Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 Preview: Devils Seek 2-1 Series Lead Back At the Rock

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 3
New Jersey (9-5) at New York (9-7)
1:00 P.M. ET
TV: NBC
Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM

After outplaying, out-coaching, and outclassing (36 word press conference Tortorella, really?) the New York Rangers in game 2, the Devils head back to home ice with a chance at consecutive victories and a 2-1 series lead. On Wednesday night, the Devils were able to get three goals by Henrik Lundqvist, who made life extremely difficult for the Devils in his shutout back on Monday. Helped by another superb outing by the 40  year old going on 30 Martin Brodeur, New Jersey was able to get back in the series and avoid returning home with a deep 2-0 hole to overcome. Captain Zach Parise was especially satisfied with the Devils improved effort, stating “…we felt that we could definitely bring it up a notch from the first game and we could play a lot better and we did. I think our intensity was better, our compete level was better and we did a good job on the boards.”

Truth be told, the Devils were the much better team on Wednesday and deserved the win. Besides a portion of the second period, they really dictated the play of the whole game with the return of their dominating forecheck that has guided them through this post season. The Devils were able to score first in game 2, which has been and will continue to be key throughout the series. Ilya Kovalchuk got them on the board early with a true “Kovalchukarian” (as Doc would say) snipe on the power play that Henrik didn’t have a chance to make a stop on. The team to score first is now 2-0 in this series, and expect that trend to grow. After a Marc Staal goal luckily got by Brodeur (which came shortly after Brodeur made a remarkable one legged save), the Rangers took the lead on a power play goal by Chris Kreider. The only time in which the Rangers had the edge in this game was during that second period, and it was a direct result of bad penalties which shifted the momentum for a bit. The Devils can not afford to keep taking undisciplined penalties against the Rangers: for a team who’s weakness is scoring goals (especially 5 on 5), they can’t allow the Rangers to have any chance at making up for their lack of scoring.

Perhaps the biggest strength in game 2 was the Devils ability to get a body in front of Lundqvist at all times, and get some of the dirty goals that are necessary to win games at this time in the year. With Henrik playing at the top of his game, the most reliable way to score on him will be getting chances in front, and the Devils proved that in game 2. Two of their goals came on deflection beauties, one by Ryan Carter, and the dagger by David Clarkson. The Devils must continue to do that for the remainder of the series and in game 3, and as Bryce Salvador stated ”They do a great job of blocking shots, but the reality of it is that we have to get two or three guys in front and then somehow get the puck through.” The Devils were finally able to break through the Rangers defensive shot blocking style and successfully get more pucks through to Lundqvist. After Marian Gaborik didn’t trade his body for a puck which resulted in Carter’s goal, Tortorella benched him for a stretch of 12 minutes. Tortorella was visibly angered by his teams effort on Wednesday, and was heavily criticized for his brief 36 word post game interview which featured several one word responses to the media.

Once again, the Devils forecheck played big dividends in their win after Pete DeBoer shuffled his lines. In game 3, expect DeBoer to role with the same lines in game 2 that was able to create pressure and create a numerous amount of scoring chances. The top line, with Travis Zajac centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, will most likely stay intact and are always a threat whenever they are on the ice together. Unlike in game 1, the Devils were able to do the little things necessary to win playoff hockey games: winning the battles, winning key face-offs, execution on both offense and defense.  After two days of rest, both teams will come out strong in what should be another close game. The two days off will help both teams, but definitely benefitted the Rangers, who have been playing almost every other day for a while after their two seven game series. For the remainder of the series, games will be played every other day, in what already appears to be a series definitely capable of going to a game 7.

For a win in game 3, the Devils must get off to another good start, and can’t be forced to play catch-up against such a solid defensive team. The Rangers are angry after game 2, and it is a guarantee that John Tortorella will have his team better prepared on Saturday following a weak showing. The Devils should gain an edge playing in front of their home crowd. After a 3-7 start in playoff games at the Prudential Center, they have won 4 consecutive games there this playoff season. The Rock has been electric throughout all 5 home games, and that will not change, even with some Rangers fans joining the party. Keep an eye on Patrik Elias: just a gut feeling, but I am predicting and hoping for him to have a big game.  Elias has been a Ranger killer throughout his career, but has been held off the scoresheets early in this series. Look for that to change in game 3.

Devils Army must be at their best on Saturday, protect home ice, and remember NO BLUE! 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 19, 2012, in Game Preview, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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