For the first time since 1973 the Rangers will square off against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. What was once a fierce rivalry between these two teams has been dormant for decades. That is all about to change real soon as another chapter will be written in sports history between these two cities.
Putting aside the obvious narratives about the two famed franchises and their wonderful histories, the story for this series will be about each team’s present day 5-on-5 play. Neither team possesses a power play worth envying and neither team is top-heavy in the skill department ala the Penguins or the Capitals (RIP). This series will likely see complete team efforts on both sides of the ice.
The Bruins generate most of their offense from 5-on-5 play, particularly from their top line of Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton. This trio provides a great mix of skill and grit and has been red hot the past several games. The second line — and probably the most critical for Boston — is the line of Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin. This is another well balanced group, but they struggled against Toronto. Secondary scoring in general was an issue for Boston as Seguin, Marchand and even Jagr failed to generate offense.
As for the Rangers, their offense so far has been inconsistent. The power play continues to struggle, Nash and Richie have yet to elevate their games and the team in general hasn’t been possessing the puck. Though to be fair, of the teams advancing to the second round, only Boston, Chicago and Detroit have a 5-on-5 Corsi% over 50.
The Rangers have been getting offense by committee. Although it is nice to see guys like Boyle and Life of Pyatt step up, it would go a long way if our top forwards could find more consistency and if our blueline could get more pucks on net. Those two elements would force Boston to defend against us differently and possibly open things up for the Blueshirts.
Slight edge: Boston
Aside from Chara, no one else on the Bruins blueline really scares me. The two rookies Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton are impressive, but green. Wade Redden is day-to-day, and we all know he isn’t anything special. Seidenberg is believed to be out. With all of these injuries Julien has had to deploy Chara close to 29 mins per game (2nd in the NHL in icetime per game this postseason).
The Rangers defensemen were absolute ballers last series. Girardi and McDonagh shutdown Ovechkin and the Capitals. With Staal out, MDZ and Stralman both were able to take on increased responsibility. Eminger and Moore handled increased minutes well too. Containing the Capitals is no easy feat and the Rangers were able to limit their offense and give the coaching staff some quality minutes.
I don’t want to get into this too much since Justin will be breaking down Rask’s game later this afternoon, but I will say Henrik gives the Rangers an obvious edge. Rask is a solid young goalie, better than Holtby in my opinion, but he’s still not touching Hank. No one really does.
Dave gave a good in-depth systems overview of these two teams yesterday so I’m not going to get too much into the x’s and o’s. Personally, I’m not a fan of Julien’s systems or his bench management philosophies. Not that I don’t think his strategies can’t be successful, obviously they can, I just relate more to the Tortorella way of doing things. The right way.
Julien doesn’t get married to matchups or make as many on-the-fly adjustments, so there’s a little less tinkering of his line combos. Some think it’s a stubborn approach, other’s think it fosters chemistry. There’s no right or wrong answer really. I just prefer line matching when you can.
Julien also makes his team sit on leads and plug up the neutral zone in those 1-1-3 and 1-4 formations. Again, that stuff has won championships, but I prefer 2-1-2 forechecking and puck pursuit. Finally, Julien doesn’t let his d-men join the rush or get on the forecheck as much as Torts allows our guys to. Growing up watching Brian Leetch, I think you know where I stand on that issue.
In the end, although these coaches have different approaches, both are highly respected around the league and coaching circles. While I thought having Torts provided a slight edge over Oates in the DC series, with Julien I think you could make a case for either depending which style of play you identify with. I’m one of the few Torts fans through and through, so I’m leaning his direction.
Slight Edge: Rangers
Prediction: Rangers in 6