(4) Boston Bruins vs. (6) New York Rangers
Season series: Boston won 1-0-2.
They have a history: It’s been more than 40 years since these Original Six rivals met in a playoff series — the 1973 NHL quarterfinals. Boston has won six of the teams’ nine postseason meetings, including a six-game series victory in the 1972 Stanley Cup final.
For the Bruins to win: The Bruins will have to continue their impressive faceoff prowess to keep the Rangers hemmed in their own end. New York’s defence has been susceptible against teams with strong forechecking, and Boston won a league-high 60 per cent of its faceoffs in its first-round win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston’s top line — Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, David Krejci — combined for 29 points, and the Bruins could use contributions like that against the Rangers. If that troika is contained, Tyler Seguin will need to step up; the second-line centre recorded just one assist against Toronto. The Bruins will also need Tuukka Rask to be outstanding. Boston’s netminder sports a 2.49 goals-against average this postseason. He’ll need to be better for Boston to advance further.
For Rangers to win: Henrik Lundqvist must continue to be the world’s best goaltender. Lundqvist carried New York to a seven-game series win over the Washington Capitals, shutting out Washington for the series’ final 120 minutes. The Rangers would also be wise to score first and more than once; they are 1-3 this postseason when scoring fewer than two goals. New York got goal-scoring contributions from its bottom-six forwards, but it likely won’t be able to survive a series against the defensively disciplined Bruins without offensive output from Rick Nash and Brad Richards. Nash only recorded two assists in the Rangers’ seven games, and Richards was exiled to New York’s fourth line in the final two games of its first-round series, playing fewer than 21 minutes in the Rangers’ final two wins.
Matchup to watch: The Rangers’ defence held Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals to just 12 goals in seven games but should face a more arduous chore against Boston’s deep forward lines. Not only do the Bruins have a dominant top trio, they have four lines that can cause havoc.
Big question: What is Dennis Seidenberg’s status? The Bruins’ top defender played just 37 seconds in Boston’s Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs, leaving with an undisclosed injury. If Seidenberg can’t go, the Bruins will have a hard time slowing New York’s offence.
Best bet: Bruins in six.
– Pat Pickens
Hockey Central insider predictions
Chris Johnston: Rangers
Doug MacLean: Rangers
Daren Millard: Rangers
Scott Morrison: Rangers
John Shannon: Bruins
Mark Spector: Rangers