The matchup every metro-area hockey fan was hoping would happen has now become a reality.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers begins tonight at Madison Square Garden at 8 p.m ET, pitting bitter rivals against each other for a chance at a Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994. It’s the first time since the 2008 quarterfinals these two teams have played each other in the playoffs.
The Devils have the benefit of some rest for their tired hockey bodies, having not playing a game since ousting the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 back on May 8. It’s a quick turnaround for the Rangers, who finished out their second consecutive seven-game playoff series by defeating the Washington Capitals in Game 7 on Saturday night.
However, as we’ve seen with the Blueshitrts, playing a lot certainly doesn’t affect them and playing 14 playoff games thus far isn’t as much of a disadvantage as some like to claim. At least, that’s what Torts believes.
Player to Watch: Carl Hagelin
One of the catalysts to the Game 7 win against Washington, Carl Hagelin’s motor and speed were on full display, dishing out the primary assist to Brad Richards early in the first period and continued his solid play and aggressive forecheck all game lone.
Suffice it to say it was the best Hagelin looked since returning from his three-game suspension earlier in the playoffs. And he needed to be—that’s how important the Swedish speedster has become for the Rangers offense.
Hagelin does have nice numbers in his short career—two goals, six assists in in six games—against New Jersey and will be asked to continue to play his game alongside Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. Beating New Jersey through the neutral zone with Hagelin—and Kreider’s—speed to chase pucks down and set up the offense below the goal line will be paramount.
Can the Devils contain him?
**Prediction- Devils are victimized by a slow start, allowing three quick goals but evetually tie the game and win in double-OT 4-3. Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle with the goals.
Make sure to head over to Pucks and Pitchforks for their thoughts heading into Game 1.