In an afternoon game at Madison Square Garden, the New Jersey Devils have a realistic shot at making the New York Rangers their first win of the season, and add misery to the Blueshirts.
By Patrick Comia
Tomorrow afternoon, an age-old rivalry renews.
Madison Square Garden is the scene as the winless New Jersey Devils invade New York City, and pay a visit to the struggling Rangers, who have dropped their past two games.
Unlike previous years, the Devils may have the upper hand when encountering the Blueshirts.
How, you ask? Who let me out of the loony bin? Well, I got three reasons the team in red will prolong the Rangers losing streak, and make them question themselves even more. Cause let’s face it, the spotlight has been on the Rangers since their Stanley Cup run two years ago.
The players are not getting any younger, and the core of their team have been together for several years now. Defensive stalwarts like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are looking mortal, and Ryan McDonagh seems to be still finding his footing on the ice as team captain.
That is why this Devils team is licking at the chops for a crack at the mighty Rangers today. They’ve kept up with the likes of the Nashville Predators, and recently the San Jose Sharks, both are Western Conference powers to start the season.
Sure the record doesn’t reflect it. It’s not like the Devils have a shot at the Stanley Cup this season, or next year’s. No, that’s gonna take a little more time. However, the team is taking it one game at a time, and learning on the fly with new head coach John Hynes.
As a fan of the team, you have to like what’s been happening on the ice. It’s still not consistent, but there is a pulse and glimpses of what could be.
Here are the reasons why the Rangers should be on guard tomorrow when the Devils take the ice:
1) Nothing to Lose
The pressure is squarely on the Rangers. A lot is expected from their team, and a lot has been invested in building a championship. However, the past two games, they have looked mortal. Absent is their scoring ability (scoring only one goal in their past two games) and giving up lots of space in the defensive zone for scoring chances. And with the speed of the Devils, who can apply offensive pressure and keep the puck alive in their own zone, it is has spellings of a long day for the Rangers.
Nothing is expected out of the Devils. They have been pretty much pushed aside by everyone in the hockey media. But, that’s what will make them dangerous today. They don’t have to live up to any high expectations. They can just go out and concentrate on getting better, while adjusting to a new system.
2) No Intimidation Factor
We all know about how successful the Rangers have been these past couple of seasons. Their roster is littered with all-stars and prospective team stars. However, that will mean nothing to the Devils. They are mix of their own veterans and prospects, and a young enough coach who understands how to nurture his team and probable relate more to them. John Hynes provides a calming voice, when things start to get out of hand.
And yes, the Rangers owned the Devils last season, sweeping the four-games by scoring at least three or more goals in each game But, that was last season. Despite their lack of offensive goals, the Devils have kept up with explosive teams. It’s going to be nothing new tomorrow. If the Devils control the puck and reduce mistakes, New Jersey can take the first game of the season series, and cause more doubts in the minds of the Rangers.
3) Goaltending Edge
In most cases, it is sacrilegious to pick against the King, Henrik Lundqvist. However, if the team in front of him does not offer support in the way of goals for, then it might just be what the Devils need to beat him. They’ve gone up against Nashville’ Pekka Rinne, and snapped San Jose’s Martin Jones consecutive scoreless streak. Granted the goals didn’t come for the Devils, but that didn’t stop them from trying. If the Devils are able to play the way they want to tomorrow and take advantage of the holes behind the Rangers defense, the King might be seeing the bench early.
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