Thursday, February 22, 2007


Game: Devils @ Rangers, 8 of 8

Tonight, the New Jersey Devils play the New York Rangers for the eighth and final time this season.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Rangers: 4-3-1 Preview

First, I found a clip of the game winning goal Zach Parise scored against the Rangers on Tuesday on YouTube. Here's the video and it even includes the scrum in front of Brodeur that actually led to the breakout which led to the goal. Notice how the puck is by Prucha's feet and notice how fast Parise knocks him down. It's great stuff.

Anyway, the key for tonight will be defense. Not just defense in the traditional sense; though the Devils can improve there. While holding Jaromir Jagr to 0 shots was impressive, giving up 36 shots to the rest of the Rangers is not. Martin Brodeur was excellent on Tuesday and had to be - otherwise you would be reading on how they lost. I would not expect Jagr to be held shot-less again tonight and I would not expect the Rangers to take it easy - look to them to try and flood the slot to get at rebounds and create havoc up near Brodeur.

In addition to tightening up their positioning and fighting for loose pucks in their own zone, the Devils need to defend themselves from too much emotion. A Devils-Rangers game usually is pretty intense and Tuesday's game was an example where emotions nearly spilled over into a whole lot of fighting. They tried to intimidate the Devils with their physical presence - screening Brodeur (and shoving him in Sean Avery's case) and utilizing Ryan Holleweg and Colton Orr to throw the big hits and sometimes punches. The Devils did a good job on Tuesday not completely losing their heads over it, but the Rangers did come out strong in that third period based on the events at the end of the second period (the game-tying goal helped, of course). However, if the Devils focus on looking for revenge or looking to go after certain Rangers ( e.g. Avery for obvious reasons, Cam Janssen making good on his mind games - as reported by Rich Chere in today's Star Ledger), they might as well throw the game away.

The Rangers are playing desperate and more aggressive than usual because they need to get points in the playoff race now. In my opinion, the Devils keeping their cool will allow them to focus on scoring goals and that could easily provide the difference in tonight's game. I'm not suggesting that the Devils lay down and take the pain from New York; just that they don't spend so much of their time and energy trying so that they'll be thrown off their game - the goal of the Rangers playing so physically.

It still won't be easy for the Devils, as the same Chere article notes at the end that Brian Gionta is not playing tonight. Patrik Elias could return tonight, which would be great; but even if he doesn't he's coming off illness - who knows how effective he'll be tonight. Then again, the Devils are playing the Rangers, so Elias may be so pumped up about the game he'll sparkle regardless of how much he may or may not ralphed earlier this week. All the same, the Devils will need to keep up the pace regardless of who is and is not on the first line. Letting the Rangers control how the game goes on their own rink will certainly make it difficult for the Devils to win their fourth straight against the Rangers.

In any case, tonight's going to be one exciting game if Tuesday was any indication. I shouldn't have to tell you what I would like to happen, all the same, make sure you watch it! GO DEVILS!


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