The ABC Saturday afternoon hockey schedule continues this week with an Eastern Conference playoff contender clash, as the Boston Bruins host the New York Rangers, with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET and simulcast on ESPN+.
To help get you ready for the game, we’ve put together a guide on all the key players to watch for each team, including in-depth statistical insights from ESPN Stats & Information, and more.
This season, ESPN+ will broadcast 75 exclusive regular-season games, with ABC and ESPN airing a combined 28 exclusive regular-season games for a total of 103 games. The complete broadcast schedule can be found here.
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New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
3 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN+
Line: Boston -130 | Over/under: 5.5
ESPN Power Rankings: 8
Leading scorer: Artemi Panarin, 96 points in 73 games
2021-22 record: 51-21-6 (108 points), second in Metro Division
The Rangers currently have 108 points in 78 games this season. They are currently on pace for 113 points this season; if they were to do that, it would tie the most points in a season in franchise history. This is the fifth time in franchise history that the Rangers have won 50 or more games, and their 51 wins this season is tied for the third most in their history. Their 51 wins are also tied for the third most in the NHL entering Friday.
When playing on the road, the Rangers have a few players who put up the points needed to get the job done. Forward Chris Kreider ranks fifth in the NHL this season in goals scored on the road with 24 (Alex Ovechkin and Kyle Connor have 26, Auston Matthews 28, and Leon Draisaitl 32). His teammate Panarin ranks second in the NHL this season in assists on the road, with 38 (only Roman Josi has more at 39), and his other teammate, Adam Fox, ranks third in assists on the road, with 35.
Speaking of Panarin, he continues to excel this season with his 22 goals and 74 assists for 96 points, inching closer to his first ever 100-point season in his career. He notched his 19th multi-assist game of the season on Tuesday, and earned his 20th on Thursday, establishing the franchise record for the most in a single season and he extended his team-leading 28th multi-point game of the campaign. Panarin’s 74 assists this season are six shy of tying Brian Leetch (80) for the most assists in a single season in Rangers history. He became the fifth different player to record 70 or more assists in a season with the Rangers and the first since Wayne Gretzky (72 in 1996-97).
Kreider continues to have a breakout campaign with a career-high 51 goals, along with 23 assists for 74 points this season. Kreider is the fourth player in Rangers history to score 50 goals in a single season, joining Jaromir Jagr (54: 2005-06), Adam Graves (52: 1993-94) and Vic Hadfield (50: 1971-72). On Thursday, he scored his 26th power-play goal of the season. Only two players since 1993-94 have scored as many in a campaign: Ilya Kovalchuk (27 in 2005-06 w/ Atlanta) and Mario Lemieux (31 in 1995-96 w/ Pittsburgh).
Two players the Rangers acquired during the trade season were Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano. On Thursday, Copp recorded his second career hat trick and became the third Rangers player to score a first-period hat trick. The others: Kelly Kisio (Dec. 26, 1986) and Don Raleigh (Feb. 25, 1948). His hat trick was the NHL’s 13th natural hat trick in 2021-22, and joined Mika Zibanejad (March 17, 2021) as the only Rangers players in the past 40 years to score a natural hat trick in a single period.
Vatrano has totaled seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 18 games with the Rangers. Since his New York debut on March 17 against the Islanders, Vatrano’s seven goals rank third on the team (Kreider: 11, Copp: 8) and his seven even-strength goals are tied for most on the team (with Copp).
Goaltender Igor Shesterkin has 36 wins on the season, tied with two other goalies (Darcy Kuemper and Andrei Vasilevskiy) for the fourth most in the NHL; only Jacob Markstrom, with 37, and Juuse Saros and Sergei Bobrovsky, with 38, have more. Shesterkin is tied for the seventh most wins by a Rangers goaltender in a single season. He ranks first in the league in goals-against average (2.01) and save percentage (.936). Shesterkin is 4-1-0 in his last five starts, with a .969 save percentage and 0.81 goals-against average.
ESPN Power Rankings: 9
Leading scorer: Brad Marchand, 73 points in 66 games
2021-22 record: 47-25-5 (99 points), fourth in Atlantic Division
On April 16, the Bruins secured their spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to Money Puck, the Bruins have a 63.6% chance to finish in the first wild-card spot. This would mean that the Bruins would face off against either the Carolina Hurricanes or the Rangers in the first round.
It’s the 13th time they’ve reached the playoffs in 15 years and 75th time in franchise history (second all-time behind Montreal, 85). After losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins have been eliminated in the second round each of the past two seasons.
If the Bruins get to 100 points, they will have reached the milestone four times in the last five seasons. However, the Bruins have dropped points in four of their last six games (2-4-0). During that span they have scored just 1.83 goals per game, and have given up an average of 3.00 goals per game. In their last 10 games, the Bruins have scored only one power-play goal on 30 opportunities, operating at just 3.3%. The last time they Bruins scored a power-play goal was on April 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
While the offense has been struggling as of late for the Bruins, they always have a chance if the game is close. This season the Bruins have 24 wins when playing in one-goal games; those 24 wins are the second most in the NHL, behind the Dallas Stars, who have 26. Boston has scored 76 goals in the first period this season, the seventh most among all NHL teams. The Bruins have been shut out just four times this season.
One standout reason for the Bruins’ current offensive struggles is the loss of forward David Pastrnak. He is currently out for the Bruins with an undisclosed injury, and hasn’t played since April 4 against the Blue Jackets. Pastrnak is currently second in points among Bruins players with 71, and first in goals with 38. He also leads the team in power-play goals this season (14), and is second in power-play points (24), just two shy of Brad Marchand, who leads the team with 26.
The Bruins will look to Marchand to get the offense back on track in their time without Pastrnak. However, Marchand has not been up to his usual goal-scoring ability as he has not recorded a goal in his last nine games, and has just two points in that span. Linemate Patrice Bergeron is also struggling to produce, as he has just two goals in those nine games, and a total of four points.
Since April 1, the Bruins have been averaging just 2.40 goals per game, which is tied with the Blackhawks for the third worst in the NHL; only the San Jose Sharks (2.20) and Arizona Coyotes (1.60) are worse. Their 3.3% power-play percentage happens to be the third worst in the NHL since then as well; only two teams have worst power plays during that span (Philadelphia Flyers: 3.2%, New Jersey Devils: 0%). Their 24 total goals scored during the span are tied for the fourth lowest total in the NHL; the teams who have scored less are all eliminated from playoff contention.