By Steve Silverman
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The Boston Bruins know more about the dangers of having a big lead in a playoff series than most teams.
In 2010, they had a 3-0 lead on the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the playoffs and dropped the next four, becoming the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead.
That loss was especially painful for the Bruins, since they also had a 3-0 lead in the seventh game and blew that as well.
In this season’s first round, Boston had a 3-1 lead against Toronto. The Bruins dropped the fifth and sixth games and trailed 4-1 in the third period with less than 11 minutes to play until they rallied to tie the game and win it in overtime.
They know a lead can be tenuous, and they know how remarkable Henrik Lundqvist can be in goal for the Rangers. It would be wrong to expect any let-up in Game 4 from the Bruins.
But the Rangers are a different story. Are they going to come with a maximum effort that would allow them to win and extend the series to five games?
Based on what they have shown through the first three games, the answer is a loud and resounding no.
They have been outskated, outhit, outworked and outplayed by the Bruins.
At the start of the series last week, these two teams seemed to be the equal of each other. The Bruins might have had a slight edge on offense, while the Rangers appeared to have the better defense, especially when the Bruins’ injuries on the blue line were factored in.
The Bruins had the home-ice advantage, but the Rangers had Lundqvist. That gave them an edge in goal. Tuukka Rask is an excellent goalie for the Bruins, but he’s not better than Lundqvist.
This had the look of a seven-game series.
But it has not played out that way.
Much of this will fall on John Tortorella. For a coach who doesn’t like to talk to the media, he certainly threw himself and one of his players under the bus prior to the second game of the series when he told the world that speedy and hard-working Carl Hagelin “stinks” on the power play.
In his moment of desperation, Tortorella has decided to bench Brad Richards for Game 4. Richards struggled during the regular season and he has just one goal in the team’s 10 playoff games. That’s his only playoff point.
Richards is one of the team’s leaders, and by benching him Tortorella has announced that he is to blame for the deficit that the team faces.
Tortorella felt that he had to do something dramatic to get his team’s attention.
He has done that. But it does not necessarily mean that the move will help his team reverse its current form and get back into the series.
In singling out Hagelin and benching Richards, Tortorella is putting the blame on his players. If ever there’s a need to keep his team together, it’s as his team has reached the crisis point.
Tortorella is as demanding as they come in the coaching business, no matter what professional sport is being discussed.
But instead of bringing his team together when the season is on the line, he is splintering it.
Tortorella is writing his own epitaph. Unless his defining messages bring about a miracle, he seems to be in his final days of coaching a team that has been a heartbreaking disappointment each of the last two playoff years.
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