Bruins, Rangers both hoping fallen stars rise in semi-finals
With each NHL playoff series that passes, it’s wise to reassess teams, coaches and players, realizing that the script can dramatically change in the next round. The Bruins and Rangers both survived taxing seven game series’ against the Maple Leafs and Capitals, respectively, and it was in spite of some of their top players making little happen in the first round. Much of the focus in the series will be regarding which teams’ big guns finally step up and which team has stars that continue to wilt in the postseason.
Whichever team gets more of the same, odds are they’ll be sent packing for the summer.
In Boston, Brad Marchand was the B’s leading scorer in the regular season with 18 goals and 18 assists while Tyler Seguin was tied for third on the team with 16 goals and 16 assists. Along with Patrice Bergeron, that trio was the Bruins’ most consistent line all season. Against Toronto, Bergeron (three goals, one assist) redeemed himself with an incredible Game 7 performance (two goals, one assist), but Marchand was held to three assists and Seguin had just one assist in the entire series. If you’re being positive, things couldn’t get much worse for Marchand and Seguin. The Bruins have to hope that maybe that winning play (with all three guys finally battling in front of the net) will carryover to the Rangers series.
Derek Stepan (18 goals, 26 assists) and Rick Nash (21 goals, 21 assists) were New York’s top two scorers in the regular season, but Stepan was held to two goals against Washington and Nash – their big offseason acquisition – managed only two assists. The Rangers struggled to score against the Caps, with just 16 goals in seven games, and that includes five in Game 7 vs. the Capitals. Much of that is due to Stepan and Nash dragging New York’s first line down with them. Ryan Callahan is the Rangers’ best all-around player (an American Bergeron) but also had a hard time with Braden Holtby and Washington, finishing the series with just one goal and two assists.
There are many individual matchups and games within the game that develop in every NHL playoff series but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on these underachieving players who all have the ability to break out in this round.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate