Don't expect a lot of goals to be scored in this Eastern Conference series. The teams combined for just 29 in the eight-game series in the regular season.
|Zach Parise is stopped late in the third period by Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers on April 6, 2008. Highlights|
New York knocked the Devils out of the postseason three times before New Jersey could return the favor the last time the teams met, in the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Rangers, however, enter this series with the upper hand, despite being the No. 5 seed. New Jersey gained home ice with a shootout victory against the Rangers on the regular season's final day. But that was the only win the Devils managed in the eight-game series.
Amazingly, the Rangers have beaten their cross-river foes by out-Deviling them. New York has received stellar goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, played a shut-down defensive game and received timely scoring in frustrating the Devils. This season, New Jersey was shut out twice in the series and scored just one goal three other times.
Offensively, it has been new blood that has carried the Blueshirts against Jersey. Rookie Nigel Dawes and free-agent acquisition Chris Drury have four goals each in the series. New Jersey, as a team, had just nine goals in the series and Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise, the team's leading goal scorer, were the only Devils to manage two goals in the series.
The Devils have had trouble scoring all season. They had just 206 goals, the lowest total among the eight Eastern Conference qualifiers. New Jersey still won 46 games, the third-highest total in the East. The main reason, as usual, was veteran goalie Martin Brodeur. Despite playing in front of a patchwork defense throughout the season, Brodeur had one of his best seasons, posting a 2.17 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
The security blanket provided by Brodeur surely will be comforting to first-year coach Brent Sutter as he tries to reverse this season's troubling trend against the Rangers.
New Jersey will win if -- It scores goals. That sounds like an easy solution, but not when it comes to the Devils. Not only was this team shut out a team-record 11 times this season, but it has yet to manage to beat the Rangers for three goals in regulation this season. New Jersey will have to make a concerted effort to shoot as often as possible and crash goalie Henrik Lundqvist's crease with regularity.
New York will win if -- The Rangers make Martin Brodeur look human. The Rangers have seen how much confidence Brodeur can give his team when he is on his game. Too often this season, Brodeur has been the difference between his team being blown out early and winning a game late after his heroics have turned the tide. There's a reason this vet has three Stanley Cup rings, and New York knows it cannot let the Devils goalie start to feel good about himself.