Previewing the Bruins and their styles of play

May 14, 2013, by


The Rangers and the Bruins are set to do battle in the Eastern Conference Semis, and this series is expected to be as difficult a series as the Washington series.┬áThe Rangers haven’t faced the Bruins since the very beginning of the season, so their 2-0-1 record against the Bruins this season does not reflect the deadline deals that both teams made. Coming into the playoffs, the Rangers were one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and the Bruins were playing .500 hockey. Now they both have great momentum, with the Rangers taking the final two games against the Caps and the Bruins coming back from down 4-1 in the third to dispatch the Leafs in seven.

The Bruins and Rangers are very similar teams in makeup, but they play two very different styles of hockey. The Rangers are a very aggressive team, and the Bruins are the exact opposite. Boston plays a trapping style and a passive, physical game to wear down their opponents. The only similarity between the Rangers and the Bruins is that they are both stellar defensive teams.


The Bruins are a very passive team, and you will frequently see them send just one forechecker into the fray. Claude Julien uses a 1-2-2 and a 1-4 forecheck, which focuses on clogging the neutral zone and preventing zone entries on the rush. However, don’t be fooled by their passive system. The Bruins have mastered this style –having played it without much roster turnover for the better part of the 2010’s– and are one of the best teams at even strength. The Bruins are much simpler than the Caps, as you will rarely see them mix up their styles at even strength. That said, simpler doesn’t mean worse, it just means simpler. The Bruins are a transition team, and will burn you if you turn the puck over.

Defensive Zone

The defensive zone is where the Bruins and Rangers begin to show similarities in their style of play. The Bruins, like the Rangers, play a hybrid strong-side overload and low zone collapse, depending on puck location and game situation. The basic premise of the strong side overload is to outnumber the offensive players along the half boards, take the puck away, and transition to offense. If the opposition manages to get the puck to the weak side or below the goal line, the Bruins will then switch to a low zone collapse, which clogs the middle and takes away shooting lanes by blocking shots.


Believe it or not, the Rangers actually have an advantage on the powerplay. The Bruins are awful with the man advantage, and a lot of it has to do with the same issues we see with the Rangers. They are very static in their umbrella powerplay –something the Rangers use frequently when they have the man advantage– and pass up on quality shot attempts. That said, the Bruins still have Zdeno Chara out at the point, and his shot is capable of ending wars. This team has the skill to be deadly on the powerplay, especially when you look at the personnel deployed with the man advantage.

Penalty Kill

Generally, teams will cycle between a diamond, a box, and a wedge+1 depending on puck location and powerplay setup. The Bruins are no different here, but I didn’t see much of a diamond setup in their series with the Leafs. We may see that a bit more against the Rangers, as the Rangers alternate between an umbrella powerplay and a 1-3-1. When the Rangers switch to the 1-3-1, expect the Bruins to shift into a diamond or a wedge+1. When the Rangers are in an umbrella, expect the Bruins to shift to a standard box.

The Bruins are a very good team, and they are not going to be a pushover for the Rangers. The Rangers have won the regular season series for the past two years, but this is not the regular season. This is another series where each game could be a coin flip. Let’s hope that each flip comes up heads again.

Categories : Hockey Tactics, Playoffs


  1. Hatrick Swayze says:

    “That said, the Bruins still have Zdeno Chara out at the point, and his shot is capable of ending wars.”

    ^anyone how to remove coffee stains? Cause I just spit some out on my shirt after chuckling at that one…

    Dave- any way to find power play %’s for the Bruins before and after the Jagr deal? Has he helped them in that regard, like Brassard and Zuccarello have done for us?

    • Dave says:

      I don’t know where you can find those numbers offhand, but he didn’t help much.

  2. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    As someone who watches a lot of Bruins hockey, this is a good team and will be a good series but a few things of note:

    1. I like this matchup better for the Rangers (rather than the Maple Leafs) as the Bruins may be the least dynamic offensive team left in the playoffs. They aren’t plodding by any means, but they don’t rely on speed in transition from d-zone to o-zone to create offense, and the only real burner they have, Tyler Seguin, has been stifled by the VERY conservative offensive style of this team. While they rely heavily on creating turnovers in the neutral zone, they rely on this more to create possession and maintain possession in the offensive zone rather than creating odd man rushes (which they will do also). When on, this team is a puck possession machine.

    2. Their PP is god awful. It’s comprable to the Rangers in futility. Jagr has helped marginally (eye test, I don’t have the stats on hand), but not as much as one would imagine.

    3. The Bruins blueline is ravaged by injury right now. Andrew Ference (2nd pairing Dman) and Denis Seidenberg (1st pairing with Chara) are hurt and statuses up in the air for the series. They are now relying on 2 rookies and Wade Redden, yes, that Wade Redden to fill in the bottom of the D pairings. What has been a strength for Boston is now a weakness in my opinion.

    4. The top line for Boston (Lucic-Krejci-Horton) is on fire and Boston will look to that line for its primary scoring.

    5. The second line for Boston (Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin) is very strong but has struggled. That line is the X-factor for me. If they can produce then this series gets real interesting.

    6. 3rd and 4th lines when going good are solid possession/checking lines. They bring grit and some skill.

    7. Claude Julien rarely mixes up his lines, which is in stark contrast to Torts (obviously). This could create matchups that favor the Rangers if Julien continues to be stubborn with this aspect of his team.

    8. Tuuka Rask is a legitimate number 1 goalie. Justin would be able to break him down better than me, but he’s a top 5 guy in my mind. He will be the reason the Bruins win if they advance.

    While historically a deep team, and they are, they have relied heavily on one line to produce in the first round of the playoffs.
    This could be a sample size issue, however the Bruins limped into the playoffs and haven’t been playing great hockey for awhile.
    This will be a good series because they are still the Bruins, have a ton of playoff experience, have played together for long while now, and have recently raised the Stanley Cup, but they aren’t the team from 2011 or 2012.
    If the Rangers bring their A game, I like their chances.

  3. Joe says:

    Rangers in six

  4. Walt says:

    Great job as usual, you guys do your homework, and it shows!

    This is going to be physical, and hard fought, but the way we played the last two games, we should be in the running for a 4-2 advancement to the next round.

    The key, in my opinion, is Hank vs Rask, who has been very shakey in their series vs the Leafs. Also, we have to stay out of the penalty box, as bad as their PP is, they could get some puck luck, and we lose.

    I just hope that Torts employes the same lines, lets them skate together, we could win with all 4 lines going at the same time. Last but not least, Nash will score a goal in the first game, and the monkey will be off of his back, and he will enjoy a good series against Boston. Let’s go Rangers!

  5. Chuck A says:

    Stu Hackel’s question about Boston going forward:

    “The question now is, did the Bruins’ near-death experience scare them into playing up to their potential or is there something wrong with this team?”

  6. Mikeyyy says:

    Jagr is the X factor.

  7. Bloomer says:

    This matchup brings back memories of Brad Park, Rod Gilbert, Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Let the games begin! Eddie Eddie