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#4 Devils vs. #5 Rangers – Series Preview

It’s finally here.

The moment you’ve all been waiting for.

Here is the definitive Rangers/Devils series preview, brought to you by a joint effort of the creators of this blog. Can Sean Avery and the Rangers expect more of the same against the Devils during the playoffs? The only way to find out is to keep reading.

It’s on the long side, so click the “more” link below to continue reading.

Offense:

Both teams have struggled offensively at times this season, and both teams rank near the bottom of the NHL in scoring. That said, the Rangers have a fairly balanced offensive attack, with 3 full lines of players that are a threat to put the puck in the net.

The Devils, on the other hand, rely more heavily on their top scorers Parise, Elias, Gionta, and Madden. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, 2 seasons ago, Elias and Gionta played out of their minds and buried the Rangers. Of course, Scott Gomez was on that line, and now he is wearing red, white, and blue. But, I digress.

In this series, goals will be at a premium. But the Rangers have so many guys who could potentially get hot and light it up. Jagr, Gomez, Drury, Shanahan, Avery, Dawes, Callahan, Straka, Dubinsky. We give the edge to the Rangers because of their depth, but it really is a slight edge.

Edge: Rangers

Defense:

Once again the two teams are very evenly matched. But, where offense is a relative weak point for both teams, defense is where these two teams have excelled. Both teams rank very close to the top of the league in most defensive statistical categories.

The top blueliners on the Devils are a solid tandem. Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin have had very solid seasons, but the rest of the defense has not been nearly as effective. Look for the Rangers to exploit Colin White and Vitaly Vishnevski, who both have negative plus/minus ratings on the season. Vishnevski has a little Scott Stevens in him in that he searches for the big hit, but he has the bad habit of sacrificing his position to take the body. The Rangers exploited a few of his mistakes on Sunday, and will look to do the same during this series.

The Rangers defense is bolstered by Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Fedor Tyutin. There is some concern with Staal (he is a rookie, you know), but the kid has looked better and better as the season has gone on, and until I was reminded recently that he’s a rookie, I had completely forgotten. Girardi and Tyutin are very strong positional hockey players and rarely get caught making a mistake. As for the 3rd pairing, the Rangers have some options, but it is likely we will see Christian Backman paired with Jason Strudwick to start the series. This leaves Malik and Mara as healthy scratches.

Overall, we give a very slight edge to the Rangers. Once again, the deciding factor is depth. Both teams have some liability in the 5th/6th defenseman slot, and the Rangers have had a frightening tendency recently giving up a few too many odd-man rushes. But Girardi and Tyutin tip the balance towards the Rangers.

Edge: Rangers

Goaltending:

Martin Brodeur vs. Henrik Lundqvist. Wow. What can you say? The question I posed to Eric was, “If you had to win a hockey game tomorrow, and your life depended on it, who would you rather have playing in net?” He said Lundqvist. I said Brodeur. You really can’t go wrong. Both of these guys are solid, and both of these guys are capable of winning games for their teams. I’m going with a very slight edge to Brodeur because a) he has a 1.92 GAA career in the playoffs, and b) he has 3 Stanley Cup rings. Hard to argue with that.

Slight edge: Devils

Special Teams:

Any one who follows the Rangers knows the team has had its struggles with the power play (16.5%). What you may not know is that the Devils have been even worse (15.6%) !!

On the penalty kill, the Rangers have a slight advantage as well, killing the penalty 84.6% of the time to the devils 82.8% rate.

This is the playoffs, and penalty calls will go way down. Still, with goals at such a premium, the team that capitalizes on more power plays stands a very good chance of winning. The numbers don’t lie.

Slight edge: Rangers

Coaching:

It’s amazing to me that no matter who is behind the bench for the Devils, they play the same system and do it successfully. Enter Brent Sutter, who has done an admirable job for the Devils this season. However, I think Renney is in Sutter’s head. And if you think getting that win Sunday in a shootout was enough to clear the psychological hurdle of going 0-fer the season against the Rangers, you’re wrong. The Devils blew a 2 goal lead in that game, and the Rangers had ALL the momentum in overtime. Plus, Renney has more experience, and has done a masterful job with this team all season.

Edge: Rangers

Intangibles:

There are three X-factors at work in favor of the Rangers in this series.

  1. The Devils technically have home-ice advantage, but you can be sure that plenty of Rangers fans will trek out to Jersey and take away some of that Prudential Center advantage. The Devils still have tickets available. On this side of the Hudson (the good side), any Devils fan looking to get into MSG is going to have to shell out some serious dough. The Rangers released a limited quantity of playoff tickets through ticketmaster today and were sold out in a few minutes. By the way, I will be at the game tomorrow, wearing my Richter jersey, along side my sister Melissa, wearing her Petr Prucha t-shirt, of course.
  2. Momentum. The Rangers have all of it. 7-0-1 in the season series, plus a comeback from down 2 goals on the road in the season’s final game. Yes, a few of these games went to shootouts, but the Rangers have been dominant against the Devils this season.
  3. His name is Chris Drury.

Eric Made A Chart!

Overall Prediction:
Eric says Rangers in 6
Marc says Rangers in 5


About the author:  Marc is a Long Island native and a hockey goalie. He has been a Rangers fan for as long as he can remember, although, in the interest of full disclosure, there was a time during the 1993 playoffs when he vaguely remembers cheering for Pierre Turgeon and the Islanders after the Dale Hunter cheap shot. His favorite Ranger of all time is Mike Richter.


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