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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.