Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 5/14/12

Ali vs Frazier. Bird vs Magic. Peyton vs Brady. Brodeur vs Lundqvist. The common denominator? These historic rivalries have pitted the best athletes in their respective sport against one another in clashes of titanic proportions. The Devils-Rangers Conference Final sets up an epic goalie battle between the greatest to ever man the net, Martin Brodeur, and quite possibly the best goalie on the planet right now, Henrik Lundquist. This heavyweight fight already has the feel of an instant classic.

Martin Brodeur has been equivalent to a brick wall ever since he entered the NHL in 1990. He has shattered countless records and is widely regarded as the greatest goalie of all time. As the years have gone on, Marty’s level of play has dipped a bit. Just last week, Brodeur celebrated his 40th birthday. But don’t think for one second that Ol’ Marty isn’t more than capable of turning back the clock and adding another playoff shutout to his already amazing record of 24. Brodeur’s performance thus far in the playoffs has been commendable, and he’s been bailed out a few times by the Devils swarming defense and timely goal scoring, but King Henry is the one who’s truly shined this post season.

Lundqvist, a likely recipient of the Vezina Trophy and quite possibly even the Hart Trophy, has been absolutely impenetrable this year. And he has only elevated his level of play during the playoffs. The same cannot be said for the rest of the Blue Shirts. King Henry aside, the Rangers have frankly been lucky to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though they were the best team in the NHL throughout the regular season, they have looked lethargic in the playoffs and greatly underachieved to this point. Without Lundqvist’s superb play, the Rangers would have been embarrassed and eliminated long ago. The Boys in Blue have squeaked out a few key wins and been taken to seven games in each of their first two series, against inferior teams. The Devils on the other hand cruised past the Flyers after a hard fought 1st round series against the Panthers, and have definitely looked like the stronger team.

Devils’ head coach Peter DeBoer must have lit a fire under his teams’ ass because they are playing like men possessed. You would think they were the franchise that was starved for their first championship in almost two decades, instead of the Rangers. It seems even after three Stanley Cup victories, the Devils are still hungry for more. The Rangers simply do not have the look and feel of a championship team. They seem like a worn out and tired team whereas the Devils appear to be an energetic squad hell-bent on hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup once again. However, if the Rangers play the same brand of hockey they displayed in their Game 7 victory over the Caps, and King Henry continues to dominate as he has all season, the Devils could be in big trouble.

Look for this series to go seven, grueling games, just like it did in the epic Eastern Conference Finals of ’94. That year Mark Messier delivered on his guarantee and led the Blue Shirts to a double-overtime victory in Game 7 against the Devils, and his team eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in over half-a-century. That battle has been deemed by many as one of the greatest playoff hockey series ever. Tonight, the Devils and Rangers reignite their fiery rivalry and bring hockey to the forefront of the Metropolitan sports world, an area that has been sorely missing the game for many years. Hopefully, for the fans sake, the Devils and Rangers pick up right where they left off in ’94. Grab a beer and get ya popcorn ready, because the Garden will be rocking tonight and playoff hockey is back in New York baby!

Sgambati

 

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