For the third time already this season the Rangers (6-5-0, 12 pts) hook up with the Boston Bruins (8-1-1, 17 pts) when the two teams meet Tuesday night at TD Garden. Each team has won once on its home ice---the Bruins besting the Rangers 3-1 on opening night in Boston, and the Rangers exacting some revenge with a 4-3 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden on January 23rd.
The Rangers enter this game having won two in a row, three of their last four, and five of their last seven. This marks just the second time this season that the Rangers have won two straight, and they will be seeking their first three-game winning streak of 2013 this evening. And the Rangers will also be looking to win on the road, something they have done in great regularity under John Tortorella the previous three seasons, but something they have done only once in four games away from Madison Square Garden so far this season.
One of the major keys to the Rangers recent success has been puck posession---having the puck more than the opposition--- and this has come directly from a more effective forecheck from all four lines deployed by Tortorella, as well as a penchant for creating turnovers in the neutral zone. As Tortorella noted on Monday after practice, the Rangers are spending far less time in their own end of the ice because they have posessed the puck more. And when there have been breakdowns in their own end, the Rangers have been bailed out by Henrik Lundqvist, whose game is also coming into its own recently.
Tortorella has also trusted all four lines the past two games---in particular since the addition of Darroll Powe last week---and his fourth line has rewarded the coach with a string of good shifts---ones that are impressive in the forecheck and puck control. Fourth liner Arron Asham even contributed a goal Sunday against the Lightning. Being able to use four lines with confidence allows Tortorella to make sure his top forwards are not overused over the long haul, though it is clear that Rick Nash certainly thrives on as many minutes as he can get.
The Rangers are fully healthy again now that Ryan Callahan---who's been back two games and who scored a gorgeous breakaway goal Sunday---and Dan Girardi---who returned from a two-game absence against the Lightning and contributed a pair of assists and posted a +4 plus/minus rating---are once again in the lineup. This is essential against a very deep and very talented Bruins team. It is likely that Brian Boyle---a Boston native---will be scratched for a third straight contest.
In the Bruins the Rangers will be facing a team that is once again fully healthy, as well, now that Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton have recently returned from injuries. The Bruins are coming off of a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, and have won three straight and six of their last seven games. At TD Garden the Bruins are 4-1-0 this season. It is no surprise that the 2011 Stanley Cup champions sit atop the Northeast Division.
Even without former Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas in net, the Bruins still rank as one of the league's top defensive teams. With Tuukka Rask now the No. 1 goalie, and backup Anton Khudobin winning both of his starts so far, the Bruins have surrendered just 21 goals in ten games to rank third in the Eastern Conference. A league-best 92.9 percent success rate on the penalty kill certainly has not hurt the Bruins either.
Tuesday's game in Boston is the Rangers lone road contest in a stretch that sees them play five of six games on home ice, dating from February 7th through February 19th. And the team views these two points as huge ones, even this early in the season.
Will the Rangers get the two road points they are seeking in Boston on Tuesday? Share your thoughts and predictions below.