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Rangers vs. Devils Eastern Conference Finals preview

Another series for the Rangers ends in seven games and another series begins with just one day of rest in between. This time around, the six seeded Devils stand between the Rangers and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Devils are here after beating third seeded Florida in seven games in the first round and fifth seeded Philadelphia in five games in the second round. From the get go, there are comparisons to 1994, but we don’t see it. Sure, it’s easy to say certain things are the same, but only Martin Brodeur remains from that series.

Offense

Surprisingly enough, the Devils are the team that outscored the Rangers (albeit by two goals) during the regular season. The Devils, like the Capitals before them, are a more skilled team up front than the Rangers. Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrick Elias, Travis Zajac, and Adam Henrique form a very potent set of five forwards that will be difficult to contain.

The Rangers are hoping to get more from Carl Hagelin, who had a great Game Seven against the Caps, in order to really counter the Devils’ attack. Brad Richards has been on fire this postseason and Marian Gaborik isn’t exactly struggling to generate chances. If Hagelin can help get that duo going, and the Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan line can generate some offense, then the Rangers might be able to match the offensive output.

Advantage: Devils

Defense

While the Devils may have an advantage on offense, the defensive side of the game is all Rangers. The Rangers allowed 22 fewer goals than the Devils during the regular season and have not allowed more than three goals the entire post season (14 games). That is a NHL record. Where the Rangers have a solid top four in Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, and Michael Del Zotto, the Devils defense has multiple question marks outside of Anton Volchenkov. Marek Zidlicky has been a solid pickup for them, but on paper they don’t match up.

Advantage: Rangers

Goaltending

The battle of the best that has ever played the game versus the current best in the world. Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist are the past and the present in terms of elite NHL netminders. That said, Brodeur is having a great postseason for the Devils. Lundqvist has just been much better, as expected. The real question about this matchup is whether or not Brodeur will be able to match Lundqvist in this series. For the 40 year old netminder, it may not be as easy as matching up against Jose Theodore and Ilya Bryzgalov.

For more on each goaltender’s style, read Justin’s posts on Brodeur and on Lundqvist.

Advantage: Rangers

Powerplay

Interestingly enough, the Rangers and Devils both employ an umbrella powerplay strategy and both teams have scored an equal amount of powerplay goals this postseason (9), though the Devils have done it with fewer opportunities. Still, with that much skill up front you would think that the Devils would have the advantage, but we’ve seen that skill does not always correlate to goals with the man advantage. The Rangers powerplay has been inconsistent, but they have been good at moving the puck around to generate scoring chances.

The difference maker here is Gaborik. With no powerplay goals (three assists), he needs to start burying his chances. If he can start putting pucks in the net, then this series takes on a whole new look.

Advantage: Even

Penalty Kill

This is where Brandon Dubinsky would be a huge factor for the Rangers. His absence hurts, but the Rangers have the big advantage on defense and goaltending, which comes into play for the kill. The top Rangers defenders together with Hank, have made the penalty kill a lethal part of the Rangers defensive ability.

The depth of forwards that are capable of playing on the kill also favors the Rangers, who have about four separate lines of forwards who can kill penalties. However, the Caps were able to get a bunch of goals on the powerplay, so if the Devils can execute (see above), then it may not work out so well for the Rangers.

Advantage: Rangers

Coaching

Suit’s Take: Deboer’s System

The Devils are no longer the defensive juggernaut they were under Jacques Lemaire, who had them playing a passive 1-2-2 neutral zone forecheck. The goal for that Devils team was to contain the opposition in the middle of the ice, force a turnover and then counter attack. Peter Deboer still keeps a 1-2-2 in his arsenal (which was displayed in the Florida series), but for the most part this team has flipped the script and they are now on the aggressive.

As we saw in the series against Philadelphia, the Devils are mainly using an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck and playing below the dots. Peter is also pinching their defensemen to hold the zone and allowing their more mobile blueliners to join the rush.

From a systems standpoint, 5-on-5 Devils hockey is very similar to how the Rangers want to play their game. What will be interesting to watch is what the Devils do if they have a lead. Will they abandon their forecheck and just sit back and contain? Or will they maintain their pursuit of the puck? It’s hard to know, as they’ve shown both looks at various times throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

In the end it is a game of adjustments and matchups, and in my not so humble opinion, Torts has out-coached Deboer in that regard all season. Hopefully it stays that way.

