The Boston Bruins will be hosting the New York Rangers for their third and final matchup of the 2016-17 season on Thursday evening. In the two previous meetings between the clubs, the Rangers were able to capture a pair of 5-2 victories over the Bruins.
The Bruins have registered seven victories over their past eight games under new head coach Bruce Cassidy and will be looking for their fourth straight win when the Rangers roll into the TD Garden. Due to their recent success, the Bruins find themselves sitting third in the Atlantic Division with 72 points.
The Rangers opened the month of February with six straight wins, but have dropped four of their past seven contests, including a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in their last outing. The Rangers are sitting comfortably inside the Eastern Conference playoff picture but will try to get back to their winning ways against the Bruins.
New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
TD Garden-7:00 p.m. E.S.T
Broadcast Channels-NBCSN, NESN, TVAS, MSG, 98.5 The Sports Hub
2016-17 Season Series: Rangers Lead 2-0
New York Rangers-40-21-2- 82 Points
Road Record: 21-8-0
Hot Players: Mika Zibanejad, J.T. Miller
Key Injuries: Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi, Jesper Fast
J.T. Miller-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-Michael Grabner
Brandon Pirri-Oscar Lindberg-Matt Puempel
Marc Staal-Ryan McDonagh
Brendan Smith-Nick Holden
Brady Skjei-Adam Clendening
Boston Bruins-33-24-6- 72 Points
Home Record: 16-13-0
Hot Players: David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron
Key Injuries: None
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Backes
Peter Cehlarik-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Matt Beleskey-Dominic Moore-Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Colin Miller
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] On Mar. 1, teams across the league were busy trying to make deals before the trade deadline. It appeared the Bruins were going to be quiet until word got out Don Sweeney had made a move just before the 3 p.m deadline. Sweeney added veteran forward Drew Stafford to the Bruins roster for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. Stafford has posted 13 points in 40 games for the Winnipeg Jets this season and is scheduled to arrive in Boston Thursday afternoon. However, it does not appear Stafford will make his Bruins debut against the Rangers.
Jets trade Drew Stafford to the Boston Bruins for a conditional 6th
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 1, 2017
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] The Rangers were also active at the trade deadline as they added Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith to their blue line. Smith is 28-years old, plays a heavy game and should provide some extra stability to the Rangers defense after the injury to Dan Girardi. Never much of a point producer, Smith has registered five points over 33 games this season and should be making his Rangers debut against the Bruins.
Wings reportedly trade Brendan Smith to NYR for two picks — second-rounder and third-rounder. Not a bad return. Sell market looking good.
— Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) February 28, 2017
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has faced the Bruins 38 times in his career and has been nothing short of spectacular in those contests. His record against the Bruins stands at 24-12-2 with a 1.95 GAA and a .935 save percentage. On the other side of the ice, Tuukka Rask has squared off against the Rangers 19 times so far in his career. Rask has not seen the success Lundqvist has, but he still posts a respectable 9-6-3 record with a 2.26 GAA, and a .924 save percentage against the Rangers.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron had a slow start to the 2016-17 season on the offensive side of the puck. Bergeron is known to be a great two-way forward, but defense was the only thing clicking early this season. However, he eventually started to get his offense back on track and has posted 30 points over the past 26 contests, including two assists against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. The offensive surge is refreshing for fans as the Bruins assistant captain now has 16 goals and 40 points through 60 contests.
One of the Bruins main flaws this season has been their slow starts. Starting slowly usually meant the Bruins were playing from behind and it is difficult to win NHL games consistently while trailing. Recently, the Bruins solved the issue of slow starts and have scored the first goal in six consecutive games. If the Bruins hope to keep their hot streak alive, they will have to start strong and put the Rangers in an early hole.
On the other side, the Rangers have to be able to match the Bruins recent string of solid first periods, so they do not find themselves in a tough situation on the road. After dropping two games in a row, the Rangers will be eager to get a win and get back on track before the playoffs. With two wins already against the Bruins and an impressive 21-8-0 record away from Madison Square Garden this season, the Rangers should come into this game with a lot of confidence.
Anthony Pagliarulo is a Boston Bruins contributor for The Hockey Writers. He is a Massachusetts native and a Worcester State University alumni. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @APags87.