With the conclusion of the NFL Championship Game and another football season put to rest (in the Giants trophy case), one thing carrying over like a Pick Six Pool at Belmontis the always heated NY-Boston rivalry. The payoff may come in April or May and has little to do with the Sawx and Yankees. How so you ask? The Rangers and Bruins are on course to grab the attention of casual hockey fans or even the non-observer and in turn create new viewers. Happening last when the Blueshirts beat the then and current defending Stanley Cup Champs 4 games to 1 in 1973, nothing would be better for the NHL than a rare playoff meeting between the two. Coming within a whisker of a Stanley Cup battle in 1979 but not close since, the biggest victories in this series have mostly come in lopsided trades on the transaction sheet for the Bruins. In 1975 it was Jean Ratelle and Brad Park for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. A year later saw a raw Rick Middleton swapped for the aging Ken Hodge. And if you’re scoring at home, there was that thing in 1979 with O’Reilly, Milbury, and McNab beating on some chowder-head in the stands. Maybe it’s just as well they didn’t see each other in the playoff that year after all.
Today the Bruins and Rangers boast superior goaltending with Boston having the wealth of two #1 goaltenders in Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. King Henry, a one man show, has yet to prove himself in money games and hasn’t been the same since Short Matt beat him like a rented mule. If you like hockey with a side of glove-dropping, fist-flying, puttin’-on-the-foil fun, both teams are atop the leaderboard in “extra curricular activities”. The Bruins may have a more potent offense top to bottom with all defensemen pinching in on offensive zone play and a deft bunch of shorthanded specialists. Both teams great attention to detail without the puck make them mirror images as team success is a result of all skaters keeping their legs moving at all times. The Rangers have been more consistent in this aspect than Boston and are positioned accordingly in the standings as a result.
Nothing says I love you like a Valentine’s Day hockey game against the sports city you love to hate the most. The newly refurbished Garden hosts the event Tuesday night as the Bruins try to avenge a buzzer beating OT goal by Marian Gaborik just a few weeks ago. The schedule aids hostilities during preparation for the playoffs with two meetings within the last three weeks of the regular season. Due to their solid play, a Bruins-Rangers showdown won’t occur until, at earliest, the second round. In a perfect world they’ll meet for the Conference Championship with the chips and intensity at its zenith. Win or lose, I’m salivating over how much fun a best-of-seven series would be between NY and Boston—and their fans. Go Bruins!
West Coast Craig, MTM’s Left Coast love doctor, tomorrow.