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Cullen: Bruins, Rangers take different paths to Game 7 wins

Scott Cullen
5/14/2013 3:08:48 AM
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On a night with two Game Sevens, the Bruins won in miraculous fashion and the Rangers pulled away comfortably. Scott Cullen has stats and notes from the last games in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

BRUINS RALLY TO STUN MAPLE LEAFS
In a game that appeared to be well in hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs surrendered a three-goal lead in the third period - the rirst time a team has blown a three-goal lead in the third period of a Game Seven -- and ended up losing 5-4 in overtime to the Boston Bruins.

The series-winning goal was scored by Patrice Bergeron, who came up big with the Bruins' season on the line. Bergeron had one goal and no assists through the first six games of the series, but delivered two goals and an assist, a plus-3 rating and 16-for-22 (72.7%) on faceoffs in Game Seven.

While Bergeron's line struggled, the Bruins did get offence from the line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. The trio accounted for half of Boston's 22 goals in the series. Krejci recorded two assists in Game Seven, finishing the series with 13 points and a plus-9 rating. Lucic, who was dominant physical player at times, had a goal and an assist in Game Seven, and led Boston with seven hits. For the series, Lucic had nine points and a plus-9 rating. Horton, who scored Boston's second goal, giving them some reason to hope a comeback was even possible, ended the series with seven points and a plus-11 rating.

It was understandable that Boston struggled in the deciding game, given that their defence corps was depleted by injuries. Andrew Ference missed the last two games of the series with injuries and Dennis Seidenberg played only 37 seconds in Game Seven before getting hurt. That left a lot of ice time for Zdeno Chara, who played 35:46 in the deciding game (raising his series average time on ice to 28:54 per game). Johnny Boychuk played 28:30 and Matt Bartkowski, an AHL call-up who played 6:40 when inserted into the lineup for Game Five, logged 24:51 and scored the game's opening goal.

Toronto built their lead on the strength of a couple Cody Franson goals. The defenceman also had a game-high eight hits, but he and defence partner Jake Gardiner finished minus-2 and were caught on the ice for a long shift leading up to the Bruins' winning goal.

While Toronto accomplished many things in this series, earning a measure of respect for being a tough out, RW Phil Kessel slayed the dragon of not scoring an even-strength goal against his former team. After a goal and an assist in Game Seven, Kessel finished the series with four goals, two assists and a plus-3 rating. Since the comparison must always be made, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton combined for one assist in the series.

C Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist with a plus-2 rating in the season finale, though he played a modest 13:57. As great as Kadri's season was, he struggled at times against the Bruins and his ice time was restricted, playing more than 15 minutes in a game only once in seven games.

LW James van Riemsdyk notched two assists in Game Seven, wrapping up a productive series, in which he led the Leafs with seven points in seven games.

Maple Leafs C Mikhail Grabovski was a fascinating study. He took a ton of physical abuse in the series, not shying away from Chara and Boychuk and playing 19:12 per game. But he was minus-3 in Game Seven, and finished the series at minus-10. The crazy part is that advanced stats show Grabovski was relatively (compared to his teammates) strong in the possession game. It's just hard to notice with two assists and a minus-10 rating in seven games.

The way the Maple Leafs lost, giving up two goals 31 seconds apart in the final ninety seconds to lose the lead, followed by the deciding goal in overtime, makes it challenging to see the positives. They were so close to having their ticket punched for the second round. But, in totality, the Leafs showed that they have the kind of skill to compete at a playoff level.

Before sitting back in the third period, when they were outshot 17-6 by a swarming Bruins team, the Leafs had gone into the Bruins' building and outshot Boston 20-13, stifling them entirely. There is still much room for improvement on the defensive side of the puck, as Toronto allowed 39.0 shots per game to the Bruins, the most of any team in the playoffs this year but, for a team that hadn't seen the playoffs in nine years, the Maple Leafs made noticeable progress. That's no guarantee that they are absolutely on the path to contending every year, but it's more than Toronto has had to hang their helmets on in some time.

As for the Bruins, they finished the season with a series of inconsistent efforts and only pushed back against Toronto at the last possible moment, when it appeared that Boston was on their way to blowing a 3-1 series lead. Now, the Bruins, hoping that their defence corps isn't completely decimated by injuries, prepare to face a similarly inconsistent New York Rangers team in the second round. Midway through the third period of Game Seven, that looked like a series the Bruins would be watching from the sidelines.

RANGERS TAKE CARE OF CAPITALS
For the first time in the series, the road team emerged victorious as the New York Rangers earned a 5-0 win in Game Seven against the Washington Capitals.

Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist recorded shutouts in Game Six and Seven, turning aside all 62 shots the Capitals sent his way in the last two games of the series. Lundqvist finished Round One with a .947 save percentage, just behind Chicago's Corey Crawford and Ottawa's Craig Anderson who were at .950 (Pittsburgh's Tomas Vokoun had a .957 SV% in two games).

True to form, the Rangers blocked 27 shots in the deciding game, compared to the Capitals' nine. For the series, however, Washington blocked 77 shots, most of any team in the playoffs, as the Rangers blocked 69 shots in the series.

With Lundqvist on top of his game, the Rangers managed to shut down Alexander Ovechkin, holding the Capitals' superstar winger to one goal and one assist in the series. Ovechkin recorded 30 shots on goal which, at 4.29 per game, which wasn't dramatically down from his regular season average of 4.58 per game, but he did manage just one shot on goal in Game Seven. Though he wasn't getting shots, Ovechkin tried to take over the game physically, registering 13 hits. He finished the first round with 34 hits, behind only Islanders LW Matt Martin (41), Rangers RW Ryan Callahan (35) and Maple Leafs D Dion Phaneuf (35).

While Ovechkin was held in check, so too were the Rangers' marquee performers. RW Rick Nash managed two assists in the series while C Brad Richards had one and was demoted to the fourth line due to his lack of production.

So, when the big guns weren't firing, the Blueshirts got the first goals of the playoffs from four players -- LW Taylor Pyatt, D Michael Del Zotto, Callahan and LW Mats Zuccarello, who had a team-leading five shots on goal and ended Round One with five points, second-best on the Rangers.

The Rangers' leading scorer was Derick Brassard, who added two more assists in Game Seven, giving him nine points, along with a plus-4 rating, for the series.

While the Rangers' supporting cast was coming up big, the Capitals had some players go through tough games. RW Eric Fehr and C Mike Ribeiro each took a minus-4 in the clinching game; RW Troy Brouwer and D Mike Green were minus-3.

Green, C Mathieu Perreault and RW Joel Ward led the Capitals with four points in the series, just not enough to get the job done.

Neither the Rangers nor the Capitals can feel elated about their overall play in the series, but the Rangers get to move on and see if they can build on this first-round win against the Bruins. In theory, it should be a good, competitive series, but that's only because, in theory, the Bruins and Rangers are supposed to be better than they've shown for large portions of this season. One of them will get a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Final.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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