Tuesday, March 06, 2012

N.Y. Rangers ~ N.J. Devils; Battle of the Hudson - V

from the desk of:   RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS

Battle of the Hudson - V

Series Tied 2-2

I - NYR 4; NJD 1
II - NJD 4; NYR 3*
III - NJD 1; NYR 0
IV - NYR 1; NJD 0

New Jersey Devils

Brick City - Newark

NEW JERSEY DEVILS:   In Spite of Their Current Struggles, a Strong Season Has Served the Devils Well.  Winning Just One Game in Their Last Six, New Jersey Still Commands Sixth Place in the Eastern Conference.

Recently, I've been extolling New Jersey and proclaiming here come the Devils.  Now it's more like - There go the Devils.  New Jersey and the Penguins have swapped roles.  Pittsburgh is hot, and the Devils are not...; anymore.  Ever since joining the seventy-point club and creeping into second place of the Atlantic Division, the Devils have had a hell of a time getting any further along.  They are 1-5 in their last six games.  Over that time they've been outscored 13-12, and were shut-out twice by their local rivals; the Islanders and Rangers.  Their only win over their last six was a 5-0 trouncing of the Capitals.  But for Washington, what else is new?  In spite of their recent slide back to fourth place in the division behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the Devils still have seventy-seven points which is good enough for sixth place in the Conference standings.

Rangers vs. Devils:

The Devils still have a chance to be the first team to defeat the Rangers three times this season.  They'll have the advantage of playing in Newark tonight in game five of the Battle of the Hudson.  The season series is tied at two apiece.  Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist have taken turns shutting each other out in the last two meetings between them.  On February 7th, Brodeur added to his All-Time records for wins and shut-outs when he handcuffed the Rangers 1-0 before a dismayed Garden crowd.  I know, I was there.  Then in the teams' last encounter, Henrik Lundqvist added to his NHL season leading shut-outs total by tuning out New Jersey 2-0, also at MSG.

The Devils (65) have played one more game than the Rangers (64) this season, and have scored exactly one more goal (180 to 179) than the Blueshirts.  But it is on the defensive side that the Rangers continue to dominate the League along with the Blues.  Speak of Family ties - no surprise John Davidson is running things out in St. Louis.  They have given up 131 goals this season.  The Rangers have allowed 133 goals, and New Jersey 175 thus far.

And here's your difference heading into tonight; in the last four games, the Rangers have secured seven more points in the standings since the trade deadline.  The Devils gained one over the same stretch.  The Rangers have extended their overall Eastern Conference lead over the Boston Bruins to twelve points now.  While the Devils have slipped to fourth in the division.

Regardless of tonight's outcome, it is now the Pittsburgh Penguins who pose the biggest threat against the Rangers; and the Devils for that matter.  After the Rangers, the Penguins are only the second Eastern Conference team to reach the eighty point plateau.  Led by the NHL's scoring leader; Ivgeni Malkin; Pittsburgh is in a full blown surge.


Who Ever Said Grinding Was Pretty?  The Blueshirts Lead the NHL With Ninety-One Points and it's Beautiful!

Since last Monday's passing of the anxiety riddled trade deadline, the Rangers are 3-0-1 with seven points.  They did well to keep the Devils, Carolina, and most importantly, the Bruins, all down, while suffering only an overtime loss to Tampa.  But don't look now, the Penguins are only eight points away with eighty-three points.

The Rangers did not make the big move to secure Rick Nash which means they have to get scoring from whom they have.  And in their last four games since last Monday, they have scored twelve times, and allowed nine against.  They defeated New Jersey by a two goal margin.  But the other three games were all one goal differences.

Who's scoring?  The Blueshirts' skill player, Marian Gaborik is.  He has three goals in the last three games.  Carl Hagelin keeps making Coach Torts play him more and more.  He has two goals in the last four games and has twelve goals since becoming a regular forty-six games ago.  He has twenty-eight points and is a +18 on the season.  The Pruster, Fedotenko, and Stepan have all chipped in also.  And they've been doing this in the relative absence of Ryan Callahan who is nursing a welt from yet another blocked shot.

In the tough love department, Artem Anisimov survived Coach's earlier season attitude adjustment, and has upped his play accordingly.  He too has two goals over the last four games.  Then, of the players who've scored over the last four games, we are left with Brandon Dubinsky.  Man did he piss-off Coach against Carolina.  But that was one big goal he scored against Tampa, even if it went for not.

The Rangers are getting a little bit from every one; every one except Brad Richards.  If the Rangers didn't have ninety-one points..., lets say the Rangers only had eighty-points, he'd be getting targeted by the Garden crowd by now like Scott Gomez and Chris Drury did before him, wouldn't he?  Funny how winning covers up real issues.

There is still no word on Michael Sauer.  We may have lost him for the remainder of the season.  But to end on a more positive note, with every minute of ice time, Marc Staal is steadily becoming one of this team's elite players again.

Let's Go Rangers!


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