It is shocking that two teams with so many similarities haven’t met in the postseason for exactly 40 years. The last time the Bruins and Rangers played each other in the playoffs was the 1973 quarterfinal round (New York won 4-1). These Original Six rivals will be renewing their acquaintances again starting Thursday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) for Game 1 at TD Garden. Besides having passionate fan bases and defensive minded coaches, when you dig beneath the surface you’ll realize how much these clubs have in common.
“It’s another New York-Boston series,” said Bruins left wing Milan Lucic after Boston’s wild 5-4 overtime win over Toronto on Monday. “Red Sox-Yankees, Patriots-Giants and the Celtics just played the Knicks in the playoffs. There is plenty of hatred between the two cities so we’re looking forward to the series.”
Plenty of people bash Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s overly defensive system but one can bet Rangers head coach John Tortorella (a Concord, Mass. native) would not be a part that vocal group. Boston often struggles to score but New York usually has big trouble putting the puck in the net as well. The strength of both teams lies in goal: Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy (award for best goaltender in the NHL) last season and he is a favorite to capture it again this season. New York only allowed 12 goals in its grueling seven-game series against Washington, including back-to-back shutouts by the Swede they call King Henrik in Games 6 and 7.
Center Brian Boyle, from Hingham, Mass., and left wing Chris Kreider, from Boxford, Mass., both played at Boston College for legendary head coach Jerry York. Defenseman Matt Gilroy won the Hobey Baker (top college hockey player) at Boston University for the recently retired Jack Parker in 2009 but he was a healthy scratch in the entire series against the Capitals. New York’s mentality is to wear teams down by playing physically, blocking shots and letting Lundqvist do his thing. It’s a formula that makes for plenty of close, low-scoring games that are extra nail-biting in the postseason.
Matchup-wise, this doesn’t seem like the worst opponent for the Bruins especially since they will have home ice and both teams have the exact same amount of rest since New York won its Game 7, also on Monday. One of the main reasons that Toronto rallied from a 3-1 series deficit is that their overall team speed was something that the mostly plodding Bruins couldn’t keep up with. In the Rangers, the B’s will find a team that’s more of a mirror image. Even if the games turn out to be boring, Tortorella’s press conferences are always a must-see since he is constantly battling with the media, opposing coaches, his own players etc. The man is certifiably insane but in an enjoyable way.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate