Rangers-Devils: There's a War On -- Tortorella vs. DeBoer
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
By Stan Fischler
That John Tortorella and Peter DeBoer are not chummy-chummy was evident during the regular season. Since then, an escalation of hostilities has brought us right up to the DeBoer-Tortorella Playoff War.
The powder keg was lit during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final when the Rangers Brandon Prust either deliberately or accidentally -- take your pick -- sledgehammered New Jersey's Anton Volchenkov's head with a Prust-ian elbow. That inspired an invite to state his case to NHL warden Brendan Shanahan who reviewed the not-so-pretty episode.
Down to the ice went Volchenkov and off to his bench went Prust without so much as a penalty. Devils coach DeBoer called it "head-hunting" while his New York counterpart, Sir Torts, claims to have "a long list" of issues with behavior on the other side.
DeBoer delivered a one-word retort courtous to that: "Comical."
That said, the ice war is not so comical to the Devils who face the Rangers Monday night at the Prudential Center down two games to one. Make no mistake, the Garden Staters can tie the series but only on one condition -- if Henrik Lundqvist lets them.
Based on Games One and Three at The Garden and The Rock, respectively, the answer is negative.
The King tossed a pair of 3-0 shutouts between a 3-2 loss, making it seem as if DeBoer's guys were allergic to red lights. Henny's hot-cha save, one-on-one against Ilya Kovalchuk, branded New Jersey's quest for a series lead as Mission Impossible.
Of course, the Blueshirts' winning tide could be reversed if Zach Parise, Inc. put some pungency on their pucks. Or, perhaps, accuracy would be the more appropriate term.
That means the peripatetic Parise must play to his role as captain and personally ignite a home team comeback for a capacity crowd, the vast majority of which in Newark will be rooting for the Devs.
No less troubling in Devils-land has been Martin Brodeur's failure in Games One and Three to match Lundqvist's higher standard.
It's not that Mister Goalie has played poorly, but rather that in each of the three games so far, he has distilled one bad goal amid a galaxy of amazing saves. And let's not forget that he is 40-years-old.
Then again, if none of Marty's New Jersey comrades will gift him with a red light he'll have to be as goal-proof as Lundqvist to survive. (And, whatever you do, don't bet on that!)
Granted, the Devils have enjoyed scoring opportunities but their offensive choices have been out of The Book of Errors.
Which brings us to THE questions preceding Game Four:
HOW CAN NEW JERSEY GET BACK INTO THE SERIES?
There are three prime possibilities:
1. FLAWLESS MARTY:
It's easy to say, but tough to do yet now is the time for Brodeur to actually "steal" a game with goaltending. Impossible for Marty? No. Unlikely? Yes.
2. PAGING PATRIK:
In past Cup years Patrik Elias has been a clutch scorer. Against these Rangers he's been virtually out of sight. If the Elias goal stick is taken off the fossil shelf and re-awakens, his club will have a chance.
3. POWER PLAY:
The weapons -- Parise, Elias, Kovy, et. al. -- are there. In Game Three they failed because of over-passing and errant shooting. More frequent shots on a well-screened Henny is a must.
HOW CAN NEW YORK DEMOLISH THE DEVS?
1. REVIVE THE RELIABLES:
Neither Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards nor Ryan Callahan have been offensive forces despite their past reps as goal machines. A bust-out is inevitable and if it happens in Newark, it will be bye-bye, Devils.
2. KEEP THE PK IN A-1 SHAPE:
Rangers penalty-killers totally frustrated the Devils power play in Game Three. Keep that up and the Devils will be even more flummoxed than they are now.
3. LEAVE IT TO LUNDQVIST:
When all else fails, Henny is the Blueshirts last line of defense and has done it very well, thank you.
Desperate times require desperate measures and the Devils hardly are in the comfort seat. Hence, expect DeBoer to bench unproductive Petr Sykora and replace him with recovered youngster Jacob Josefson. And if that doesn't work, Henrik Tallinder may not be far behind if the Devs go down three-one!
Rangers Playoff Central
Devils Playoff Central
Follow @StanFischler on Twitter
The Maven's Full Blog Roll