Advantage: Rangers

Back to Dave…

Intangibles

There’s always going to be a lot of noise when the Rangers play the Devils. But in the end, the biggest intangible that will have an effect on this series is fatigue. The Rangers have played the maximum 14 games thus far with an additional seven overtime periods. The Devils have played 12 games with five overtime periods. In addition, they have had five days off before the start of this round.

Advanage: Devils

Prediction

Rangers in six.

22 Responses to “Rangers vs. Devils Eastern Conference Finals preview”

  1. DM says:

    I think your prediction is wrong.

    Devils in 7.

    This can’t be figured out on paper alone. This particular feud has deep roots and it does bring out the best in both sides.

    However, I think the Devils will win this one.

    The Rangers have a darn good team though…wouldn’t surprise me if they took it in 7…it *WILL* go 7 though.

    • Dave says:

      My prediction for the past two series have been wrong, so this one shouldn’t really be any different.

    • becky says:

      Should be fun to win the cup playing at least 3 game 7’s then ;)

  2. Cole says:

    I agree with DM that the passion in this series alone is enough to make a fan cringe at any prediction. I hope your prediction is correct but its a lot to ask of the team to win another long series. The Rangers need a quick few goals to get into Brodeurs head. That will go a long way in deciding the series. As long as they play the way they have all year, hard on the puck, solid defense, and timely scoring, and most of all very strong when their backs are up against the wallI don’t see any reason we won’t see them in the cup finals in 2 weeks or so.

  3. The Suit says:

    Said Rangers in 7 for Sens, Caps. Sticking with it against NJD too.

  4. Walt says:

    I believe that this series will go 6 or 7, but the Rangers come out on top!

    Hank has an immense dislike for Fat Boy, and always elevates his game accordingly. That and the fact that we have home ice will work wonders for the Rangers.

    I don’t buy into the garbage that because we played two extra games, and a few over time periods, will work against us. BULL!

    I do hope that Stu sees more than 2-3 minutes a game, if for no reason to give the top four a breather.

    I expect a very tough series, like the two already played by us. By playing the last 2 series, the younger guys will be mentally tougher, and won’t wilt under the pressure. The Devils have a few guys from their glory years, but their core are younger, and if it goes to 7 games, can they repeat their victory again, on the road? I think not.

  5. Matt J says:

    To me the difference is Lundqvist. If the Rangers continue to score 2 goals a game he’ll have to play great. I think if he gets a 2 goal cushion he’ll be fine. It’s a tall order to score 3 goals against Lundqvist especially right now.

    However, if the Rangers miraculously can find some offense and open ice, they can have a much easier time in the series.

    The key for the Rangers is to not get burned in transition by their top 6.

  6. Chuck A. says:

    According to this excellent article, NJD are weaker in both goal and defense, so I’ll stick with the Rangers. I think the latter are playing with house money now, so let’s hope Brodeur’s net fills up quickly!

  7. Mike says:

    Rangers in 6 makes sense. Devils didn’t taste real playoff opponent yet. They hardly pulled game 7 win vs. average Panthers team and beat banged up Flyers who have huge goaltending issues, porous defense and incomplete offense with Giroux being suspended.
    Rangers on the other hand, played solid defense and offensively got to much hotter goalies than Devils played.
    Fatigue is not a factor at all and Rangers proved it in triple OT physically overplaying Caps in their house.
    Home ice advantage is huge!!!
    Defense wins games in every sport. Hank is a beast, it’s his time to win, so there’s no way he’ll forgeit the opportunity to go to Stanley Cup finals.
    Let’s go Rangers!!!

  8. Steve D says:

    The Devils had a tough time against a more defense oriented Florida team, they had a very easy time with the defense less Flyer team. The Rangers are much better on defense then Florida, so I predict low scoring games and the Devils losing confidence early in the series. Rangers in 6 – they are all home games BTW…

  9. Rickyrants13 says:

    Sorry Dave but getting rest doesnt allways help. And if it does it wont be felt till like game 3. I think the Rangers will win this in 5 or 6 games.

