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Five reasons Rangers were eliminated from playoffs

by Dan Rosen

BOSTON -- The New York Rangers were considered preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They won't even get a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Their run in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs ended Saturday night with a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. The Rangers lost the series in five games after needing seven to beat the Washington Capitals and a late-season surge to simply get into the playoffs.

They did not live up to expectations at any point in the season, but why did they lose in five games to the Bruins?

Here are five reasons:

1. Pushback problems

When the Bruins surged, the Rangers didn't respond. It was the story of the series.

The Bruins' first noticeable surge came in overtime of Game 1, when they were all over the Rangers and peppered Henrik Lundqvist with 16 shots. Lundqvist stopped the first 15, but the Bruins finally got one past him off the rush for a 3-2 victory.

The Rangers had no answer, no chance. It was an onslaught, and coach John Tortorella accurately said his team got "spanked."

The problem is the Rangers also didn't have an answer for the Bruins' surges in Game 2, when they scored the final three goals and won the game 5-2. They had nothing to offer in Game 3, when Boston's fourth line took over to tie the game early in the third period and win it late on a Daniel Paille goal.

It took a fluke goal midway through Game 4 for the Rangers to get back in that game. Once it got to overtime, the Bruins took over again, but Lundqvist bailed out the Rangers with seven saves, including five during a three-minute span, before Chris Kreider won it with a redirection goal off the rush.

But it was more of the same in Game 5. New York got up 1-0, but Boston came out flying in the second period and never looked back.

2. Slow starters

If there is one element of the series Tortorella will lament throughout the offseason, it's how the Rangers started the series.

He felt they were slow and they didn't ramp up their energy and desperation to the levels necessary to win in the second round of the playoffs. It showed in overtime of Game 1 and throughout Games 2 and 3.

The Rangers didn't aggressively forecheck. They didn't push back when the Bruins pushed them. Their desperation level was lacking even early in Game 4, when they were facing elimination. It took a gaffe by Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to give them life.

"There was never a lack of effort with the club," Tortorella said. "At the beginning of the series, I just thought there was a lack of awareness, how high you have to be as you go into the second round with your level of play. As we went on I thought we got better. I thought we got better the last two games. But, you know, we're out and they're in."

3. Nothing special about these teams

It's hard to win a series when you can't handle the opposition's surges, you can't consistently forecheck and your special teams fire blanks.

The Rangers' power-play problems were well documented throughout the playoffs, but their penalty-killers were just as guilty against the Bruins. Boston outscored New York 4-2 in the special teams' game, making a big difference in the 4-1 series victory.

New York didn't get a power-play goal until 10 minutes were left in regulation of Game 4. The Bruins already had two in that game and three in the series.

The Rangers were 1-for-2 on the power play in Game 5, but again, too little too late. And it didn't matter because Bruins rookie defenseman Torey Krug scored a power-play goal to tie the game in the second period.

New York finished the postseason 4-for-44 on the power play, including 0-for-3 while skating 5-on-3. The Bruins went 4-for-12 on the power play against the Rangers.

4. Injuries and depth

Had defenseman Marc Staal and forward Ryane Clowe been healthy, the story might have been different for the Rangers. Staal sat out the entire series with his eye injury, and Clowe didn't play at all because of an undisclosed injury that's believed to be a concussion.

Marc Staal
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 0 | +/-: -1
"I'm not going to use it as an excuse, but we don't have, say, our [Milan] Lucic in Clowe and we don't have our [Zdeno] Chara in Staal," Tortorella said. "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 that as an excuse, but it hurts. It hurt our depth."

No, it crushed the Rangers' depth, especially when you factor in the late-series injury to defenseman Anton Stralman and the lack of everything the Rangers got from center Brad Richards before he was scratched starting with Game 4.

Gregory Campbell scored the winning goal in Game 5 with Roman Hamrlik, Steve Eminger, Kris Newbury, Micheal Haley and Derek Dorsett on the ice. Hamrlik, Newbury and Haley didn't play in the first three games. Eminger was playing because Staal couldn't.

Making matters worse is the Rangers didn't have their top players step up to produce. Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan each scored one goal.

5. Outshone by the rookies

The Rangers couldn't turn Boston's inexperience on the blue line into an advantage. They have only themselves to blame.

It was fair to at least assume, if not come close to guarantee, that the Rangers would be able to intimidate Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton -- the three rookie defensemen who replaced Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden on the Bruins' blue line for Games 1-4.

But you know what they say about assuming -- and guarantees rarely work in sports.

Krug, who never played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game before this series, was an offensive juggernaut with four goals. He walked the blue line with confidence and never once looked out of place. The Rangers put him on his back perhaps twice in the entire series. They weren't physical with him. They were outclassed by him.

Bartkowski showed why Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster wanted him in the Jarome Iginla trade that never happened. He was a solid and played a strong two-way game, enough for Boston coach Claude Julien to use him for more than 20 minutes per game, including 26:42 in Game 1.

Hamilton wasn't as spectacular as Krug or as solid as Bartkowski, which is why he was scratched in favor of Seidenberg for Game 5. However, with Zdeno Chara as his defense partner, Hamilton didn't have to be special. He had three assists, including one on Krug's tying goal in Game 1 and another on Tyler Seguin's go-ahead goal in Game 4.

"It's funny how it works, huh?" Tortorella said. "You get worried about this, that and the other thing, and especially the kid there, Krug, they got a lot of offense from their back end. That was another difference in our series, getting offense from the back end, and he led the way. It's funny how it works as guys come into lineups."


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