Gaborik Scores Twice as Rangers Roll Past Devils

NY Rangers 4                Devils 1

       

Lately, when the New Jersey Devils play the New York Rangers it seems like groundhog’s day — what I mean by that is the script/recipe is always the same when the Rangers win, just like in their 4-1 victory over their Hudson Riverrivals at Prudential Center on Tuesday night. The Devils scored early, but only once — allowing the Rangers to hang around until they tied the game with a late second period goal. New Jersey then became less aggressive and it was exploited for two goals and an empty netter in the final twenty minutes to put the finishing touches on their first loss since December 10.

With Patrik Elias (flu) out of the Devils lineup Travis Zajac moved up to Elias’ second line center position between Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora and the move paid off early for coach Pete DeBoer. Zajac, who missed the first 30 games after achilles surgery scored his first goal of the season at 15:51, pouncing on a loose rebound that Sykora fanned atop the crease of Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. “They really came out strong and put us back on our heels,” said New York’s Mike Rupp. “Hank was big for us tonight; you kind of take it for granted sometimes. You always ask your goalie to keep you in the game, give you a chance to win. That’s what he did tonight.”

The game stayed 1-0 until 17:28 into the second period when with the Rangers being out-shot 20-9 Artem Anisimov buried a pass from Derek Stepan past Martin Brodeur. On the play Anisimov scored his seventh of the season when he slipped between the Devils duo of Zach Parise and Kurtis Foster to collect the perfect pass.

The tie didn’t last long as Marian Gaborik collected a rebound alone at the side of the net and netted his 18th goal of the season 4:45 into the final period. Gaborik’s goal was the eventual game-winner, but the back-breaker was rookie Carl Hagelin’s shorthanded goal with 5:18 left in the period. Hagelin controlled a loose puck that got past Ilya Kovalchuk and fired a twisted wrist shot over Brodeur’s glove hand. Gaborik finished the scoring on an empty net goal with four seconds left, giving him 19 on the season — one away from the NHL leader Steven Stamkos.

“We were never able to get that second goal,” said a frustrated Parise afterwards. “I thought Lundqvist played really well tonight, he was definitely the difference.” Despite the loss the Devils captain like his team’s effort in the rivalry game, “No matter the outcome, I thought we played a good game; our effort was good, we played hard, had a great start. We were mentally ready and into it, we did a lot of things we wanted to do, we just weren’t able to get that second goal.”

Game Notes: Stepan had three assists, giving him five points/assists in seven career games against the Devils; Gaborik’s first goal was the 600th point of his career (302g-299a) and he has 18 points in 19 career games against the Devils. Zajac’s goal was the 250th point of his career (90g-160a). Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi led all skaters in ice-time with 29:09, while Kovalchuk led New Jersey with 27:04. Gaborik was +3, while Kovalchuk and Foster were each -3; New York captain Ryan Callahan led all players with four hits, while his teammate Ryan McDonagh led all players with five blocked shots. New Jersey (18-14-1) is off until Friday night when they host Washington (17-14-1) and New York (19-8-4) travels to play the NY Islanders on Thursday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Marian Gaborik (NYR) – 2 goals, gw (19), assist (11)

#2 – Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) – 30 saves, win (13-7-4)

#3 – Derek Stepan (NYR) – 3 assists (17)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Eastern Conference predictions

Round 1:

(1) Washington over (8) NY Rangers

(7) Buffalo over (2) Philadelphia

(3) Boston over (6) Montreal

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Tampa Bay

Round 2:

(1) Washington over (7) Buffalo

(3) Boston over (4) Pittsburgh

Round 3:

(3) Boston over (1) Washington

Washington (1)      vs.    NY Rangers (8)

Last Cup Win: Washington (never), NY Rangers (1994)

Why the Capitals will win: They aren’t intimidated by the Rangers or their goaltender whom has been known to get in some of his opponents’ heads (see: New Jersey Devils). Washington is also one of the deepest teams in the league and they will wear their undermanned first round opponent down.

Why the Rangers will win: They spanked Washington twice this season (6-0, 7-0) and when they are on their game, the Blueshirts have all of the necessary components to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league; solid goaltending, timely scoring and team defense will lead New York to the upset win over the Caps.

Washington’s most important player: Tempted to say Alex Ovechkin, but it’s Mike Green; if he is healthy and has fresh legs he could bury the Rangers (a team that has taken a penalty or two) with his power play prowess.