    The Devils barely beat the Panthers. And then went on to beat a goalie that I could have scored against AKA the Sift.

    They have not faced a D that will make them get fustrated and change their game. They also havent faced a team that will be in ther face for 60 min or more untill now.

    LETS GO RANGERS

  10. Rangersalterego says:

    If it weren’t for the rivalry id say rangers in five, but the rivalry always brings out the best in the devils so I’d guess rangers in six or seven

  11. Chris F says:

    Here’s my take…

    Much is being said about how the Devils took down the Southeast Division Champs, and then rolled through the “Cup favorite” powerhouse Flyers. Much is also being said about it took the number 1 seed Rangers two game 7 series to dispose of the number 7 and 8 seeds.

    My rebuttal: Nothing much worthy has been said.

    The Devils struggled against a deeply inferior Panthers team that somehow managed to win the weakest division in the league due to ineptitude and chaos down in DC. In terms of actual points in the standings, the Panthers were really the 6th seed in the East, and even then, they received 18 points in the standings in overtime losses and had 6 shootout wins. In my opinion, the Panthers were the weakest team in the entire playoffs this year and yet by playing a modicum of defense, they stymied the Devils and forced a game 7. Talk about a confidence booster for the Devils! *snark

    Next the Devils rolled through the Flyers, a team with a potent offense and all the fanfare of a Cup worthy team. Only they’re not. Sure, the Flyers have talent. But, the Devils exposed what lies at the core of this Philadelphia team: no system, no defense, and goaltending that is “leakier than an Ikea faucet.” I forget who said that, but it’s rather apt, and I have no qualms about stealing material. I say that the Devils exposed this inherent weakness in the Flyers, but that’s not really accurate. Those of us without the orange-tinged blinders saw this coming most of the year. And the Penguins accentuated this point by rocking both Bryzgalov and Bobrovski for 10 goals in game 4. Was there really ever a doubt that Philly would crumble when faced with a very systematic team in the Devils?

    On to the Rangers, the Ottawa Senators and the Washington Capitals are both superior teams to the Panthers and Flyers respectively. Anyone worth their hockey salt knows that playoff seeding is much less relevant in the NHL than it is in, say, the NBA. Number 1 seeds can be, and frequently are, upset by number 7 and 8 seeds. The Rangers going the distance with these two teams has nothing to do with their own level of play and everything to do with both Ottawa and Washington elevating their game for the playoffs, something all really good teams simply have to do to win. Anderson was very solid in net, Holtby was absolutely brilliant. How did Theodore and Brygalov measure up? Eh…

    The fact is, the Rangers were only the number one seed because they brought a level of intensity and desperation throughout 82 regular season games that most teams don’t elevate themselves to until the final playoff push. This style probably bought the Rangers a few games that they would have otherwise lost. A team like the Capitals, you have to believe could have managed an extra 5 or 6 wins this year. This difference in regular season intensity is the difference between being a number 1 seed and a number 7 seed. So, speaking in terms of talent, is it any wonder the Capitals forced game 7? I don’t think so.

    And, yet, the Rangers stayed true to what brought them to this point in the first place: intensity, sacrifice, goaltending, systematic defense, and everything that we’ve grown to love, and cringe, about New York Rangers hockey.

    Yes, the Rangers are probably a bit fatigued. It’s been a hard run. But, an opportunity to play in the Eastern Conference Finals against the cross-river rival Devils should clear that right up. This is what they’ve been playing for. They have home-ice advantage (which they’ve used to their benefit in the first two rounds), and a legion of fans ready to escort them into New Jersey when “on the road.” The Devils have been sitting, waiting… and waiting. You have to think that their intensity level will be outmatched by the Rangers, riding high off a game 7 win over the Capitals. Michael Del Zotto said it best, this team played 82 games in the regular season. Playing 14 games so far in the playoffs doesn’t mean much. They’ve trained all year, their stamina is there, they’ll be ready.

    And if they are indeed ready, if they bring that level of play that they’ve shown all year, I honestly believe it will be too much for the Devils to handle having had a considerably less intense playoff run this far.

    Rangers in 6.

    • Josh says:

      Do you realize how biased oyur argument sounds? Do you also realize that Florida finished with more points than both Ottawa and Washington, as well as winning the same weak division that Washington could not win.

