By Sarah Kwak
The Bruins are riding into the second round still high from the thrilling comeback they mounted in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Maple Leafs. The Rangers, meanwhile, silenced one of the league’s hottest offenses as they rode their Vezina Trophy-nominated goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, who posted Game 6 and 7 shutouts against the Capitals. On paper, these two teams do have a lot in common. They’re physical clubs that like to play all 200 feet; they have plenty of scoring talent, however inconsistent it can be, and superb goaltending. This should be a physical series with the potential for a goalie duel unless the offenses find ways to come to life.
Jan. 19: Bruins 3, Rangers 1
Jan. 23: Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (OT)
Feb. 12: Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (SO)
Rangers: D Marc Staal (eye, out indefinitely); LW Ryane Clowe (upper body, day-to-day); C Darroll Powe (upper body, day-to-day)
Bruins: D Dennis Seidenberg (lower body, day-to-day); D Andrew Ference (lower body, day-to-day); D Wade Redden (undisclosed, day-to-day)
New York’s keys to victory
The shotblocking Rangers appear willing to pay the price physically, and Lundqvist will almost certainly be solid in net, giving New York a chance to win every night. But the Blueshirts are going to need more offense from their top skilled players. Rick Nash, New York’s leading regular-season goal scorer, did not tally against the Capitals and produced only two assists in the seven games. Against the likes of Boston’s gigantic defenseman Zdeno Chara, Nash’s job will not be any easier in this round. Brad Richards (one goal) practically vanished onto the fourth line, and winger Ryan Callahan (3 points) was quiet while newcomers Derick Brassard (two goals, seven assists) and Mats Zuccarello (five points) were more productive. If the Rangers’ five-goal outburst in Game 7 was a sign of an awakening, and if they can jump-start a power play that went 2-for-28 versus the Caps, they’ll have a chance to squeeze by in what should be a tight, punishing series.
Boston’s keys to victory
In the first round, the Bruins were largely carried offensively by center David Krejci and linemates Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, two sizable figures with plenty of skill. But to get past the Rangers, who have demonstrated their ability to shut down a top line, Boston will need other players to revive their games. Brad Marchand, who played such a pivotal role in the Bruins’ march to the Stanley Cup two years ago, must regain his perfectly pesky form, and Tyler Seguin, who managed just one assist against Toronto despite launching 29 shots, could be a difference-maker.
Lucic, the hulking winger, has emerged from his funk after a poor regular season. He was a force in Game 7, intimidating Toronto with his dominating presence. If he can bring that same determined attitude, his blend of size (6-foot-3, 228 pounds), physicality and skill should give Boston an edge that New York will have trouble handling. And coming off that first-round series, and particularly that last game, Lucic is likely bursting with confidence.
Point to ponder
These two teams last played each other in February (New York needed an OT and a shootout to take the season series, 2-1), but the last time these Original Six franchises met in postseason play was 1973, when New York’s current GM, Glen Sather, was a winger for the Rangers and Bruins greybeard Jaromir Jagr was just one year old.
Boston in six: So long as the defense is reasonably healthy (and that appears to be a bit of an if going into Game 1), the Bruins should prevail, as they have more depth to their attack than the Rangers. Lundqvist will make the series interesting, but the big B’s will wear down the Rangers over the course of the series.