Eastern Conference Final Predictions: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

 

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Eastern Conference Final
New York Rangers ( 1 ) vs. New Jersey Devils ( 6 )
 
 
It's always fun when rivals meet in the playoffs. Penguins vs. Flyers. Habs vs. Bruins. Canucks vs. Blackhawks. Bad blood makes for good hockey, and more importantly, good television. Even better when it's late in the playoffs, like this year's Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. The best word to describe the feelings between these two teams is probably "bad blood", but then again that word pretty much sums up any match-up in the Atlantic Division. There's a lot at play here. Location. History. Fandom. And you can be certain that these two teams will play up on all of that in a very important series.
 
But who has the advantage? A heavy argument can be made for the Rangers. Not only did they finish higher in the standings, but they also have an incredible goalie who might be a Hart winner this time next this month in Henrik Lundqvist. They have one of the best defense corps in the league, a group that's been proving itself night in and night out these playoffs, and a lot of depth at the forward position from superstars like Gaborik and Richards to grinders like Ryan Callahan. But an argument can be made that the Devils match-up just as well. Marty Brodeur defies the laws of modern science by continuing to be an all-star caliber goaltender at his age, and may be just as good or better than Lundqvist on most nights. They have big talent up front with the likes of Parise and Kovalchuk, and can match the Rangers grit. 
 
But then there are the intangibles. The Rangers struggled to get to this round, limping past 7 and 8 seeds in seven games each. One could say that their wins against the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators were gritty and character building, but that would be some heavy optimism. The Devils, meanwhile, took history away from the Florida Panthers in seven games in the first round, and made quick work of the heavily favored Philadelphia Flyers in round 2. 
 
Whatever the case may be, this is the Eastern Conference final, and anything can happen. and our predictions definitely reflect that, because it seems as if the TCL writers couldn't come to a consensus. This should be a great series.
Consensus: None -- Predictions deadlocked at five for each team.
 
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Round 2 Results:
Rangers vs. Capitals: 10 of 13 TCL writers correctly chose the Rangers. Frankly we think they got lucky. Maggie Avila perfectly predicted a win in 7 games.
Devils vs. FlyersUnanimously wrong. Everyone picked the Flyers.
 
Schedule:
Game 1: Mon. May 14 at 8PM in New York
Game 2: Wed. May 16 at 8PM in New York
Game 3: Sat. May 19 at 1PM in New Jersey
Game 4: Mon. May 21 at 8PM in New Jersey
Game 5: Wed. May 23 at 8PM in New York (if necessary)
Game 6: Fri. May 25 at 8PM in New Jersey (if necessary)
Game 7: Sun. May 27 at 8PM in New York (if necessary)
*All Puckdrops are in Eastern Standard Time*
 
Season Series: Tied 3-3, New York Outscored New Jersey 14-12. 
Previous Meetings: Five -- The Rangers have taken all of them.
Coaching Battle: John Tortorella vs. Peter DeBoer
 
Key Injuries:
New York: Michael Sauer (concussion, indefinitely), Brandon Dubinsky (bruised foot, indefinitely)
New Jersey: Henrik Tallinder (blood clot, indefinitely), Dainius Zubrus (charley horse, DTD), Anton Volchenkov (upper body, DTD), Marek Zidlicky (upper body, DTD)
 
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Genius Or Madness?
 
John Russo: Rangers in 5
New York is clearly the better team in this series but I learned my lesson in picking sweeps (Thanks Prax!). Henrik Lundqvist has been an absolute wall in net for the Rangers. 40-year-old Marty Brodeur was barely tested against the Flyers, which shouldn't be expected this series against a much better Rangers team. Brodeur was shaky when he was getting peppered with shots, because clearly he doesn't have the lateral movement he once had. Ilya Kovalchuk is going to have to play as strong a series as he did against Philadelphia. When he's fully focused he's one of the best scorers and puck movers in the NHL. It'll be a typical New York/New Jersey rivalry that makes the Atlantic Division fans proud. Should be a tough series but the Rangers will be the clear victors in this one.
 
Robert D'Aurelio: Devils in 5
New York is clearly the better team in this series but I learned my lesson in picking sweeps (Thanks Prax!). Henrik Lundqvist has been an absolute wall in net for the Rangers. 40-year-old Marty Brodeur was barely tested against the Flyers, which shouldn't be expected this series against a much better Rangers team. Brodeur was shaky when he was getting peppered with shots, because clearly he doesn't have the lateral movement he once had. Ilya Kovalchuk is going to have to play as strong a series as he did against Philadelphia. When he's fully focused he's one of the best scorers and puck movers in the NHL. It'll be a typical New York/New Jersey rivalry that makes the Atlantic Division fans proud. Should be a tough series but the Rangers will be the clear victors in this one.
 
