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"All Geeked-Up for the Deadline..."
Newtown Square, PA • United States • 45 Years Old • Male

Rangers and Devils. Two of the most hated franchises in hockey to many Philadelphia Flyers fans. If the sound of those two names echoing in your ears doesn't excite you as a Flyers fan - then it's over and you might as well keep walking towards the light.

The Flyers are going to be taking on the Rangers in NYC tomorrow night (Thanks Downeaster!) and the Devils at home on Monday. For those non-Flyer fans...imagine your two most bitter rivalries and double it - then you are close to understanding what these two games mean for a Flyers fan. I would place those rivalries up there with the Leafs/Habs, the Battle of Alberta and the ago old struggle of cats vs dogs. The Rangers and Devils hold significant places in the hearts of Philadelphia hockey fans. Let's look at them - not in what we will see this weekend - but as the season starts in a few weeks.

The Rangers:

The boys in blue are, arguably, the class of the Atlantic this year. They picked not one, but two of the major free agents from the UFA tree in Drury and Gomez. The Rangers obtaining those two quality centermen make them deeper and stronger than ever. Yes, they lost Michael Nylander and I truly believe that will hurt when it come to perennial All-Star Jaromir Jagr's mental state. Will he continue to be dominant no matter who passes him the puck? Yes. Did Jagr have a special place in his hockey heart for Nylander - absolutely. Could that void impact his psyche and his game? To be determined. Scott Gomez is a playmaker that, when he gets in sync with that first line, will likely be on track for a career year. Straka - Gomez - Jagr could be scary to watch. I actually rooted for the Flyers to get Gomez at the start of free agency. Marcel Hossa is making a case, however, to take a spot from Straka on the top line of the Rangers...this could bear watching.

Drury is a flat out player. He is well rounded, can score in bunches and is money is clutch situations. For the Rangers to have gotten him to center their second line is just unreal. He would be a #1 center on most any other team. They are very solid through the middle - much like the Flyers of the 80s were with Lindros, Primeau and Hanzus. Drury will likely have Avery on the left and Shannahan on the right wings. That would equate to a potent and gritty line that can bang you as much as score on you.

In goal you have two time Venzina finalist Henrick Lundqvist. He is a stud. End of story. He can singlehandedly steal victory from the jaws of defeat. He reminds me very much of a young Martin Brodeur. If this is anywhere near correct, then the Rangers will be competitive for many years to come. It also means the Vezina will come to New York.

The one question I have with the Rangers is their defense. Can their defense stop enough teams from scoring and take the pressure off of their considerable potent offense to have to score 4 goals a night? If they can, then the Blueshirts should make a run at the Division title. I think Rozival is much better than people think. I think Staal will not only make the team, but also play a significant role this year.

At the end of the day, the Road to the Atlantic title will likely go through New York or Pittsburgh.

The Devils:

When I think of the Devils, I think of one man and one man alone - Martin Brodeur. He has been Judge, Jury and Executioner for the Devils in their dominance over the Atlantic for the past decade. The Division title for the Atlantic has always gone through the Swamp. Heck, Jimmy Hoffa might be buried near where Martin keeps his goal sticks.

The Devils are changing though. Gone are the days of the left wing lock. The Devils do not have those players anymore. Jamie Langenbrunner and Cam Jannsen hurt. Scott Gomez, their best playmaker, is gone. Brian Rafalski, best defenseman, is gone. The fact that Gomez went up I-95 to the Blueshirts makes it hurt even worse. Travis Zajac will likely replace Gomez on the first line and have to somehow improve his game to keep Patric Elias and Brian Gointa effective. Paul Martin will have to try to replace Rafalski's 55 points and powerplay prowess as he plies his trade in Detroit. That is a tall task. With Jamie Langenbrunner and Cam Jannsen both out for quite some time, the second and fourth line RW jobs are up for grabs. Yesterday, Colin White was hit in the eye with a puck and, reportedly, suffered potentially serious eye lacerations.

Yes things are not what they once were in the swamp, but they still have #30 between the pipes. As long as Martin Brodeur skates out onto the ice, the Devils have a chance to win. He is that good and has been that good for, what seems, forever. Last year the Devils worked Brodeur like a dog and he got the ultimate prize of a Vezina and the record for most wins in a regular season - formerly held by Bernie Parent. (Bernie has the record in my book). There is no doubt that Brodeur is the cornerstone of that franchise and will be until he decides to hang up his well decorated skates.

