Despite a shootout loss to Ottawa on Thursday, the New York Rangers have been extremely productive in the last 10 games (7-2-1) and will look to win once again today to win, they’ll have to beat a very good Boston Bruins team in Boston. Boston is currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference. They’ve won their last two games, including a 7-0 demolition of the Canadiens. Certianly, the Rangers will have to bring their A-game if they plan on coming away with any points. In the teams’ previous two match-ups this season, the road team won each game by a score of 3-2. Let’s hope such luck continues tonight. Here are the pre-game notes.
Henrik Lundqvist- Boston is second in the East in goals for. They have four lines capable of scoring and almost every defenseman can put the puck in the net as well. Lundqvist is almost certainly going to have to be at his best today. Lundqvist has basically dominated the Bruins over his career, with a 14-5-2 record and a 1.49 GAA and .947 SV %. The Rangers definitely will need that kind of effort today.
Tim Thomas- In the other net will be Tim Thomas, who might be the only person standing between Henrik and his first Vezina Trophy. Tuukka Rask made a big step towards overtaking Thomas as the starting goalie in Boston last year, but this year it’s been all Thomas. Thomas leads the NHL in GAA and SV %. The good news for the Rangers is that his stat-line over his career against New York is only average, with a 2.59 GAA and .915 SV %. Still, Thomas definitely isn’t going to give the Rangers any easy goals today. The effort they put in against Ottawa offensively won’t get them ANYWHERE tonight. They need a full contribution from all four lines on offense in order to pot enough goals.
Sean Avery- Welcome back to the lineup, Sean Avery. john Tortorella decided to scratch Mats Zuccarello for today’s game in favor of Avery, and although the Norwegian fanbase is probably a bit upset, it’s the right move. Tortorella insisted that Zuccarello “hasn’t been bad” He just simply wanted to put Avery in the lineup, and Torts felt that Zuke might not be the best fit against a big, physical team like Boston. Avery is prone to stupid penalties and can be snakebit offensively, but he always brings a full effort every game. After the Rangers’ lackluster effort against the Senators, putting a high-energy guy like Avery back into the lineup is the right decision. Especially because he has a history of getting Thomas off his game. Avery has 12 points in 18 games against Boston over his career; solid numbers for a grinder.
Chara + Kaberle- You want a recipe for disaster? Giving Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle time to make decisions with the puck at the point. These two guys will absolutely burn us if we give them space. Chara has 13 goals this year, with 8 coming on the powerplay. While Kaberle isn’t nearly as dangerous shooting as Chara is (who is), he’s still has very good vision and will make all the right passes. I trust both Henrik and our defense to not give Boston any wide open shots in the slot. Thus, it’s up to the forwards to make sure Boston can’t hurt us from the point.
Special Teams- Believe it or not, the Rangers have a superior power play and penalty kill to Boston. The Rangers should come out extra physical today, because Boston will have to attempt to match it if they want to stay in the game. The extra physicality will lead to more penalties, and as long as Boston isn’t getting significantly more power plays than the Rangers, that’s to the Rangers advantage. I’ll trade chances with Boston for sure.
Gilroy is the scratch on defense once again. Game time is 1:00. Realistically, the Rangers only need four more wins to clinch a playoff spot. Let’s get one of those four today.