      You bring up Floridas 18 OT losses like it was a bad thing. The Panthers received points in 56 of 82 games they played in this season. More than Ottawa or the Caps.

      Basically you spent a novel’s worth of words trying to convince yourself and everyone else that the Ranger’s had it harder against the 7 and 8 seeds then the Devils did against the 3 and 5 seeds.

      The Devils finished 7 points behind the Rangers this year with out their top line center for almost the etire regular season. I think you are selling the Devils short big time.

      The Rangers were 7.6 seconds away from being eliminated by the 7th seed. The Devils crushed a Flyer team that made Crosby and Malkin look like Ty Domi and Sean Avery.

      • Chris F says:

        The Rangers were 6.6 seconds away from falling behind 3-2 in the series, not being eliminated. But, who cares about facts when you have age-old myths to rely on.

        You see, Josh, seeding in the NHL is a phantom measure of prowess. Did you see how easy it was for you to write off Ottawa and Washington in comparison to Florida simply because of seeding? It takes someone actually watching the game of hockey to understand that the standings dictate very little in terms of positional supremacy.

        You cannot sit there and tell me that the Florida Panthers, a team full of misfit, washed-up veterans and zero identity, backed up by Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmenson in net, are anywhere near as competitive as the Washington Capitals. Not only do they have Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Greene, but that also has stalwart depth players like Chimera, Hendricks, Laich, etc. They learned how to play playoff hockey, they brought intensity, physicality and sacrifice and they rode an unbelievable performance in goal by Braden Holtby.

        You have to watch a team play, and understand how the game is played to appreciate matchups. So far, you’ve demonstrated nothing more than an ability to read the standings. Congratulations.

        • Josh says:

          Everything you just stated could be said about Ottawa and the Capitals.

          On one hand you use the Rangers ability to win in the regular season and capture the number one seed as an argument for why they will win in the playoffs. Then you completely discount the Panthers regular season in comparison to their playoff performance. You also state how the Capitals raised their level of play in the playoffs to become a formidable foe, yet totally discount any and everything the Panthers night have done. Maybe you should have taken your own advice and watched the Panthers play elevate against the Devils

          Do you really want to go their with the goalie comparisons? In the first round The Ranger offense was stymied by a never was. In the second round you were stretched to the limits by a kid who had started 18 games in the NHL in 2 years.

          I have been watching hockey for 26 years and I know all about hockey seedings and how things work out in the playoffs. Are you actually reading what you are typing? These 2 teams were the 7 and 8 seed because over 82 games they were the bottom of the playoff barrel teams.

          Stop trying to justify why the Rangers had trouble with a never was goalie and a kid who now has as many playoff wins as he does regular season wins.

          Your posts reek of hypocrisy.

          • Chris F says:

            Hey, moron, the Panthers finished with 2 points more than the Caps and Senators (and that’s with the overly generous 18 points in OT losses!).

            What’s more, you again demonstrate your inability to process nuanced information. The fact that Holbty is a rookie, or that Anderson has a mediocre career, is just as irrelevant as the seeding.

            Both of them were very strong in net, Holbty in particular was outstanding, a nuance obviously lost on you while you were busy looking into their past.

            Keep sticking to your superficial arguments about age or standings. It’ll only let you down by the end of this series.

            • Dave says:

              Easy with the name calling.

              • Chris F says:

                Not so much name calling as it is pointing out intellectual ineptitude in someone who brought a nasty, adversarial tone right out of the gate in his reply to me.

                However, out of the great appreciation I have for you and the rest of the BSB crew, I will respectfully tone it down.

                Sorry about that.

          • VinceR says:

            And your explanation for the Caps beating #2 seeded Boston Josh? Luck? Or the run LA is having?

      • Rickyrants13 says:

        Srry Josh he was right Both Ott and Wash were far better playoff teams with worthy tallent for the big dance Then Fla.

  12. Matt says:

    holy long comment Batman! (above)

    I think like Dave said, it’s a close series, 6 or 7 games.

    From a fans perspective, this should be a fun, and anxious series to watch. Not sure about everyone else, but I have a bunch of Devils fans, so it will be chock full of the back and forth banter.