NHL Playoffs: Rhetoric Heats Up in Devils-Rangers Series
After giving less than loquacious interviews during the playoffs, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella went on the attack after his team’s 3-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. DALE PERTH looks at the aftermath, along with how the Devils plan to respond.
Coaches are expected to defend their players, and that’s what Tortorella did for Brandon Prust after the forward elbowed the head of Devils blueliner Anton Volchenkov. Torts was careful in his denunciation of the opposition, but he made it clear that his rivals were guilty of the same offenses: he singled out the Dainius Zubrus elbow on Anton Stralman, and mentioned Zach Parise going airborne on Michael Del Zotto.
Yes, Tortorella did stick up for his player; in the end, the effort was moot. The league suspended Prust for Game 4 and that could take some steam out of the Rangers’ attack. New York will miss Prust’s grit and aggression on Monday night, and this means they will need another of their players to step into that role.
The Devils have a wild card to play: forward Jacob Josefson will draw into the lineup, while Petr Sykora will sit. This will be Josefson’s first ever post-season game in the NHL, and what a night for him to make his playoff debut. He hasn’t played since he broke his wrist on April 3, and only had his first practise with the team on Sunday.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound center and New Jersey’s first-round draft pick in 2009 (20th overall) is rated as “highly-skilled.” Sykora has gone goalless, so Josefson has drawn into the lineup to see if he can help solve the riddle of scoring on Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers goaltender has played lights-out, with two shutouts and two goals allowed in this matchup.
New Jersey has outshot New York in each of the three games in the series, so Devils head coach Peter DeBoer obviously believes the lineup needs a shakeup. Josefson scored two goals in 41 regular-season games before his wrist injury, but DeBoer feels Josefson’s energy and playmaking ability is what his team needs to make a difference on Monday.
The Rangers have a 2-1 edge in games, but the NHL betting line has the Devils leveling the series on Monday night. The futures betting is still on the side of the Rangers; if they can maintain the aggressive physicality they’ve established, and if Henrik Lundqvist can maintain his high standard of play in net, there’s every reason to believe New York can take charge and win the Eastern Conference title.