Last night the Red Wings certainly showed their age in a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the well-rested Blackhawks. Chicago was potent on the attack and dominated all facets of the game. That said, this remains a best-of-7 series and the Wings will make adjustments and provide value later in the series.
Tonight we’ll focus on on the last second round series as the Rangers visit the hurting Bruins. New York is fresh off an emotional Game 7 victory over the Capitals, while the Bruins clawed their way into the second round by the skin of their teeth in beating Toronto. They are a depleted group though and it remains to be seen how they will react after such a quick turnaround.
New York Rangers (+115) @ Boston Bruins (-135)
At the outset of the post-season the Rangers were considered by many to be a legitimate darkhorse to hoist the Cup come the end of June. After Round 1, despite injuries to Ryane Clowe and Marc Staal, this remains a team with all the necessary pieces. The Rangers play a stifling style and don’t give up many chances. When they do, star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist routinely bails them out, and expect that to be the theme of this series. While New York had to fight to get into the post-season, I can see them easily disposing of a depleted Boston team in Round 2.
At full-strength this can be a scary Bruins team, but without three key defenders it’s tough to back them against anyone. Boston was routinely outplayed against Toronto and aside from a fortunate final 10-minute stretch to close out the series, the Bruins were lucky to have advanced. Boston showed signs of being tired as they were often out-skated shift-after-shift, and expect the speed and depth of the Rangers’ forwards to cause problems. Their defensemen are now quite inexperienced, with Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, and Wade Redden all hurting, they’ll rely on young and unproven kids to step up in their absence. Against a New York team that can be lethal, it’s hard not to be skeptical of their chances.
In addition, expect Boston to have struggle scoring throughout this series. New York plays a very tight defensive style, one that the Bruins will struggle to penetrate. Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin were non-factors in their opening round, and if they can’t produce against a porous Leafs’ squad, they’ll have no shot against the Blueshirts. Unlike Toronto, New York has a plethora of legitimate shutdown defensemen that will make life miserable for Boston’s more elite forwards. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are at the top of their respective games right now, and don’t expect David Krejci’s playoff dominance to continue into this round.
Expect a hard-hitting, low-scoring series, and the tone will be set from the opening puck drop tonight. With Boston being below full strength and missing key personnel on the back-end, it’s hard not to like the Rangers as road underdogs. New York is finally realizing their potential and hitting their stride at the right time. They’re a Cup contender once again, and they’ll prove it tonight and through the duration of the series.
PICK = NY Rangers (+115)