New York’s most important player: The soul of the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist, if he falters, they are cooked. He’s only won two playoff series in his career, but his league-leading 11 shutouts this season tell you that he is capable of shutting down any team in the NHL.

Washington’s biggest question mark: It has to be the goaltending, despite the fact that they won the East with three goaltenders — two of them rookies. Michal Neuvirth will get the nod to begin the series, and that’s probably the right call. He won back-to-back Calder Cups for the Hershey Bears and was victorious in 27 of his 48 starts with the Caps this season.

New York’s biggest question mark: Which version of Marian Gaborik will show up in this series? Will it be the same Gaborik that had only 48 points (22 goals) in 62 games this season or will he become the two-time 40-goal scorer that the Rangers are paying for?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Washington (Jason Arnott, Mike Knuble), New York (Chris Drury, Ruslan Fedotenko)

PREDICTION: CAPITALS IN 6 — Gaborik and Lundqvist will show up and the Rangers will put up a fight, but Ovechkin will eliminate them with a hat trick in Game 6.

Philadelphia (2)     vs. Buffalo (7)

Last Cup Win: Philadelphia (1975), Buffalo (never)

Why the Flyers will win: Since the start of last season’s playoffs Philadelphia has probably been the best team in the NHL. With the talent on this roster they should walk all over the Sabres, but only if their power play finds itself. This season they ranked 19th in the NHL out of 30 teams, with a putrid 16.6%. Offensive juggernauts that were ranked ahead of them: Buffalo, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota and Ottawa.

Why the Sabres will win: They have Ryan Miller and the Flyers don’t; it’s as simple as that. He has won playoff series as the favorite and the underdog in his career, and Buffalo is the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs. If Miller is at less than 100%, then the Sabres will be in trouble.

Philadelphia’s most important player: Chris Pronger’s presence alone will make a difference in the series, but only if he’s healthy enough to be there. His absence over the final weeks of the season is the reason the Flyers crashed and stumbled out of the East’s top spot.

Buffalo’s most important player: Aside from Miller, it’s Thomas Vanek who very quietly had a solid season — 73 points (32g-41a) in 80 games. If Drew Stafford can get into one of his hot streaks it will make a big difference in the series.

Philadelphia’s biggest question mark: As always since Ron Hextall left, it’s goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky will start Game 1, but lurking behind him are somewhat proven veterans in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.

Buffalo’s biggest question mark: Can Tyler Myers and the Sabres’ defensive corps stop the flock of talented Flyers forwards is a good place to start; also how will smallish rookie Tyler Ennis (who had a real nice season) hold up in a seven-game series against the rugged Philadelphians?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Philadelphia (Nick Boynton, Sean O’Donnell, Pronger, Kris Versteeg), Buffalo (Rob Niedermayer)

PREDICTION: SABRES IN 7 — Miller shines as Buffalo wins a l-e-n-g-t-h-y Game 7 in Philadelphia.

Boston (3)       vs. Montreal (6)

Last Cup Win: Boston (1972), Montreal (1993)

Why the Bruins will win: Boston’s depth is only matched by Washington in the East as far as I’m concerned, especially when your top three centers are Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Rich Peverley. The addition of Tomas Kaberle really balanced out the defense in Beantown too.

Why the Canadiens will win: If I had to pick one team in the East that would give Boston the biggest challenge, I’d say Montreal. These two teams know each other inside and out with all of their legendary battles throughout time. Also how will Boston react after blowing a three games-to-none lead in last year’s East semi-finals.

Boston’s most important player: Tim Thomas is the easy choice here, if he continues playing the way he did during the season (35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 save %, 9 shutouts), the Bruins should be able to choke-out the sometimes offensively challenged Habs.

Montreal’s most important player: Where were you this season Scott Gomez? Horrible season (7g-31a, minus-15 in 80 games) from one of the veterans on the Canadiens, but during last spring’s run to the East Finals he put up 14 points in 19 games. If he can get on that type of run it would be much appreciated in Montreal.

Boston’s biggest question mark: The Bruins had a great year, but after choking away last season’s opportunity to beat the Flyers in the semis, anything less than a trip to the East Finals would be a failure. It will be interesting to see how they react if they get Montreal into an elimination game.

