Rangers-Bruins Brings Out War of Words

Rangers games feel different and more important when facing the Bruins. Even though it’s just one of 82 games and the usual two points are on the line, it has the feel of a playoff game and there’s actually more than just two points on the line with the history between the two Original Six franchises and their fans.

Because of this extra importance and because it’s only one of three games between the two teams this season and because I wasn’t going to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night after having to watch Sunday night’s 1-0 letdown against the Kings in person, I decided to see what my freshman year of college roommate Mike Miccoli, who covers the Bruins for The Hockey Writers, was up to for the game. Luckily, he was also watching the game from his apartment in Boston and agreed to trade emails with me during it.

7:26 P.M.

Keefe: Two years ago when the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final I asked you if the Bruins won the Cup, would you be willing to have the Red Sox suck for the next 10 years while the Yankees won five World Series during that time? You didn’t hesitate to say yes. Let’s recap what has happened since then.

After June 2011, the Yankees were bounced in five games that fall in the ALDS, losing Game 5 to the Tigers at Yankee Stadium, but the Red Sox completed the worst regular-season collapse in baseball history. Everything going according to plan so far.

In 2012, the Yankees lost in four games in the ALCS to the Tigers, while Derek Jeter destroyed his ankle, Robinson Cano made a makeshift lounge chair in the dugout and A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher were hopefully playing drunk during the series. But the Red Sox had the worst season imaginable under Bobby Valentine. So with two years down, I figured that meant the Yankees would win five of the next eight world Series.

But then in 2013, things changed and not just in baseball. The Bruins overcame a three-goal deficit in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead before the most epic of comebacks. Then they embarrassed the Rangers in five games and the Penguins in four games and were just over a minute away from sending the Stanley Cup Final back to Chicago for Game 7. Also this year, the Yankees endured so many injuries to their starting lineup that I actually missed Francisco Cervelli and found myself hoping that Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells could carry the 2013 Yankees, which didn’t end well and the Yankees missed the postseason for the second time since 1993. Meanwhile, the Red Sox rebounded from their disastrous season to win their third World Series in 10 years and third since I met you freshman year of college.

In this calendar year, you have gone to Game 6 of the Cup Final, the AFC Championship Game and won the World Series. I have endured the Rangers losing to your Bruins, Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin era falling apart (though it might be turning now) and the second-worst Yankees season of the last 20 years. Before we can get into this game tonight, I want to know: How the eff did you reverse the curse you put on your fandom and Boston sports?

 

7:50 P.M.

Miccoli: Remember the first weekend in our 1105 dorm room? Probably not, but that’s cool because I don’t really either. I realized after the first week of classes that I didn’t own one piece of Red Sox gear. See, back in Rhode Island, you could get away with a Pawtucket Red Sox hat as your gear of choice, walking down the Providence Place Mall with a giant, red “P” on your dome. Of course, I’d probably have some type of Bruins gear instead, but that’s neither here or there, especially with the lockout looming after a disappointing Boston exit from the playoffs by the hands of the Canadiens.

ANYWAY. I decided to buy a Red Sox hat to fit in around the city and get girls to talk to me. That didn’t work at all but hey, six weeks later, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years and then did it again when we were seniors and could legally get into bars instead of watching in our dorm room. Guess which hat I was wearing last month when they did it again?

Although it’s probably stupid for me to credit it all on a hat, I really don’t have a better answer for you so we’ll go with that. As far as the Bruins go, I guess you can say it’s just better to go along for the ride.

When I was growing up a youth in Rhode Island, nobody knew much about hockey. I know that sounds like an exaggerated statement, but I’m dead serious. All throughout my time in elementary school, the Bruins were an afterthought to everyone–the amount of times I had to explain my hockey fandom was insane. So this is nice. It helps that the sport evolved and the team has gotten worlds better, but for a period of time, Boston was the Bruins’ city. That was both weird and really cool. Even though the Red Sox are the city’s reigning champions (it’s SO hard to keep up with that, these days), I’d say the Bruins are still pretty damn important.

