Bruins, Rangers, bring similar approaches to series
BOSTON -- The longer Henrik Lundqvist went in describing how a typical game between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins is determined, the more difficult it became to ascertain if either team has an advantage heading into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
"Every time we play them it's around the nets, around the blue lines," Lundqvist said. "That's a lot of times where it is decided.
"I see some similarities."
He's not the only one.
The Rangers and Bruins will open the series Thursday at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) as mirror images of one another.
They rely on creating offense off their forecheck, but neither team is the type to run up the score, partly because they enter the series with power plays that are struggling. They each have a defense-first mentality and it carries through their four forward lines. Speaking of which, the coaches seem to like the balance they're getting from their forward lines, particularly down the middle.
"I feel pretty comfortable with our lineup right now," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
The teams are physical, especially along the boards. They each expect to get world-class goaltending. They're also making their power-play woes less of a factor because they've been disciplined enough to not also be burned in shorthanded situations.
Perhaps the only difference is the Bruins have Zdeno Chara and the Rangers have no one like him. But who does?
"They're a straight-line team, they're going to make you pay the price," Rangers defenseman John Moore said of the Bruins, words he could have used to describe his own team.
"They definitely don't try to work outside the box too much," Moore continued. "It's more straight lines, in-your-face hockey. It's going to be a man's game this whole series. We're going to have to battle for every inch of ice. I definitely see a lot of similarities in the way they play and their systems, top to bottom."
The Bruins are saying the same thing, which makes it interesting to see how the similarities affect the start of the series, when teams typically have a feeling-out period.
"I think it's about not getting a feeling-out period and just going out there and playing your game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I know we're both gritty teams. We'll go and grind it out. We don't have all these so-called superstar players that can dictate the game one way or another. It's about what we do as a group, and the same thing goes for them, I'm sure. It just makes for a good battle.
"The team that wins this series is the team that's going to want to battle it out more than the other, be grittier and get their noses dirtier than the other team. That's what I anticipate, anyway."
Bruins center Chris Kelly offered a different take on how the series will be decided.
"It's a game of mistakes, and whoever makes the fewest mistakes normally wins," Kelly said. "Both teams play a good playoff-style game and work hard, get in on the forecheck, so it'll be one of those things where whoever is capitalizing on the mistakes is going to come out [on top]."
The similarities make predictions difficult. For example, Lundqvist was asked if he anticipates a low-scoring, grind-it-out series.
"I'm ready for anything," he said. "Sometimes you think you know how it's going to look, and you go out there and it's a completely different game.
"Sometimes you think you might have the answer, but you don't."
At least he can make an educated guess when it comes to the Bruins and Rangers. The similarities are striking.
"We know what to expect from them, but again, the approach is the same," Moore said. "We have a certain way we want to play, we have an identity we want to stick to and it's just about playing our game."