Eastern Conference Showdown: Boston Bruins hosting New York Rangers

It’s a battle of the top two teams in the NHL’s Eastern Conference tonight, as the Boston Bruins (34-17-2) bring on the New York Rangers (36-13-5) for a fantastic hockey showdown. With two of the league’s top goaltenders in action as Boston’s Tim Thomas faces off against New York’s Henrik Lunqvist, and with the Bruins trying to secure consecutive wins for the first time in over a month while at the same time stopping the Ranger’s 3-game winning streak, there’s little doubt this match-up should make for an exciting contest to watch and to wager on at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed right here.

The visiting New York Rangers continue to be one of the hottest teams in the NHL heading down the home stretch of the season, and sitting on 77 points on the year, a win tonight combined with a Detroit loss could see them back on top of the entire league with less than 30 games to go in the campaign. The Rangers have been thriving with a well-balanced approach to both offense and defense, getting improved offensive production from Ryan Callahan (22 goals, 19 assists) lately, who has accumulated 5 goals during the 3-game winning streak for New York, including a hat trick in a 5-2 drubbing of Philadelphia over the weekend. Both team points leader Marian Gaborik (48 points, 27 goals, 21 assists) and big free-agent signing Brad Richards (17 goals, 22 assists, 39 points) have also been playing well, and enter tonight’s game against Boston as a confident, composed group clicking on all cylinders. It definitely bodes well for New York’s chances tonight that they’ve overcome the Bruins 3 straight times on the road, and with a constantly improving cast of characters on offense helping out one of the league’s best defenses, the Rangers should be a tough challenge for Boston this evening.

On the aforementioned defensive side of things is where New York truly stands out this season as a top contender for the Stanley Cup. It certainly doesn’t hurt that New York has maintained and improved the performance of one of the hardest hitting defensive units this season, and combined with one of the league’s top goaltenders in Henrik Lundqvist (26-11-4, 1.81 goals against average, .939 sv. %), this Rangers group is tough for even the best scorers to penetrate. New York ranks second in the league in goals against thanks to Henrik Lundqvist and the New York D-men including Michael Del Zotto (+26 on the plus/minus, 29 points), Ryan McDonagh (+23, 20 points), and time on ice leader Dan Girardi (27:17 ATOI, +15). Against the Bruins, who lead the NHL with 3.4 goals/game, have generated the 3rd-most goals at home (96), and take nearly 33 shots on goal/game, defense will be a key component of tonight’s match-up for New York, and getting good, hard-hitting performances from all members of the blue line will be critical in this tough road match-up.

For Boston, finding consistency has been a struggle as of late, as they’ve dropped 3 of their last 5 games and have been unable to string together high-scoring results, or simply generate a victory in low scoring contests. While Boston has won 5 straight games when scoring 4 or more goals, they’ve also lost 6 in a row when scoring 3 or less goals. In the NHL, teams can’t expect their offenses to keep scoring tons of goals night in and night out, so therefore for tonight’s match-up with a stingy defense like the Rangers, the Bruins have to hold New York’s scoring attack to a minimum, and avoid letting in multiple goals in a single period. One area where Boston can look to have success tonight is on the power play, which for the Bruins ranks 11th in the league at 18.5 percent while the visiting Rangers struggle with the man advantage at just a 13.5 percent success rate. Both teams are heavily penalized with Boston giving up 844 penalty minutes on the year (2nd in the NHL), and New York surrendering 766 (5th in the NHL), so a big area for the Bruins to improve upon is to avoid getting involved in chippy plays and giving up cheap penalties. With both teams having successful penalty kills this season, the team that converts on the man-advantage could have a decisive edge in tonight’s contest. For the home side Bruins, they must keep Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik in their sights when the power play goes to New York, as the two have combined for 17 power play goals on the season. With the man advantage for Boston, look for Milan Lucic, big man Zdeno Chara and Nathan Horton (all with 6 PPG’s) to get the task of firing away from the point and hopefully securing an extra tally against the tough-to-crack Henrik Lunqvist. The Bruins will need to produce lots of shots tonight at one of the best goalies in the league, and getting plenty of shots specifically on the power play is a must for them tonight.

Betting Lines for Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers at Intertops Sportsbook

While New York comes into this match-up as winners of their last 3 games at Boston, and the Bruin’s Tim Thomas has dropped 3 of 4 games against the Rangers lately, the home side Bruins get the upper hand as the favorite to win tonight on the money line, with -130 odds taking them straight up to win. The Rangers come in at just a slight underdog with +110 odds to prevail on the road, and with their recent form could be a solid pick to take as the straight up winners tonight. Against the spread at 1.5 goals, the Bruins get +230 odds to cover 1.5 goals, which may be tough to chase as Boston has only bested their opponents by 2 or more goals twice in the last six of their wins. In the 7 most recent losses for Boston however, they’ve been beat by 2 or more goals 5 times, so if you’re thinking of taking the Rangers for the win, adding up another wager against the spread (-270 odds at +1.5 goals) may be a safe pick to make. For the over/under, and with two of the best netminders in the business going head-to-head tonight, we find the goals total set at 5, expecting a tight game between two fantastic defenses. Although the margin is indeed lower than a typical NHL contest (usually set standard at 5.5. goals), taking a shot at the underside of the total points with goals coming at a premium tonight may be a great wager to take if you’re unsure about which side might prevail.

Our Pick to Win:

With Boston struggling a bit to find consistency, and with the New York Rangers coming in hot off three straight wins, I must say I like the odds of the Rangers as slight underdogs to prevail in this road match-up tonight. Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding against Boston as well, racking up a 17-5-2 record all time against them with an equally impressive 1.51 goals against average, and in a sport where the goalies play such a huge factor in the bottom scoring line, I’ll look for him to be a key piece in holding down the scoring and locking in a New York win for their 4th straight on the road, and against Boston. New York prevails in a tight one tonight, edging out the Bruins 3-1.

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