Boston Bruins: Have They Exorcised Their Henrik Lundqvist-NY Rangers Demon?

Al DanielCorrespondent IIFebruary 13, 2013

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 19: Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers just misses a save that resulted in a goal by the Boston Bruins in the second period during the season opener game on January 19, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Never until the climactic phases of regulation Tuesday night had the Boston Bruins scored three goals on Henrik Lundqvist in three different installments of the same season series.

When Brad Marchand smuggled home the equalizer for a 3-3 regulation tie (eventual 4-3 shootout loss), he did more than ensure another three-goal night at the expense of the otherworldly New York Rangers netminder. He assured Boston a point in each edition of its season series with the Rangers for the first time since 2007-08.

Granted, 2012-13 is an anomaly with a 48-game itinerary and only three tilts as opposed to the usual four versus the Blueshirts. But with the shootout decision following an identical 4-3 overtime settlement at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 23 and a 3-1 opening night triumph, the Bruins split the eight points that were cultivated in this season series.

In turn, from a pure-data standpoint, this was the franchise’s best performance against Lundqvist and company since its first two years under head coach Claude Julien. New York had surrendered no more than three points to Boston while claiming six for itself in each of the three intervening campaigns.

Prior to that, Julien’s inaugural year in 2007-08 saw his pupils win the four-game set, 3-0-1, thus reaping seven points while the Rangers nabbed four. A 2-1-1 upshot in 2008-09 granted Boston five points en route to a total of 116 for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Upon further dissection, despite mustering only one win and 50 percent of the loot in the standings, there is evidence that this season was the club’s most productive Rangers raid in the Julien era.

Discounting shootout strikes, the Bruins put six biscuits behind Lundqvist in 2007-08, which featured each party winning a one-on-one round after battling to a couple of scoreless, 65-minute draws. They subsisted on seven strikes to raise the 2-1-1 upper hand the following year, which was highlighted by two 1-0 wins at home.

Remember that those were each in a span of four meetings as opposed to the nine lamp-lighters in three encounters this shortened season.

Naturally, one will glance at Lundqvist’s stats through this first month of the 2012-13 campaign and be skeptical about any meaning to the slightly reversed trend. But after digging beneath the records and into the game logs, go a little further into the box scores and consider the fashion in which Boston has reached that unlikely third tally.

The two regulation ties are the only two times the Bruins have trailed after the first period in their first 11 outings. They are now 2-0-2 when trailing going into the second intermission, and at Tuesday’s 40-minute mark, they had a 2-0 pothole to fill, just as they did at the first intermission during their visit to Manhattan.

By outdueling Tuukka Rask in Tuesday’s shootout, Lundqvist ensured that his team improved to an identical 5-0-0 record when leading after the first and second period.

Out of those five occasions, and out of seven wins overall, the only two times the Rangers have needed to keep plugging beyond the standard 60-minute slot has been when these Bruins are the adversary.

The 2-0 difference at the start of the second period on Jan. 23 and the eventual 3-0 discrepancy augmented by Anton Stralman at 2:07 of Tuesday’s closing frame are the only multi-goal leads the Rangers have let slip.

Who was the seemingly vanquished opponent to delete both of those deficits? Boston, which has generally limited itself to soccer-type scores through the first quarter of the season. The Bruins have put only one or two pucks behind a contesting crease patroller in six of their first 11 games.

But save for a single regulation loss, when they ironically spilled a 4-3 lead en route to a 7-4 falter against Buffalo, the Boston strike force has perked up when needed. Lundqvist and the Rangers have been the ones safeguarding the multi-goal edge in both of those instances.

By no means is this a sign that the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has relinquished his form. Nor should Boston want to keep falling into the same pattern of digging out of a multi-goal ditch against this team or any other opponent.

In the event of a postseason encounter, Lundqvist could still steal the series. The critical difference now is that, with their output in the regular season, the Bruins have downgraded that scenario from a probability to a possibility.