Haggerty: Bruins face a big test Saturday

639278.jpg

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.

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

usatsi_9412070.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

ap_16212129505474.jpg

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.