The bitter rivalry that we had all hoped for begins tonight at the Garden as the New Jersey Devils take on the New York Rangers at 8 pm.
One round away from their 5th trip to the Finals, the 6th seeded Devils must go through the 1st seed Rangers to get there. In addition to the rankings, historically the Devils haven’t fared very well when facing the Rangers in the playoffs.
18 years ago in 1994, the Rangers broke a 40 year drought and won their first Stanley Cup since 1954. On their way to doing so, they won a classic 7 game playoff series against the Devils. On that Devils team was a 22 year old Rookie named Marty Brodeur.
Now 40, Martin Brodeur has won 3 Stanley Cup Finals, four Vezina trophies and five Jennings trophies. He has broken loads of records in his historical career including the regular season games won total and is a ten time NHL All-Star.
Through all that, the 1994 loss to the Rangers is still stuck in his craw. He wants to beat the Rangers to exorcise his personal demons and play for a chance at a 4th Stanley Cup. With rumors of a lockout on the horizon this may be his last chance and everyone wants to go out on top.
The Devils have a more balanced offense than the Rangers. They don’t have to rely as much on their neutral zone trap as they have been blessed with more firepower in the form of Zach Parisi, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Rangers are stronger defensively and have the edge of a younger goaltender.
In coaching, the Rangers have the advantage with John Tortorella, a coach who has lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship – the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. No one really expected the Devils to get this far with their first year coach Pete DeBoer.
The Devils have strength with their special teams.
The Devils need to stay disciplined and out of the box.
Devils win in 6 or 7. This is going to be a tough and grueling series and anything less than 6 games would be surprising. There will be no sweep or short series. This will be one for the ages.
In the Western Conference Finals I predict the LA Kings to win in 5 or 6 to result in a New Jersey Devils – LA Kings Stanley Cup Finals.
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