May 16, 2013, 11:37 AM EDT
Can Boston’s defense get healthy?
It’s not clear when injured Bruins defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Andrew Ference (foot) and Wade Redden (undisclosed) will be able to play. For Game 1, it appears Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and recent AHL call-up Torey Krug will be in the lineup. In a related story, no d-man has been forced to play more minutes in the playoffs than Zdeno Chara (202:19). The Bruins blew a golden opportunity to get some much-needed rest when they couldn’t close out the Leafs in five games. It’s possible that could come back to haunt them.
Can the Bruins find some consistency?
They pushed their luck against Toronto, needing a miraculous comeback in the third period of Game 7, then overtime. Before then, B’s coach Claude Julien had lamented his team’s “Jekyll & Hyde” season. As everyone knows, Boston is tough to beat when it plays physical, in-your-face hockey. However, playing that way isn’t easy — you have to really want to pay the price. Perhaps the Bruins can build on their emotional victory over the Leafs. Maybe they just needed to be reminded how good the payoff felt. But if they don’t compete consistently against the Rangers, they’ll be in trouble.
Can Girardi, McDonagh handle the big B’s?
Chara isn’t the only defenseman who can expect to play big, tough minutes in this series. New York’s Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will also be out there a lot. If the Bruins do compete like they can, they’ll be pounding the Rangers’ top duo every chance they get. “Boston does provide a different look with, I’ve got to say, four good lines,” Girardi said. “They like to play their fourth line a lot, and that line gets on the forecheck and creates momentum that way. I think all four of their lines are pretty dangerous, so it’s on everybody to make sure we shut it down no matter who we’re out there against, kind of like doing the same job, but on everyone.”
Can the Rangers’ big guns deliver?
Their biggest gun is Rick Nash, who led them in goal-scoring during the regular season, with 21. So far in the playoffs, all he’s managed is two assists. Now, that’s not to say he hasn’t come close. He leads the Rangers with 22 shots in the postseason, and he hit the post in Game 2 against the Capitals. “I think the offense will come,” he told Newsday. “I was getting a few chances [Monday], got a few chances [Sunday]. That’s my main goal, trying to help the team win.” Brad Richards, on the other hand, seems less likely to break out. The 33-year-old center with the big contract was demoted to the fourth line against Washington. He did play well at the end of the regular season though, finishing April with 16 points in 14 games.
Can Derick Brassard keep it up?
The 25-year-old center who was acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline had nine points in the first round. Without Brassard, along with linemate Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers might not be playing anymore. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Brassard told NHL.com. “I just feel like I don’t think as much on the ice here, I just play. The way we play the game and the way we manage the puck I think it fits really well with my style. They don’t make me try to play another game. Why I play in the NHL is because I make plays, and now not only is my confidence high, it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
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