Each club is hitting the virtual quarter mark (21 games) of their 2013-14 season schedule with their first clash since Boston bounced the Blueshirts out of last year’s playoffs.
Depending on how Tampa Bay fares in Los Angeles later in the evening, the Bruins could leapfrog to the top of the Atlantic Division with a win. Meanwhile, thanks to none other than Boston’s Monday night victory at Carolina, the Rangers can round out their first quarter by pulling ahead of the Hurricanes for third in the Metropolitan, which would mean automatic playoff qualification if the season ended at that point.
Here is what viewers should look for in Tuesday’s tilt.
Time: Tuesday, November 19, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: MSG 2, NBCSN, NESN, TSN
Key Storyline: Rematches All Around
Although he is new to the team, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, who supplanted John Tortorella over the summer, is facing Boston for only the second time since his own playoff encounter.
Nearly two full years have passed since Vigneault helped Vancouver to a 4-3 victory in a memorable rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Now he is a part of a titanic, albeit non-divisional, Eastern Conference rivalry and taking on the task of nudging the Rangers to the next level of title contention.
The luster of the Bruins-Canucks matchup is long gone, but now Vigneault has an opportunity to wage a new wave of entertaining chess matches with Claude Julien. That should be good enough for both the New England and New York faithful to get in on an active legacy from 2011.
Key Matchup: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Tuukka Rask
Too obvious? Too bad.
There is a fresh new log of intrigue in the hot stove that stokes the sidebar on the Lundqvist vs. Bruins card. This time, it is the fact that, with Rask, Boston is presenting an aspiring first-time Olympian to challenge the veteran Swedish starter.
Prior to Monday night’s NHL action, Rask was fourth among qualified goals-against average leaders at 1.68, whereas Lundqvist’s 2.51 GAA had him at No. 21. On the save percentage leaderboard, Rask was tied for fourth with a .943 stinginess rate, 10 slots ahead of Lundqvist, who was tied for No. 15 at .919.
The data for at least one of those stellar Scandinavians is misleading. Lundqvist was hurt in that regard by an all-around poor start by his team.
For Rask, this world-class goaltending card three months ahead of the Sochi Games is a chance to argue that his numbers are not hollow. He will only help his case if he can directly outduel the masked man who owns a career regular-season record of 21-7-2 against Boston.
Injury Report (via tsn.ca)
Adam McQuaid: Out for Tuesday with a strained right hip/groin
Marc Savard: Out for the season with post-concussion syndrome
New York Rangers
Rick Nash: On injured reserve with a concussion
Taylor Pyatt: On injured reserve with a concussion
Boston Bruins Projected Lineup
Line 1: Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Line 2: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Line 3: Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith
Line 4: Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Unit 1: Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Unit 2: Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug
Unit 3: Johnny Boychuk-Matt Bartkowski
Starter: Tuukka Rask
Backup: Chad Johnson
New York Rangers Projected Lineup
Line 1: Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello
Line 2: Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan
Line 3: Benoit Pouliot-Dominic Moore-J.T. Miller
Line 4: Derek Brassard-Brian Boyle-Derek Dorsett
Unit 1: Dan Girardi-Ryan McDonagh
Unit 2: Anton Stralman-Marc Staal
Unit 3: John Moore-Justin Falk or Michael Del Zotto
Starter: Henrik Lundqvist
Backup: Cam Talbot
Boston Will Win If…
The young point men aim high.
Lundqvist’s scouting report from The Hockey News cautions that he “Can be beaten upstairs by NHL shooters, since he is usually very deep in his crease to take away the lower part of the net.” The first quarter of this season has offered no shortage of video evidence to second that notion, and Krug, for one, has prior experience succeeding against Lundqvist in that very fashion.
The likes of Krug, Bartkowski and Hamilton all have an opportunity to tally a testament to their growth as point-patrolling threats with this matchup. Attempting to get the better of Lundqvist is not a bad way for a fairly unripe striker to gauge where he is in his development as one of these “NHL shooters” that THN speaks of.
The forwards up front can help by preparing to elevate a deflection and/or pestering Lundqvist and his praetorian guards with traffic.
New York Will Win If…
Its young upfront talent steps up to make a statement.
The speedy Hagelin has been in a mild slump (no points in three games) and brooked a benching during Sunday night’s loss to the Kings, sitting for roughly half a period. No time like Tuesday’s team search for a fun-size serving of retribution for the 25-year-old winger to seek a dollop of individual redemption to go with it.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old pivot Stepan is one of the primal personifications of the Rangers’ slow start and subsequent rise to redress. His first 10 games yielded a 0-5-5 scoring log and minus-eight rating whereas his last 10 have featured a 4-5-9 production transcript and plus-five rating with zero “minus” games.
Stepan has the right skill set to burgeon into a Selke Trophy contender and could also be a Team USA newcomer at the upcoming Olympics. In turn, his use of Bergeron as a motivational measuring stick is almost as crucial to this matchup as the Lundqvist-Rask goaltending card.
On the offensive front, part of that would entail creating plays for or with his towering, 22-year-old linemate, Kreider.
Prediction: Rangers 3, Bruins 1
The real Rangers are back after a five-and-a-half month absence, which consisted of their five-game falter in the 2013 playoffs, an offseason coaching change and a wretched road trip to start 2013-14.
Over the first 10 games of the Vigneault era, the Rangers went 3-7-0 with the opposition outscoring them, 35-15. In the 10 games since, and leading up to Tuesday, they have gone an inverse 7-3-0 with a 27-15 goal differential in their favor.
What does all of this mean for Tuesday’s tilt with the Bruins? Mainly the fact that viewers can expect Lundqvist to be Lundqvist and prove he still has Boston’s number, team-wide meltdown last spring aside.
That and the added fact that Lundqvist’s skating mates will ensure he is sufficiently supported at one end and not overwhelmed at the other. The opportunity to turn the page with the finest form of symbolism should not and will not be lost on the home team.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.