Rangers-Bruins: Series Preview

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The Defensemen


Rangers: This group is led by the stout pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, which just finished off an outstanding series against Washington by holding Alex Ovechkin to only one goal and one assist through seven games. Both Girardi and McDonagh were on top of their games individually and collectively as a pair---physical and smart throughout. And McDonagh proved to be a warrior in the first round series---first accepting the blame when his delay of game penalty in overtime led to Washington's game-winning goal in Game Two and responding with top-notch play the rest of the series, then absorbing a punishing hit from Ovechkin early in Game Seven---one that left him bloodied and dazed---only to return and dominate the defensive zone the rest of the game. Like he did last spring, Anton Stralman saved his best play for the post-season, raising his game significantly in Round One, playing physically and with fine decision-making. Michael Del Zotto got much more physical as the first round series wore on and earned more minutes as a result, though he needs to contribute more on the offensive end and on the power play in Round Two. Young John Moore accepted more and more responsibility, especially on the power play, and did not wilt; while Steve Eminger was a steady, quiet contributor, who notched a pair of assists in the decisive Game Seven. Marc Staal is the wild card here if he is able to return again from that frightening eye injury. He played in one game vs. the Caps, but not again the rest of the series, and did not practice on Wednesday before the Blueshirts headed to Boston.


Bruins: Zdeno Chara is not only the captain of the Bruins, he is still one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League, one who plays in every key game situation offensively and defensively, and who is as physical and difficult to play against as any d-man in the league. The former Norris Trophy winner is capable of logging 30+ minutes a night, and may have to depending on the health of injured regulars Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ferrence, a pair of reliable, quality, veteran blueliners. Chara will likely be called upon to shut down Rick Nash in what will be a nightly battle between two big strong men. Chara can play quite nasty and it will be interesting to see if he brings out that element in Nash's game. Former Ranger Wade Redden has been a revelation in Boston after being acquired from St. Louis, and he even notched a pair of points in five first-round games. And Johnny Boychuk is rock-solid as well on the Bruins defense---and he scored twice in the first round against Toronto. Rookie Dougie Hamilton played only three game sin the opening round, and young Matt Bartkowski scored a goal in Game Seven against the Maple Leafs on Monday night.