You can't help but respect the New York Rangers. Their style and strategy is so similarly to the Bruins. Excellent goaltending, mistake-free defense, offense from multiple sources, and an unwavering willingness to drop the gloves and fight. There's no blueprint to beat them. No schemes or tricks. You have to out-execute them. You have to make more plays, win more battles, commit fewer errors.
Yesterday afternoon the Bruins made fewer plays, won fewer battles, and committed more errors. Even if the B's had gotten a few bounces and won, I wouldn't have been happy with their performance. They're inconsistent. They've been inconsistent all season.
Some might gripe that bad luck cost the Bruins. A puck ricocheted off Greg Zanon's stick then his body and into the Bruins' net. Another puck bounced around behind Lundqvist without crossing the line. Oh and there was that weird non-icing call in the Islanders game on Saturday. And don't forget about the injuries to Peverley, Horton, and now Paille, Rask, and Ference.
These are the types of excuses you'd expect from Yawkey Way, not Causeway Street. And they are just that, excuses.
Did the Bruins play at their best, or even close to their best against the Rangers? Maybe for a 20 minute chunk of the game. The other 40 minutes were a display of mediocrity punctuated by the occasional bad decision. Chara passing to Kelly in the middle of the ice and with three Rangers in the area. New York's second goal saw Carl Hagelin streak down the ice, burning the Bruins' defensemen and making them look like they played free safety for the New England Patriots.
The timeout was effective. The Bruins played much better after that. The Rangers played much worse. Then the Rangers answered the Bruins' wave of momentum with one of their own. And the B's never answered back.
It's been a long time since we've seen 60 consecutive minutes of quality hockey from this team. Even during their winning stretch, they'd play 40 minutes of so-so hockey, turn it on in the 3rd period, and win. And we praised them for it.
I don't doubt they'll be able to advance past the likes of Ottawa or New Jersey in the playoffs, even if they're not stringing together more than 40 straight minutes of good hockey. But when it's time to face Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh, or the Rangers, there will need to be more consistency.
Bruins are in Toronto tomorrow night.