I’m excited for tonight’s game though. The Bruins are still in that ‘we don’t know how good we are yet so we’ll just let teams hang in games and figure it out, cool?’ stage. You, of course, know that I think the Rangers are a perennial good team, and always a challenge for Boston. This time though, I’m curious to see if Torey Krug can still give Henrik Lundqvist nightmares.

 

7:57 P.M.

Keefe: You do always think the Rangers are a perennial good team, which is nice during the regular season, but in the Henrik Lundqvist era (post-lockout), here is how their eight seasons have ended (none of these are Lundqvist’s fault):

2005-06: Lost in first round
2006-07: Lost in second round
2007-08: Lost in second round
2008-09: Lost in first round
2009-10: Missed playoffs
2010-11: Lost in first round
2011-12: Lost in conference finals
2012-13: Lost in second round

So as you can see, I’m beginning to think your idea of them being a perennial good team is just your attempt at a sneaky reverse jinx. You’re sick!

I’m not sure if Torey Krug gives Henrik Lundqvist nightmares, but he definitely gives me them since I’m 100 percent sure that if Torey Krug doesn’t come out of nowhere (like actual nowhere) and suddenly turn into Ray Bourque 2.0 (little known fact: Ray Bourque is my favorite player of all time) in the conference semifinals last May, then the Rangers face the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. That’s not my opinion or a hypothetical, that’s a fact.

As I type this, the Rangers just blew a power-play chance (no surprise there) and Chris Kreider just had one of the sloppiest penalty shot attempts you will ever see. I think it’s time I offer you another chance to set Boston sports back.

 

8:11 P.M.

Miccoli: It must have been awhile since you’ve been to Boston since the Torey Krug statue is already being erected next to Orr’s outside TD Garden. Although, he has looked brutal in own end so far this game. When Derek Dorsett is beating you for loose pucks in your own end, you probably should re-evaluate some things.

No disrespect to the Rangers power play, even though their unit did look pretty crappy, but the Bruins have now killed 33 straight penalties. That’s pretty insane, right? Right around Halloween, the Bruins were near the bottom of the NHL on the penalty kill. Now? Number two. If you can’t capitalize when one of the Bruins’ top PKers is in the box, when will you be able to?

Speaking of scoring, it’s not happening this game, is it? The Rangers aren’t exactly lighting it up at home and the Bruins are facing a netminder who has incredible numbers when playing in his own crease. Luckily, Boston hasn’t looked too out of sorts even though they’re playing in their second game in as many nights. I’m just thankful that Tuukka Rask got the start instead of the new number 30, Chad Johnson. And I say that as I watch the game in my Tim Thomas jersey, shaking on my couch. Just kidding, except not really.

 

8:28 P.M.

Keefe: I have seen Chad Johnson play for the Bruins this season and therefore I knew he was wearing number 30, but I didn’t really put two and two together and realize that they gave Thomas’ number away so quickly. Kind of weird. But I guess when you do the things that Tim Thomas did during the 2011-12 season and then quit on the team and quit the game while still under contract, it doesn’t matter if you won the Conn Smythe and led the team to their first Cup since 1972.

When my girlfriend asked me what I thought the score would be tonight, I said I had to wait until I found out if Tuukka Rask was going to play. Once I found out he was I said 1-0, if not then 2-1 because that’s the score whenever Lundqvist and Rask face each other (at least in the regular season).

It’s not a good feeling that after 20 minutes and the way the Rangers dominated the play and had a penalty shot, a semi breakaway for Rick Nash and a perfect deflection through Rask’s leg that the game is tied 0-0. This has a feeling of a 1-0 Bruins win with the Bruins’ fourth line scoring some garbage double or maybe triple deflection goal. Either that or Dan Girardi will score on Lundqvist himself since that’s what Dan Girardi thinks he’s supposed to do in a contract year.

 

8:40 P.M.

