Bruins looking forward to second meeting with Rangers
|02.13.12 at 6:38 pm ET|
After grinding out a hard-fought win Saturday in a shootout against the Predators, the Bruins will need to bring another complete effort if they want two points Tuesday night against the Rangers.
Yet when it comes to facing the Rangers, the B’s have more to gain than just two points. A win against John Tortorella‘s club in their second meeting can prove that the Bruins can hang with the squad that’s been the best team in the Eastern conference this season.
The Bruins were able to hang with the Rangers last time around, but lost, 3-2, in overtime after Andrew Ference was ejected for shoving Ryan McDonagh into the end boards, making way for a Marian Gaborik power-play goal to give the Rangers the win. It was an ugly way to end it for the B’s, but they’re determined to bring another strong effort to the table against New York Tuesday.
“We’re a good team. We’re a confident group,” Chris Kelly said after Monday’s practice. “This is a great challenge, a great opportunity for us to play another good team.”
This season, the Rangers have been more than just a good team. They boast a conference-best 77 points and are second in the league in goals-against against (the Bruins are fourth). The B’s average a league-best 3.4 goals per game, and the Rangers are 10th with 2.8.
The Bruins and Rangers have their similarities and differences — both teams get outstanding goaltending from the best netminders in the league, while the Rangers block far more shots than the Bruins — but the biggest difference between the two teams this season is consistency. After both teams got off to slow starts, the B’s caught fire for two months and began slumping, while the Rangers really haven’t slowed down since heating up. They’ve won five of their last six games.
The Bruins have played one less game than the Rangers this season (53 to New York’s 54) and trail them by seven points for the conference lead. Should the race come down to wire late in the regular season, the Bruins will be hurt by the fact that they’ve gotten six of their wins in the shootout this season, while the Rangers have won only three in the shootout. When teams finish the season tied in points, the tie-breaker is ROW, or regulation and overtime wins. The Rangers currently have 33 such victories, tops in the NHL, while the B’s have 28. For that reason, it’s likely that the Bruins will simply need to finish the regular season with more points in order to secure the top seed. A regulation win over the Rangers Tuesday would go a long way in helping their cause.
“It’s a very big game,” Brad Marchand said Monday. “They’re obviously at the top of the conference right now and we want to try and catch them. They’re playing very good hockey right now. We have to make sure we’re prepared for that and out out best game on the ice.
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