Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Predictions: New York vs New Jersey.

Out of all the first round contests in the East- this one is the toughest to call.

Here is what the Rangers and Devils have in common, aside from the strong team defense, and anemic offense.

World class goaltending:

Marty Brodeur and Henrik Lundquist. I'd be inclined to give the advantage to Marty here, just on resumes and playoff experience, but I actually attended the Devils/Rangers game at the Garden last March 27th, and what I saw were two evenly matched goalies at the top of their games. While there are certainly going to be some sparkling saves on both sides in this one, I can't give either team the edge, at least between the pipes.

Czech Superstars who might show up to play:

Patrick Elias and Jaromir Jagr.

Both these guys, at different times of their careers have had the ability to almost singlehandledly provide the offense that their teams have needed to win games. (Granted, the Devils usually needed a little bit less to get the W.) Still, here you have two guys, who if they decide to play up to their skill set, that could be a factor in this series. Remember,when the Rangers played the Devils in the first playoff series after the lockout, the Rangers had built a core of young Czech players around Jagr, and achieved something The Blueshirts hadn't seen since the mid-nineties: chemistry. Elias heard the hype, and after coming back from a season half-lost to Hepatitis, made sure everyone knew who best Czech on the ice was in that series, leading New Jersey to a sweep. But will either Jagr or Elias step it up? I'm thinking that if one of them does, the other one might rise to the challenge. But neither does initially, don't expect one of them to step up unprompted. Either way, it's another wash.

Clutch Performers:

Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner
Who do you like better?

This guy:

Or this guy:

I won't lie to you, I fucking love them both. Thank God I don't don't have to take sides. Either way, it's another wash.

Ultimately, there is one factor and one factor alone that I don't think the Devils can match up with, and it's why I'm picking the Rangers.

Scott Gomez.

He struggled down the stretch a little bit this season, but found his game, and when playing against his former team, he seems to hear those boos and just turn it up a notch. To quote the New York Times:

Gomez led the Rangers this season with 54 assists. He was second on the team in points, with 70, one behind Jaromir Jagr. In eight games against the Devils, he had a goal and six assists. Perhaps most memorably, he came back after missing a game with bruised ribs to lead the Rangers with two assists in a crucial 3-2 victory over the Devils on March 27 at Madison Square Garden.
It's a slim X factor, but I think no matter how much you like or don't like the Rangers to win this, when you base your calculations on how the Gomez played in the regular season, and how he played against his former team in the regular season, you see a different Scott Gomez. I think he's the difference maker.

Rangers in 7

(Note: Ben might take issue with this)

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