Miccoli: I think the Bruins are on their heels. Right after I typed that “Boston doesn’t look too out of sorts …” they began to revert into the type of team that does nothing but allow their opponents to walk in and take control of the game. The Rangers have 16 shots on net compared to the Bruins’ six. That’s not comforting especially when the Bruins just announced that their No. 2 defenseman, Dennis Seidenberg, was going to miss the rest of the game.

Maybe this is New York’s chance to explode offensively. Take away Chara and Johnny Boychuk and then the Rangers are left to beat Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Krug. While they’ll probably develop into fine blue-liners, it’s not the squad you want to have out there for 50-plus minutes of a hockey game when shorthanded.

There’s also a very good chance I’m giving the Rangers too much credit. My roommate, also a Rangers fan (I’m not sure how I keep finding myself in these situations) says that I am. But defense wins championships, which means that they win hockey games too. Want to tell New York how to win? Get Chara tired and outwork the other five.

 

8:45 P.M.

(Shawn Thornton scores.)

Keefe: After what I sent in my last email and what just happened, do I need to write anything?

 

8:47 P.M.

Miccoli: Shawn Thornton: bonafide sniper. Every single goal he has scored this season has been a beauty, which makes it a shame when people say he’s “just a fighter.” Sure! The fourth line enforcer just lit up one of the best goaltenders in the world.

 

8:52 P.M.

Keefe: Well, he does have 35 goals in 514 career games, so it only makes sense that he scores against Henrik Lundqvist tonight.

I went to the game on Sunday night against the Kings and was devastated at a 1-0 loss. Who wants to see a 1-0 regular-season game in which your team loses? At least if this score holds up, and the way Rask is playing it might, I will be happy that I decided to not go tonight and sit on the couch and exchange emails with you during the game instead. All we need now is a couple of twin beds, a box TV, a Playstation 2 with MVP 2005 and a couple of cluster roommates plugging in their amps to reenact an Ozzfest concert on the other side of the wall at 4 a.m. or playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas with their homemade surround sound.

Here’s a real question: Are these the best two goalies in the world? I think so.

 

8:59 P.M.

Miccoli: As I write this, the Bruins have nine shots on net. The Rangers have 24 and Tuukka Rask has stopped every single one. Are these the best two goalies in the world? Right now, yes. I think that you could probably make a case for Jon Quick and Pekka Rinne, but for now it’s these two.

What’s exciting about Rask is that he’s just entering his prime. Coming off an eight-year extension, it’s possible that he could be one of the most elite goaltenders in Boston’s history. He’s the perfect fit for a team that doesn’t score a ton of goals and plays in a structured, defensive system. The Bruins need Rask to be on his best every night and with the exception of Friday’s loss against the Ottawa Senators, he has been.

Oh, a Bruins shorthanded goal from Diamond Daniel Paille. Jack Edwards just said that the only place in New York that’s quieter than the Garden is the New York Public Library. And now a Bronx cheer?! What is this?!

 

9:06 P.M.

Keefe: That Bronx cheer was unexpected, but that’s going to happen when the MSG crowd is full of suits, who couldn’t tell you what number Henrik Lundqvist wears and just know that when the team in white scores on the team in blue it’s bad. Bronx cheers need to be saved for when Brian Boyle is used on the power play. We can’t be wasting them on the best goalie in the world giving up a breakaway goal.

And there’s the first Rangers goal in 127:06 of hockey! Just when I was beginning to think they might get shutout for the second game … in a row … at home. It wasn’t that crazy of a thought since they had last scored 5:25 into the second period in Montreal on Saturday night.

Yes, the Derick Brassard goal just saved the game, but what saved it more than cutting the deficit to one was the timing of it, coming just after the Bruins scored. And as NBC Sports goes to break, the slow-motion replay shows the puck splitting a a pair of legs on the way to the net. No, the Rangers can’t score on penalty shots or breakaways or odd-man rushes or power plays, but they can score through an accidental screen and deflection off a shin pad.

