New York Rangers' Keys to Win 2nd-Round Playoff Series vs. Boston Bruins
The Rangers and Bruins have played each other three times this season and have not faced off since early February. The Rangers went 2-1 against Boston, but one win was in overtime and the other win was in a shootout.
Both teams have made significant trades since, so it's hard to draw any conclusions from those early-season matchups.
What do the Rangers need to do to win their second-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins? What are the keys that they need to focus on in order to ensure victory?
Read on to find out.
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The Rangers will not beat the Bruins if they do not get their power play in order.
Against the Washington Capitals, the power play was beyond abysmal. The team scored twice in 28 opportunities and did not score on three five-on-three advantages.
The Rangers were lucky that that didn't come back to bite them. They beat the Capitals through their defense and goaltending, not through their offense.
That may not cut it against the Bruins.
Not only are the Bruins more experienced than the Caps—and the Rangers, for that matter—but they have a better goaltender and more depth throughout the lineup. If the Rangers cannot score power-play goals, then the Bruins will make them pay.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Bruins are really solid on the penalty kill. They had the fourth-ranked unit in the regular season and allowed five goals in 21 attempts against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers will need to do what they did in Game 7 on the power play—more movement, more shots and quicker decision-making.
They cannot, however, do what they did for most of the series—set up at the point, pass back and forth, and put a lazy shot on net. That won't cut it.
The Rangers' offense showed signs of life in Game 7, and if that carries over to this series, then they should be better on the power play.
If not, it could be a quick exit.
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Derick Brassard was fantastic in the first round. He scored two goals and had seven assists, and was the Rangers' best skill player.
He needs to continue that against the Bruins. Zdeno Chara will work to shut down Rick Nash. However, beyond Chara, the Bruins defense is banged up. Andrew Ference and Wade Redden both missed Game 7, and Dennis Seidenberg left Game 7 with an injury. According to Scott Burnside of ESPN, quoting an Eastern Conference scout, the loss of Seidenberg would "doom the Bruins' chances of advancing against the Rangers."
If Nash is neutralized by Chara, then Brassard will have to continue his hot play. Nash did not score in the first round, but they were able to advance because Brassard was a dominant force. Nash will still need to produce, but if he didn't produce against the Caps, it's hard to believe he'll be much better facing Chara on every shift.
Thus, Brassard needs to take off some of the pressure on Nash. Whether it's setting up Nash in a position where he can score, or setting up fellow linemate Mats Zuccarello, Brassard needs to make an impact on every game.
If he can, then the Rangers will stand a good chance of winning the series.
Forecheck and Role Players
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The Bruins are a physical team that loves to take the body. They have plenty of depth and each line is capable of scoring.
That means the Rangers have to be proactive in neutralizing the time the Bruins spend in their own zone. The more the Rangers can forecheck, the better.
The Rangers found real success in the last two games with a line of Derek Dorsett, Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt. They were aggressive on the forecheck, playing physically and even scored a goal in Game 7.
These are the type of players the Rangers need to be successful. The team didn't get much scoring from their top players, but they were able to win because of the contributions of Pyatt, Boyle, Arron Asham and others.
These players need to get under the skin of the Bruins. The Bruins will hit, but they can be goaded into dumb penalties. Dorsett did a fine job of that against the Capitals.
By establishing a tough forecheck, the Bruins will have a hard time setting up in their zone. That could lead to more turnovers and more chances for the Rangers.
The Rangers played their best hockey against the Caps when their forecheck was going, their role players were contributing, and they were playing with an edge. This was on display, in particular, in the last two games against the Caps. If the Rangers can bring that same type of play, and get the same type of contributions from role players, then they should be in good shape.
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Henrik Lundqvist was otherworldly against the Capitals. He became just the fourth goaltender in history to record shutouts in Games 6 and 7. He had a 1.65 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. He allowed just eight goals in the final five games.
There is no question that he is the best goaltender in the world. His performance against the Capitals was among the best of all time.
However, it is impossible to imagine that Lundqvist will continue this type of play throughout the rest of the postseason. He certainly won't continue his shutout streak.
The Bruins scored 22 goals in their first-round series. Lundqvist gave up only 12. Something has to give, and while Lundqvist will still be great, the Rangers will need to score more if they want to win.
If Lundqvist can play anywhere close to the level that he did against the Capitals, then the Rangers, provided they follow the keys mentioned in the previous slide, have a great chance to win. If Lundqvist somehow exceeds that play, then the Rangers are a slam dunk to win.
The teams that go deep in the playoffs always have good goaltending. Last season, Jonathan Quick had a 1.41 goals-against average en route to a Conn Smythe trophy. That means Lundqvist can still improve his game.
The offense has simply not shown it can be consistently dangerous. If that remains the case, then Lundqvist might have to play even better than he has.
And if he does, the Rangers will be able to dispose of the Bruins quickly.