BostonBruins.com - Both the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers are built from the back end out, with defensive-minded systems.
Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist serve as the anchors for their teams between the pipes.
While Rask didn't put up the flashiest numbers in the first round - a 2.49 goals-against average and .932 save percentage - he made the key saves. And aside from breakaways, he stopped the pucks that he saw.
Therein lies the key to getting past the opposing netminder, Lundqvist, who put up two shutouts in the Rangers' final two games of their seven-game series with Washington and recorded a .947 save percentage, with a 1.65 goals-against average.
The New York goaltender, like Rask, stops the pucks he sees. And the ones he doesn't see, his troop of Rangers in front of him block.
The Blueshirts blocked a league-high 161 shots in the first round (the Bruins blocked 92).
For the Bruins, the focus will be not only on getting pucks to the net and past the Rangers in front of Lundqvist, but also to create traffic and cause havoc. You often hear the phrase, "get your nose dirty" in hockey and that's what Boston has to do, a la David Krejci's "crashing the net" goal from Game Four in Toronto - or, the Bruins' final four goals in their Game Seven comeback win.
Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli saw the trend.
"You’re talking traffic; we’ve been preaching traffic, Claude [Julien] and his staff, preaching traffic," said the B's GM.
"[Nathan Horton's goal] was traffic by net drive with Krech, right? Looch throws it back through the traffic, there’s confusion. Bergy’s tying one was traffic, Zee in front, right? And then the winning one with Segs - traffic."
"Net-front presence is all we talked about the whole series behind close doors. Net-front traffic. We saw that."
"Everyone knows how good of a goalie he is, and to score you need to get to the net, you need traffic," said Horton, of facing Lundqvist. "In this league, that’s no different. He’s definitely a great goalie, and we’ve played against him a lot. It’s going to be a tough battle, obviously, but that’s why we need to get to the net and find the rebounds and score a lot of dirty goals on him because he makes a lot of dirty saves."
For the past two days, the Bruins have quipped that the way to solve Lundqvist is to "get pucks past him," but the key also lies in getting pucks past the wall in front of him.
"Got to find ways to get pucks to the net. Just got to keep your head up when you’re shooting," said Coach Julien, on the strategy that sounds much easier than it is.
"They’re going to block shots no matter what. We just got to do the best we can do get them on net. When they don’t, well, they can block them and what can I do?"
"As a team, you’re going to get some shots blocked because they like doing it. We’re just going to do our best to get them through and make sure they get to the net, and hopefully get some net-front traffic. That’s going to make things a little tougher for their goaltender, that’s not a secret."
"I don’t think it’s a big secret to know that they got a pretty good goaltender, and that traffic in front of the net is going to be something we’re going to want to do a lot," Julien said. "We know by listening to Washington that it seemed to be a bit of an issue, trying to get there. We’re going to have to work hard at making that happen."
The Bruins' defensemen will have to play a significant role in getting pucks to the net from the blueline - or at least keeping them in the zone.
"You just have to get it through; you can’t get it blocked," blueliner Johnny Boychuk said, matter-of-factly. "If they have a good play, you've to make sure to get it past them or put it back down to create the offensive and keep it in their zone rather than get it blocked and go back and spend time in your zone."
"It's about finding different ways. Definitely try to fake some shots, but at the same time, it's just, create our chances, create some havoc in front of Lundqvist and get to the loose pucks, get to the rebounds," said Patrice Bergeron. "We know it's part of the game, they will block some shots. It's about fighting through it."
But it must be frustrating to play against a team with that mindset, right?
"Nope," remarked David Krejci (cracking a smile), not too dismayed by the challenge that lies ahead.
"We haven't started one game yet, so question me, maybe, after the series."