'Hart Off The Ice'
By Sean Hartnett
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When the New York Rangers take the ice at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, they'll face their biggest test of the season.
Thursday night didn't go to plan for the Blueshirts as they were dominated during the opening and closing periods by the Penguins. As head coach John Tortorella detailed post-game:
They'll have to shake themselves off immediately as they'll travel to Boston to face the defending Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins.
From top-to-bottom, Boston is even stronger than the Penguins and they lead the entire NHL in goal differential at +71. They're not the kind of team that makes self-inflicting mistakes and play a very physical brand of hockey.
While the Bruins are most definitely intimidating, they also carry enough skill players like Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to match teams in high-scoring affairs. Boston has the luxury of two no. 1 quality goalies backing them in Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. The most goals for, least goals against… suffice it to say, the Bruins are a very complete hockey club.
Saturday will be the measuring stick to judge the Rangers' resiliency and their ability to go toe-to-toe with a second Eastern Conference powerhouse in a matter of three days. While the Rangers failed against the Penguins, a win over the Bruins in their own building would be rallying victory.
The Rangers have been the masters of limiting losing streaks to one or two games maximum as Ryan Callahan explained.
Even though Henrik Lundqvist can be super-human on most nights, his teammates need to share some of the burden. One area in particular where the Rangers must improve is their abysmal power play. You can't sugar-coat an anemic power play that has gone 1-for-27 since December 26th.
Callahan stressed the importance of getting more shots on net and creating clearer-cut chances.
Tortorella has continued to mix up his lines as he searches for the right balance. One line that has shown plenty of promise is the Hagelin-Stepan-Gaborik line. Wherever Tortorella puts Carl Hagelin, he tends to ignite his linemates.
It was this line that created the most chances on Thursday including the Rangers' only goal of the night where Gaborik found a streaking Hagelin who beat Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole.
The new lines are a work in progress and the Rangers will have to come together quickly before Saturday's clash with the Bruins. Mike Rupp spoke about the effect of the new lines and the challenge that comes with facing the Bruins.
'Dialed-in' as Rupp put it are appropriate words for the Blueshirts who struggled out of the gate against the Penguins. If the Rangers repeat their early jitters against the Bruins, they'll surely be punished.
The Rangers will need to play consistent hockey from start-to-finish and limit their mistakes if they are to achieve victory in Boston on Saturday.
Can the Rangers 'get it together' in time for their important match-up with the Bruins? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.
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