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Stanley Cup Playoff Preview - Boston vs. NY Rangers
By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
BOSTON BRUINS (4th seed, East)
REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 28-14-6
2013 PLAYOFFS: Defeated Toronto 4-3 in conference quarterfinals
(Sports Network) - Thanks to a ferocious comeback in the closing minutes of a classic Game 7, the Boston Bruins are still alive in the playoffs.
The Bruins 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 Monday's decisive contest in Boston.
Boston was down 4-1 after Nazem Kadri scored 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.
It was anything besides pretty, but nonetheless 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 since 1972.
Boston finished tied for 13th in the NHL during the regular season with 2.65 goals per game, but that number jumped to 3.14 in the first round against Toronto.
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 Thursday.
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.
Boston's power play has been a trouble spot for the club in recent years, but it didn't stop the Bruins from winning it all in 2011. The Bruins were tied for 25th in the NHL during the regular season with a power-play success rate of 14.8 percent and Boston hit on 15 percent of its chances in Round 1 against Toronto.
Julien's club was the fourth ranked penalty-killing team in the NHL in 2013, stopping the opposition from scoring with the man advantage 87.1 percent of the time. The B's struggled against the Leafs in Round 1, however, allowing Toronto to score five times on 21 chances (76.2 percent) with the man advantage.
NEW YORK RANGERS (6th seed, East)
REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 26-18-4
2013 PLAYOFFS: Defeated Washington 4-3 in conference quarterfinals
For a second straight season, the Rangers opened the playoffs by going the distance.
New York won its first two playoff series in seven games in 2012 before losing to New Jersey in six games of the Eastern Conference finals. This year, the Rangers beat the Washington Capitals in the conference quarterfinals after downing the Caps in seven games during last spring's second round.
The backbone of John Tortorella's club is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner certainly showed his worth in the opening round against Washington.
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 good enough depth up front to sustain pressure, but they often wind up with little to show for it.
The Blueshirts ranked 15th in the NHL with 2.62 goals per game during the regular season, but they had an average of 2.29 gpg in seven tilts against Washington.
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 were slightly better than Boston on the power play this season, placing 23rd in the league with a success rate of 15.7 percent. However, New York managed only two goals on 28 chances (7.1 percent) with the man advantage in seven games against the Capitals. The club will likely need Nash and Richards to start producing if they expect to change their fortunes on the power play in Round 2.
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.
Although these Original Six foes have met nine times in the playoffs this is the first encounter since the 1973 quarterfinals, when the Rangers downed Boston in five games.
The Rangers play a steady shot-blocking style in front of Lundqvist, a strategy that could've helped Toronto stem the tide late in Game 7 against the Bruins.
Expect this series to be marked by low-scoring, close contests and don't be surprised to see a couple of games head to overtime. In the end, Lundqvist and a slightly deeper roster will be the difference as the Rangers get back to the conference finals for a second straight spring.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Rangers in 6
05/15 15:44:37 ET
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