It must feel like Christmas for the New York Rangers. Rangers fans got a new toy this offseason when Rick Nash was added to an already loaded roster, finally solidifying one of hockey’s best defensive teams with a powerful offense. Unfortunately, in a cruel, Gary Bettman-ruled NHL, Rangers fans had to endure a lockout before being allowed to take Rick Nash out of the packaging. The day is finally here, though, and Nash will make his debut with the New York Rangers in an Original Six rivalry game in Boston.
On the flip side, Tim Thomas put himself back on the toy shelf and will not be playing for the Boston Bruins this year. The enigmatic goaltender that protested a visit to the White House has elected to spend more time with his family and forego the 2013 NHL season. While you cannot blame Thomas for his decision, the Boston Bruins will be forced to rely on long-time backup goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Even if Tuukka Rask proves as capable as he has promised to one day be, a tremendous goaltending advantage lies in the Rangers’ favor. Henrik Lundqvist may be the best goaltender in hockey, and I question whether the Boston Bruins have enough offense to win this game.
The New York Rangers cruised to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but faded in the playoffs when they fell to the New Jersey Devils in six games in the conference finals. Rejuvenated, a deep defensive corps and consistent system should be able to handle the depth of the Boston Bruins. Boston is a physical, grinding team, but the Rangers are built to fend off the four-line depth of the Bruins. Assuming fatigue was the reason for their playoff shortcomings, the New York Rangers should be well-equipped for a shortened season.
Offensively, New York may need some time to develop chemistry, but Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Rick Nash form an incredible combination. With a strong offense for the first time in recent memory, the Rangers should have another solid season. I expect they’ll be able to go into Boston and come up with a tough road win as underdogs.
New York Rangers 2 – Boston Bruins 1