BOSTON — Bring on the Pittsburgh Penguins!
Pretty gutsy saying that, eh? Two best players, Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, in the world on one line? Isn’t that like asking for the LeBron James and the Miami Heat?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
There’s one problem. Those weren’t words uttered by the T.D. Garden faithful and they didn’t boldly come from the Boston Bruins locker room after last night’s 3-1 win over the New York Rangers, sending the Bruins to the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins.
They came from the Rangers locker room. They came from the locker stall of the world’s best goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, with some slight paraphrasing, of course.
“The Penguins have so much skill. They are very good,” said Lundqvist, who sat at his stall in full equipment for about five minutes with his hands over the lid of his Rangers cap, hiding his eyes, before speaking to the media after the game.
“But so are the Bruins,” the goalie said. “I can’t explain how impressed I am with them. They don’t stop coming at you; it’s bodies; it’s shots; it’s pressure. Wow, it’s going to be an interesting matchup of two different styles.”
If there was period in the game, which fit Lundqvist’s description of the Bruins tenacity last night and this series, it was with about four mintues to go in the game.
The Bruins had the puck in the Rangers end for about 90 seconds. They were not only killing time -- leading 2-1 at the time -- but Dennis Seidenberg, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara all took target practice on Lundqvist during that stretch.
“Look, I love the challenge. It’s fun out there,” said Lundqvist. “It just seemed like they were in control of this series the entire way. When they wanted it, they got it.”
Lundqvist was politely peppered by the metropolitan N.Y. media afterward about the Rangers’ funk this series and really most of the season. The fact that expectations were high this season after making it to the conference finals last year made this ending a bummer.
“Our team was different this year,” said Lundqvist. “We had some younger guys who showed some promise ... But it was different. We can’t compare it to last year. I feel a little more emptier now than I did then.”
Lundqvist, though, wasn’t done with tossing accolades toward the Bruins.
“They play four lines and all of them contribute,” he said. “They’re probably one of the most balanced teams in the league (on offense and defense). It’s not just one guy that can beat you. It’s all of them. And their power play? It killed us.
“Honestly, from where I saw it,” said Lundqvist, “they don’t have a weakness.”
Really? The Greatest Goalie on the Planet apparently didn’t watch a lot of film from the previous 4 1/2 months.
Lundqvist admitted he had never heard of Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who scored four of the Bruins 16 goals against him while assisting on another, before the series started 10 days go.
He knows him now.
“The kid is pretty good,” said Lundqvist, shaking his head. “He had a hell of series ... Sure, I’ll remember him.”
As Lundqvist was leaving to speak to a Swedish TV station, he was asked who will win: The Bruins or the favored Penguins, whom he has faced 52 times in his career?
“You’re not going to get me on that one,” said Lundqvist, smiling. “But it will be a good series, no matter (what the experts say) ... Two different styles. It will be interesting to watch. Nothing would surprise me.”