"It’s just going to be a battle for first palce," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk
on Friday afternoon. "Obviously, both teams are doing well and we want to gauge ourselves.
"Both teams are going to want to see where they’re at. We haven’t played them all year, we’re the two [of the] top teams in the league and it will be a good test for us a good test for them.
"We want to see where we stand because we’ve both been playing extremely well," he said.
That, in a nutshell is what is facing the Black & Gold when the Broadway Blueshirts come a calling.
"I think we’re almost the same," said forward Daniel Paille
. "They have a couple of energy lines, a couple of skill lines – they definitely play four lines well.
"It should be an intense matchup. I would imagine the type of [game seen] here against Vancouver – high tempo, speed and a physical game."
The numbers bear that out.
New York comes in 29-12-4 with 62 points in 45 games played. Boston is 30-13-1, good for 61 points in 44 games. The B's are 6-4 in their last 10. The Rangers are 7-3. At home, the Black & Gold are 16-7-1 and as visitors the Blueshirts are 15-7-2.
"It’s going to be a great game I’m sure," said defenseman Zdeno Chara
. "They’re always good games, we always battle for those points and they’re playing really well – it’s going to be a tough game."
Chara is dead on. Last season the Bruins were 1-3-0 versus New York and scored only eight goals in those contests.
"They always battle hard – they always give your guys games they have to bring the physical element [to]," added the Bruins captain. "You have to be willing to work extremely hard, they play a grimey game and if you’re not ready, [not ready] emotionally, it’s not going to work so we have to be ready."
And even if the Bruins are ready, there's always New York's (likely) last line of defense - All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
"Yeah, he’s just really good," said Marchand. "He covers the net well and he’s quick and he always seems to be in the right position."
Does all of this position Rangers versus Bruins as a rivalry?
At one time, the B's and the Blueshirts were part of one of hockey's most heated matchups. Recently - not so much.
But maybe Marchand was looking into his crystal ball when he ansered, "It really depends, playoffs are a situation that sparks those rivalries.
"That’s why we’re rivals with Vancouver and Montreal – that’s when rivalries like that begin."