who I’m talking about), and two 2011 Shane Hnidys (McQuaid and Miller).
Since we can give McQuaid maybe a 70% chance of playing in any given playoff game (that might be generous), the B’s could be relying on Kevan Miller to handle serious PK time. That’s a problem. Make a trade, Chiarelli….
Which leads to my next post that will be up shortly.