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Odd One

Posted By Mika Oehling On May 23 2012 @ 11:07 pm In NHL | No Comments

The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils game did anything but follow the script tonight. With a 5-3 win over the Rangers, the Devils manage to take a 3-2 series lead and have a chance to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final against the LA Kings starting next Wednesday. They won’t get far with games like this one.

The story line on this series so far has gone like this: two world class goaltenders, low scoring, close games, New York playing its defense first system and little reward for a lot of play by the Devils. Tonight’s story line: two fumbling world class goaltenders who let in 8 goals between them in odd, sometimes messy fashion, a high scoring game that wasn’t edge of your seat close, New York playing survival mode hockey and a lot of reward for the Devils, not all of them deserved.

Let’s get this straight. The Devils have been the harder working, more deserving team of this playoffs. Things have not always gone their way. Even so, these last 2 games have had some strange similarities. New Jersey has come flying out of the gate in the first period, played on their heels in the second, caused frustration in the third and their Captain put in an empty netter in both games as the final nail in the coffin twice to end it.

Their power play has suffered and their fourth line, rather than their first, has been their energy line, wreaking the most havoc on the ice during their shifts. Kovalchuk has forgotten how fast his shot is and is playing tentatively with the puck when he should be going for broke, bodies and net be damned. And Brodeur made a major mistake in the third that could have cost his team the game.

It’s great to see New Jersey see some redemption and get some wins. Would it be great if the Finals started tomorrow and they were facing off against LA? Absolutely not. They are clearly not ready for that level of competition. New York has not bothered to show up in the first period for most of this series, and their systems are starting to break down. They can’t seem to get into formation fast enough in front of the net to block like they’ve done so effectively in the past.

While Torts will say that the team doesn’t know the meaning of the word tired, he might have to look up his first period team in the dictionary because they look tired. They’re not as fast or strong as they were through two exhausting series, each a full 7 games, and they’re starting to lose their composure as well. It’s been my opinion in the past that the four rounds of the Stanley Cup Finals are long and that New York’s system was unsustainable because of the amount of sheer physical punishment it required out of every single player. It’s taken awhile for this to happen, but it looks like it may have started and just in time for New Jersey.

The Devils have momentum right now, but they shouldn’t be too proud of themselves. They still have to deal with the issue of a flat second period worth of play and a less than stellar power play. They also need to find a way to keep their money man motivated in Kovalchuk and get him producing the way he needs to for the Devils to be a truly dominant force.

Note to the reader: I am signing off on the Eastern Conference Final as of this post. There will be no follow up for games 6 and 7, should they be necessary. I will be rooting all the way for a New Jersey-LA final. And I say LA all the way.

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