Both the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers are coming off of Game 7 victories in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Bruins became the first team in NHL history to rally from three goals down in the third period to win a Game 7 over the Leafs. The Rangers routed the Capitals in their Game 7 after a 1-0 win in Game 6.
Who takes this battle of Original Six teams for the right to play for the Conference crown?
The Boston Bruins won a playoff series in seven games without a goal from Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, which seemed inconceivable before the postseason. Marchand has three assists and Seguin finally tallied a point in Game 7.
Marchand is on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr, who also didn’t tally a goal against the Leafs. Seguin’s playing with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly.
The Bruins’ top line has been by far its best line: David Krejci, who has 5 goals and 13 points overall, paired with Nathan Horton (4 goals) and Milan Lucic (9 points).
Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton make up a truculent fourth line.
The New York Rangers won a playoff series in seven games without a goal from Rick Nash, which seemed inconceivable before the postseason. That said, he did some little things right in playing with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, the Rangers’ Round 1 offensive MVP with 2 goals and 7 points.
The top line of Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan brings speed and quality play on both ends of the rink. Hagelin and Stepan both had two goals against the Caps. Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle (2 goals) and Derek Dorsett proved to be an effective and agitating bunch – especially Dorsett, who has moved into Sean Avery’s old role as asset/liability, depending on the shift. Arron Asham scored two important goals in the first round and is skating well with Chris Kreider. The bad news for the Rangers, of course, is that Brad Richards has been so terrible that he’s now skating between them.
The wild card: Ryane Clowe, who’s still out of the lineup but could be a vital physical presence against the Big Bad Bruins.
The Bruins’ defense is great … when healthy. Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden are all banged up entering this series. In Seidenberg’s case, that’s one of the Bruins’ top two defensemen. In all three cases, that’s a veteran defender whose loss would be considerable.
Zdeno Chara leads the Bruins with 28:54 time on ice per game, which is a full six minutes and change more than Johnny Boychuk (22:18) in second. Chara is quietly building a Conn Smythe case: Eight points and a plus-6. He’ll be paired with rookie Doug Hamilton while the Bruins battle injuries. Hamilton was scratched in four of seven against the Leafs.
Boychuk and Adam McQuaid are mainstays. Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug help fill in for the injured.
The Rangers are led by shutdown defensemen Dan Girardi (26:05) and Ryan McDonagh (25:00), who stifled the Capitals’ top line last round. Early indications are that the duo may be split between Michael Del Zotto (with Girardi) and Anton Stralman (with McDonagh). John Moore, a strong addition in the Gaborik trade with Columbus, and Steve Eminger make up the last pairing. Marc Staal is still injured.
ADVANTAGE: Bruins (when healthy)
Tuukka Rask has a 2.49 GAA and a .923 save percentage for the Bruins. He’s not been dominating, but he hasn’t been a liability overall either in most games.
Henrik Lundqvist is having one of the best playoffs of his career with a 1.65 GAA and a .947 save percentage. He was the difference in Game 6 for the Rangers, and played well again in the Game 7 blowout.
PLAYERS THAT DESERVE AN ASTERISK
Uh, Derick Brassard has more points than Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Brad Richards COMBINED? Also, David Krejci has 13 points in seven games. Which probably means he’ll have 2 points in his next 13, but still …
Claude Julien kept the Bruins believing when the chips were down and the Leafs were up in Game 7. He’s getting great play out of this top line, but how long before he needs to reshuffle the deck to get slumping players going?
John Totorella’s infamous press conferences are still tension conventions, but the Rangers coach did a great job tactically in matching lines with the Capitals to help quiet their offense. Also, the Rangers seem afraid to take a penalty this year. Really afraid.
The Bruins have the 11th best power play in the postseason, at a 15 percent clip on 20 chances. The Rangers are 15th at a dismal 7.1 percent, with 2 goals on 28 chances.
On the kill, Boston is 11th at 76.2 while the Rangers are ninth at 81.2.
FIGHT WE'D LIKE TO SEE
McQuaid and Boyle like to throw punches:
Rangers in 6. Lundqvist is too locked in and the Bruins showed some significant cracks against the Leafs. Plus that defense is a little too banged up for us to pick the Bruins with confidence.