NBC Game of the Week: Bruins vs. Rangers Preview

NYBOS.jpgBoston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 21, 2010
Live on NBC

With less than four weeks remaining in the season, the
playoff races are starting to heat up. In the West, Detroit is doing it’s
best to hold off Calgary and St. Louis and it’s most likely going to be a
furious finish to see which team can play the hardest down the stretch.
In the East, well… the race will come down to which team can just
barely survive and limp into the playoffs.

The New
York Rangers and the Boston Bruins square off this weekend in a battle
between two teams fighting for one playoff position. The Bruins
currently sit in 8th in the East, one point ahead of Atlanta and three points ahead of New
York. It hasn’t exactly been an easy journey to get to this point, as
both teams fight through late-season letdowns.

A
head-to-head battle can instantly turn the tide in either direction; the
question is which team will actually step up when the spotlight shines
on such an important game.

Someone will have to
step up.

Both teams have had an opportunity the past week to
either build their lead or gain ground in the race, and it’s been
nothing but disappointment at every turn. How is it that when a team has
a great opportunity to really make a move, they come out completely
flat and appear to be completely disinterested in the game they are
playing? Both New York and Boston appear to be lame ducks, each just
finding a way to fail in increasingly boring ways.

This is the time of the season that teams ramp up the intensity and
build momentum for the playoffs, yet the Rangers and Bruins seem to not
grasp the concept of just what a playoff race entails. Perhaps taking on
one another on national television will finally spark some actual
competitiveness in these two teams.

Desperately
seeking a leader.

The Bruins played perhaps the
most disappointing and futile game I’ve ever seen a hockey team play
against the Pittsburgh Penguins, in a matchup that many felt would be
intense and full of payback and redemption. Instead, the Bruins barely
mustered any interest or fight in the game (aside from pounding Matt
Cooke in the opening minutes). If this team can’t get motivated for a
‘redemption game’ to avenge their fallen teammate, I’m not convinced
they can get motivated for any game.

It’s the same
story with New York, although this time the lack of leadership seems to
be actually be influenced by the head coach. John Tortorella is intent
on squashing any sort of opinion and personality coming out his locker
room, and it’s showing on the ice. This is a team devoid of leadership
and the only player that has any sort of skill in sparking his teammates
is Sean Avery, someone who the coach would rather just go away. Who
will step up?

The Atlanta Thrashers are poised to
race by these two teams, as they tread water and slowly drown themselves
in mediocrity. I’m not convinced either team even deserves to make the
playoffs. Sunday’s game is the most important game of the year for both
teams; a win by the Rangers and the Bruins may never recover and hold
them off, and two points by Boston builds a lead the Rangers most likely
never overcome.

NBC
Star Cam –
Head
on over to NBC Sports

during the game to follow your favorite stars through out the game.

Sunday
on Pro Hockey Talk:

Can the Boston Bruins survive in the playoffs, or even it make it there,
with the NHL’s worst offense?
What is the identity of the New York Rangers, as they fight for a
playoff spot?
A breakdown of the playoff races for both conferences.
Injury updates for both teams.
News and opinion from around NBC Sports.
A live in-game chat with
Brandon Worley and James O’Brien.

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    Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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    Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

    What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

    Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

    “He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

    “I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

    Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

    After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

    “We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

    “It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

    “It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

    We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

    Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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    The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Again.

    Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

    Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

    Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

    After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

    That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

    For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

    Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

    Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

    ‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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    The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

    The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

    The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

    They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

    “I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

    On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

    That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

    With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

    “We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

    Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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    Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

    The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

    The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

    Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.