Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pregame: Bruins vs Rangers 11/17/2010: Can Rangers Ride Momentum Over Bruins?

The Rangers come into the Garden tonight on an upward loop to their rollercoaster so far having won three straight including a huge character win Monday night against Pittsburgh.  In tonight’s game they will eye a .500 home record as with a win tonight they would improve to 5-5-1 and start to build a home ice advantage with their 3rd straight at the Garden.  If the current Rangers needed any more help tonight they will be playing their first game in their Heritage jersey’s so they will truly be skating with history on their backs pushing them forward.  The team currently sits at 10-7-1 overall and will have a tough task in playing the Bruins in what are seemingly always tight and low scoring affairs.

Rangers (10-7-1) vs Boston (9-5-1)
Key Opposing Player: Nathan Horton (8-6-14)
Frolov- Christensen -Gaborik
Avery- Stepan -White/Boogaard

Staal - Girardi
Del Zotto - Eminger


Scratches: Drury (Broken Finger), Rozsival (Shoulder), Prospal (Knee)
(No official word yet on whether the final scratch will be Boogaard (Finger Laceration), or White (healthy)

The Rangers will look to do something they have not done very well the last few seasons and that is build off momentum type wins as they got Monday against Pittsburgh.  While the outcome was excellent for the team and the fans, do not mistake that for thinking that the team played a great game as in reality Pittsburgh dominated and if not for Henrik Lundqvist, the penalty kill and Brandon Dubinsky the last portion of the game the Rangers lose that game. 

The Rangers will need to get back to playing a hard game especially against a team like Boston that can play physical with you.  The fore-check, cycle, block shots, take the body style game will be necessary for another victory.  This means the Rangers will be relying on the Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line for the energy and production they have been giving all season while hoping to get some continued chip in from the grinders in the lineup in the form of Fedotenko, Boyle, Prust.

The task for the first line gets no easier tonight as instead of being shadowed by Brooks Orpik tonight Marian Gaborik will get his country-man Zdeno Chara following and pounding on him at every opportunity.  Even with that being the case Gaborik and Frolov are going to need to give more to the team than they did against Pittsburgh if this team is to be successful in the long run.

Defensively the Rangers will get some semblance of a break after facing the high powered attack of the Penguins and the star talent of Crosby and especially Evgeni Malkin the other night, most any offense would seem less threatening and Boston is no exception.  That said the Rangers will have to continue to play physical hockey in their own zone and protect Lundqvist from being run, which they have not done well for years.  The elevation of Marc Staal’s game the last three and Dan Girardi’s excellent play all season will need to be evident along with the solid play of Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger to get another win.  Michael Del Zotto seems to be lacking confidence on the offensive end in his shot and for the Rangers powerplay to truly work he has to be at least a threat to shoot.

On the Boston side of the ledger after a scorching 7-2 start the Bruins have come back to Earth going 2-3-1 in their last six games.  The Bruins overall are 6-1 on the road this season so that is certainly a cause for concern coming into tonight’s game.  The main reason for the slide back of late for the Bruins has been the lack of consistent offense, which in large part is due to their injuries down the middle.  Both David Krecji, who was off to a great start, and Marc Savard have been out with concussions.  The Bruins in their first nine games averaged 3.22 goals per game and in their six sans the seven goal outburst against Pittsburgh it would be 1.6 goals a game.

The key offensive figure for the Bruins with Krecji and Savard out of the lineup has been a favorite of mine for a while, Nathan Horton.  Horton seems to be enjoying his exile from hockey invisibility in Florida and is off to a very nice start for the Bruins.  Horton will have help from Milan Lucic, ageless Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and Patrice Bergeron.  On the back line Chara and his howitzer are always dangerous and in net solving Tim Thomas and his unbelievable start will be no easy task.  Thomas comes in at 9-1 with 1.32GAA .960SV% which are just ridiculous numbers.  Combine those numbers with Lundqvist’s career numbers of 14-4-2 1.42 GAA .946SV% and we should be in for a low scoring affair.

Prediction: Rangers 2-1; goals from Dubinsky, Girardi