We can now begin with what most hockey fans feel will be the hardest fought semi-finals in Stanley Cup Playoffs history ever. The New York Rangers finally got rid of what was becoming a ‘Fly off the horses back’ pest as in the Washington Capitals last night to take their quarter finals round in 7 games and move onto face their real nemesis,’Cross County’ foes the New Jersey Devils.
If you think the Caps were a real pest the ‘Blue Shirts’ wait till this series gets going and into a game or two and you will be treated to a series like no others.
Going down in the west coast we have already reviewed, recapped and taken apart both teams, the LA Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes as they have had some well deserved time off. So now it’s the Eastern Conference finals and the last two teams standing as they say for this ‘Battle of 2 New York States’ and who will come out as winners who can brag for another season in saying,’ We are The Empire State’ or the ‘ The Garden State’ of the world! So lets take a look at both teams and how they match up shall we!
New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils
I really don’t know how the Devils are doing this but with really a ‘no-name’ backend compared to the Rangers ‘Studs’ this really looks lopsided as ever BUT don’t count out the Devils work crew of Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky who take up most of the work load along with rookie Mark Fayne who is starting to post some solid minutes in these 2012 playoffs. Another rookie who has shown he is ready for ‘Prime Time’ is Adam Larsson who has scored a goal and is a plus 4. Now to the Rangers ‘Studs’ as they have been called through out the playoffs and regular season (not by me folks, probably some New Yorker Homer.) The 1-2 pair of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh do much of the playing time and are the leaders in these playoffs amongst players still left in the post season in ice time played. The you put Marc Stall and Michael Del Zotto out there as the other 1-2 pairing and you have 4 fine defencemen who are young, eager and have matured quickly to become top 4 in anyone’s line-up. When the Rangers get on the PP Del Zotto is paired up with another offensive Dman in Anton Stralman who has 3 goals in the playoffs already. Just looking at numbers and you wonder how the Devils Dmen do it and how they can do it against the dangerous Rangers offence (some guy names Brodeur back there to!) but as I say don’t count them out. I will have to go with the slight edge to the Rangers top 5 with this series.
Any coach will tell you to go deep into the playoffs you need 4 solid lines and scoring from all of them. Well let me tell you that is exactly what Coach DeBoer has and is preaching to his crew. Devils have received 32 of their 36 goals from forwards in these playoffs, that’s a very good stat that any team would love to have. Some cast of characters are getting into uncharted territory as in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zack Parise and Travis Zajac are entering these finals for the first time. But the real interesting fact here is that the Devils have received goals, I mean Game winning goals from 7 different players including a pair from David Clarkson. When you think of the ‘Blue Shirts’ offence two names come to mind real quick. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik but throw in Carl Hagelin into the mix and you have some offence to match anyones best. Through this playoffs the 3 really haven’t found the consistency factor yet but when one player isn’t doing well the others have and so forth. It’s Richards who is leading the pack and rightly so, that is the reason they brought him to the Big Apple wasn’t it? The supporting cast ( these guys are real characters too) are Callahan, Stepan, Anisimov and Brian ‘ Pain in Neck’ Boyles. Toss in rookie Chris Kreider, Mike Rupp, Brandon Burst and John Mitchell you then have some bruising forwards who will attack the other team defence and pound them against the glass until they might cry uncle then to add salt to the injury as they say, put in a few goals along the way. This is where it gets real hard to predict what forward line combinations will out do each other in the goals scored category but if the Rangers Gaborik doesn’t get his ‘High Horse’ in gear I give the Devils the slightest advantage.
I’m saving the best for last. You have the ‘Future’ Hall of Famer in Martin Brodeur stopping the rubber still like he did 15 years ago. He has stopped 289 of 314 shots through the two rounds and has 3 assists to go along for the ride. Making 182 straight playoff starts, is 8-3 with a 2.05 GAA and .920 save % in his 12 starts this 2012 playoffs. What more can be said about this phenom in front of the ‘Twines’ of this Frenchman’s historic net. BUT on the other side you have another ‘Tender of the Twines’ who has not allowed 3 goals or more this spring and has allowed 2 or less in 10 games, unbelievable stats for anyone really. When you speak with Henrik Lundquist you would never know you are speaking with maybe a future Conn Symthe Trophy winner and also maybe a Vezina Trophy winner to go along, as he speaks quietly and confidently of his team-mates, his play and the opportunity to perform in front of what he calls, ‘The Best Hockey Fans Ever’ In my books both these goalies are class acts and deserve to win so I will not (you can’t make me!) pick one, way to hard to do.
All The Rest
What I see here is a experience coach (John Tortorella) with a club who hasn’t hit their stride yet or maybe they will never do. Then on the other side you have a not-so-experience coach in Peter DeBoer but who have some players with a little more ‘play’ in their game right now and a tender who can lead with the best of them. The coaches will get what they can out of what they have but in my humble opinion it will come down to goaltending, who will determine the outcome of these games and this Eastern Conference Finals. Plus another factor will be in the two following players, Rangers Gaborik or the Devils Patrik Elias, which one will rise to the occasion and lead their team to victory.
So there you have it from the Coach’s humble opinions to the straight to hard core facts, nothing easier then that is there. Both Conference Finals will be a joy to watch for sure!
Until next time.
See you after the game.