NBC Game of the Week: Bruins vs. Rangers Preview

NYBOS.jpgBoston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 21, 2010
Live on NBC

With less than four weeks remaining in the season, the
playoff races are starting to heat up. In the West, Detroit is doing it’s
best to hold off Calgary and St. Louis and it’s most likely going to be a
furious finish to see which team can play the hardest down the stretch.
In the East, well… the race will come down to which team can just
barely survive and limp into the playoffs.

The New
York Rangers and the Boston Bruins square off this weekend in a battle
between two teams fighting for one playoff position. The Bruins
currently sit in 8th in the East, one point ahead of Atlanta and three points ahead of New
York. It hasn’t exactly been an easy journey to get to this point, as
both teams fight through late-season letdowns.

A
head-to-head battle can instantly turn the tide in either direction; the
question is which team will actually step up when the spotlight shines
on such an important game.

Someone will have to
step up.

Both teams have had an opportunity the past week to
either build their lead or gain ground in the race, and it’s been
nothing but disappointment at every turn. How is it that when a team has
a great opportunity to really make a move, they come out completely
flat and appear to be completely disinterested in the game they are
playing? Both New York and Boston appear to be lame ducks, each just
finding a way to fail in increasingly boring ways.

This is the time of the season that teams ramp up the intensity and
build momentum for the playoffs, yet the Rangers and Bruins seem to not
grasp the concept of just what a playoff race entails. Perhaps taking on
one another on national television will finally spark some actual
competitiveness in these two teams.

Desperately
seeking a leader.

The Bruins played perhaps the
most disappointing and futile game I’ve ever seen a hockey team play
against the Pittsburgh Penguins, in a matchup that many felt would be
intense and full of payback and redemption. Instead, the Bruins barely
mustered any interest or fight in the game (aside from pounding Matt
Cooke in the opening minutes). If this team can’t get motivated for a
‘redemption game’ to avenge their fallen teammate, I’m not convinced
they can get motivated for any game.

It’s the same
story with New York, although this time the lack of leadership seems to
be actually be influenced by the head coach. John Tortorella is intent
on squashing any sort of opinion and personality coming out his locker
room, and it’s showing on the ice. This is a team devoid of leadership
and the only player that has any sort of skill in sparking his teammates
is Sean Avery, someone who the coach would rather just go away. Who
will step up?

The Atlanta Thrashers are poised to
race by these two teams, as they tread water and slowly drown themselves
in mediocrity. I’m not convinced either team even deserves to make the
playoffs. Sunday’s game is the most important game of the year for both
teams; a win by the Rangers and the Bruins may never recover and hold
them off, and two points by Boston builds a lead the Rangers most likely
never overcome.

NBC
Star Cam –
Head
on over to NBC Sports

during the game to follow your favorite stars through out the game.

Sunday
on Pro Hockey Talk:

Can the Boston Bruins survive in the playoffs, or even it make it there,
with the NHL’s worst offense?
What is the identity of the New York Rangers, as they fight for a
playoff spot?
A breakdown of the playoff races for both conferences.
Injury updates for both teams.
News and opinion from around NBC Sports.
A live in-game chat with
Brandon Worley and James O’Brien.

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    Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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    Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

    Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

    The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

    For example…

    Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

    Their production together can not be understated.

    Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

    What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

    While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

    Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

    He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

    Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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    Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

    The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

    Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

    If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

    Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

    The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

    ‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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    Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

    Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

    In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

    While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

    In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

    No word yet on financials for either guy.

    Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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    Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

    Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

    The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

    Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.