Rangers get ready for Black Friday Original Six showdown versus tough Bruins on NBC


Photo Credit South Park

It’s officially a sunny and chilly Black Friday in the city. Hopefully, things will heat up as the day after Thanksgiving moves along. If anyone is actually shopping today, good luck. Be careful. Have fun too.

As for me, I am in the market for a new car. My very cool black Honda Accord could be going back today for a different model. We’ll see. Hard to believe it’s been nearly three years that I’ve had it. By far my favorite car. Honda’s are great.

It’s a good possibility that I’ll miss the annual NBC Black Friday game this afternoon. This year’s match-up pits Original Six rivals, the Rangers and Bruins against each other at TD Garden. Game time is 1 PM. I’d imagine the great Doc Emrick will have the call. I love him. That’s due to my great experience working in the background during the ’00-01 season as a production assistant for the Devils. A gig the legendary and now retired Stan Fischler got me. It was also his connection that lead me to ESPN for over a year when hockey was much more prevalent. Stan The Man is a great person.

As far as the second meeting between New York and Boston goes, it would be nice if the Blueshirts didn’t forget what happened to them at MSG on a Sunday night a month ago on Oct. 27. The Bruins humiliated them 7-4. It wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Their big line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had a field day.

The remarkable trio went for a combined 13 points (5-8-13) highlighted by a Bergeron hat trick. Marchand went 2-3-5 and Pastrnak had five assists. He leads the league with 23 goals in 25 games. Five up on Connor McDavid and teammate Marchand, who’s 43 points (18-25-43) rank third in NHL scoring. Nobody has a higher plus/minus (20) than Marchand, who’s an early Hart contender.

With Bergeron out right now, Marchand and Pastrnak show no signs of slowing down. They’ve led Boston to a 17-3-5 record with a league best 39 points. The Caps also have 39, but have played one more game and have one more regulation loss (4). The Bruins are ranked number one in offense (93 GF) and number one in defense (58 GA). Their power play is first clicking at a lethal 32 percent. The penalty kill ranks 12th at 83.3 percent.

Nobody has more power play goals than Pastrnak, whose 12 could lead some teams over a season. Yikes. He has 16 power play points and five game-winners. Marchand is 3-10-13 on the power play with four game-winning goals and a 27.7 shooting percentage (18 goals on 65 shots).

Without Bergeron, who always seems to miss some time due to injuries, the overlooked David Krejci is a suitable replacement. He has 17 points in 19 games with a plus-16. Charlie Coyle, who just re-signed for an average cap hit of $5.25 million, can either center the top line or the second one featuring Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen. All are good secondary scorers that supply depth. They also re-signed tenacious checking wing Chris Wagner to an affordable three year deal worth $4.05 million. His 69 hits pace the B’s.

The defense is still anchored by captain Zdeno Chara, who continues to defy logic by putting up five goals and seven assists and a plus-17. Sure. He can be attacked due to the footspeed slowing down. But he plays physical and has a perfect complement in partner Charlie McAvoy. It’s surprising that he hasn’t scored a goal. But the much younger right D does everything. Torey Krug paces them in D scoring with 18 points. Twelve have come via power play assists. Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk remain underrated along with Connor Clifton.

Sean Kuraly remains one of the league’s best fourth line centers. There aren’t many weaknesses. Tuukka Rask (12 Wins, 2.10, .931, 2 SHO) remains one of the elite goalies and Jaro Halak is a steady backup.

Basically, the Rangers must play a very smart game which includes staying away from any unnecessary penalties. They will be hard pressed to match the firepower of Pastrnak and Marchand, who are two of the best players in the game. They are tough on the forecheck and have ridiculous chemistry. Even minus Bergeron, they’ll be a handful.

I have to think David Quinn will use Brady Skjei and Jacob Trouba out as much as possible. If not, get the solid rookie tandem of Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox out and see how they do. Do not let either Libor Hajek or Tony DeAngelo anywhere near the ice against that top line. No disrespect intended. But that wouldn’t be a favorable match-up. Boston has the last change.

I’m curious to see who Quinn decides to go with head to head up front. Is it Mika Zibanejad or maybe he shifts Ryan Strome back to center a third line with Artemiy Panarin and Jesper Fast. Well, really a one line B. He could mix and match like Wednesday. Filip Chytil has good chemistry with Pavel Buchnevich, who saw time back with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. What about Kaapo Kakko and Chytil with Brendan Lemieux? Maybe Lemieux will be used as a deterrent.

Kakko has worked best on the third line due to avoiding the toughest assignments. If it’s Strome on the right wing, that means he could play again with Brett Howden. I’m assuming Greg McKegg isn’t ready yet. Boo Nieves could suit up again on the fourth line. Don’t tell me they’re gonna dress Micheal Haley because it’s Boston.

I would be surprised if Henrik Lundqvist didn’t get the start. He’s been playing his best hockey. The 41 saves on Carolina allowed the Rangers to win 3-2. That included 17 in the third period. He also was good in Monday’s come from behind 3-2 overtime win over the Wild that moved him in front of Curtis Joseph for fifth on the all-time wins list. He has 456. Marc-Andre Fleury is chasing him on Vegas.

With the Devils tomorrow afternoon in Newark, it makes sense to ride the hot hand versus the better opponent. No disrespect meant to New Jersey, who beat the Rangers in their first meeting. But it’s more logical to have Alexandar Georgiev go in the second game of the back-to-back on Saturday. Quite a busy stretch for the team.

Let’s see if Panarin can keep it going today. He leads the team in goals (12), assists (20) and points (32). It doesn’t seem to matter who he plays with. That speaks to the high end skill and intelligence he has. I’m curious to see how key secondary scorers Pavel Buchnevich (4-14-18) and Kreider perform. They need them to be factors.

It’s been DeAngelo (7-11-18) and Fox (4-10-14) leading the way on the blueline that’s doing its part. Skjei has picked it up since being re-teamed with Trouba. Obviously, they need to be solid and avoid mistakes.

Hopefully, the Rangers will be ready to go from the start. That wasn’t an issue last time. It was afterwards when they imploded. A great team like the Bruins can make you look bad. Let’s see if they can get some redemption.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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