Devils blank Rangers, advance to second round


Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider and Devils forward Michael McLeod drop the gloves.

Sam Mendlowitz

The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers 4-0 on Monday night and eliminated them from the playoffs. The Rangers won game one and two each 5-1. They had out played the Devils and exposed their weaknesses. The Devils then took a close game 3, 2-1 in overtime. They also take games four and five, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination. The Blueshirts won a lopsided game six, 5-2, before falling in the decisive game seven. 

The Devils first goal came in the second period. The Rangers were on the power play and were trying to get out of their defensive zone and transition to offense. Ondrej Palat pressured Rangers defenseman and puck carrier Adam Fox. Fox tried to pass to Chris Kreider. Kreider lost the puck in his skates and gave it away. Palat then passed the puck over a sliding Mika Zibanejad to Michael McLeod. McLeod had a wide open net to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. On the second goal, defenseman John Marino cut to the net for the Devils. He lost the puck but passed it in front of the net where Tomas Tatar scored to double the lead. In the third, Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba got caught high up in the zone trying to make a play. Nobody covered for him on defense and it eventually led to a two-on-one which the Devils scored on. They then added an empty netter to move on. “We played a heck of a game. We’ve had a heck of a series,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said.

It was the first game seven win for the veteran coach. In nearly two decades of being behind an NHL bench, he was 0-4. There were many reasons the Devils came out on top. The biggest reason was the goaltending. After Vitek Vanecek allowed ten goals in the first two games, they switched to rookie Akira Schmid. He stole game three for the Devils and was stellar the rest of the way. The Devils took away one of the Rangers greatest strengths, their power play. They were faster and capsized more in bigger opportunities. They shut down the Rangers top players. They quickly picked up a lot of experience throughout the series and were able to take down the mighty Blue Shirts. They weren’t perfect though. They were outplayed in games 1,2,6 and most of 3. Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Timo Meier did not score in the series. They have depth, but will need these stars to start producing. 

The Rangers had a disappointing end to the series. They came into the year with high hopes. Those hopes only increased when they loaded up at the trade deadline, acquiring Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko. “Talent doesn’t mean a thing,” head coach Gerard Gallant said.  “It’s great to have talent, but you’ve got to play together and work together. Obviously, the four games that we lost, we had two goals. That’s the bottom line. You’re not going to win if you get two goals in four games. I love to have talent, but you love to have work ethic and more forecheck and stuff like that. We just didn’t get it done.”

The top guys were shut down. Artemi Panarin had 92 points in the regular season. He had no goals and two assists in the series. Alexis Lafreniere had no points and Mika Zibanejad had just one goal. Chris Kreider led the team with six goals and nine points. Even he wasn’t enough to push the Rangers into the second round. He was on the ice for all four goals against Monday night. “I’m one of the veteran leaders, I’m one of the guys who should have set the example and instead I’m on for all four goals against,” Kreider told reporters.“That cannot happen and especially in Game 7. It was shameful.”

Adam Fox had eight points, all of them assists. He didn’t shoot enough and seemed to wear down as the series progressed. Patrick Kane had six points, four of which came in game two. The ‘Kid Line’ was nowhere near their performance in last year’s playoffs. The defenseman weren’t getting enough help in their own zone. The team struggled to get shots off and went large gaps without them. Gallant and the coaching staff are still searching for answers. Their best player was, and has been for a while, Igor Shesterkin. The netminder had a 1.96 goals against average and a 9.31 save percentage. He kept them in almost every game. He even had a couple of shots on goal. It is heartbreaking for Rangers fans, some who have witnessed many struggles throughout their lifetime. The team has won just one Stanley Cup in the last 83 years. They haven’t won in 29 years. Their deep playoff runs have only brought heartbreaks and misery. 

The Devils will begin the second round on Wednesday, May 3 in Raleigh, North Carolina. They will meet the Hurricanes in the best of seven series to see who gets to move on. The Rangers off season will begin far too soon.