Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 5/13/12


1) Rangers vs. 6) Devils


How they got here…

(1) Rangers-

ECQ: Beat (8) Senators in 7

ECS: Beat (7) Capitals in 7

(6) Devils-

ECQ: Beat (3) Panthers in 7

ECS: Beat (5) Flyers in 5


Season Series…

Tied 3-3


Previous Playoff Meetings…

2008 ECQ: (5) Rangers over (4) Devils in 5

2006 ECQ: (3) Devils over (6) Rangers in 4

1997 ECS: (5) Rangers over (1) Devils in 5

1994 ECF: (1) Rangers over (3) Devils in 7

1992 DS: (1) Rangers over (4) Devils in 7


Tale of the Tape…

Forwards-

Edge: Devils… On paper these two look even, but the Devils’ forward corps is flat out playing better right now.

Defensemen-

Edge: Rangers… The Blueshirts are surrendering 1.86 goals against per game in the playoffs and blocking shots like crazy.

Goaltending-

Edge: Even… Henrik Lundqvist vs. Martin Brodeur.  Yeah, this should be good.

Special Teams-

Edge: Even… The Rangers’ penalty kill is a tad better than the Devils’; vice versa on the power play.

Coaching-

Edge: Rangers… Peter DeBoer is entering uncharted territory, while John Tortorella has been in this position before and has a Cup ring.

Experience-

Edge: Devils… The Rangers have a few veterans that have won the Cup, but also have a slew of youngsters.

Health-

Edge: Even… No injuries that will affect either team's ability to win this series.


Keys to the Series…

Rangers-

1. Frustrate Kovalchuk… Ilya Kovalchuk’s team-leading 12 points has him in Conn Smythe contention.  The $100 million man is playing with a lot of confidence, which means the Rangers have to put a stop to that.  How do you frustrate Kovalchuk?  Hit him.  Hit him again.  Block his shots.  Take away scoring chances.  Get in his passing lanes.  The Rangers saw Alex Ovechkin score big goals in Round 2, but only in Capitals wins.  If the Rangers can get Kovalchuk off his game, it’ll force Zach Parise and others to do all the work.

2. Secondary scoring… As much as they need to nullify Kovalchuk, the Rangers need more offense throughout their lineup.  Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik did most of the yeomen’s work in Round 2; now it’s time for the secondary producers to step up.  Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin combined for just one goal against Washington.  New Jersey’s secondary scorers have risen to the occasion all postseason; the Rangers need to see the same thing happen here in Round 3.


Devils-

1. Brodeur answer Lundqvist… When it comes to goaltending in these playoffs, everyone is talking about the likes of Jonathan Quick, Mike Smith and Henrik Lundqvist.  Furthermore, Lundqvist has made one clutch save after another in the playoffs, willing the Rangers to a pair of Game 7 victories.  The Devils will need Brodeur, who has been solid in his own right, to match Lundqvist save for save and steal some games.  If so, the Devils have a good chance to prevail.

2. Win special teams battle… Though these two teams are more even than the seeds suggest, it always seem like the underdogs need to have big efforts on special teams to win series… and that’s what the Devils need to do in this series.  Their power play has been consistent all postseason, but the penalty kill could be better.  If they can win the special teams battle, it would force the Rangers to win the 5-on-5 battle – an area where the Devils have been the NHL’s best in the playoffs.


Why the Rangers will win…

It almost feels like destiny is on their side.  Their season and playoff run have felt similar to their Cup run in 1994.  Oh yeah, they beat the Devils in the conference finals that spring.  One big reason why the Rangers are still around is the fact that former Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards is finally living up to his big contract.  It will only help if he carries over his great play from Round 2.  Another reason to like the Rangers is Lundqvist.  Not taking anything away from Brodeur, but ‘King Henrik’ has some serious mojo going right now and has come through in the clutch when the team has needed him.  If it’s a long series, their home-ice advantage will come into play.


Why the Devils will win…

New Jersey will win this series if Parise and Kovalchuk are as affective as they were in Round 2 against Philadelphia.  If they are just as effective, that would mean the Rangers defense wouldn’t be doing their job in slowing down the Devils offense.  If this were any ordinary 1 vs. 6 matchup in the conference final, the top seed would be the hands-down favorite.  But the Devils know this Rangers team very well.  They match up well against Tortorella’s gang, which is greater than the sum of their parts.  In the end, one reason to like the Devils is Brodeur’s experience.  This is his sixth trip to the conference finals; Lundqvist has never been.


Forecast…

One of the league’s best top rivalries will be renewed here in the third round.  The Devils raised a lot of eyebrows by making quick work of Philadelphia, while the Rangers outlasted Washington in a back-and-forth slugfest.  Like most playoff series, this could come down to goaltending.  But I give the edge to whichever team gets more contributions throughout its lineup.  I have a feeling the Rangers have just enough to slow down the confident Devils.

Prediction: Rangers in 6


Photo credit: Getty Images
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