Can the Pace of the Blueshirts Bury Boston?

In an original-six matchup, the Rangers take on the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden this evening.

Both teams have played better recently. The Rangers, who have won four consecutive games to get back to .500, are slowly creeping back into the ranks of respectability. The Bruins are 5-3-1 in their last nine. Tonight’s game will mark the first of three meetings between the teams this season.

[Watch Tonight’s Rangers Post Game on MSG and Download Free on MSG GO]

The Rangers red-hot power play scored three times in the third period on Monday night to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3. Pavel Buchnevich scored the third of those power play goals, which turned out to be the game-winner, taking a brilliant backhand pass from Mika Zibanejad.

Entering the season after signing a lucrative long-term contract with the Blueshirts, the hope was that Zibanejad would provide the Rangers with legitimate top-line center-ice play. Especially so, with the trade of Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes. Hope has turned to reality and Zibanejad has been terrific. He has posted 9 points in his past 5 games. Equally important, he has become a trustworthy three-zone player, while taking most of the important face-offs and playing the big minutes that a top center-man needs to play. The Rangers have been better as a result of the play of Zibanejad.

It was 42 years and a day ago, that the Rangers and Bruins pulled off one of the biggest trades of the era when the Blueshirts acquired Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais, for Jean Ratelle and Brad Park. There was a fifth player involved in the deal, Joe Zanussi sent to Boston as well, who happened to be my defense partner in Providence at the time. To this day I can remember Joe, after being told that he was heading to Boston, literally dancing out of the locker room, ecstatic that he was heading to Beantown with the belief that he was finally going to get his chance in the NHL. Seems like yesterday. Gosh, where does the time go!


1. Smart Speed

This is not the big, bad Bruins of old as the franchise has made a conscious effort to retool in an attempt to compete in today’s game of speed and skill. The Rangers must be smart with their own speed and not get caught up in an undisciplined run-and-gun track meet with this banged-up opponent.

2. Work Chara

Zdeno Chara, one of this generation’s more dominating physical defenseman is 40 years old. Not one of the fleetest of foot younger, Big Z must be forced to move. He still logs big minutes. Make him work.

3. 60 Minutes – 12 Forwards

The Rangers have a more skilled, NHL-proven slate of forwards in tonight’s matchup. The pace of the game and the skill with which the game is played will favor the Blueshirts if they play well enough over 60 minutes to utilize all 12 forwards on a consistent basis.

[Watch Tonight’s Rangers Post Game on MSG and Download Free on MSG GO]