The 1-0 prediction is done, but the 2-1 is still alive. How are the Bruins playing so well after playing Carolina just 24 hours ago? You should see how the Rangers play on the second night of a back-to-back.

And Derek Dorsett heads to the box…

 

9:08 P.M.

Keefe: Before you can even respond, the Rangers kill off Dorsett’s penalty and now he’s going back to the box!

 

9:16 P.M.

Miccoli: I hope you were able to find comfort in the Bruins last power play. The one aspect of the Bruins’ game that hasn’t sucked as per usual is the power play. Maybe it’s Krug on the point, or Chara in front, but it’s been better.

Now, 30 seconds into their second power play, it seems to be more of the same. Bad entry into the zone, not enough possession and that stupid dump and chase from the neutral zone. Want to know who still uses the dump and chase? Peewee hockey teams that can’t skate. The Bruins are a big, physical team that unfortunately lacks speed. When they start to skate it into the zone, they find better success. It’s not working tonight because the Rangers are a faster team and their few shorthanded attempts have proved that. They’re beating the Bruins to the puck and winning the races.

Now with the Bruins getting one shot in two back-to-back power plays, it might be time to be worried. Twenty minutes left in a one-goal game between the Rangers and the Bruins. What happens in the third? Do you think national hero Gregory Campbell puts one home and completes the trifecta of fourth liners who can score on Lundqvist?

 

9:25 P.M.

Keefe: I don’t think there’s any doubt that Gregory Campbell is going to score and go home with the game-winning goal tonight. Is there somewhere taking in-game prop bets where I can bet on this?

In the third, I do expect the Rangers to tie it. They have dominated the play and have had several high-quality scoring chances and those chances have come in flurries. Now that they have broken the Bruins’ Koji Uehara-like penalty killing streak, maybe they can get another power play (if Dorsett allows them to) to tie the game. It would only be fitting if Rick Nash were to score in his return after missing 16 games thanks to a Brad Stuart elbow.

Speaking of Brad Stuart, it’s disgusting that he’s back on the Sharks now playing with Joe Thornton in the trade that never should have happened. But I guess Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm were worth trading the only player in majors sports history to be traded DURING his MVP season.

 

9:43 P.M.

Miccoli: That’s still a bit frustrating to me, even if the trade did lead to Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard and a Cup, whatever. I remember being in my dorm room, this was the post-Neil era, thinking that Marco Sturm had the potential to be a 35-plus goal scorer and Brad Stuart was destined to be a number-one defenseman. LOL, right?

Speaking of frustrating, no Bruin is having more of a trying season than Brad MarchAND. Not only did he just realize that we’ve been saying his name wrong for the past four years, his on-ice performance has been less than stellar. He’s made a ton of stupid mistakes, hey look a dirty check on Mats Zuccarello, hasn’t been able to find the back of the net and has been a turnover machine. You hope (not you, but you get it) that it’s just a slump and that he’s getting used to his new linemate, Loui Eriksson replacing Tyler Seguin. Personally, I think MarchAND still has the ability to be a 30+ goal scorer this season and be an impact player for the team.

But how many times will Claude Julien ‘send a message’ by benching him or demoting him to the fourth line before he’s scratched? It worked, kind of, for Milan Lucic last year. After being a healthy scratch, he rebounded by ending the season strong and is now the top goal scorer on the Bruins. It’s similar to what the Rangers went through with Brad Richards, except, you know, almost $3 million cheaper.

Also, when did Chris Kreider become the most exciting New York Ranger to watch?

 

9:52 P.M.

Keefe: Hey, now. Brad Richards has been the Rangers’ best offensive player this season. All of that amnesty buyout talk from the offseason is long gone and so are the days of Richards being made a fourth-liner and then a healthy scratch because John Tortorella, his so-called friend, decided to start making examples of people with the Rangers’ one loss away from elimination. It’s good to see Richards get the last laugh as the Rangers’ current leading scorer while Tortorella was fired and now is abusing Canadian media members.

