A slew of injuries to Boston blueliners have some convinced the Rangers will roll through their second round matchup, but we should know by now that nothing comes easy for New York. Still, the Blueshirts have a good shot at advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals if they follow these keys to victory.
Mitigate Boston’s advantage on faceoffs
It’s no coincidence that the team with the faceoff edge won five of seven games in New York’s first round matchup. Sure, there’s more to it than that, but winning faceoffs is one way to guarantee puck possession. For the second year in a row, Boston led the league in faceoff percentage by a wide margin, at 56.4%. First round hero Patrice Bergeron (62.1%) is far and away the best faceoff man in the league and will be a handful in this series. New York has been bipolar at the dots all year long, but the Rangers’ pivots will have to bring their “A” game to slow down Boston.
Win the special teams battle
Boston has one of the few power plays in the league on par, or (gasp) even worse than the Rangers. The Bruins’ penalty kill ranked fourth in the league while the Rangers were uncharacteristically 15th, but New York did a good job containing the Capitals’ top-ranked power play in the opening round. Somehow the Bruins won a Stanley Cup in 2011 despite going 10-for-88 on the man advantage during the postseason, but a timely power play goal or two in this series could easily be the difference in this battle.
Rick Nash vs. Zdeno Chara
If Nash was kept quiet by the Capitals’ defense in the first round, then his chances of lighting it up while being blanketed by the best defender in the league wouldn’t appear to be great. He’s going to have to have to produce though, because it’s pretty unlikely that the Rangers will be able to win a second series without a major contribution from their biggest offensive weapon.
Against Washington, the Rangers had to stay out of the penalty box to avoid the league’s No. 1 power play. Discipline will again be paramount against Boston, but not for the same reason. The Bruins are less likely to hurt the Rangers on the PP, but New York must keep its composure against the likes of Brad Marchand, the league’s premier pest, and Milan Lucic, who is sure to go barreling into Henrik Lundqvist early and often. The Rangers can’t be intimidated and must play physical, but they can’t let the Bruins take them off their game.
Henrik Lundqvist has to be as good, or better, than he was against Washington
Well this one should be easy, right? Lundqvist made history by shutting out the Capitals in Games Six and Seven, something that’s only been done four times in league history. However, Braden Holtby matched The King every step of the way until the deciding game and Tuukka Rask is far superior to him. There’s no doubt that Lundqvist is on top of his game heading into this series, but he’ll have to continue his heroics against a deep team that, in theory, will be even tougher for the Rangers to score on.