Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL game to post on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.
For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the New York Rangers at the Boston Bruins Saturday. Two Original-Six clubs that are battling it out for the Eastern Conference lead in the 2011-12 campaign.
Keys to victory for the Rangers:
–Don’t Believe the Hype: The Rangers have been on fire as of late, going 7-3 in their last 10 games. The boys in blue will have to ignore the hype of facing the Stanley Cup Champions in Boston for the Eastern Conference lead. It’s the first of four meetings this season between the clubs, so NY will want to keep their heads and get off to a good start in this one.
–Stay the Course: The road has been a successful place for the Rangers so far (15-7-2). They need to treat this as another battle in hostile territory and not measure themselves against Boston as a team or their players individually. They must play ‘their’ game. They also won three out of four against the Bruins last year, including both trips to Beantown, so this also can be used as motivation in this tough challenge.
–Goals from Gabby: Marian Gaborik (23 goals, 14 assists) has been the lightning-rod for the Rangers offense most of the campaign. Unfortunately, he has been quiet as of late with no goals in his past five games, and only three assists during that span. If the Rangers have any hope of a win, they need Gaborik to break out of this mini-slump and lead the way Saturday.
Keys to victory for the Bruins:
–A Twine Mess: The Bruins have been clicking along on a torrid pace in the goal-scoring department. They lead the entire NHL with 160 goals scored, and their team offence is incredibly well balanced, boasting seven players with 10 or more snipes. It’s this kind of varied attack from different lines that makes the B’s dangerous. If they can keep that balance going Saturday it could be a tough 60 minutes for New York.
–Two-of-a-Kind: The team in black and gold has been blessed throughout the season with two goalies having All-Star campaigns. Tim Thomas (19-9, 2.02 GAA, .936 SV%) is the defending Vezina Trophy winner, and Tuukka Rask (11-4, 1.61 GAA, .946 SV%) is leading the NHL in most goalie categories. No matter who gets the call between the pipes Saturday, Boston will have confidence in net.
–Hot-Hands: Nathan Horton (17 goals, 15 assists) got off to a slow start this season. It was definitely the lingering problems from a serious concussion in the Stanley Cup Final last year. The good news for Boston fans is that Horton seems to be feeling like his old-self again recently, and has three goals in his last two games. If the trio of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Horton are clicking Saturday, the Bruins will win this one.
Enjoy this battle! It should be an intense match-up, and it’s always entertaining when Original-Six teams collide for a Conference lead. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.
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