Playoff Preview: Hudson River Rivalry Continues

Welcome to the Stanley Cup playoffs everyone, and boy do we have an exciting matchup for you! This series will get you very excited whether you’re from the Garden State of New Jersey, or Manhattan in New York City. This matchup features Hudson River rivals in the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. My name is Scott, and I will have your coverage for this first round matchup of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is going to be a very entertaining, physical, skilled, and nasty series between two teams and rivals that can’t stand the sight of each other. I’m gonna take a look at how the two teams matchup and who I think will come out on top. First, let’s recap how these two teams got here to the playoffs:

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New Jersey Devils

After a struggle of a season a year earlier, the Devils and their young high end skilled talent finally broke through and significantly improved their record with a 52-22-8 record for 112pts (which set a new franchise record for wins and points). You saw top two centers Nico Hischier and the electric Jack Hughes take the next steps and put up career years to go along with Jesper Bratt having another great season, and Dougie Hamilton being a rock steady force on the back end who provided plenty of offense too. Vitek Vanecek was phenomenal after coming over in a trade with the Washington Capitals in between the pipe. Acquiring Timo Meier at the deadline from the San Jose Sharks was a godsend as he adds a physical power forward element with high end skill and scoring ability to add to a gifted young offensive team. As a result, the Devils are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

New York Rangers

The Rangers maintained the fact that they are playoff and Stanley Cup contenders again after posting up a 47-22-13 record for 107pts. Igor Shesterkin as usual was a mainstay in between the pipes being the reigning Vezina trophy winner that he is, the “bread man” Artemi Panarin putting up points alongside Mika Zabanejad, Adam Fox, & Chris Kreider. To go along with an already all-star studded cast, Vladimir Tarasenko and the great Patrick Kane were acquired before the trade deadline with the hopes to get the Rangers back to being champions again for the first time since 1994.

Who has the advantage? Let’s take a look:

Speed: New Jersey Devils-it’s definitely hard to stay with guys like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier for sure, definitely two of the leagues fastest not named Connor McDavid. The Rangers better be prepared on how to handle them or this will really hurt them.

Goaltending: New York Rangers- Igor Shesterkin, reigning Vezina trophy winner is all that needs to be said here.

Special Teams: Tie- it’s gonna come down to who can execute and get it done better. Both are good on the power play (slight edge to NY) but New Jersey is the better team on the penalty kill. However, the best penalty killer is your goalie and the Rangers definitely have one of the best for sure. This could go either way.

Defense: Tie- both defense corps are pretty good. Each feature a highly skilled offensive defenseman, and really good shut down, physical, & positionally sound D.

5 on 5: New Jersey Devils- were very balanced and didn’t rely on their power play to be their main source of offense and found ways to score plenty of goals at even strength. The Rangers can score 5 on 5 too but, they’re far more deadlier with the man advantage. With fewer penalty calls in the playoffs, this should give the Devils the advantage.

Coaching: Tie- both Lindy Ruff and Girard Gallant have great reputations and records being coaches in the NHL. Although, Gallant has been in a Stanley Cup final more recently (with the Vegas Golden Knights), Ruff has shown why he was a mainstay in Buffalo for so long and this league too at the head coaching level. It will come down to who can get the best out of their players and push the right buttons this time of year.

Prediction: Devils in 7 games- even though the Rangers are more playoff battle tested, New Jersey has something special going on and as they say, speed kills. The speed of the young Devils will be hard to contain and I think that’s what gives them the edge over their Hudson River rivals. Besides Hughes and Hischier, I see prized trade deadline acquisition Timo Meier being an X-Factor here too as his style of play screams playoff hockey to me.

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