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PLAYOFF PREVIEW TEST (DON'T TOUCH)

by NHL.com Staff / NHL.com
For the third time in four years, the Hudson River battle will rage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The New Jersey Devils hope this installment ends differently, considering they were upset in emphatic fashion in each of the past two meetings. For the Rangers, this is the perfect matchup as the team has the confidence of playing giant killer in the recent past, not to mention the fact that the Rangers were able to split the six-game season series.

 
These are not your father's New Jersey Devils forwards. The 2008-09 Devils will attack at will -- the team has fired the fifth most shots this year, averaging xx.x a game -- without sacrificing the solid defensive core that has become the team's trademark. These are not your father's New Jersey Devils forwards. The 2008-09 Devils will attack at will -- the team has fired the fifth most shots this year, averaging xx.x a game -- without sacrificing the solid defensive core that has become the team's trademark.
The Devils don't have the big-time stud that so often has dominated the blue-line in the postseason. But, New Jersey's collection of no-name players is collectively among the best units in the playoffs. New Jersey allowed just 187 goals this season and five of the six regular defenders have ratings of plus-20 or better. The Devils don't have the big-time stud that so often has dominated the blue-line in the postseason. But, New Jersey's collection of no-name players is collectively among the best units in the playoffs. New Jersey allowed just 187 goals this season and five of the six regular defenders have ratings of plus-20 or better.
Martin Brodeur had a season for the ages, returning from a four-month injury layoff in March to set the record for wins by a NHL goalie. He is at 556 and counting. The injury layoff means Brodeur will be fresh for this postseason. Henrik Lundqvist is just the second Ranger goalie to win 35 games in a season. He fashioned three shutouts and a 1.91 goals-against average to put himself in the debate for the Vezina Trophy for the third year running.
 Brent Sutter was outcoached by the since-departed Tom Renney in the first round of last season's playoffs; but appears to have learned his lessons well. The fact that Devils prospered in Brodeur's absence attests to Sutter's motivational ability. He is just 1-4 in NHL playoff games, though. John Tortorella was brought in less than two months ago to change the culture around the team, Torts has delivered in stunning fashion. Rangers went from defense-first, puck chasers to a high-tempo, puck-possession team that works its tail off nightly. He won 2004 Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay.
Team has done little to distinguish itself on either PP or PK. Power-play is ranked No. 14 with a 19.5 conversion rate. Zach Parise leads all PP scorers with 18 points. John Madden is best killer on man-short unit that ranks No. 20 with a 80.3 percent success rate. A tale of extremes here for Blueshirts. The PK unit, led by the energetic Blair Betts, is ranked No. 1 in the League, killing 88 of every 100 penalties. Their PP, however, is severely lacking, clicking just 14 percent. Chris Drury is only player with more than 9 power-play goals.
Devils will win if they can ignore the hysteria associated with Avery's agitation tactics and concentrate on playing the disciplined, counter-attacking hockey that has made them the model franchise for the past 15 years. Martin Brodeur will also have to win the goaltending battle against Henrik Lundqvist. Rangers will win if they can own the neutral zone. Coach John Tortorella's attacking system is predicated on moving freely, and with speed, through the neutral zone -- an area of the ice New Jersey concentrates on taking away. If the Rangers can find and exploit seams in Devils' defensive shell, they'll be off to the races.



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