BostonBruins.com – Both the Bruins and New York Rangers are coming off of Game 7 victories in their first round series. The B’s, of course, needing a comeback for the ages to take down the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the Blue Shirts handled business on the road, blanking the Washington Capitals, 5-0.
The two Original Six rivals will meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting on Thursday night at TD Garden, marking their first playoff match-up since the 1973 NHL Quarterfinals (the Rangers won in five games), in a rematch coming after the Bruins took the 1972 Cup from New York. Now, it appears the rivalry might be renewed.
“It's the first time for me since I've been here,” said B’s assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. “I've been here for 10 years, so it's been a long time. It's going to be fun, it's going to be interesting, obviously, there's some big rivalries with football and baseball.
“In hockey, I don't think it's any different, it's always tough games against them. We're expecting the same thing. They're a good team, it's going to be tough, we're going to have to fight for every inch.”
The teams are extremely similar, both preaching defense first and displaying top-tier goaltending. Offensively, each team has the potential for explosiveness, but neither were at the top of the league in goals per game (Boston with 2.65, New York with 2.62).
“I think throughout the past couple of years we have the same type of team,” said Bergeron, “that plays solid defense and are hard to play against, block a lot of shots and all that. We know that we're going to have to fight to get to the front and fight to get our chances and make sure that we do that.”
In addition to having stellar goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, who is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, the Rangers block an enormous amount of shots (they blocked 27 in Game 7 against Washington, to the Capitals 9, and led the first round with 161 total blocked shots). The Bruins know they must be patient when firing shots towards the net.
“That’s what they want to do,” said Julien of the Rangers blocking shots. “It’s served them well. It’s got them where they are right now, so I think the main thing for us is to know that they’re going to do that and how we react to them blocking shots.
“We have to keep our heads up and make sure that we don’t bury our heads up when we’re shooting pucks. We’re going to have to work extra hard to get those pucks through and then get them to reach the net.”
“It's about finding different ways,” added Bergeron. “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. We know it's part of the game, they will block some shots. It's about fighting through it.
Jaromir Jagr is the only member of either team to be born the last time these two squads met in the postseason and is the only current Bruin to have played for the Rangers and Lundqvist.
“He's just good,” said Jagr. “He has talent, he's just a good goalie. Never studied the goalie position, never been a goalie coach, so I don't why he is good, but he's good. He's gets most of the puck. It's always tough to score on him, he doesn't make many mistakes.
“He's always been like that, even when I was there, he was the most important player.”
Original Six Rivalry
Over the course of their storied histories, the Rangers and Bruins have met nine times in the postseason, the first coming in the 1927 semifinals. The two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Final twice, in 1929 and 1972, with the Bruins winning the both series (2-0 in 1929 and 4-2 in 1972).
Overall, the Bruins have won six of the all-time postseason series and are 22-18-2 in 42 postseason games against New York. They have outscored them 114-104.
“It’s another opportunity to be a part of a special kind of rivalry,” said Milan Lucic of the Boston-New York sports rivalry. “I’ve been a part of Montreal-Boston, and this year Toronto-Boston, Original Six, and now another original Six series.
“There’s so much more when we’re talking New York-Boston because of the sports history between the two. Obviously, with the last two Super Bowls with the Giants and the Patriots. Red Sox-Yankees speaks for itself, and this year with the Celtics and the Knicks; it was definitely a hard-fought series.
“Once again, it’s an opportunity to be a part of something special, and you definitely want to do everything you can to make the most of it.”
It has been quite some time since the B’s and Rangers have met in the regular season, as well. The teams completed their season series on February 12, playing all three of their meetings just about three weeks into the shortened 48-game season.
Since that time, the Rangers have transformed. At the trade deadline, New York traded one of their most dynamic players, Marian Gaborik, to the Columbus Blue Jackets, in exchange for right wing Derek Dorsett, center Derick Brassard, defenseman John Moore, and a 2014 sixth-round pick.
Brassard has been a force in the postseason, leading the Rangers with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the first round series against Washington. The next leading scorer for New York is Matts Zuccarello with five points (one goal, four assists).
“I think they tried to, I guess, bring a team, an identity that was a little bit closer to last year,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien after his team’s practice Wednesday afternoon. “They lost guys like [Brandon] Prust and [Mike] Rupp and some of those other guys. I think they went and got the [Darroll] Powe’s and obviously the [Ryan] Clowe’s and Dorsett’s.
“They really like the grittiness of their team and the work ethic of their team. I think they tried to reestablish that identity and obviously it’s worked for them, as I mentioned earlier.
“We’re going to get a little bit more of that, but they didn’t lose the Nash’s and the Richard’s and the Callahan’s—they’re still there. Their major parts of their team, their goal tending is still intact. I think what they did, they solidified what they needed to solidify around their core group with some grit and determination and physical presence.”
BOS-NYR Regular Season Recap
The Rangers took two out of the three games. In the season’s first match-up, also opening night, on January 19 in Boston, the B’s came away with a 3-1 victory. The Rangers went on to win the final two games of the season series, taking home a 4-3 victory in New York on January 23 and, in the final meeting between the two teams on February 12, the Rangers beat the Bruins, 4-3, in a shootout.
In a sign of things to come, the B’s overcame a three-goal deficit in the third game, including scoring two goals in the final 90 seconds of regulation with Tuukka Rask pulled.
The teams each scored nine goals, while the Bruins outshot the Rangers 103-83.
Milan Lucic (2 goals, 2 assists) was the B’s leading scorer against the Rangers this season, playing in all three games. He also had a team-high 14 penalty minutes in those games.
The departed Gaborik (3 goals) and Rick Nash (3 assists) were the Rangers leading scorers against the Bruins, tallying three points each. Both played in all three games.
In net, Tuukka Rask played all three games for Boston against the Rangers this season, going 1-0-2 with a 2.62 GAA and a .904 save percentage. Rask allowed eight goals on 83 shots in the three games. Henrik Lundqvist also played in all three games, going 2-1-0 with a 2.93 GAA and a .913 save percentage. He allowed nine goals on 103 shots.
“We just have to bear down on chances when we get them,” said Johnny Boychuk, when asked how they will try to beat Lundqvist. “He’s a big goaltender, and he’s been a good goaltender, so you just got to bear down on the chances when you do get them.”
Special Teams Comparison
The Bruins were 1-for-16 (6.2%) on the power play against the Rangers this season, while New York was 0-for-14 on the man advantage. Thus, the Bruins were a perfect 14-14 on the PK, and NY was 15-16 (93.8) on the PK. Overall, the Bruins finished 26th in the NHL on the man advantage (14.8%), while the Rangers came in at 23rd (15.7%).