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.

Brandon Pirri scores twice, Rangers rally to beat Bruins 5-2


Brandon Pirri scores twice, Rangers rally to beat Bruins 5-2

NEW YORK - Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Rangers beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin.

Down 2-0 after the first, the Rangers scored three times in the final 10:44 of the second.

Nash began the comeback with a power-play goal at 9:16. He curled to the net before corralling a rebound of Derek Stepan's point shot and flipping it over goalie Zane McIntyre for his third of the season.

Hayes tied it with 3:25 left in the second, banking a shot from behind the net off of McIntyre's pants.

Pirri's power-play goal with 36 seconds left made it 3-2. The free-agent signee ripped a shot from the right circle that was in the net before McIntrye could get his glove up. New York finished the game 2 for 6 on the man advantage, while the Bruins were 0 for 1.

It was not all positive for the Rangers in the second, with Dan Girardi missing two shifts following a hit from Pastrnak, who was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi leaped in the air to play a loose puck in the neutral zone and, as he came down, Pastrnak drove his shoulder into the upper body of the New York defenseman.

Pirri made it 4-2 2:23 into the third with his fourth of the season. Vesey scored on a tap-in 43 seconds late.

The Bruins opened the scoring Pastrnak's fifth of the season 10 seconds into the game. The lead grew to 2-0 14:34 later when Czarnik scored his first goal in the NHL. Czarnik fired a shot from inside the blue line that New York defenseman Brady Skjei blocked, but Henrik Lundqvist appeared to lose track of the puck and it bounced across the goal line.

Lundqvist had 27 saves.

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but...can I have your jersey?

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but...can I have your jersey?

Tom Brady has fans everywhere, apparently. Even in Pittsburgh. Even on the Steelers roster. 

Showtime's Inside the NFL caught video of Brady meeting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before Sunday's game between New England and Pittsburgh. 

The pair hugged near the 50-yard line at Heinz Field. Brady called Roethlisberger "big guy." Roethlisberger, who was out with a knee injury, told Brady he wanted to play "so bad."


Then Roethlisberger became a fan. And like many of them, he had a request. 

"Um, hey, listen," he said. "I've never done this before, but I would love to get a jersey at some point. It'd mean...There's not many I want to put in my office. You're the best, dude."

Brady was happy to oblige. Just not right at that moment. 

"Sure, I'd love to," Brady said. "I'll get you after the game."