New York Rangers (1) vs New Jersey Devils (6)
Series price: Rangers -140, Devils +127 (odds courtesy of PinnacleSports.com)
Season series: Rangers (3-2-1), Devils (3-3-0)
In a year where goaltending has completely dominated the postseason, one of the greatest goalies of all-time is about to get his stiffest test yet.
Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils have had to outduel Jose Theodore and Ilya Bryzgalov, and now they face-off against Hart and Vezina Trophy Nominee Henrik Lundqvist.
Brodeur’s numbers, including his .920 save percentage, have been much better in the playoffs than they were in the regular season but at this stage of his career he is not capable of out playing Lundqvist. The 18 skaters in front of Brodeur will need to carry the play and that is much more difficult to do against the Rangers than the Panthers or Flyers.
Unlike the other three teams remaining, the Devils have been a breath of fresh air in these playoffs showing a willingness to open things up a little bit. Will that strategy work against the Rangers? The Senators tried to do it against the NYR but came up short in seven games.
They didn’t all play on the same line but the trio of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac were too much to handle for opposing defenses in the first two rounds. It will be tough to keep rolling against Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto.
There is one area where the Devils will have an edge and it’s something they will need to take advantage of if they want to win this season. Having not played since Tuesday the Devils should be much fresher for Game 1 than the Rangers who had one day’s rest between series.
The two sides split their six regular season meetings, with both teams picking up two wins at home and one on the road. In the final meeting of the season the game opened with a line brawl and finished with both coaches blaming each other for the blood bath.
As a fan of offensive hockey I would love to see the Devils win this series, but - unless Brodeur can turn the clock back 10 years - Lundqvist and the Rangers will be heading to the Cup Final for the first time since 1994, a season in which they also eliminated the Devils in the conference final.
Series prediction: Rangers in six