Montreal’s biggest question mark: Last season’s dramatic run was led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who is now with the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Carey Price’s turn and judging from the season he just had (38-28-6, 8 shutouts) he could be a difference maker, not only this season but for many, many more to come.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Boston (Mark Recchi (2), Shawn Thornton), Montreal (Gomez (2), Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel)

PREDICTION: BRUINS IN 7 – Boston will bend, but won’t break as they hold off the Habs; Nathan Horton, playing in his first playoffs, will have a monster series.

Pittsburgh (4)                vs. Tampa Bay (5)

Last Cup Win: Pittsburgh (2009), Tampa Bay (2004)

Why the Penguins will win: They have an elite goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal will not only shut down Steven Stamkos, but he’ll also chip in a few big goals.

Why the Lightning will win: Without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the Lightning can focus their attention on solid team defense and timely goals. Whether or not Stamkos and Simon Gagne can score multiple times will be determining factors in the series.

Pittsburgh’s most important player: It will be all of their penalty killers; they led the league killing off penalties at an 86.2% clip and if they can shut down Tampa’s powerful power play the series could be a quick one.

Tampa Bay’s most important player: If he becomes a playoff-beast once again, it will be the league’s second leading point getter Martin St. Louis (99 points). He’s a proven playoff performer (48 pts in 45 games) and if he gets hot the Pens will become postseason spectators.

Pittsburgh’s biggest question mark: If there is a small chance he can play, does Pittsburgh risk everything and put Crosby out there? If Crosby doesn’t play, who else besides Staal is going to contribute offensively?

Tampa Bay’s biggest question mark: In the 2006 playoffs, Dwayne Roloson led the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and then blew out his knee in Game 1. That was the last time he played in a playoff game, so five years later it’s hard to tell what you are going to get from the veteran netminder.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Pittsburgh (Chris Kunitz (2), Craig Adams (2), Fleury, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Michael Rupp, Max Talbot, Eric Godard), Tampa Bay (Vincent Lecavalier, St. Louis, Pavel Kubina)

PREDICTION: PENGUINS IN 7 — The Lightning prove to be a valiant opponent but Fleury will top Roloson in a wild Game 7

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Almost time for training camp…

With the open of training camp on September 13, many of the Devils players have started to make their way to New Jersey for some scrimmages and workout sessions. Here’s whats been going on according to the Fire & Ice blog by Tom Gulitti:

Brendan Shanahan will now wear no. 14 which was vacated when Brian Gionta signed with Montreal; Shanny previously wore 14 in Detroit and with the NY Rangers. He is also experimenting with wearing a visor for the first time in his career.

Jay Pandolfo became a first-time dad when his wife gave birth to a baby boy on July 2, the day after his longtime linemate John Madden signed with Chicago. He admitted it will be weird not seeing Madden when camp opens, but is looking forward to playing for coach Jacques Lemaire again. Pando is one of only four current Devils (Brian Rolston, Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias) that has played for Lemaire in New Jersey.

Ilkka Pikkarainen is wearing no. 17 which was last worn by Mike Rupp who’s now in Pittsburgh.

Zach Parise took batting practice with his hometown Minnesota Twins last week and almost hit a home run to right field, falling just short of the wall which is 340 feet away from home plate.

Elias won the Czech player-of-the-year award, had successful surgery on his hip in June and obtained his level B coaching license from the Czech Ice Hockey Federation according to his website.

What’s your number?

Have a favorite player who changed teams this offseason and you want to be the first on your block to sport his new number and jersey? Well I did a little research and came up with this little list of old faces in new places (with some new numbers):

Scott Gomez # 91, Montreal
Brian Gionta # 21, Montreal

Saku Koivu # 11, Anaheim
Jay Bouwmeester # 4, Calgary
John Madden # 11, Chicago
Marian Hossa # 81, Chicago
Nikolai Khabibulin # 35, Edmonton
Ryan Smyth # 94, Los Angeles
Rob Scuderi # 7, Los Angeles
Martin Havlat # 14 Minnesota
John Tavares # 91, NY Islanders
Marian Gaborik # 10, NY Rangers
Chris Higgins # 21, NY Rangers
Donald Brashear # 87, NY Rangers
Alex Kovalev # 27, Ottawa
Chris Pronger # 20, Philadelphia
Ray Emery # 29, Philadelphia
Mike Rupp # 17, Pittsburgh
Brendan Morrison # 9, Washington
Mike Knuble # 22, Washington

So head on over to your favorite team’s site or NHL.com and order your new jersey for the 2009-10 season today!