Only twice in NHL history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series. Tonight, the New York Rangers will try to put the New Jersey Devils in a position to make history. For the Devils, even winning one game against the Blueshirts seems to be a large task, as they have only accomplished that one time in the 10 matchups this season. If the Rangers win tonight, the Devils' season will be over for all intents and purposes, and the 2006 sweep of the Rangers will be avenged.
The first two games at Prudential Square Garden were very even, not only in fan attendence but in gameplay as well. The shots in the series are 58-54 slightly in favor of the Rangers and the scoring chances have been close to if not even throughout the first two games. However, what separates the Rangers from the Devils are two things: Goaltending and Capitalizing.
Throughout the entire season, young Henrik Lundqvist has topped the legendary Martin Broduer. He has elevated his game when facing the Devils, and although they do not have elite scorers, Lundqvist has made outstanding saves when he has had to. Perhaps it is a motivation for him to be staring at Broduer on the other end of the rink or maybe its just a coincidence, but it is indisputable that the Rangers goalie has brought his "A' game against the Devils and to the first round of the playoffs. He is tied with Marty Turco for the lead in playoff GAA and has the highest save percentage of any backstop in the playoffs. Do not doubt the validity of those stats, as the Devils have done anything and everything to beat Lundqvist. Deflections, screened shots and cross-crease slam dunk plays have all been turned away by Lundqvist and he has continued to be the puzzle that the Devils can not crack. If he continues his stellar play tonight at the Garden, Madison Square Garden that is, than the Devils may very be forced to make history or die.
The biggest virtue of the Rangers since the All Star Break has been their ability to win games even when they are down or tied. They have seemed to always be able to score the important goal late in the third period. They have done what successful teams do: they have found ways to win. This trait has been expressed most against the Devils. Of the 10 games these two teams played this season, 9 of them went into the third period with no team leading by more than 1 goal. The Rangers won 8 of those 9 games. They have scored that winning goal and they have found that winning touch. Whether it be Chris Drury or Brendan Shanahan, one Ranger has always been Mr. Clutch in those third periods, or at least in 8 out of 9. It is something they did not have last year and that opponents seemed to have against the Rangers (see Drury with 7.7 seconds left). However, this season the Rangers have played those tight games with a quiet confidence and success to back it up.
In all likelihood, tonight's game will be close. The goalies will be tested once again. And if all goes as planned, the Rangers will capitalize and will be one step closer to a parade of brooms.