Haggerty: Bruins face a big test Saturday


Haggerty: Bruins face a big test Saturday

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins get their first look Saturday at the team that might just be standing in their way when it really counts during the playoffs.
Its not their traditional rivals, the Habs, or the team they've clashed with many times over the years, the Flyers. Instead, it's a team from the city Bostonians love to hate: New York.
The Rangers have led the Eastern Conference for most of the last month, and have matched the Bruins nearly every step of the way since Boston jumped into its boom stage at the beginning of November. So the Bs eagerly await a Saturday afternoon matinee against the Blueshirts following a challenging four-game southern road trip.
The Rags have hit their own tough stretch with three losses in their last five games, culminating in a home defeat to the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week. But John Tortorellas boys still lead the East with 62 point.
Its gonna be a great game against the Rangers; it always is, said Zdeno Chara. They always battle hard and give you that game where you have to bring the physical element. You have to be willing to work extremely hard and they play a real grinding game. If youre not ready and emotionally attached then youre going to lose.
Its a difficult match for the B's, and has been for the last three years. Tortorella's tenets of hockeys are much the same as Claude Juliens, and the Rangers have won 7 of the last 12 meetings against Boston by the combined score of 26-18.
Theyve got a lot of depth and a great goalie, said Brad Marchand, describing the Rangers in terms that most people use to describe the Bruins. We just have to make sure were prepared and ready to match their work ethic.
Every team that plays us usually gets pretty psyched to play us, but they play a game thats very similar to us. They have depth and goalie Henrik Lundqvist always seems to be in the right position. Its a team were definitely aware of, but true rivalries are built in the playoffs at the end of the season.
The Rangers play a difficult, in-your-face style and rely on the combination of staunch defensive and elite goaltending as the bed-rock of their game. In his career against the Bruins, Lundqvist is an amazing 16-5-2 with a .945 save percentage, 1.50 goals against average and five shutouts. He commands legitimate fear in a short playoff series when the time comes. With a young, strapping defense corps, the Rangers have a natural cast of characters for a strong defensive base. And the addition of Brad Richards has helped on the offensive side.
The Rangers looked like they were going to be a tough out in the playoffs last season, too, but couldnt overcome the loss of captain Ryan Callahan, who broke a bone in his leg attempting to block a smoked Chara slapper late in the regular season.
This time around, the Rangers have the depth to overcome opponents with their waves of forwards. They even thrived during the first half of the season without franchise defenseman Marc Staal. Now Staal is healthy enough to play 20 plus minutes after recovering from post-concussion syndrome, and the Rangers have a full lineup.
They have depth and thats why theyre able to roll four lines. Goaltending is also not an issue with them, said Julien. There are some similarities. They also like to play a heavy game, so it will be an interesting game on Saturday.
So the strong defense, deep offensive attack and elite goaltending combination give the Rangers a top-10 offense, the NHLs No. 3 defense in goals against per game, and a hockey club thats eerily similar to the Bruins.
Its that carbon copy nature of the Rangers that gives Boston trouble .
We havent seen New York yet this year, and theyve had a lot of success, said Adam McQuaid. That means were going to have to work awfully hard. They play a hard game. Everybody from top-to-bottom finishes their hits and gets hard on the forecheck.
They just plain compete hard.
The Bruins and Rangers will meet three more times during the regular season after Saturday afternoons matinee, but first impressions are important when it comes to setting a tone for the rest of the season.
They've proven through the first half that theyre the two best teams in the East this season. Saturday represents the first chance for either team to throw a roundhouse punch at the other this year.

Brady hears from Manning and Favre on wins record, but not Goodell


Brady hears from Manning and Favre on wins record, but not Goodell

The congratulatory messages rolled in for Tom Brady following win No. 201 on Sunday. He heard praise from his teammates and coach Bill Belichick and he received a game ball from Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Two of the guys he recently passed on the all-time wins list reached out as well.

Both Brett Favre (199 career wins) and Peyton Manning (200) touched base with the new record-holder after he surpassed the two retired quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks. 

Favre posted a video online to show his support for Brady, which Brady saw after a friend sent it his way, he told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show.

"We were in touch this week a few times just with a couple of things that we were talking about football-wise," Brady said of Favre. "We exchanged some text messages, too. He’s a great guy. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to . . . There’s nobody physically or mentally tougher than that guy and endured the streak that he had. It was incredible. I’ve always really looked up to him. It was really cool."

Manning checked in, as he's wont to do, with something a little more traditional.

"I did hear from Peyton. He's someone that I've always been in touch with for a long time. I've known him for 16 years. He sent me a very nice note," Brady said. "I have a lot of respect for him and all that he accomplished, too. He's a great guy. We share a lot of things in common and I just always appreciate him as well."

Kirk and Callahan co-host Gerry Callahan acknowledged that the NFL sent out a tweet recognizing Brady's achievement, but he wondered if Brady had heard anything from commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady laughed when he heard the question initially. When he didn't respond at first, Callahan circled up again.

"I don't hear anything from the league," Brady said.