It’s kind of weird that Tortorella is in Vancouver and now Alain Vigneault is here with the two switching places. I was never the biggest AV (yes, that’s what he told Glen Sather to call him and said he wants to go by) fan when he was the coach of the Canucks, but I think that was more a product of the players he was coaching and not the type of coach he is. I have enjoyed watching him actually use guys with scoring ability and talent as actual scorers and not shot-blocking pylons or grinders or bruisers. It’s too bad Marian Gaborik had to be moved because of Tortorella because if Gaborik was able to score 40-plus goals twice under Tortorella, what would he have been able to do under AV?

I’m sure for you that you have a much different perspective and much different feelings toward AV since he was the coach of the hated 2010-11 Canucks team that went the distance with your Bruins.

And Chris Kreider became the most exciting Ranger to watch when I wrote at the end of October that the organization needed to stop Joba Chamberlain-ing him and sending him up and down and not letting him the freedom to become the first-round pick and top-six forward they envisioned. Since his call-up and utilization in a set role on a real line in an offensive system, he has been the player that Sather didn’t want to trade for Nash in February 2011 (though I wanted to and still wish they had).

But really he became the most exciting Ranger just tonight.

 

10:02 P.M.

Miccoli: Did I ever tell you how much I like John Tortorella? I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I remember covering the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season and going to his press conference, all excited to see him whip out some quick wit and dry humor. True story, I tried to avoid eye contact at all costs. It was like going to a bad stand-up comedy show and trying not to make any false moves in fear that you’d get picked on. I’ve never been more scared in my life.

Anyway, I like what AV has done with the team so far. Even after the skid to start the season, it’s evident that the Rangers are a different team. They’re motivated and he’s added another element to the roster.

With four minutes left in the game and the Bruins playing the way that they are, I can’t see a way that they pull this off unless Lundqvist is pulled and Milan Lucic scored an empty netter to win it. I don’t have the exact stats, but out of his nine goals, there’s a good chance that four have come with nobody in net.

 

10:05 P.M.

Keefe: Speaking of underachievers and stats like that, Derek Stepan has four goals this season and three of them were in one game. That is an exact stat. And he has been terrible tonight, fanning on several shots and failing to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

Meanwhile I just officially welcomed Dan Girardi to the A.J. Burnett/Boone Logan/Kevin Gilbride/Brian Boyle/Nick Swisher Etc. Club. I have wanted to for a while now, but I was waiting for the right moment and then two awful breakdowns on back-to-back shifts made me realize now was the time.

There is 2:20 left. The Rangers have one goal since the second period of Saturday’s game. They aren’t scoring here.

 

10:08 P.M.

Miccoli: The Bruins fourth line is out on the ice with a minute left in the game. Now, with 17 seconds, the refs decide to blow the play dead with Chris Kelly on his way to score on the empty net. That’s good. I was getting tired of listening to the blown call on the Patriots from last night. I’m glad we can forget about that call and focus on this one now.

 

10:13 P.M.

Keefe: It’s OK because the faceoff is at center ice and that will do it. The Rangers lose 2-1 and drop two home games in three days despite allowing just three goals combined. But it’s easy to lose like that when you only score one goal in 120 minutes.

I was thinking that this year would be different and that the Rangers wouldn’t just rely on Henrik Lundqvist to post a shutout every single game, which has been their game plan since the 2008-09 season. But so far it hasn’t been.

I guess I’m happy I didn’t waste the time and money to go the Garden tonight and watch that in person. Just 10 days until these two teams meet again for the second and second-to-last time this season. That means Greg Campbell will have to wait 10 more days to get his first goal of the season.

 

10:18 P.M.

Miccoli: There’s always the Giants. And the prospect of Robinson Cano wearing blue and orange.

Happy days in New York! I look forward to the Thanksgiving Day showdown and another one-goal game. Maybe a team will score three goals this time!

Comments