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Breaking It Down: Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

USATSI_7265432_154158418_lowresIt’s time once again for our extremely popular Breaking It Down feature, this time with even more Bieber-related surprises. In the final outing for this round, it’s the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers.

These two clubs have a rivalry that goes back to the early 1970s, a time before Facebook commenters could snidely complain about everything under the sun. In that magical, Zeppelin-infused decade, the Bruins and Rangers met three times over the course of four years in the playoffs. They last tangled in 1973, when the Blueshirts took out Boston. Since then, they’ve never met in the post-season…until now.

Goaltending

For the Rangers, it’s obviously all about Henrik Lundqvist. He took care of the Washington Capitals in the first round, closing out the series with back-to-back shutouts and a 1.65 GAA. He also had a .947 save percentage and locked the Rangers into the series when they perhaps didn’t deserve to be. King Henrik also kept his hold on Washington’s best scorer, stopping 29 of Alex Ovechkin’s 30 shots.

The Bruins, meanwhile, don’t exactly win in the goaltending department. Tuukka Rask comes in with a 2.49 GAA and a .923 save percentage, landing with a solid performance but not a governing one. He was 4-3 in the Bruin’s tough series against the Maple Leafs and was counted on to face a lot of action, just barely outduelling James Reimer in the series. He’ll have to be better against the Rangers.

Defencemen

Zdeno Chara is the gargantuan through which Boston’s blueline runs, of course. He logged over half hour of ice time in the Bruins’ last playoff game against Toronto and had eight points in the series to go with 25 shots on goal. The Rangers will have the unenviable task of containing him. A lot of the other defensive parts will depend on injuries for the Bruins, but Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton will probably play bigger roles with Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg banged up.

The Rangers largely battle back with a shutdown pair in Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. They were tagged with shutting down the Capitals’ top line and did the job admirably, containing Ovechkin. They’re still without Marc Staal, of course, but Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, John Moore, and Steve Eminger. Early word is that the Rangers will split the top pair a lot to distribute veteran talent among the rest of the blueliners.

Forwards

The Rangers have struggled to achieve just the right balance of line combinations in the forward department. Rick Nash was contained by the Capitals and went without making a fuss in the series, for one thing, but he may get a boost playing with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan are still the top line in New York, while Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett are a solid checking line.

For the Bruins, it’s all about size. They’ll wear opponents down shift after shift and should look for more of the same against the Rangers. Milan Lucic was a highlight against the Maple Leafs, coming up with nine points when a lot of Boston’s forwards were kept off the scoreboard. David Krejci was also dangerous, while Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr will be looking to get something cooking on Broadway.

With the Bruins having gone the distance against the Maple Leafs, they revealed some weaknesses that will need to be addressed. Having to do that against a hot goalie in Lundqvist is never an easy task in the playoffs and the Rangers’ stifling defensive group could help. If Chara and Co. can bother New York enough on the back end, they may be able to pile on King Henrik. But at this point, that looks doubtful.

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