 
Prax's Take

The New York Rangers have had to travel a much longer road than expected on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Top seeds haven't exactly had the easiest time this year in the playoffs, but it was especially surprising to see the Rangers taken to the brink of elimination by both the 8th and 7th seeds. Of course, anything can always happen in the playoffs, but the Rangers were THE team to beat this year, and they were almost beaten on two occasions. There's something unnerving about that if you want to see this team make the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since they last won the cup in 1994. But to me, it screams of their ability to overcome the odds even when it seems as if those odds are in their favor.

On the other side of the ice, you have the New Jersey Devils. Sorry, I almost fell asleep while typing that. I don't want to take away any of the credit that the Devils deserve for making it this far, but I honestly keep forgetting that they're even in the playoffs, yet alone in the East Finals. Sure they have Parise and Kovalchuk and Zajac, but I could honestly care less about this team. Maybe their ability to stay under the radar is what helped them get by two higher seeded teams. Maybe they truly deserve to be here. There's only one way to prove that, and that's to win against a huge rival in the Rangers.

I'm picking the Rangers in seven based on the fact that they're a first seeded team that's struggled with the bottom seeded teams in their conference. If they win, they'll likely face a team that's done the exact opposite, by manhandling teams that should be better than them. And I think that would be a cool story for the finals. Otherwise, I have no idea. And I really, really, REALLY don't want to have to sit through a Devils/Coyotes final.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
 
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Around The Checking Line:
 
Featured Writer -- Kyle Andrew Busch
Lundqvist over Brodeur. Grit over defence. That's all it should take. Someone needs to shut down Ilya Kovalchuk and the Rangers grinders can do that. Alex Ovechkin was a corpse in the second round, mainly because of the checking of the Rangers. Ryan Callahan is the leader that New York needed for a long time. This is the Rangers year if they want it.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
 
Featured Writer - Newman
Why? Because King Henrik will outperform Marty. Because Brad Richards will out compete Kovalchuk. Because New York is the better team...I think.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
 
Andy Veilleux:
 Both teams have solid defense, strong scoring, and good depth. Goal-tending is the difference in this series though, as King Hernik is a better keeper than Brodeur at this point in their careers. Brodeur is playing well, but he's not his former self, and the King is in his prime. The Rangers' big guns - Gaborik, Richards, Callahan match up well with the Devils - Kovalchuk, Parise, Elias, but the Rangers have a special weapon in the likes of Boyle. Boyle is a hard man to mark and it should provide a ton of space for his linemates. This will be a close series, but the Rangers should have the edge.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
 
Bryan Wright:
I liked the Rangers heading into the playoffs, but after scrapping to get by the 7th and 8th seed, I'm not so sure. Meanwhile, the Devils beat a decent Florida Panthers team and manhandled the Flyers. Brodeur still has it, and can carry this team at least one more round. But, it might come down to which team can handle the travel better.
Prediction: Devils in 6
 
Chuck Gaston Jr.:
Say what you want about how solid the Rangers are, no team has changed their game plan in the first two round like the Devils. They played open against Florida. Scoring and relying on timely play to win. Then, they shut down the biggest offensive threat in the playoffs. They played so tight against the flyers, they forced them into taking multiple stupid penalties, passes, and a weak cycle game. The devils then created their own cycle game, forcing Philly to play back. Against a weaker offensive team in New York, the Devils should be able secure a strong enough cycle game to give them enough chances to take this series in 7.
Prediction: Devils in 7
 
David Collins: 
These are two strong teams, and while the Rangers should be the favorites on paper, the New Jersey Devils have played a better brand of hockey in these playoffs. The Rangers have been forced to a Game 7 twice, and were on the brink of elimination against both bottom seeds in the East. A Game 7 win is huge, but making quick work of the Phliadelphia Flyers give the Devils a bit of extra momentum, and the extra rest won't hurt either. It's late in the playoffs that players with experience help, and the Rangers just don't have enough of it.
Prediction: Devils in 6
 
Maggie Avila
I think that the NY Rangers being pushed to so many OT games in the previous series will catch up to them. They have to be physically and emotionally exhausted from the Capitals. I also think the Devils will have added incentive to keep Parise in a Devils uni so they will be playing their hearts out there. The Devils are very disciplined and will not make many mistakes. Call this one just a hunch.
Prediction: Devils in 6
 
Nick Symon:
Tough series to predict as the top seeded Rangers have had a difficult time getting through the 7th and 8th seeds in the East going seven games in both series, while the Devils surprised many by beating the highly favored Flyers in just 5 games. At the end of the day, I think the Rangers will once again manage to get it done and beat the Devils in seven. I'll take Lundqvist over Brodeur as the deciding factor.
Prediction: Rangers in 7