Back on the Ice: Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers Preview

Bruins Back On the Ice: The Boston Bruins open up what’s left of a 48-game regular season against the New York Rangers at 7pm in TD Garden tomorrow (Saturday Jan 19th). The Bruins vs. Rangers contest is one of 13 games on tap for tomorrow, with 6 more games on Sunday for a weekend full of hockey.

Tale of the Tape: According to the Associated Press, both the Bruins and the Rangers are potential Stanley Cup favorites entering this season. Here’s a breakdown of both teams:

Rangers: The New York Rangers enter this season with Stanely Cup hopes as they nearly missed the big game last year with a conference finals loss to their rivals the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers made an offseason addition to their roster, as they landed former Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash via trade.

Nash brings even more scoring power to an already potent mix, with Ranger forwards Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. With the Blue Jackets Nash racked up 289 goals and 547 points in 674 games with a pair 40 goal seasons as well as 5 30+ goal seasons, according to the AP.

Then there’s the goal play of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who only allowed 1.97 goals averaged against him in 62 regular games last season. Lundqvist also posted an even more microscopic 1.82 GAA in the post-season for New York. Couple that with Nash, Gaboric, plus Richards, and the Rangers could be as good as advertised.

Bruins: The Bruins will be looking to win their second Stanley Cup Finals trophy in 3 seasons and they’ll have to try and do it without usual goalie Tim Thomas. Thomas you may remember was one of the keys to the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup triumph. Thomas decided to take this shortened season off and spend time with his family.

That puts Tuukka Rask in front of the net for Boston. Rask has promise as he posted a 2.05 GAA in 25 games backing up Thomas last season. Also, Rask posted a 1.97 GAA in a 45 game span back in 2010 when Thomas was injured. The Bruins will hope Rask can put up similar numbers in this 48-game regular season.

Aside from losing Thomas, the Bruins have most of  last year’s crew back. This includes Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, and Milan Lucic. All of whom signed multi-year contract deals with Boston before the lockout began.

The Bruins will be looking to bounce back to Stanley Cup form this year, after a first round Game 7 playoff loss to Washington last year.

Brian Boyle Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins tries to keep the puck as Brian Boyle #22 of the New York Rangers defends on February 14, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The New York Rangers defeated the Boston Bruins 3-0.

My Prediction: With this being the first game of a shortened season, it’s hard to say how any team will do. Nevertheless, I will take a shot in the dark and say the Bruins win 2-1 over the Rangers.

However, the Bruins may have a tough time scoring against the Rangers Lundqvist, as he boasts a pair of shutouts in his last 3 trips to Bean-town and a nasty 1.53 GAA in 27 games against the Bruins.

Despite the numbers, I give Boston the edge as the Bruins had 9 players who found work in Europe during the lockout. So, I’ll take experience over stats in this one.

Where to Watch: As a reminder the Bruins vs. Rangers game begins at 7pm tomorrow evening (Saturday January 19th) in the TD Garden and can be viewed on NHLN (NHLNetwork). If you’re going to the game, remember to cheer, drink, and act responsibly.

Bruins Get Blanked

Senators goaltender Robin Lehner (20 years old) made himself known to the Bruins faithful last night when he registered 32 saves and his first career shutout. Young defenseman (21 days younger than me, hard to believe) Erik Karlsson tallied the only goal for Ottawa on a gift powerplay. Tyler Seguin was called for a phantom interference penalty which ended up costing the B’s the game. Although, the Bruins did not exactly play their best in the first two periods (more like terrible) they came out strong in the third, but playing catch-up hockey is not this team’s strength. They are dominant when they score first, so these sluggish starts are killing them. Not to take anything away from Lehner, but the Bruins should have buried the puck on a couple of chances. Even though Lehner was great in net, guys like Bergeron and Marchand need to finish strong. After posting five goals on these guys a couple of nights ago on the road, it’s kind of unacceptable to come home and get shut-out considering Ottawa has sneakily crept up to within one point of the Northeast division leading Bruins. Ottawa has won six of seven and the B’s have lost four of six. The Bruins have a game tomorrow vs. the Devils and Saturday vs. the Islanders before a big showdown with the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon. I would like to see this team get a little momentum heading into a potential Eastern Conference finals matchup, by winning these next two by reestablishing their checking game, outskating their opponents, and causing turnovers. When they stick to this formula, its plain and simple, they win games.

Tradition Ruined?: Winter Classic Not on New Years Day

This year, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will match up against each other in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park. Along with the past Winter Classics, this one should prove to be another great game. The problem is that this year the game will be played on January 2nd.

In the last few years, the Winter Classic has become synonymous with New Years Day. They go together like spaghetti and meatball, or lamb and tuna fish if you are Rob Schneider in Big Daddy. I feel as if the Winter Classic has proven to be one of the major things that put the NHL back on the map, perhaps even vaulted it ahead of the NBA as an organization. It has become an incredible tradition for sports fans around North America to wake up on New Years Day and turn on the hockey classic. Something about being hungover makes outdoor hockey a great idea. But truly, that’s not it. The NHL has really done this one right. Play the game between two well-matched teams in an outdoor MLB or NFL stadium, and while we are at it, let’s air it on NBC before the BCS bowl games start up. Oh yeah, and the month before the game lets have HBO film 24/7, a must-see TV series showing an in-depth look at the two teams in the month leading up to the game. Everyone is tired on New Years Day and sitting down to watch a good hockey game is a perfect way to spend it.

I’m not really sure why the NHL changed the date from the prior years to the 2nd this year. NHL chief operating official John Collins had mentioned that the games “kind of landed on Jan. 1 because frankly NBC had a big window on a big day, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?” I have a question John: Why wouldn’t you take advantage of your established fan base on New Years Day?