Bruins defensemen Torey Krug (left) and Adam McQuaid battle Rangers forward Brian Boyle during Sunday's game at TD Garden. (AP)
NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Bruins’ strong start to their series against the Rangers. Boston holds a 2-0 series lead following Sunday’s 5-2 victory.
The Bruins have been rejuvenated by the play of young defensemen Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton.
“I think right now they’re showing some signs of [being a better team with the rookies], just because of the element that these three young kids have brought, which is mobility, speed, I think right now playing with a lack of fear, a lot of confidence,” Pederson said. “But you can really see it, to me, from their offensive side. What I mean by that, a lot of times throughout the year when the offense has been struggling, everybody always points at the forwards. And vice versa, when the defensive game is struggling, everybody always point to the defense. I’ve always been a firm believer that your defense creates your offense, and your forwards create your defense.
“So, these guys are doing a really good job, to me, by jumping into plays, recognizing when there are outnumbered opportunities to make it a three-on-two, a four-on-three. Hamilton did a good job of that yesterday as well as Bartkowski and Krug. For now they’re doing I think a really good job of creating some offense and … they are bringing a little bit of speed and mobility that maybe the Bruins have not had back there in a while.”
With the strong play by the rookies, it’s led to a discussion about what coach Claude Julien will do if and when injured veterans Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden are ready to return. Pederson said he does not anticipate a problem in the locker room.
“The guys recognize what this is all about, is trying to win hockey games,” he said. “It’s one of those problems that you love to have. … You can never have enough good, young defensemen, because they’re first of all hard to come by. And it’s a situation where these guys right now are playing this way. We’ll see how things go when you go into a more hostile environment in New York.”
Added Pederson: “I think if I had to look at how I would rank them, the rookies being taken out, starting with the first guy, I would probably take a look at Hamilton, it would probably go Krug, and then last would be Bartkowski to be removed from the lineup when and if they came back.
“If Redden was the first guy back, I’m not so sure if I would make a move quite yet. These guys have, I think, kind of earned an opportunity to continue. If it was Dennis Seidenberg who was healthy, there’s no doubt that he’s coming back immediately. I just don’t get a sense with Ference that he’s even that close, but again we don’t know anything about the injuries, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
While most of the focus is on the rookie defensemen, Pederson noted there were a couple of other players on the back side who came through as well Sunday.
“I think there was some crucial part of the hockey game last night where Tuukka Rask, in particular in that second period, was spectacular,” Pederson said. “He had 16 saves. I don’t think he stole the game yesterday, but I thought he stole that period yesterday and allowed the Bruins to have that 3-2 lead going in, and then they of course blew it wide open in the third period.
“As we’re talking about defense, we gave a shout-out yesterday which I think is well-warranted, is not only the three young defensemen, I thought Adam McQuaid played exceptionally yesterday. He really was physical, he keeps it simple offensively, he makes good decisions defensively. He’s a guy that you do not want to go in the front of the net with because he’ll punish you, he’ll make it very difficult; he tries to let Tuukka see the puck. So, it was a total team effort yesterday.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
On Henrik Lundqvist’s struggles: “He may be a tad tired. He’s played so much down the year, and especially this year in particular where you’re playing every second night. That may have something to do with it, a little bit of fatigue. I think you have to give the Bruins a lot of credit, making it difficult, and the defense, again, getting involved in the offense.
“I think the other thing that’s pretty evident, to me watching the game, is in the style that the Rangers play, shot-blocking is at a premium. Well, that’s great if you block the shot. If you don’t block the shot, you make it very, very difficult for your goaltender to see — little deflections off guys’ skates, off guys’ legs, he’s expecting it to go to the left, it goes to the right, his momentum’s carrying different ways.
“So, there’s a lot of things that are happening. But I think for the most part it’s more of the pressure that the Bruins are playing and putting at the Rangers.”
On outspoken Rangers coach John Tortorella: “John’s an accountable guy. He’s a lot like Claude’s system. As you look at the coaches and teams that continue to make it with each round here, there’s an overwhelming theme, and a lot of it is accountability and responsibility. I also think a lot of this with Torts is kind of self-imposed, where I think he tries to take a lot of pressure off his team by making him the focal point. It’s almost kind of a bit of a game with him, and he’s very good at it, and very enjoyable to watch. I get a kick out of him a little bit. … I don’t think there’s a problem. As long as you’re winning, that takes over a lot of problems.”
On Games 3 and 4 in New York: “Now you’re going to be going into a hostile environment. It will be interesting to see how everybody handles everything. The other key that’s going to be very important here going into this environment is that you want as a forward group, you can’t turn the puck over. The Bruins got very lucky early in that game yesterday and early in the second period, where they had numerous turnovers in those gray areas that we call at the top of the faceoff circles and the blue lines. [Brad] Marchand, for example, on that [Ryan] Callahan goal, you’ve got to get that thing deep, you’ve got to give your defense a chance. It’s a situation where the Bruins have got areas they can improve on and take their game to the next level as well.”