BOSTON (CBS) — Bruins fans may not be able or willing to put Game 7 in the past and move on just yet, but the Bruins themselves have no choice.
Game 1 between the Bruins and Rangers will be tonight at the TD Garden, and the Bruins will have to put the events of Monday night behind them if they hope to avoid falling into an early hole in this series.
The Rangers come in riding some pretty good momentum themselves after staving off elimination with a 1-0 Game 6 win at home and then rolling to a 5-0 win in Game 7 in Washington.
The best goalie in the world, Henrik Lundqvist, is riding a two-game shutout streak, stopping the last 62 shots he’s seen. That includes six shots off the stick of Alex Ovechkin, who led the league with 32 goals this season, so the degree of difficulty has certainly been high.
With Lundqvist being his usual self (1.65 GAA, .932 save percentage) and Tuukka Rask playing pretty well himself (2.49 GAA, .923), it should be safe to expect close games to be the norm throughout the series.
Really, that’s nothing new for the Bruins and Rangers. This is how their last 15 meetings have gone:
Jan. 19: Bruins 3, Rangers 1
Jan. 23: Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (OT)
Feb. 12: Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (SO)
Jan. 21: Rangers 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
Feb. 14: Rangers 3, Bruins 0
March 4: Rangers 4, Bruins 3
April 1: Bruins 2, Rangers 1
Oct. 23: Rangers 3, Bruins 2
Nov. 17, Bruins 3, Rangers 2
March 26: Rangers 1, Bruins 0
April 4: Rangers 5, Bruins 3
Nov. 10: Rangers 1, Bruins 0
Jan. 4: Rangers 3, Bruins 2
Jan. 9: Rangers 3, Bruins 1
March 21: Bruins 2, Rangers 1
The condensed version of that:
- The Rangers are 11-4-0 in those games, while the Bruins are 4-8-3.
- The Rangers have scored 38 goals, and the Bruins have scored 29. The average margin of victory in the games is 1.33 goals.
Clearly, the Rangers have gotten the better of the Bruins, but the games have not been as lopsided as the teams’ records suggest. With the Rangers outscoring the Capitals 16-12 in their seven-game series, and the Bruins outscoring the Leafs 22-18 in their seven-game series, the two teams are in for a hard-fought series.
When it comes to the scoring, the Rangers got a pretty balanced contribution in the first round. Eleven different players scored in the seven games, with no skater scoring more than two goals. Those goals have come from unlikely sources, too, with the likes of Brian Boyle and Arron Asham, both of whom finished the regular season with just two goals apiece, scoring twice in the series.
Rick Nash, who led the team with 21 goals in the regular season, didn’t find the back of the net once against Washington, while Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards only scored once each during the first-round series. It’s a testament to the Rangers’ depth that they were able to win a series without their best scorers even close to their best, and it means the Bruins are going to have their hands full trying to keep the Rangers off the board.
Of course, the Bruins showed some good depth in the first round too, with 11 players scoring in the first round as well. David Krejci led the way with five, Nathan Horton scored four, and Patrice Bergeron scored three, thanks to his game-tying and game-winning goals in Game 7. Claude Julien’s switch of Tyler Seguin (zero goals, one assist) and Jaromir Jagr (zero goals, four assists) seemed to be effective in the team’s final game against the Maple Leafs, and it provided reason to believe Bergeron and Brad Marchand (zero goals, three assists) could begin to produce a bit more reliably for Boston.
That will have to happen for the Bruins to compete in the series, because the line of Milan Lucic, Krejci and Horton accounted for 48 percent of the Bruins’ points against Toronto. That may have worked against a lesser opponent, but against the Rangers, it’s hard to believe it will lead to many wins.
We can’t ever know what will happen in the future, and the miracle that took place in the Bruins’ Game 7 victory was just the latest reminder of that. We can look at past results to try to infer what might take place, and if the past is any indication, there’s little doubt we should be in for a long, laborious series, full of heavy hits, blocked shots and bruised bodies.