With all of this change occurring, a few questions emerge. Can the Devils score enough goals to take the pressure off of Brodeur so he won't have to play 78 games and nearly 4,700 minutes of ice time? Can the Devils defense play the kind of defense hockey that Brodeur is used to? Can the key losses of Rafalski and Gomez be offset by other, younger players? All good questions that will be answered when the puck drops.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that the Devils now have one of the best coaches in all of hockey in Brent Sutter. His performance with the Canadian National team in the recent Summit Series was nothing short of masterful. He makes the Devils a much scarier team to play against on a nightly basis. Great move by Lou "The Don" Lamorillo. I just hope Lou has the smarts to keep this guy and not fire him like so many of the other Devils' bench bosses.

I am looking forward to this weekend, just for the fact that the names Rangers and Devils are back into our hockey vocabulary. I will reiterate that I think the miraculous revamping of the Flyers roster has placed them in a position to get back to the playoffs. If they do get there, they will have to beat teams, like the Devils and Rangers, within the division. I am excited about their prospects to do just that. Can we drop the puck already?

Thanks for reading.

Filed Under:   Lundqvist   Brodeur   Devils   Rangers   Flyers  
September 21, 2007 11:31 AM ET | Delete
Great blog man! keep it up. Im impressed with the fair analysis of both rivals. it should be fun this year with the rangers, flyers, devils and penguins all able to make the playoffs (sorry isles fans). by the way, you may want to consider changing the color of your text because you can only see it on the black background if highlight the words.
September 21, 2007 11:39 AM ET | Delete
Masterful assessments. Well done.
September 21, 2007 11:40 AM ET | Delete
rags - my background is white...are you sure it is not you? Thanks for the feedback - I really like your work by the way. Thanks for commenting. SYF
September 21, 2007 11:40 AM ET | Delete
Nice job! Glad you did not just bag on the two and gave a non-biased opinion. Your writing is great and I always like to see what you have to say. Keep up the good work !
September 21, 2007 12:02 PM ET | Delete
gotta think straka will be moving this year. as always an excellent piece by the deadest head i know...syf...keep it up
September 21, 2007 12:37 PM ET | Delete
Geek... :) I'm not so sure that the Penguins shouldn't be on this list. I've hated them since they became relevant in the late eighties. In my opinion, twisted as may be, if the Flyer's have any hope of making the playoffs they had better take the season series from the Devils and feast fairly steadily on the rest of the conference. The Rangers could easily sweep the season series like the Penguins did last season. Except for losing Oeullet, the Penguins have gotten nothing but better. They've added more veteran stability with Sykora and Sydor while retaining both Recchi and Roberts for another season. All the kids are a year better and have a round of playoff experience. The unbalanced schedule we're playing this year is one of the main reasons I'm sitting on the fence with the playoff spot so many Flyer's fans feel is guaranteed. There are four playoff spots available for seven teams and one of them is going to a southern division team. Carolina, Tampa, Toronto, Washington, Atlanta and NJ are going to be fighting it out with our guys for those spots. You have to look at that list and find three teams you think the Flyer's are better than. That's why I think the eight games against the Devils are key to the Flyer's season.
September 21, 2007 12:43 PM ET | Delete
Mayor - nicely done. I agree that the Pens are much stronger and deeper than they were AND more talented - if that is possible. I also agree that beating the Devils and Isles and socking away points will be necessary to then play the rangers and pens and hope for as good of a split as you can get. Thanks for commenting again! SYF
September 21, 2007 12:56 PM ET | Delete
Flyers play the Rangers tomorrow night in MSG.Rangers play the Devils tonight.
September 21, 2007 1:00 PM ET | Delete
damn - thanks Downeaster....my bad. Will change it. Thanks for being alert cause I sure was not. SYF
September 21, 2007 1:58 PM ET | Delete
Another good read SYF. Thanks!
September 21, 2007 2:14 PM ET | Delete
Good as always.
September 21, 2007 5:59 PM ET | Delete
Nice thoughts. I don't believe the Rangers Defense is up to par. Gomez is basically a wash with Nylander. Drury is a great clutch player. Maybe he'll show Jagr what it means to step it up in the playoffs.
September 22, 2007 7:39 AM ET | Delete
Dude, excellent work. Every blog from you is a great read.
September 22, 2007 9:51 AM ET | Delete
Thanks B.D. - but know you are my dark side of the force writing sherpa/sensai. Thanks for your comment BD - it means a lot. SYF
September 22, 2007 3:00 PM ET | Delete
In your list of rivals, you forgot the Battle of Ontario, SYF. The rivalry is even greater when you hate just one team!
September 23, 2007 12:22 PM ET | Delete
Good analysis. Yeah I hate both those teams the devils became easier to hate when they no longer looked like christmas trees too.
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