82 regular season games have been completed. Now, the New York Rangers are 16 victories away from securing the goal they were after since the season began back in training camp.
To have that moment with Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Blueshirts know that they need to start by taking four games against one of their bitter rivals. When the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers meet up in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh time in the rivalry’s history.
“It’ll be a great series. Two skilled teams that know each other pretty well,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant explained when the regular season concluded. “It should be a good battle.”
There are plenty of fair comparisons to draw between the Rangers and the Devils. Both franchises are coming off fairly large rebuilds after years of consistent success. Both teams use a fast mentality to overwhelm opponents, and both used the trade deadline to acquire several top hockey players across the league. But at their core – both are clear title contenders that see a golden opportunity to move on once the games actually start.
“They (New Jersey) have got some great young players, they added some veteran pieces with Stanley Cup pedigree. They are a fast time. They come at you in waves and if you’re on your heels they’ll make you play. They definitely remind us of us a little bit,” Adam Fox explained ahead of the matchup.
To move on, New York will need to figure out a way to beat a team that had their number in the regular season. Jersey took three of four in the season matchup – with three of the games having been won on multi-goal comebacks. With the average age of the two teams well under 28 years old, there’s plenty of speed on both sides of the ice.
“They’re a really talented team. They are a young but skilled team…some of the young guys took big steps for them like our guys did. I think it’s going to be a great series,” Gallant added.
While the Battle of the Hudson River has plenty of history, not every member of the Rangers has experienced the ruthlessness that comes from rivalry playoff hockey.
“This is a rivalry that hasn’t been crazy since I’ve been here so it’s going to be my first taste of some rivalry hockey with (New) Jersey. I think it’ll be exciting for the fans, exciting for the players. It’ll be a good matchup,” said Rangers’ captain Jacob Trouba.
Beating a team four times in a seven-game series is always a tall order for any roster. But as they did last year en route to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, Trouba and the Blueshirts know that the regular season results aren’t a precursor to postseason success.
“We know what we’re capable of, we know what the goal is. I like our team heading into the playoffs and I think we’re ready to get this thing rolling.”
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