Sunday, May 13, 2012
Eastern Conference Finals Preview
#1 New York Rangers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Regular Season Series: Tied 3-3
The Lead Up:
The Eastern Conference has come down to the number one seeded New York Rangers and the number six seeded New Jersey Devils. Of the two Conference finals this match up will be the most heated. The teams met six times during the regular season, in games that included line brawls, overtimes, and heated head coaches that hostility is sure to carry over.
The Rangers took a little more time to solidify their spot against the Devils in the Conference Finals. They went to a decisive game seven for the second time in as many rounds. They outlasted the Washington Capitals in a thrilling 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden. Off-season acquisition, Brad Richards, has lead the charge, scoring six goals and registering 11 points in 14 games.
The Rangers have gotten a helping hand from players lower on the depth chart over the course of their playoff run. During these playoffs, Brian Boyle, who missed three games due to a concussion, has scored two game winning goals and rookie sensation, Chris Kreider, has notched two winners as well.
New Jersey made quick work of the offensive powerhouse that was the Philadelphia Flyers, and eliminated them in just five games. The Devils' top three forwards of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac have carried much of the load, scoring 14 of the team's 36 goals.
Martin Brodeur has anchored the Devils once again in the playoffs, posting a goals against average of just 2.05 in 12 games played. Brodeur also recorded the 24th shutout of his career, against the Florida Panthers in the first round.
Both teams are healthy. The Devils may be more rested than the Rangers, who had just one day off since game seven against the Caps.
If Kovalchuk continues his career best post season, the Devils' chances of moving onto the finals will be higher than if he falls into a slump. However, the biggest piece to the puzzle will be Brodeur. Brodeur has shown his age in recent seasons, but has looked like the Brodeur that carried the Devils to several Cup championships during the '90's. If Brodeur can't keep up his play, the Devils will not get out of this series.
Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, should carry his team into the finals. Lundqvist has made some timely saves including late pushes in both of the Rangers' game sevens. He has grabbed a 1.68 goals against average in the process. Lundqvist and the Rangers' defense should be solid enough to backstop the Rangers into the Finals.
Rangers in 7