Even with Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay snowed out, the Bruins still sit at second place in the East, just one point behind the Devils. With only ten games played, the team boasts the highest winning percentage in the conference, and trail only the Devils and Blackhawks for the best record in the NHL. The Rangers and Bruins have historically saved their best for one another, no matter where either team is in the standings. Tonight should be no different, as the Bruins look to replicate their opening night success against New York, and continue their hot start.
1) Is this game a potential 1st round playoff preview?
If the season started in the next week, the odds of these two teams playing one another would be very high. Looking at the Rangers roster, especially their top six forwards it’s hard to imagine how this team is struggling to stay in the playoff hunt. Before the start of the season, the Rangers were a popular pick by countless pundits to bring the city its first Stanley Cup in nearly ten years. Despite the Rangers history of bringing in over-priced and past their prime talent, John Tortarella has proved in the last two years to be the great equalizer that can right this highly paid and highly talented ship. Given the level of talent and coaching, it seems to be a only a matter of when not if these two clubs get together in the postseason. Unlike the Bruins however, the collective age of their teams top talent (Richards, Gaborik, and even Nash), the Rangers window to contend for a title is closing, thus creating a greater sense of urgency. Simply put, playing this team in the first round would not be a very unfortunate draw for the Bruins.
2) Will the New York teams take their toll on the Bruins?
Given the bad blood between the Sabres and the Bruins, as well as the traditional Rangers/Bruins rivalry, three straight games against these two should be considered far from ideal. After the way the first two games against Buffalo have gone, it should be fair to assume that each matchup with the Sabres will be less about skill and more about survival (just ask Sean Thorton). Whether tonight’s game is media driven or not, does not change the fact that the last few years of this series have been one-goal games. Even though the Bruins have two days off before their Friday matchup with a scorching hot Thomas Vanek led Sabres, the B’s can’t look ahead if they hope to keep pace with the Devils. Since the schedule is so defunct, this is the last time B’s and blueshirts play this season, which means you might have to wait until next fall until they meet up again. Just don’t hold your breath.
3) Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Which Team Actually has the Worse Power-Play?
Boston fans may find it shocking, but the Rangers actually have a worse power-play than the Bruins (by .3 percent). The fact that both of these teams have converted a mere ten percent of their power-plays is should be of enormous concern. The 2nd game of Brad Marchand’s return from injury should added an element of toughness to a unit that has certainly lacked the will to put the puck in the back of the net. While facing Henrik Lundquist is certainly no picnic, the Swedish goaltender should provide the Bruins a good test to improve their unit against quality competition, and fill in the only question mark to what has been a very complete team. Look for whichever team wins the special-teams battle to pick up 2 points tonight at the Garden.
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