At a glance: The Rangers and the Bruins square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night at TD Garden, the first time in more than three months that the two clubs have met. There won't be many surprises, though, as both teams play a hard-nosed, grinding style of game that is sure to result in a gritty, physical series.
The Bruins have one of the deepest teams in the league, with a dangerous top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, plus several other forwards who are able to contribute (Patrice Bergeron notched both the tying goal and the overtime winner in Game 7 against the Leafs). Meanwhile, the Rangers boast arguably the best goaltender in the league in Henrik Lundqvist and a top shutdown pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. Expect every inch of the ice to be a battle between. This series should be a throwback to black-and-blue, straightforward, old-time hockey.
Close call: The Bruins got a scare when their main antagonist Brad Marchand left the morning skate, wincing in pain, after pulling up awkwardly on a noncontact drill. Claude Julien assured the media that Marchand was fine and would not miss Game 1. “Brad is gonna be OK,” Julien said. “You’ll see him on the ice tonight.” Marchand plays the left wing on a line with Game 7 hero Bergeron and former Ranger Jaromir Jagr.
Banged-up back end: Although Marchand appears to be fine, the Bruins don’t have the same luck with their defensive corps. Boston will be missing three of its veterans on the blue line in Dennis Seidenberg (lower-body), Andrew Ference (lower-body) and former Ranger Wade Redden (undisclosed), meaning Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski will draw into the lineup.
Riding high: After a stunning comeback in Game 7 against the Leafs -- the Bruins erased a 4-1 Toronto lead, including two goals scored within the last 1:22 of regulation -- the Bruins are a confident bunch. But although they’d like to take that momentum into Game 1 against the Rangers, they know they have to wipe the slate clean and look ahead, not behind. “It’s still there. There’s definitely a happiness in here,” Tyler Seguin said. “But there’s also a focus that comes with that.
Fatigue factor: Both teams required seven games in their first-round matchups to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Bruins have had a particularly grueling last month with postponement and rescheduling at the end of the regular season.
Battle in goal: The Rangers seem to enjoy the distinct edge in the goaltending department, with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Lundqvist in net. Lundqvist recorded back-to-back shutouts in Games 6 and 7 and surrendered only 12 goals through seven games. Boston's Tuukka Rask had a terrific regular season, posting a 19-10-5 record, with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He gave up 18 goals to the Leafs in his first playoff series as the Bruins' No. 1 guy.