RANGERS (0-0-0) at BRUINS (0-0-0)
Boston, MA - And so it begins… a fresh season, no wins, no losses, no points – a clean slate.
The Bruins head into tonight’s season opener against the 2012 Eastern Conference runner-up New York Rangers at the TD Garden (7:00 p.m. ET) returning 19 players who have all previously suited up in at least one game for the B’s. The only three new faces include defensemen Dougie Hamilton and David Warsofsky, along with forward Chris Bourque. Hamilton, the B’s 2010 first-round pick, is expected to play his first NHL game, while Warsofsky will be on an Opening Night roster for the first time in his career and is looking to skate in his first NHL game (his rights were acquired by the Bruins from Washington in 2010).
But the most prominent “feel-good” story of the night involving a new member in Black & Gold is that of winger Chris Bourque, who is looking to join his father Ray as just the fifth father-son combination in team history to wear the Bruins sweater.
“It’s pretty surreal right now,” Bourque said following Saturday’s morning skate. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life to play for the Bruins and today’s finally the day it’s going to happen. Trying to soak it all in and have fun with it and I’m really excited for tonight.”
The Match-Up: Saturday night’s game marks the first of three meetings between the Original Six rival Bruins and Rangers this season, and the first of two at TD Garden in front of what is expected to be the club’s 130th consecutive sellout crowd. Last season, the Rangers took the series, winning three of four. Regardless of tonight’s end result, expect there to be some animosity brewing between the squads, as the B’s will face off against the BlueShirts again on Wednesday, January 23 in New York in the first of the NBC Sports Network’s “Rivalry Nights.”
History Runs Deep: The B’s and Rangers are meeting tonight for the 629th time in their franchise histories, with Boston holding a 284-240-97-7 record and a 1,976-1,830 scoring advantage in those games. At home, the Bruins also have the edge, with a 165-100-42-5 record in the 312 total home games of this lifetime series and a 1,097-866 scoring edge in those contests. This marks the 11th time in its history that Boston has opened the season against the Rangers, with the B’s holding a 4-3-1 edge.
Superstition: For those of us who like superstitions, take this into account heading into the 48-game shortened season: in the five previous seasons that Head Coach Claude Julien has been behind the Bruins bench, the B’s have had a winning record and been situated in a playoff position in each year following the 48th game of the season. While superstitions at the end of the day are just, well, superstitions, that statistic might help the Boston faithful sleep better at night. It’s also interesting to note that the Bruins have played 48 or fewer games in a complete schedule 19 previous times, making the playoffs in 15 of those seasons.
Storylines to Watch: The familiarity in the Bruins roster is an outward advantage heading into tonight. With the B’s depth of running all four lines (see lineup below), and their jump throughout the week at Training Camp, the real questions will be how quickly Boston’s top offensive players can gain back their timing and scoring touch, the new addition of Bourque on the third line alongside Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, how long it will take for Dougie Hamilton to adjust to the NHL game being paired with Dennis Seidenberg, and how Tuukaa Rask will take the reigns of being the No. 1 goaltender.
The Bruins are facing off against the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist, with a quick, young Rangers team (add former Boston College forward Chris Kreider into that mix) in front of him, boosted by the offseason free agent signing of forward Rick Nash.
With both teams facing the effects of nearly nine months without playing an NHL game, along with shortened training camps, the test tonight will be which team can get its legs under them off the bat, and find a simple, high-energy game to carry them through three periods of action.
“I’d probably tell you we need to keep the game simple,” B’s Head Coach Claude Julien told media in his pre-game press conference, when asked what would help the B’s operate cohesively tonight. “I mean, that’s always been the case when you come back from an injury or you start the season or anything: keep it simple.”
“There’s a lot of guys that aren’t 100-percent right now as far as having their hands back or stickhandling or their skating. So, you know, keep things simple. Don’t complicate it and make it harder than it has to be.”
Boston Lines and D-pairings:
Forwards Lane MacDermid and Jay Pandolfo - who is still on an Professional Tryout Agreement with Boston, but has not yet been added to the roster - also skated this morning, along with former Boston University Terrier and Marshfield, MA native David Warsofsky.
Coach’s Corner: Coach Julien is not shying away from the opportunity to face off against an Original Six tough-minded team that nearly made it to last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
“I like that opportunity. You know, I really do. I’d rather play one of the best teams in the conference than not. And right now, let’s go at it. Like I said, we’re both at the same stage where we’ve had six days of Training Camp. Let’s go at it.”
Between the Pipes: Tuukka Rask knows he is going up against last year’s Vezina winner in Henrik Lundqvist, but when asked if he would feel added anticipation heading into tonight, the B’s goaltender dismissed the idea of having any extra anxiety clouding his usually calm mind.
“Yeah you know what, not really. He’s a great goalie. He won the Vezina last year too, right? Been there for many years. I’ve played against him many times, too, but they’ve always been tight games and it’s going to be a good battle.”
Heard Around the Locker Room: One aspect of the Bruins game that they worked on considerably during Training Camp is the revamped power play. Tyler Seguin talked about his special teams’ role, what the B’s are looking forward to bringing on the man-advantage, and how his time spent on the PP playing for EHC Biel in the Swiss League during the work stoppage may help get him going.
“I thought we were doing a pretty good job in practice there, it’s going to be fun. I mean obviously it’s great guys on the power-play unit … I think we’re going to find some chemistry.
“One of the big things they told me to work on after last year was just my kind of top of the circle, one-timer and finding those areas on the power play to work it and that’s what I thought I was doing in Europe anyways, that’s what half my goals over there were.”
Behind Rival Lines: New York Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella was just as anxious Saturday morning to get his team back on the ice and get the season under way.
“All of the teams are in the same boat… We’ve practiced enough. The guys need to play a game…. I’m anxious to see our guys play. Just as much as they want to play, I want to see them play. To me, we’re at work here now.”
Tortorella also talked about the highly touted former 2002 first overall pick Rick Nash, and how the addition will affect his squad.
“We’re going to have to be a better team this year, so other players are going to have to be better,” Tortorella told media gathered in the TD Garden hallway midway between the B’s and visiting locker rooms. “So people aren’t going to be looking to him [Nash] – I think he’ll add to us, but the other guys have to do their work.”
Rangers Team Scope from NHL.com's Dave Lozo:After seeing their above-average offense dry up in the postseason, GM Glen Sather acquired perennial 30-goal scorer Rick Nash for a slew of players, including forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. Also leaving the club as a free agent was forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who signed with the Flyers. To plug these holes, the Rangers signed Arron Asham (who has one game remaining on a suspension he received during last season's playoffs as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins), Jeff Halpern and Taylor Pyatt.
The Rangers' overall depth takes a hit, but there's no denying their top-six forwards are now among the most dangerous in the League.
"He's such a great player," Brad Richards, who will likely be Nash's center to start the season, told the New York Times. "I don't see too many problems. I'm not saying it's going to be magic, either. But hopefully, we get it going right away."
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