This past week, the Boston Bruins closed out the New York Rangers four games to one. While the scores were close on paper, Rangers all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist (5-7, .934 save percentage, 2.14 GAA), kept the Rangers from getting run out of the building.
At no time during the series, did I feel that the Bruins were ever in jeopardy of losing the series to the Rangers. Time and time again, Lundqvist was the Rangers best player on the ice and the reason the Rangers were able to keep the series from being a 4-0 series rout.
In the end, the Bruins outscored 16-10 and out shot the Rangers 187-167 for the series. Imagine the end result if another goalie has played in Lundqvist's stead?
For his efforts, the New York Rangers fired head coach John Tortorella on Wednesday.
In the end, the depth of the Boston Bruins wore down the Rangers. The Rangers had no answer to the Bruins fourth line. I know some people are sick of hearing about the Boston Bruins fourth line, known as the Merlot line, but they were the difference in the series against the New York Rangers. This should be a model for NHL teams going forward when they're putting teams together for a cup run.
During game three, the fourth line scored some big points; Shawn Thornton (0g-2a-2pts), Gregory Campbell (0g-1a-1pts), Daniel Paille (1g-1a-2pts). In game five, the Merlot line was big again; Gregory Campbell (2g-0a-2pts), Shawn Thornton (0g-1a-1pts), Daniel Paille (0g-1a-1pts).
Here's the stats for the Merlot line during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Shawn Thornton (0g-3a-3pts), Gregory Campbell (3g-2a-5pts), Daniel Paille (1g-3a-4pts). That's not a bad points total for a fourth line. Some hockey pundits have said that the Boston Bruins have the best fourth line in the NHL.
During their brief playoff run the Minnesota Wild's top forward line scored, Charlie Coyle (0g-2a-2pts), Zach Parise (1g-0-1pts), Mikko Koivu (0g-0a-0pts). While the Rangers aren't as good defensively as the Chicago Blackhawks, however, the Merlot line is paid a lot less and scored against a goalie that is statistically about the same as Corey Crawford (7.4, .935 save percentage, 1.78 GAA.).
So, the Wild either under performed, lack finishers, or both.
Again, the Blackhawks defense is a lot better than the Rangers, but Bruins forwards found a way to get to the blue paint against the Rangers. Something the Wild lacked at times this season. The Wild "might" need to go out and get a skilled forward or two with some grit.
There is a parallel between the Boston Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. I believe that the Minnesota Wild resemble the 2010 Boston Bruins before they won their Stanley Cup in 2011. While the Wild don't have a lot of "super stars" per se, they do have quite a few young players that ready to step forward and make a contribution. Boston won a Stanley Cup with bunch of second and third line players and really didn't have a super star other than a top flight unorthodox goalie.
The moral of the story is, you don't have to load up on expensive overpriced super stars, you just have to find talented players that buy into a system and get the job done. The Wild are on the cusp of being a great team, with the addition of the right pieces, could be going deep into the month of May and possibly June.