Here we are. Nine years removed from the Eastern Conference Finals and the Devils are finally back. With the series set to begin on Monday, May 14 at Madison Square Garden, the Devils will look to make the most of their brief time off and win over the New York Rangers. New York and New Jersey are ready to add another chapter to their historic rivalry.
Who: The sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils will square off against the top-seeded New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The last time these two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals, the year was 1994. Jersey was able to force a Game Seven before falling short after Stéphane Matteau’s 2OT goal in that contest. The Rangers would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.
Season Series: The Rangers won the season series with seven points (3-2-1), while the Devils collected six points against the Rangers (3-3). At times, New York completely dominated New Jersey and vice versa. It will be interesting to see who prevails in this series.
Half Way There: The Devils are now just eight wins away from lifting the Stanley Cup. After a completely dominant series over the Philadelphia Flyers, can New Jersey keep their momentum moving in the right direction? The first two games are going to be a challenge and with at least split on the road, the Devils will be in fine shape. All of New Jersey’s home games for this series have been sold out and the Prudential Center should be relatively free of Rangers fans. If the Devils can pick up four wins against the Rangers, they’ll be three-quarters of the way to a Stanley Cup Championship.
Key Players: Look for the Devils big three to step up in a huge way this series. Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias will play a very influential role in the Devils success if they are going to have any. If New Jersey can solve Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, they will do just fine. On the other hand, look for Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan to have a big impact this series. Callahan is a big part of the picture both offensively and defensively. Callahan loves to block shots, as does the rest of the Rangers team, and this will test the Devils’ patience for sure. With a tight defense, the Rangers are definitely a tough opponent.
Bet You Didn’t Know: Teams are 0-38 in the Eastern Conference Finals after taking the first two rounds to Game Sevens. The last three teams to knock out the Flyers have won the Stanley Cup: 2009 (PIT), 2010 (CHI), and 2011 (BOS).
Prediction: Devils in six. I said it last series, and New Jersey pulled it off in five. Can they do it again? Hopefully, we’ll be looking at a Kings-Devils Stanley Cup Finals.
Above: Devils winger David Clarkson celebrates his tying goal scored against the Rangers with 47.6 seconds remaining in the third period. (Photo by Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger)
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