By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils are back in the Eastern Conference finals and for the second time in club history their opponent for the Prince of Wales Trophy (and more importantly a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals) will be the New York Rangers.
Overall, this will be New Jersey’s seventh conference finals appearance:
· 1988 Boston (lost 4 games to 3)
· 1994 NY Rangers (lost 4 games to 3)
· 1995 Philadelphia Flyers (won 4 games to 2)
· 2000 Philadelphia Flyers (won 4 games to 3)
· 2001 Pittsburgh Penguins (won 4 games to 1)
· 2003 Ottawa Senators (won 4 games to 3)
This will be the sixth postseason series matchup between the Devils and Rangers:
· 1992 Patrick Division Semifinals (NYR 4 games to 3)
· 1994 Eastern Conference Finals (NYR 4 games to 3)
· 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals (NYR 4 games to 1)
· 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (NJD 4 games to 0)
· 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (NYR 4 games to 1)
Eight Devils players who appeared in that 2008 playoff series loss are still with New Jersey, while just five of the Rangers still remain on their current roster:
2008: NJD (8) Martin Brodeur, David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Andy Greene, Zach Parise, Bryce Salvador, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus.
2008: NYR (5) Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal.
Just four Devils and Rangers remain from the 2006 series and one of them has switched sides:
2006: NJD (3) Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias and Zach Parise.
2006: NYR (1) Petr Sykora (now with Devils).
Although Petr Sykora was a member of the Devils in 1997, he did not appear in the second-round matchup with the Rangers:
1997: NJD (2) Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias.
1997: NYR (0)
Martin Brodeur is the only player remaining on either team who appeared in the first two Devils-Rangers postseason series, starting all seven games in 1994 and coming off the bench in Game 5 of the 1992 matchup.
This will be the third time the Devils have faced Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in a playoff series. Tom Barrasso (1991, 1993 and 1999 with Pittsburgh) and Mike Richter (1992, 1994 and 1997 with the Rangers) are the only other goalies to have faced New Jersey in three different playoff years.
Lundqvist went 3-2-0 against the Devils this season with a 1.41 GAA, a .940 save percentage and one shutout.
In 41 career regular season starts against the Devils, Lundqvist is 25-11-5 with a 1.79 GAA, .936 save percentage and six shutouts. In his two playoffs series against the Devils (2006 and 2008), Lundqvist went 4 and 4 with a 3.10 GAA, .888 save percentage and no shutouts. Brodeur went 3-3-0 against the Rangers this season with a 1.99 GAA, a .916 save percentage and one shutout.
In his 95 career regular season appearances against the Rangers, Brodeur is 46-29-20 with a 2.12 GAA, .918 save percentage and nine shutouts. In five playoff series outings vs. the Rangers, Brodeur is 9 and 13 with a 2.08 GAA and two shutouts.
Lundqvist ended a seven-game playoff overtime losing streak with his pair of sudden-death victories in the series with Washington. Martin Brodeur once had a seven-game playoff overtime losing streak as well.
Brodeur’s streak began during the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals with a sudden-death loss to the Flyers in Game 3 and ended with Jason Arnott’s Stanley Cup winner in Game 6 of the Finals in 2000.
This will be the third time the Devils will go against a team coached by John Tortorella in the postseason. New Jersey defeated Tortorella and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs 2003 and again in 2007. No head coach has lost three post-season series to the Devils in their career.
Brian Sutter (Boston 1994 and 1995), Pat Quinn (Toronto 2000 and 2001) and Terry Murray (Philadelphia 1995 and Florida 2000) are the only other head coaches to lose more than one playoff series against New Jersey.
The Devils and Rangers have had almost identical playoff results since the lockout. Both New Jersey and New York have appeared in the postseason in six of the seven years. The Devils missed the playoffs last season and the Rangers failed to qualify in 2010.
Both clubs have won four playoff series since the lockout, including the two rounds this season and two apiece from 2006 through 2011. The Devils defeated the Rangers in 2006 and the Lightning in 2007, while the Rangers eliminated Atlanta in 2007 and New Jersey in 2008.
New Jersey received game-winning goals from seven different players in their eight postseason victories so far in 2012. It’s the third time in club history this has happened but the Devils also once had eight different players collect game-winners through the first two rounds of the playoffs:
· 2012: vs. FLA: Carter, Parise, Zajac, Henrique.
· vs. PHI: Clarkson (2), Ponikarovsky, Zubrus.
· 1995: vs. BOS: Richer (2), McKay, Zelepukin.
· vs. PIT: Stevens, Holik, N. Broten, Lemieux.
· 1994: vs. BUF: Stevens, Albelin, Lemieux (2).
· vs. BOS: Chorske, Richer, Millen, MacLean.
· 1988: vs. NYI: Johnson, Daneyko, Conacher, Sundstrom.
· vs. WAS: A. Broten, Carlsson, Kurvers, MacLean.
Plus: Bryce Salvador. Devils defenseman has two goals and four assists in 12 playoff games after registering no goals and nine assists in 82 games played during regular season.
Minus: History. Devils have gone 1 and 4 all-time vs. Rangers in postseason series.
What’s your prediction for Rangers-Devils? Sound off below!