The math is simple and easy to understand. Should the Rangers lose one more game in this second-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, their season will come to an end and they will be eliminated from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Such is the state the Rangers find themselves in, trailing the Bruins 3-0 in this best-of-seven, with Game Four Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Only three times in the entire history of the National Hockey League has a team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game playoff series. One of the three teams that let a 3-0 lead slip away was the Boston Bruins. Back in the 2010 semifinals the Bruins, leading the Flyers three games to none, lost Game Four in overtime and proceeded to lose four straight in total---including Game Seven in which the Bruins actually held a 3-0 advantage before completely falling apart, losing, and being eliminated.
The last time the Rangers faced a 3-0 series deficit was during the 2008 semifinals against Pittsburgh. Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers shut out the Penguins 3-0 in Game Four that year, before losing the series in five games. The Rangers were most recently swept in the 2006 quarterfinals by the Devils. All-time the Rangers are 4-6 in Game Fours when facing a 3-0 series deficit.
Of course, all of those numbers and statistics mean nothing to John Totorella and his team. Tortorella has consistently maintained that the past is not relevant to what he and his team are trying to do in the present. And, according to the coach and his players, all the Blueshirts are looking to accomplish on Thursday is "to win a game and crawl back into this series."
The Rangers used the same mantra before Game Three, but they failed to come away with a victory, losing instead 2-1--- losing in regulation after holding a lead after two periods of play for the first time in 99 games, combining the regular season and post-season. That it came down to a blown third-period lead to lose Game Three was only because of Lundqvist's sensational play in the first two periods in which he made 23 saves, including a pair of saves on breakaways and a string on point-blank chances for the Bruins. Facing what amounted to a must-win game, the Rangers could not find a way to match all that Boston threw at them, and that must be a concern for the Blueshirts as they head in to a real "must-win" on Thursday.
Boston has outscored New York 10-5 so far in this series, getting production from the expected---Brad Marchand has two goals---and the unexpected---Johnny Boychuk has scored a pair, as has rookie defenseman Torey Krug, while the heroes of Game Three were fourth liners Daniel Paille (game-winning goal and assist) and Shawn Thornton (two assists). Even though the Rangers have held Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, and David Krejci in check, Boston has succeeded offensively through the production provided up and down their lineup.
On the other side of the ice, the Rangers have three goals in three games from Top Six forwards---with Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan all contributing a goal apiece---and not enough production from the rest of the lineup to off-set the lack of scoring up top---Taylor Pyatt and Ryan McDonagh have the other two goals. Of course it needs to be mentioned how the Rangers are oh-for-the series on the power play, and just 2-38 through the first ten games of the post-saeson. The Rangers have had ten power plays during this series, while Boston has had only five---and only one in the last two games combined.
Somehow the Rangers must find a way to make Tuukka Rask sweat a bit more between the pipes for Boston. The Finnish goalie alluded to the fact that he did not need to work so hard in order to backstop Tuesday's 2-1 victory.
On the injury front, Anton Stralman and Chris Kreider are questionable for Thursday's contest after suffering injuries in Game Three, while Ryane Clowe will remain out of the lineup, as likely will Marc Staal. Darroll Powe has been practicing for several days and might be a candidate to return from injury, especially if Kreider is unable to play. Should Stralman not be able to take part in Game Four, either Matt Gilroy or Roman Hamrlik would ge the call to play, unless somehow Staal was healthy enough to participate, though that is not likely.
Do the Rangers avoid the sweep and keep their season alive? Share your predictions below.