Everyone who has ever dealt with Rangers coach John Tortorella or watched him on TV knows he's an ornery guy.
He can be short tempered, sarcastic, glib, and potty mouthed.
But after the Bruins' 3-1 victory Saturday night at TD Garden that eliminated the Rangers from the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games, Tortorella displayed another side — the philosophical one.
"I thought we were slow in the series as far as [the Bruins are] a totally different team than Washington,'' said Tortorella. "I don't think we got to the level we needed to. I think [Boston] is a deeper team than we are, so we needed to play at a different level. We needed to get a number of different things from different players more consistently. But again, I watched our team fight tonight to try to extend this series.''
One of the Rangers' best chances to do that was when captain Ryan Callahan raced in on a breakaway with 11:22 remaining in regulation. He went to his backhand but goaltender Tuukka Rask made the stop. Had he scored, the game would've been tied, 2-2.
"We get it on a big guy's stick, Callahan, in the third period and we have an opportunity to tie it,'' said Tortorella. "That's the way it goes, they deserved to win. They were the better team.''
Tortorella said he made no excuses for his team losing, but last year's team, which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against the Devils, was healthier and had more of a defined identity than this one did.
"We don't have our [Milan] Lucic in [Ryane] Clowe and we don't have our [Zdeno] Chara in [Marc] Staal,'' said the coach. "Those are two pretty big players for us. You need to try to find a way, all teams go through it, so please, I'm not using it as an excuse, but it hurt us. It hurt our depth, it put people in situations that right now I don't think they're ready to handle those type of minutes that we lose with those players [out of the lineup].''
On the other hand, the Bruins were without three defensemen in Andrew Ference, Wade Redden, and Dennis Seidenberg (who returned for Game 5). Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton (who sat out Game 5) all made crucial contributions. Krug had four goals in the series, including one Saturday.
"They played real well,'' said Tortorella. "It's funny how it works, huh? You get worried about this, that, and the other thing, especially the kid there, Krug? They got a lot of offense from their back end. That was another difference in our series was getting offense from the back end, and he led the way. It's funny how it works as guys come into lineups.''
Callahan said as tough as it was to stomach, the Rangers didn't play as well as Boston throughout the series.
"I knew their team was going to respond tonight and then play the way they did [after Game 4],'' said Callahan. "We had some chances to tie it there. You know when you get in a hole like that [down three games to none], you give yourself no room for error.''
Like Tortorella, Callahan said it turned out to be too little, too late.
"Our power play early on, I think hurt us,'' he said. "Not capitalizing on opportunities there. I don't think we played our best hockey early on in the series. They're an experienced team, too. You have to give them credit, they played well."
Rangers center Derick Brassard was schooled on faceoffs in Game 5, winning just four of the 15 he took. But Brassard held his own on draws for the most part in the series, finishing with 36 wins and 40 losses. Brassard said he learned a lot during the postseason. "It was my first playoff experience,'' said the 25-year-old. "I'm just looking forward to this summer to work hard and now I know what to expect. Going into next season, I think I am confident I want to be part of this team and I think we have a good group here and can do something special.'' . . . Center Brad Richards was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.