Who Ya Got?
THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD
By losing Game 5 at home on Wednesday, the Knicks squandered their best opportunity to close out the Celtics in their first-round playoff series, and, as a result, Boston has put itself in fine position to make NBA history. The Celtics, now only down 3-2 after facing a 0-3 hole, still have plenty of work ahead of them, but the outlook is significantly brighter than it was a few days ago.
Within the friendlier confines of the TD Garden, there's no question Boston will look to deliver an early knockout punch in Friday's Game 6. If the Celtics can knot the series at three games apiece, all of the pressure (and we mean ALL of it) shifts to New York. The Knicks would be firmly on their heels at that point (if they are not already), and the wave of confidence the Celtics would be riding would virtually outweigh any home-court advantage the Knicks might have otherwise had in Game 7.
Even more important for the Celtics than any comparisons to the 2004 Red Sox or talk of making NBA history -- no team has ever rallied from a 0-3 hole (don't know if you heard) -- is the simple fact they're finally exhibiting better execution on the offensive end of the floor. Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and even Jeff Green are starting to make their open shots, which was one of Boston's biggest issues in the first three games. When you combine that improvement in execution with the stubbornness, pride and grit the Celtics have displayed over the past several days, you get a winning formula -- one Boston will utilize to successfully make the comeback and win this series.
MOMENTUM WILL CARRY OVER
After the Bruins' historic comeback in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Maple Leafs, there are plenty of reasons to believe they'll build off that momentum in the next round against the Rangers.
In other words, I believe the Bruins will win this series.
Probably in six or seven games.
Boston netted three goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation by playing an aggressive style of hockey against the Leafs in Game 7. It was as if this Jekyll and Hyde team was finally starting to buy into that style of play. Can that carry over?
It's amazing how a performance like this energizes a team and fills a dressing room with confidence. The Bruins couldn't be riding any higher going into this series.
But that's not to say it's going to be a cakewalk against the Rangers. The Bruins are dealing with injuries to a couple of key defensemen -- Dennis Seidenberg (undisclosed injury) and Andrew Ference (lower-body injury). If they miss significant time in this series, the Bruins' odds of advancing take a dive.
No doubt it's going to be an exciting and physical series between these two Original Six teams. Goaltending will be huge, as the Bruins' Tuukka Rask and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist will attempt to backstop their respective teams to victory.
Both played great hockey in the first round. Lundqvist had two shutouts against the Capitals and had a 1.65 GAA in the series. Rask had a 2.49 GAA and two overtime wins.
In the end, you have to give the edge to the Bruins.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.