It's clear now... we go
I immediately regret this decision.
The New York Rangers find themselves trailing the Boston Bruins 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Game One was tight and it revealed something that most people already knew. Not only are these teams evenly matched, they also resemble each other a great deal. Both teams have terrible powerplays, outstanding goaltenders, take the body, and play a relatively conservative game. There were times during Game One where I thought we were all in that one "a-ha video"... but y'know instead of that sketchbook-world being on the other side of the portal/door/mirror thing there was another hockey team that reminded me a lot of the Rangers.
Battling yourself is never easy or enjoyable- just ask Edward Norton's character in Fight Club or Link from the Zelda series. The Rangers found a way to never truly be out of a game against the high-flying Capitals offense and managed to best them in seven games so the matchup with the Bruins should be easier right? Not exactly. I personally see this series going six or seven games because of how evenly matched and similar the teams are but injuries and momentum might make it a shorter affair than that. I expect this series to be filled with grind-it-out hockey that sees whichever team makes the fewest mistakes advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Here is my brief take on why the Rangers will and won't beat the Boston Bruins.
Why the Rangers Will Win
- Henrik Lundqvist.
- Boston's blueline is young and banged-up. The Rangers would be wise to wear them down with the team's big forwards, especially the bottom six.
- The Rangers haven't lost at the Garden in three postseason games.
- Derick Brassard is playing what is without a doubt the best hockey of his career.
- Rick Nash finally showed flashes of the Nash we saw during the regular season. Perhaps a few days of rest before the start of the Second Round of the playoffs was just what the Nash-Kraken needed.
- Boston is a team that doesn't have a lot of speed in their lineup and speed has been the Rangers kryptonite for most of the season.
- The Rangers have been getting big goals from their bottom six and blueline when it matters most. The depth scoring is taking the pressure off of the struggling big guns so hopefully it can continue against the Bruins.
- Bears are miserable at hockey.
Why the Rangers Will Lose
- The f**king powerplay (or lack thereof).
- Boston's scoring depth makes up for the lack of a superstar forward.
- These will be tight games and thus far the Rangers have lost all three overtime contests they've had in the 2013 NHL Playoffs.
- Milan Lucic is an absolute horse and has found his game in the playoffs. The Rangers blueliners may throw a lot of hits but they are not a very physical group and they've had issues with handling power forwards around the net this season. It is going to be interesting to see how the Rangers try to clear away Lucic and other big players from in front of the net, including Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
- The Rangers have had a great deal of trouble containing shots from the blueline. I am sure most of you are still having night terrors about what Mike Green was able to do the Rangers defense in the First Round. The Bruins don't have Mike Green but they do have the single most terrifying shot from the point in all of hockey. I don't know about you guys, but I wince whenever I see Chara wind one up because a Ranger is going to try and block it and almost certainly get himself destroyed or, even more horrifying, it might go on net. Chara has ten points in eight games thus far.
- As hot as Derick Brassard is, David Krejci is hotter (Krejci, so hot right now... Krejci). Through eight games Krejci has five goals and nine assists and is leading all players in the 2013 NHL Playoffs in points.
- Tuukka Rask isn't Lundqvist-good but he is pretty darn good. Apparently there are plenty of folks who doubt Rask and his abilities but he's been great in the 2013 Playoffs and is a guy who can steal a game away from the Rangers.
All things considered, including the Bruins current 1-0 lead in the series, I give the Bruins a slight edge. But the beauty about having Henrik Lundqvist in net is that he can steal games for you and so long as he keeps playing the way he has been playing in this year's playoffs the Rangers will never be out of a game and they'll have every opportunity to advance to the ECF. Also, if Nash continues to play like he did in Game One on Sunday afternoon the Rangers are going to be a handful for the Bruins and their blueline.
The Rangers need what seems like too many of their forwards to step-up. Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Rick Nash all need to pick up their games and produce more. I know that it is blasphemy to call out the captain and I know that Cally has been blocking shots and doing plenty of things that don't show up on the scoresheet (the "intangibles") but the Rangers need his offense. If not for Derick Brassard's playmaking and excellent play against the Capitals I am not sure the Rangers would be where they are now. The guys who are paid to produce have to start producing in addition to the bottom six forwards continuing to provide some depth scoring. I don't care how the goals come but they have to start coming, hopefully they'll arrive in bunches.
If Hank plays like Hank and if just some of the big forwards on the Rangers find their games I think the Rangers will find a way to get past the Bruins. But if big names like Richards and Nash continue to struggle and stay off the scoresheet we should prepare ourselves for an infuriating series playing against a team that looks like our reflection only with more skaters who are actually producing.
Let's go Rangers. Never look a bear in the eye.
For outstanding and insightful coverage of the Boston Bruins check out Stanley Cup of Chowder.