Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 Preview; Devils Aim For MSG Split

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 3
New Jersey (8-5) at New York (9-6)
8:00 P.M. ET
TV: NBCSN, CBC
Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM

If all goes well for the Devils in game 2, they will head back to the Prudential Center with not only momentum, but more importantly the series tied at 1. Sounds familiar? It should. It was only about two weeks ago where the Devils were in the same position they are in right now, and we all know how that ended up. Four consecutive and dominating victories later, the Devils overcame their game 1 struggles en route to a bid with their arch nemesis New York Rangers. Being in this position before has helped keep the Devils composure after a game 1 loss, and Ilya Kovalchuk stressed the importance of moving on to a crucial game 2: “It’s happened with us before where we lose one game and then we’ll see what’s going to happen. Tomorrow is a must-win game for us and we just have to be focused and do our best. We know what to do to be successful and we just have to do that.”

Although the result was not what the Devils had in mind, the final score on Monday was not indicative of the flow or play of the game. The Devils actually outplayed the Rangers for a vast majority of the game, but couldn’t solve Henrik Lundqvist, who made 21 saves in a shutout effort. Perhaps even more important than those 21 saves were the 26 Rangers blocked shots that never made their way to the net. Going into this series the Devils knew that shot blocking was a huge and vital part to the Rangers game, but it was still able to frustrate them after countless shots failed to reach Henrik. Perhaps it is not the most exciting brand of hockey, but the Rangers have tortured their opponents with their gutless shot blocking efforts all season long, and it has definitely minimized their opponents scoring opportunities. However, the Devils did have their chances early, but failed to execute. Early on in this game, Zach Parise was denied on a near break away by a spectacular defensive play by Ryan McDonagh. Ilya Kovalchuk also nearly had a break away, but it was turned into a harmless backhanded shot by another strong defensive effort by the Rangers.

After two tight periods of scoreless hockey, the game broke open after an early Rangers goal by Dan Girardi, who unleashed a shot at the point that beat Brodeur. Chris Kreider further extended the lead late in the third period, and the “Marty” chants reached a maximum. The goal was faced with some referee criticism, after they neglected to call what seemed to be a sure delay of game penalty on Michael Del Zotto for an illegal hand pass. Instead of a two minute power play and some momentum to feed off in search of the tying goal, the Devils received a two goal deficit that they were not able to overcome. With 25 saves, Brodeur was able to keep the Devils in it for the whole game, featuring a highlight reel, magnificent, “vintage  Brodeur” save on Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in which he dove to his right and somehow caught the puck. Lundqvist also had his turn at a highlight reel save(s), robbing Zach Parise three consecutive times on a shorthanded chance.

Although the Rangers are now 3-0 this postseason in the opening game at MSG, they have yet to win the second game, a good sign for a dangerous Devils team eager to tie this series up. The forecheck and cycling game that heckled the Flyers for 5 games was existent primarily through the first 40 minutes, but never was able to execute. The biggest things they must focus on for game 2 will be their execution and how they respond to the play of Henrik Lundqvist. The Devils have seen Henrik long enough in his career to know how to beat him, and it may not be the prettiest of goals, but they must generate more scoring in order to even this series up. It might take getting a big body in front to cause a deflection or even a rebound goal, both of which they were unable to perform on Monday.

Another big factor will be scoring the first goal. With two of the best goalies in the entire league going at it with a Stanley Cup finals trip at stake, scoring will be scarce, and the earlier the better. In game 1, after the Rangers scored, it appeared they went into an all out defensive strategy and minimized any chances the Devils could possibly have. It is crucial for the Devils to score first to ensure that a repeat of game 1 doesn’t occur. Head coach Pete DeBoer also went into depth about the importance of the first goal in this series, stating “I think whoever was going to score first tonight was going to win and they threw a point shot at the net that found a way through,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “We threw a lot of those at the net, too, and didn’t find one through. So that was the story of the game.  And we’ve been in this spot before. We were down 1-0 to Philly and we know how to handle this.” With a good mix of veterans and youth on this roster, the Devils should feel comfortable with their chances to rebound in game 2. They proven to be a resilient team all year: winning consistently despite the absence of their top center Travis Zajac for a large portion of the year, securing a victory without Ilya Kovalchuk against the Flyers, and coming back from deficits in both the Florida and Philadelphia series.

With the track record they own, the experience, character, and leadership of the players in the locker room, expect the Devils to come out firing in game 2. It may be another low scoring affair with Lundqvist always elevating his game against the Devils, but they realize the importance of this game. With a possible split in MSG, they will gain home ice advantage and head home to a sell out and boisterous crowd at The Rock. Let’s Go Devils!

Devils’ projected lineup:

Parise – Zajac – Kovalchuk

Skykora –  Elias – Zubrus

Ponikarovsky – Henrique – Clarkson

Carter – Gionta – Bernier

Greene – Fayne

Salvador – Zidlicky

Volchenkov – Harrold

Brodeur

Hedberg

 

Rangers’ projected lineup:

Hagelin – Richards – Gaborik

Kreider – Stepan – Callahan

Fedotenko – Boyle – Prust

Anisimov – Mitchell – Rupp

McDonagh – Girardi

Del Zotto – Bickel

Staal – Stralman

Lundqvist

Biron

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Posted on May 16, 2012, in Game Preview, New Jersey Devils, NHL, NHL Playoffs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. LETS GO DEVILS!!! First goal is huge, and somehow we need to find a way around the rags shot blockers. Amazing to me though how all these years they made fun of the Devils for winning with defense, and now they are doing the same thing!

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