Battle of the Hudson
Game Four ~ Grudge Match
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Rangers Lead Series 2-1
I - NYR 3; NJD 0
II - NJD 3; NYR 2
III - NYR 3; NJD 0
NEW YORK RANGERS
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Brick City - Newark
NEW YORK RANGERS:
Tonight, We Dance Around The Fire!
The deeper these playoffs have gone, the longer Ranger Fans wait for their forward lines to dominate a game for a change, instead of looking to their goalie for miracles. Well, that's what I've been doing. In the mean time, the Rangers have three pairs of defensemen who've been contributing an overwhelming portion of the team's offense. And the Devils? They have done everything they've needed to do in order to get plenty of shots on Lundqvist. But Broadway's liege has stopped them cold, as he's done to all comers in these playoffs.
That almost seems secondary now. The real battle has just begun. While the Media kept badgering Coach Torts to talk, he quietly compiled his own list of gripes against the Devils, but never aired them out; until Sunday that is. He's been refusing to delve into any kind of outward exchange with the opposing coach or the Media. Conversely, Peter DeBoer and Marty Brodeur continued to air out their grievances in public. Now, finally, by speaking out Sunday, Coach Torts finally gave everyone what they wanted ~ a grudge match.
In response to Peter DeBoer's "head-hunter" barb regarding Brandon Prust, Coach showed up at his media session Sunday armed with accusations the Devils were setting picks on their power play opportunities, he voiced displeasure with Zach Parise's hit on Michael Del Zotto, and likewise expressed his annoyance with Dainius Zubrus' hit on Anton Stralman. Coach was going to keep all that in-house, and between him and the League. But the cat is out of the bag now.
What John Tortorella worked so hard to avoid in these playoffs is now front and center. Damn if you do, and Damned if you don't, Coach. The Media wanted it, and now they got it. The inner beast in Coach has been summoned upon the instigation of a one, Coach Peter DeBoer. Brilliant! Remember, I like Caoch DeBoer. But going forward, whether this becomes his folly remains to be seen.
Game Three ended with both teams feeling a little ill-tempered too. Upon the final horn to end regulation, a scrum ensued surrounding Brandon Prust. That won't happen in Game Four. Brendan Shanahan suspended Prust one game for his elbow the back of Alex Volchenkov's head. That doesn't mean the bad blood between these teams won't spill over tonight. We'll see, as we have ill will between teams, dirty hits and other questionable player infractions to ponder, and two coaches finally engaged in a full blown war of words.
But what Coach DeBoer is trying so hard to accomplish in the now, still does not compare with what Coach Torts started working on back in October. Coach Torts made it his business to make sure Henrik Lundqvist was fresh (fresher) for these playoffs, than in years and playoffs past. Coach made the reluctant King sit for twenty-one games during the regular season. They signed Marty Biron precisely to get that accomplished. Henrik Lundqvist started 62 regular season games this season; his lowest total in six years. If you don't think there a correlation between Coach Torts' plan and the fact Henrik Lundqvist shut out the Devils twice now in this third round series, you're stoned.
Outside of Chris Kreider, Coach Torts long ago ensured Henrik Lunqvist would be the freshest guy on the ice in Game Four tonight. That fact continues to go unspoken. Instead, the Media continues to prod Coach Torts for their columns. If they just look at his methods and moves over a full season, and not just casually show up in April or May, they'd know full well Coach Torts is in full control of his team and his faculties, and has all his bases covered. Which points directly to the reason why he treats the Media the way he does.
Instead, it is the Devils who seem rattled. Their Coach and goalie are the chirpy ones. On the ice, the Devils are proving to be the chippy ones as well. And Zach Parise shuns the Media? Those are the signs of a frustrated team. Whether or not the Devils really have a sympathetic media on their side remains to be seen. Coach DeBeor is trying his damnedest. But Coach Torts seems well prepared to take them both on regardless.
The Rangers can make life very miserable for the Devils tonight. The Devils know that, and are acting like it. But if they do have any temerity to them, which I think they do, the Devils will salvage a game at home tonight and tie the series. The odds say if they keep doing what they've been doing, eventually, some shots will find the net. If only Henrik Lundqvist wasn't so well preserved by a coach who many think acts and behaves like a troglodyte. Well, so far the Grunts lead this series two games to one.
But not so fast. The Rangers are asking for trouble if they let the Devils hang around. Especially if they are going to put New Jersey on the PP another five times. Or let the Devils outplay them two out of three periods again. Or let them take over thirty shots against Henrik Lundqvist again. All that aside, the Rangers still came out in Game Three and played a much darker shade of Blue. In order to secure another two wins against the Devils, they'll have to get even darker. For the Devils will not go quietly into the night.
Tonight, everyone dances around the fire.