Sunday, May 13, 2012

Devils vs. Rangers for Eastern Conference Title

It has been many years since hockey mattered in New York City.

Not since the New Jersey Devils last Stanley Cup victory over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2003, has hockey been on the tongues of sports fans throughout the tri-state.

Not since 1994, have we seen the two local hockey teams go at for all of the marbles in the East, with a trip to the cup on the line.

Two weeks ago the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers were on the cusp of being eliminated from the playoffs. Both trialed their respective first round series 3-2. Neither team had been past a first round in several years; and forget about the Rangers who have made playoff futility into a hobby.

Now both are here, back in the Eastern Conference Finals. In many ways as the season played out, it felt like a Rangers/Devils collision was going to happen at some point in the playoffs. If both teams could get by Philadelphia or Boston, or if both of those teams were eliminated, which they were, it would open the door for the Hudson River Rivalry.

Both teams feature two of the top goal-tenders in the sport. Martin Brodeur is still playing at a high level at age 40. It wasn't that long ago, that Brodeur was the young/talented goal-tender that led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships. While Brodeur didn't have a great series against the Florida Panthers in round one, he was very good in round two against Philadelphia.

Offensively, New Jersey has been getting it done with the combination of Ilya Kovalchuck (5 goals, 12 points and 35 shots on goal), and Travis Zajac (5 goals, 10 points), who had a game winning goal in the Panthers series. Those two have been instrumental for New Jersey, and will have to be if they are to beat their Hudson River cousins the Rangers.

As for New York, the Rangers, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has taken over the region as the towns  top goalie, while Brodeur has aged. Yet, Lundqvist hasn't had a stellar post-season. He has given up goals at inopportune times this post-season, costing the Rangers games. But, when the Rangers need him to be great, he has been like in Game 7 vs. Washington.

Offensively, it has been Brad Richards, who has been leading the way this post-season for the Rangers. His goal in Game 7 was his sixth of this postseason. He has been huge for New York all spring. If the Rangers are to win this series, they need Richards, Martin Gabrick and Ryan Callahan to all play at their very best.
Plus, New York has played two straight seven game series, and it should be interesting to see how handle another long series, this time against their arch rivals.

Game one: Monday May 14, NJD @ NYR - 8:00pm (NBCSC)
Game two: Wednesday May 16, NJD @ NYR - 7:30pm (NBCSC)
Game three: Saturday May 19, NYR @ NJD - 1:00pm  (NBC)
Game four: Monday May 21, NYR @ NJD - 8:00pm (NBCSC)
Game five*: Wednesday May 23, NJD @ NYR - 8:00 (NBCSC)
Game six*: Friday May 25, NYR @ NJD - 8:00 (NBCSC)
Game seven*: Sunday May 27 NJD @ NYR-8:00 (NBCSC)

* - if necessary. 

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