Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 5/14/12
When the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils meet tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it will mark a rematch 18 years later of one of the great series in Stanley Cup Playoff history. En route to their first Cup in 54 years, the Rangers needed seven games to get past the Devils in a series that included three double overtime games. Games 3 and 7 were both double-overtime matches, with the Rangers Stephane Matteau emerging as a folk hero who provided the game-winning goal in each. At the time, Bobby Holik was 23 and in the fourth season of what would be an 18-year career as a center in which he won the Stanley Cup twice, both with the Devils. He scored 13 goals in 70 games that season and finished a plus-28 and was a member of the Crash Line with Randy McKay and Mike Peluso that often received the assignment of neutralizing the oppositions best lines comes playoff time, a feat it was able to perform with some regularity over the years. Holik, who runs his own Web site, HolikonHockey.com, along with a shooting Web site that hes fond of (HolikonShooting.com), offered his always strongly opinionated and thoughtful insights on that series along with his prediction of this years match-up. (Holik also played for the Rangers in a tenure that was less memorable than his first with New Jersey.) In their infancy as a franchise, Wayne Gretzky once labeled the Devils a Mickey Mouse organization, an appellation for which some New Jersey fans still have yet to forgive The Great One. But in 93-94 the rookie year of goalie Martin Brodeur, who will start tonight for New Jersey the Devils made some key strides under the keen eye of general manager Lou Lamoriello in a process that ultimately made them one of the NHLs top organizations ever since. It was the first time for me to be that far in the playoffs, Holik said. It was just absolutely amazing. The Crash line, we were building our reputation throughout that playoff year. I played a role that I didnt really put an expectation on what role I am going to have. Im a two-way player who is going to contribute to the team to win hockey games, but playing on the Crash Line with Peluso and McKay throughout that playoff run, it was completely different but at the time I never thought about it as I should be a different player than I am. I just loved finally being relevant and the team being relevant. Third or fourth year, we were finally being contenders. You talk to the Devils fans of the last 25, 30 years and the Crash line is one of their best memories We went to the conference finals and we won the Cup thats an accomplishment and we played against teams lines like (Philadelphias) Legion of Doom in those years and we were contributing and it was such a great, great experience. I was young. It was a tremendous experience playing alongside Claude Lemieuxs and Bernie Nicholls and Scottie Stevens. We had a lot of young, future great players In fact, Holik credits the experience for the following season when the underdog Devils dominated heavily favored Detroit in the Cup final, sweeping the series. It was like a start for us, Holik said. We didnt win the Cup. We went to the seventh game. But we saw the end, kind of (Rangers captain Mark) Messiers greatness. It was a changing of the guard, basically. In a current era with so much parity, Holik thinks its foolish to make any predictions, but asked for his, he said he thinks the Devils will win in five or six games. He played three seasons in Atlanta as a teammate of Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk, whose 12 points rank third in the playoffs. Holik said he recognized at the time that the young Kovalchuk had the will to be great, but now he sees a player who has evolved and matured from a hard-headed scorer who only passed when he ran out of options to one who looks to pass first. Mostly, Holik sees the Devils as the more offensive team, which gives them the better chance. The Rangers also are coming off back-to-back grueling seven-game series. Their most recent series included a triple-overtime game with Washington; whereas New Jersey eliminated Philadelphia in five games. Holik thinks key Devils players who were banged-up like center Dainius Zubrus and defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov will benefit from the rest. Whether this series can live up to that of its predecessor of 18 years ago is a high bar. Holik was asked what he remembers most about that series. Obviously, Game 6 was very disappointing because we had them, Holik said of a 3-2 Devils series lead that evaporated with a 4-2 Rangers win on the Devils home ice. That was very disappointing. We had them on the ropes. Game 7, it was tied, seventh game, seven seconds left and it went to OT. What I remember the most is the tremendous experience... To play alongside and against players in their best like Messier -- he was great -- Mike Richter, Brian Leetch on the other side. Scott Stevens, Bernie Nicholls, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer, all these guys (on the Devils), for my generation of player it was a tremendous experience. I think because we were good enough, obviously, to go to the final but thats why we won fairly decidedly the next year because we had that experience. Not only our veteran players but even the players of my generation had that experience from the year before. Talking about 94, I have to go 95, we went throughout but came up short. But we made minimum mistakes that next year because we knew how hard it is and how much we learned.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Nationals among multiple teams inquiring on Mark Melancon

McClain does not show up for Cowboys’ training camp

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Andre Johnson agrees to two-year deal with Titans

Redskins GM injures hand punching wall in frustration

Report: Aldon Smith checks into rehab

McCarthy discusses 'urgency’ to win another title with Rodgers

Report: Lions extend CB Darius Slay with $50 million deal

Adam Jones: Bengals dominated Steelers in playoff game

Storyline from 'Ballers' plays out in Cowboys preseason camp

Texas A&M creates a very sexist version of their fight song for women

Brown, Marshall are apparently serious about their car bet

Lacy, Starks could split carries to start season

Cyborg Santos post-surgery skull photos are eerie

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Hockey team unveils Clinton, Trump bobbleheads

Bennett compares chemistry with Pats QBs to his love life

Crowell still making amends for controversial Instagram post

Report: LeBron urged Justin Bieber not to perform at RNC

Luck refutes Matt Hasselbeck’s assertion he never showers

Newspaper editor explains use of Jordan meme for MJ article

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker