By Steve Silverman
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The Rangers can breathe a bit easier now that they have their first victory.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but there is little doubt that this team is going to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference before this truncated season is over.
In their 4-3 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, the Rangers came out with urgency, withstood two Boston rallies and came away with the win.
They did not play a complete game or look anything close to their best. However, the tenets of the Ranger game plan --offensive aggressiveness, a shot-blocking defense and the ability to respond to adversity -- were all present.
In many ways, it was as good a game for Boston as it was for the Rangers. The Bruins started slowly and were outclassed in falling behind 2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game, but they responded at the start of the second period and their effort was solid from that point forward.
Boston is two seasons removed from winning the Stanley Cup, and they would like to get the title again this summer. If they do, it will likely come after a playoff series with the Rangers.
It's hard to believe that it has been 41 years since these two teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals, and that they haven't met in any type of playoff series since the season after that.
The Bruins and Bobby Orr won the Stanley Cup over Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Brad Park and Ed Giacomin in 1972. The two teams would have been virtually even if the Bruins didn't have Orr, which is a lot like saying the Yankees would probably have been just another baseball team if they didn't have Babe Ruth.
The Rangers got revenge in 1973 when they beat the overconfident Bruins in five games, but they could not use that win to springboard to a Stanley Cup. That wouldn't happen for another 21 years.
But these two teams may very well be the class of the Eastern Conference this year, and a postseason matchup would be one to relish.
Neither team has anything close to an Orr on their rosters, but both teams are loaded with superstar talent.
Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and newcomer Rick Nash give the Rangers an explosive "Money Line" that may be unstoppable on most nights.
Henrik Lundqvist is not at the top of his game right now, but it's difficult to imagine that it will take him long to get there. He is the best goalie in the NHL, and he has the Vezina Trophy to prove it.
The Rangers also have all the heart and grit they need with Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Brian Boyle and Ryan McDonagh to compete with the Bruins.
Boston gets its identity from Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara. They have a pair of young stars on the rise in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Chris Kelly, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell provide the nastiness that this team has been noted for throughout the decades.
There's nothing like a New York-Boston rivalry.
The Yankees and Red Sox appear to be in neutral as the 2013 season approaches, while the Jets-Patriots battle is not worth talking about.
The Knicks have made progress this year while the Celtics go in reverse. That rivalry could come back, but it is unlikely because Doc Rivers can't get a consistent effort from his team.
But the Rangers-Bruins rivalry is coming back to life. After meeting twice in the first three games of the regular season, there will be one more meeting before the postseason.
A battle in the Eastern Conference Finals could give the winner the inside road to the Stanley Cup.
Which Boston team do you dislike the most -- the Bruins, Red Sox, Pats or Celtics? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below...
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