Enough of John Tortorella and his annoying press conferences. Enough of the goal-challenged Rangers pretending they had a chance against the Bruins. Enough of the antics of Derek Dorsett. Enough silly talk about the Bruins blowing another 3-0 series lead.
The B’s Saturday night put the Rangers and their fans out of their misery with a 3-1 Game 5, series-clinching victory over the New Yorkers. The Bruins advance to play the Penguins in the conference finals, starting next week at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. It’ll be Black & Gold vs. Black & Gold. Sidney Crosby is the only thing standing between the Bruins and another trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s nice to have the Rangers in the rearview mirror. New York was merely an annoyance in Round 2. There was never a moment when the Rangers looked like the better team. They deserved to be swept, and were spared that indignity only because Tuukka Rask slipped on the ice at Madison Square Garden in Game 4. This led to a lot of hysteria about 2010 and the B’s collapse against the Flyers with Rask in net.
Tuukka made his bones Saturday night, preserving a 2-1 lead midway through the third period when he stopped a Ryan Callahan breakaway.
“Our goalie coach told me he never shoots a backhand,’’ said Rask. “When he went to the backhand, I extended my leg and blocker there.’’
The game was sealed when Gregory Campbell potted an empty-net goal with 50.4 seconds remaining. It was Campbell’s second goal of the night.
When it was over, folks on both sides were asked about the temporary hysteria that gripped the Hub in the two days after Thursday’s butt-fumble loss in New York.
“I didn’t feel bad or doubt myself after Game 4,’’ said Rask. “I had that little screw-up, but thought I played well after that. Coming into this game, I wanted to be rock-solid and give our team a chance to win the game. We didn’t want to go back to New York. We felt we should have finished the series off in that last game.’’
Indeed. Four of the games in this series were close, but there was never a doubt the Bruins were better. They even dominated Game 4, which they lost. Rask’s slippage gave the Rangers a burst of energy and triggered a barrage of questions and criticisms of Rask and Bruins coach Claude Julien.
The Game 5 win put a stop to the madness.
“It was important tonight to end it for all the right reasons,’’ said the oft-critiqued Claude. “Now Tuukka can laugh about that goal instead of crying about it.’’
Claude can relax, too. He takes a lot of heat for his patience and a perceived inability to get his team ready in closeout games. Even Tortorella had a comment about our regional Claude bashing.
“I think Boston has a really good chance [to win the Cup],’’ said the Rangers coach. “I can’t believe some of the people second-guessing them, being in the city for the last couple of days. They are a good team and well-coached.’’
Julien didn’t run from the white noise surrounding the Black and Gold.
“I know what Boston is about,’’ said the winningest coach in Bruins playoff history. “They want a championship team every year. I enjoy being here. It comes with the territory and I take the criticism that comes with it. I’d rather be in a city that’s demanding and loves the team and the sport than be in a city where nobody cares.’’
Good stuff. Tell that to Carl Crawford.
So now we can look ahead. None of the Bruins wanted to say much about the next round (“Can I just enjoy this one?’’ asked Shawn Thornton), so we will have to do it for them.
The Bruins have met the Penguins in the playoffs four times, winning twice. The Bruins sent Pittsburgh home in 1979 and 1980, but came up short in 1991 and 1992. Harry Sinden is still mad at the Penguins for appropriating Boston’s black-and-gold colors. Cam Neely is still mad at Ulf Samuelsson for a dirty hit that led to the end of Neely’s career. Pittsburgh is where Jaromir Jagr started his career as a Stanley Cup champion understudy of Mario Lemieux.
Pittsburgh is where the Red Sox played the Pirates in the first World Series in 1903. It is the city where Tom Brady won his first AFC Championship game, in 2002. It is the city that gave Boston Curtis Martin and Larry Lucchino.
The Penguins are the highest-scoring team in the NHL. They are the top seed in the conference. They are favored to beat the Bruins.
We don’t care. The B’s just postponed summer in the best way. They’ve guaranteed us two more weeks of hockey and maybe another shot at the Stanley Cup.