WILMINGTON, MA The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers should be looking to make an Eastern Conference statement right off the bat on Saturday night as they open the 48-game NHL regular season at TD Garden.
The Rangers have traditionally had Bostons number over the years, and Henrik Lundqvist is one of the Black and Golds longtime tormentors, so motivation and adrenaline shouldnt be a problem for the Bruins.
Its up to us to go out there and perform. Weve talked a lot about that and getting back our good habits, and we need to get that started off on the right foot against the Rangers, said Milan Lucic. They finished first in the Eastern Conference last year and theyre a team thats made a lot of strides in the last three or four years to become one of the elite teams in the NHL. I think its a good way to start because these are the ones that are easy to get up for. Youve just got to embrace the challenge and embrace the struggle and enjoy it.
It could be wildly unpredictable given the different conditioning levels players will be coming from and new additions to each teams lineup that may need some orientation time before theyre at maximum power. For the Bruins a rookie defenseman like Dougie Hamilton will be playing in the NHL for the first time, and will be paired with Dennis Seidenberg in a role that could be significant.
For the Rangers prototypical All-Star power forward Rick Nash is inserted into the Blueshirts lineup, and hell have to find a way to coexist with players like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards in a long-established chemistry formed under head coach John Tortorella.
With 17 of the last 21 games between the Bruins and Rangers getting decided by one goal, it could be one simple mistake that means the difference between winning and losing in this one. That means Lundqvist and Bs goaltender Tuukka Rask will need to be on point, and the Bruins need to be much better than they were in a Sloppy Joe Special effort in Tuesday nights scrimmage at TD Garden.
Getting off to a good start will be key.
As you well know a lot of teams got off to good starts last season, but through an 82-game schedule they couldnt sustain it, said Claude Julien. "But in a 48-game schedule they will be able to sustain it, so we cant afford slow starts and we cant afford slumps.
With two games against the Rangers within their first three of the 48-game regular season, the challenge is clearly there for the Bruins to get off to a good start.