(Sports Network) - A pair of Original Six rivals will battle in the playoffs
for the first time in 40 years on Thursday, as the Boston Bruins host the New
York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Although the Rangers and Bruins have met nine times in the playoffs this is
the first encounter since the 1973 quarterfinals, when New York downed Boston
in five games.
Both clubs enter this series after being pushed to the limit in the opening
round. The Rangers beat Washington in seven games, closing out the series with
Monday's 5-0 win in D.C., but Boston's Game 7 was much more dramatic.
Thanks to a ferocious comeback in the closing minutes on Monday, the fourth-
seeded Bruins are still alive in the playoffs. Boston nearly blew a 3-1 series
lead to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1, losing Games 5 and 6 before
falling behind 4-1 in the third period of the decisive contest in Boston.
Boston was down 4-1 after Nazem Kadri tallied 5:29 into the third period, but
the Bruins scored three unanswered goals and tied the game on Patrice
Bergeron's marker with 50.2 seconds left in regulation. Bergeron then netted
the game-winner 6:05 into overtime to cap a 5-4 comeback win and move Boston
into the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Now, the B's find themselves in the second round for the fourth time in five
seasons. The only exception was last spring when Boston lost to Washington in
the opening round the year after winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup
While Bergeron came up with two big goals in Game 7, fellow forward David
Krejci led the way on offense for Boston in Round 1. Krejci, who led Boston
with 23 points on 12 goals and 11 assists during the 2011 title run, paced the
B's with five goals and eight assists against Toronto.
With his defensive ability, Bergeron could be Boston's most important player
up front. He won the Selke Trophy last year as the NHL's best defensive
forward and is one of three finalists for the award this season. Bergeron led
all Boston forwards in ice time in the opening round, logging just over 20
minutes a game as he posted three goals and an assist against the Leafs.
Krejci, Bergeron and Nathan Horton, who had four goals and three assists in
the opening round, combined to score 12 of Boston's 22 goals against Toronto.
Milan Lucic also recorded nine points on two goals and seven assists against
the Maple Leafs, while Jaromir Jagr failed to score but chipped in with four
assists. The 41-year-old Jagr leads all active players with 193 career playoff
points (78 goals, 115 assists).
Johnny Boychuk added two goals from the back end in Round 1, but Zdeno Chara
led all Boston defensemen with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The
big Slovakian also led the Bruins with an average of 28 minutes, 54 seconds of
ice time per game over the seven contests. With fellow defensemen Andrew
Ference, Wade Redden and Dennis Seidenberg all battling injuries, Chara may
actually see his playing time increase in the second round.
Seidenberg and Ference did not practice on Wednesday, while Redden skated
briefly before leaving the session early. Bruins head coach Claude Julien
isn't saying whether any of the three players will be available for Game 1 on
The injuries mean Julien may have to ask for more minutes from unproven
defensemen like Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask went 19-10-5 with a 2.00 goals against average during
the regular season but he posted a 2.49 GAA in seven games against the Leafs.
All told, the Finnish netminder is 11-9 with a 2.57 GAA in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the backbone of the Rangers is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the
reigning Vezina Trophy winner certainly showed his worth in the opening round
After posting consecutive shutouts against the Capitals in Games 6 and 7, the
31-year-old Swede finished the series with a 1.65 GAA and .947 save
percentage. He has eight career postseason shutouts and five of them have come
since the start of the 2012 playoffs.
Lundqvist enters Round 2 riding a scoreless streak of 120 minutes after
allowing his last goal -- an overtime game-winner -- to Washington's Mike
Ribeiro in Game 5.
Logging the big minutes in front of Lundqvist are defensemen Dan Girardi and
Ryan McDonagh, who both averaged more than 25 minutes of ice time a game in
Round 1. Girardi and Michael Del Zotto led the Rangers' blue line with one
goal and one assist each, while Steve Eminger chipped in with two helpers.
Like the Bruins, New York's most glaring weakness is scoring. The Rangers have
enough talent up front to sustain pressure, but they often wind up with little
to show for it.
Leading the charge for New York on offense in the opening round was Derick
Brassard, a player who was acquired at the trade deadline in the deal that
sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus. Brassard tied four other players for the team
lead with two goals against the Caps and he also recorded seven assists.
Arron Asham, Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan each posted two goals
for New York's balanced scoring attack in Round 1.
However, the Rangers are waiting for Rick Nash and Brad Richards -- the club's
two most expensive skaters -- to chip in on offense.
Nash, who comes with an annual cap hit of $7.8 million, was acquired in a
trade with Columbus last summer to help make New York a more formidable
offensive team. He did lead the Rangers with 21 goals in the regular season,
but had just two assists in the seven-game set.
Richards, who signed a nine-year, $58.5 million contract prior to the 2011-12
season, had one goal in the opening round. A former Conn Smythe winner for
Tampa Bay in 2004, Richards recorded six goals and nine assists for the
Rangers in last year's playoffs.
The Rangers won two of three meetings against the Bruins this season, but the
clubs haven't played each other since Feb. 12, when New York notched its
second OT victory of the season against Boston.
Despite winning two of the three games, Lundqvist had a lofty 2.95 GAA against
Boston this season, while Rask went 1-0-2 with a 2.62 GAA.
Nash paced New York with three assists in the season series, while Gaborik led
the team with three goals against Boston before being traded. Lucic, Horton
and Brad Marchand each notched two goals for the Bruins.
Game 2 of this series is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.
The Bruins were 16-5-3 as the host during the regular season and 2-2 in the
first round. New York was 1-3 at Washington in Round 1, posting its only road
win in Game 7. The Rangers were 10-12-2 as the guest in 2013.
The Sports Network