The building was abuzz with anticipation as the Jagr and Shanahan led New York Rangers entered the building during morning skate.
At first glance, it looked as if the New Yorkers had brought a lot of their own media with them to the Garden, but then, looking closer, it was clear that more Boston media than usual had shown up for the warm-up session.
Perhaps they are anticipating a critical moment in the season this evening?
As such, several television cameras recorded the proceedings as the two teams, separated by only two points in the Eastern Conference Playoff standings, loosened their muscles for this evening’s playoff-type game.
"We’ve played better games in the last couple of games," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas
. "(However) Ottawa’s really been able to shut us down defensively.
"Overall we have played better, but there are still things that we can (improve) on.
"(But) it hasn’t been terrible," he said.
That being said, the Rangers have a similar skill set in comparison to the Senators, and although many people in the Bruins locker room have seen improvement in the team’s play, something has got to give this evening.
"This is the NHL," said Thomas. "It’s the best players in the world, the best teams in the world and maybe the best player in the world in Jagr over there (in the New York locker room).
"So, it doesn’t get any easier, but it’s something we have to do every night and we’ve been able to come out on top a lot of times this year."
Tonight is the third of four games between these teams this season and the first of two games of this season’s series at the TD Banknorth Garden and the Bruins are 22-21-4 overall this season with a 14-9-2 record on home ice.
The Rangers are 24-21-4 overall this season with a 14-11-1 record on the road. The Bruins are 4-3-1 this season vs. Atlantic Division teams and are 19-20-2 overall against Eastern Conference opponents.
The Rangers are 4-4-3 this season vs. Northeast Division teams and are 20-19-4 overall against Eastern Conference foes.
In one of the oldest, and at one time, one of the more heated rivalries in the NHL, the Bruins are 276-229-97-3 lifetime vs. New York with a 1939-1763 scoring edge in 605 total games. On home ice, the Bruins are 160-95-42-3 all-time vs. the Rangers with a 1081-841 scoring advantage in those 300 contests.
The Rangers won the first game of this season’s series with a 3-1 victory in New York on Jan. 13.
Bruins Head Coach Dave Lewis is looking for action -- immediately.
"It doesn’t matter what you do at practice," he said, answering a question about improvement via practice. "It’s just about points now for us.
"It doesn’t matter how you get them.
"There are certain things you have to do to win hockey games and we didn’t do it in Ottawa, so hopefully we can do it tonight," said Lewis.
Pressed for more, Coach let it fly.
"Right now it’s important for leadership and…the character of some individuals to take the forefront," said Lewis. "And, if nothing else, to say ’Come and follow me.’
"I’m waiting to see if that happens.
"This is the time of year when you need that," he said, in conclusion.
But apparently the time for talking about problems is over.
"Just because you talk to somebody doesn’t mean that (whatever the issue may be) is going to change," said Coach. "There’s so many factors that have to go into it.
"Nobody wants to struggle and not play well, and sometimes it’s up to the individual to find the route and get back on (track)."
The newest member of the Bruins seemed to have the best remedy for the hockey club.
"I think the biggest thing when teams are struggling…is for guys to play their role," said Bobby Allen. "That’s probably the most important part (of turning it around).
"Guys are here for a reason and if they go out and do their own job, individually, the whole team collectively, is going to play better.
"For me personally, it means just going out, logging minutes when the coaching staff needs me and filling in minutes for the top four guys -- playing as safe and sound as possible," he said.
Well said, Bobby. Well said.
As far as lineups go, tonight the Bruins will ice the same lines and personnel as they did on Saturday versus Ottawa.
That should be:
ForwardsAxelsson - Savard - Murray
Sturm - Bergeron - Chistov
Hoggan - Primeau - Donovan
Mowers - Boyes - Kessel
DefenseChara - Alberts
Stuart - Mara
Allen - JurcinaThomas
in net.A little levity
Coach Lewis was seen wearing his "Rubber Biscuit" t-shirt. NESN’s Rob Simpson was not around to enjoy the usage of his SWAG and was said to be filming in Canada with Versus in the house tonight.And one more thing…
Sincere congratulations and thanks go out to Ken Dryden who, tonight, will be only the second goalie to ever have his number (29) retired by the Montreal Canadiens. Dryden’s book, The Game
, inspired me to pursue writing as a vocation, and writing about hockey as my avocation. While many consider The Game
to be the best book written about hockey, I would consider it my favorite book. Period. By the way, Dryden has some wonderful things to say about Boston, as a city, and the Bruins, as a team, in his volume, which is worth a read by any hockey fan.