It all starts with a simple formula. Be difficult to beat. Have a world class goaltender and a deep defensive corps. Be a gritty team and forecheck well. Don’t lose games on special teams. Then every now and again flash some offensive depth. The only significant difference between the Rangers and the Bruins appears to be the absence of a Zdeno Chara type defenseman (Dylan McIlrath has the potential to be similar down the road) and to the naked eye, the two teams seem similar in composition.
So what is it that makes the Bruins the new reigning Stanley Cup champions and the Rangers a young up and coming team that still has to battle just to make the playoffs? There are a few reasons for the difference in status even though there are many similarities. Let’s start by looking at the similarities.
Home Grown Core
The Bruins won the Cup on the back of a drafted core of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Taylor Seguin and Milan Lucic amongst the forwards. Their top three playoff scorers were Bruin draftees. Then look at the styles of some of these players. Marchand is the gritty, energetic two way presence (think Ryan Callahan), Milan Lucic is the power forward with skill (Brandon Dubinsky possesses some similar qualities), Krejci is the playmaking center (Derek Stepan?) and Tyler Seguin is the skilled young center making his way up the depth chart (Anisimov anyone?).
World Class Goaltending
Henrik Lundqvist meet Tim Thomas. If there was a better goaltender in the league than Tim Thomas from game 1 in October to game 7 in June I didn’t see him, but boy was Lundqvist close. Thomas benefitted from a healthier team, a more experienced team, and the presence of a Norris trophy monster on the blue line, but both clubs had the ability to steal games they had no right winning because of the guy in net. If you discuss the top goalies in the world right now, there’s no way these two aren’t at the forefront of the discussion.
This is an area where the teams are similar, but the Bruins are slightly more advanced. It all starts with Zdeno Chara for the Bruins and rightly so. No player in the league (on the blue line) possesses the same blend of size, skill and leadership as the Norris trophy winner. The only person that comes close to the same mix (at the same level of performance) is Shea Weber. Marc Staal is not at this level, but he could get there. Physical, big and absolutely core to the Rangers, Staal does a bit of everything for his team with perhaps even better shut down ability.
The main reason the Rangers defense lags behind right now, is Mike Del Zotto and Tomas Kaberle. The Bruins possess good puck moving ability with Kaberle (despite at times being maligned in the playoffs, he was still a solid addition), Dennis Seidenberg and of course Chara. The Rangers need an improved Del Zotto to compete in this area, but the Rangers defense does possess puck moving ability throughout the top 6. Both teams placed in the top 5 in goals against this year during the regular season.
It might surprise some people, but the Bruins were only 16th in the league on the penalty kill while the Rangers were 10th. The year before, the Bruins were 3rd and the Rangers 8th. Both teams have good defensive depth and it usually is reflected on the kill. Both teams can score on the PK (as the Bruins showed in game 7 of the Finals). Both teams were very similar on the PP, though neither would like to boast about their units. Despite both teams having depth at forward, the Rangers’ 16.9% and the Bruins 16.2% placed them 18th and 20th respectively. Not great at all. The Bruins would have benefited from a full year from Marc Savard while the Rangers are going to pursue Brad Richards in part for his powerplay prowess.
You want more similarities?
Both teams have placed recent emphasis on young players. The Bruins have recently integrated Seguin, Marchand and Adam McQuaid while they have solid additions on their way with Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner and Toronto’s high pick from this year’s draft to name a few. The Rangers have benefitted greatly this year from the integration of Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer and can look forward to Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas and Carl Hagelin to name a few. The Bruins are more advanced because they moved prospects/picks for help (think Kaberle, Kelly, etc) and it paid off with the ultimate prize. However, in terms of future talent there is no doubt the Rangers have a lot to look forward to.
We’ve had a look at the similarities between the two sides and this list isn’t exhaustive; for example if you consider the actual depth of the forward groups beyond just the home grown cores. There was no need to spell out the obvious; original six franchises, droughts before each team’s recent cup wins etc. Check back to see what the key differences are, and why the Rangers can replicate the Bruins with a few changes.