---- — As the Boston Bruins play in New York tonight and Thursday night in an attempt to transform from Jekyll-Hyde into a Stanley Cup contender, here are five things to watch:
1. B’s standard of play in Game 3
I believe this is the most important game of the playoffs, other than a Game 7, because we will see if the Bruins have dropped the “Jeckyll-Hyde” moniker given to them by their coach. The Bruins “appear” to have turned the corner and flicked the proverbial “playoff” switch. Does that mean the Bruins have to win tonight? No, it means they have to play well as a group and compete as if they have to win.
The 5-2 win on Sunday night was one of the most complete game they’ve played the last month. The Rangers played really well for two periods but still got their collective keisters kicked in the third period.
2. Watch out rookies!
The Rangers have had enough of the embarrassing questions about undrafted Torey Krug and trade throw-in Matt Bartkowski (Panthers threw him in the 2010 deal with Boston, dealing he and Dennis Seidenberg to Bruins for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and second pick that ended being Alex Petrovic). These two are not only learning on the job, but they’re succeeding on both ends of the ice.
Expect at least one of them to play with Seidenberg and Redden returning. Whomever plays, they should expect to be hit and pressured like never before.
3. Jagr vs. Seguin tonight
Bruins coach Claude Julien is trying to get Tyler Seguin going. And while he’s at it, he’s trying to get Jaromir Jagr going, too. Both have vastly underachieved in the playoffs, particularly in the first two games of this series. He swapped both, with Seguin moving to the third line winger position and Jagr to the second line.
While Julien went out of his way to pump up Seguin’s tires yesterday — “I said it to our coaches after the game, I thought (Tyler) played a solid game last night. He competed hard, he battled, and he’s getting chances. Right now, the only thing that didn’t happen for him yesterday that I thought would’ve been good for him would’ve been to have some stats—a goal and an assist,” said Julien.
He didn’t do much other than his weak attempt after he broke in alone on Rangers goalie Henrik Sundqvist. Whomever plays better tonight, will probably be on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the near future.
4. Rask needs to steal one in NYC
There is a lot on the line this series for Tuukka Rask. Not only is he slowly eliminating the Ghost of Tim Thomas, but he’s going after the Ghost of Henrik Sundqvist, the acclaimed “best goalie in the world,” too. The Rangers will come to play in New York. When jobs are on the line, like they are for the coach and a few high-priced forwards, teams usually answer the call. If the Bruins can stay with the Rangers in Madison Square Garden, with the score tied going into the third period, Rask will be able to do his thing.
Even Rask noted the importance of not allowing the Rangers that go-ahead goal, because that’s when Lundqvist is usually at his best. Rask still has something to prove as a franchise goalie and what better person to do it against than Lundqvist.
5. Defense wins championships.
The five goals the Bruins scored on Sunday night will not happen again in this series. But that’s OK. The Bruins are a safer bet in the 2-1 and 3-2 games against a team like the Rangers, who don’t create as many scoring opportunities as a time like the Maple Leafs did. Expect the Bruins to play it closer to the vest tonight and Thursday night with the hope of getting one win. If the Jekyl-Hyde thing is really over, then the series will be over if the Bruins lead 3-1 by late Thursday night.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.