rangers devils

Series at a glance: New York-New Jersey Eastern Conference finals preview

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Schedule

All times Eastern; *if necessary

Game 1: Monday, May 14, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 2: Wednesday, May 16, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 3: Saturday, May 19, at New Jersey (1 p.m., NBC)
Game 4: Monday, May 21, at New Jersey (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*Game 5: Wednesday, May 23, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*Game 6: Friday, May 25, at New Jersey (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*Game 7: Sunday, May 27, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)

Three storylines to follow

1. The rivalry. 

By “rivalry” we mean this, mostly:

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As for individual beefs…

— John Tortorella vs. Peter DeBoer is a good one. Following the March line brawl, DeBoer called Torts a hypocrite. Torts responded by telling DeBoer to shut up.

— Brandon Dubinsky’s got issues with both David Clarkson and Ryan Carter. Just one catch: Dubi missed the entire second round series against Washington with a lower body injury.

— Mike Rupp and Cam Janssen have fought twice this year. So too have Brandon Prust and Eric Boulton. Sadly, it doesn’t look like either will get to the trilogy stage as Janssen and Boulton haven’t played at all this postseason.

— Martin Brodeur’s hatred of the Rangers dates all the way back to the 1992 playoffs vs. New York:

“I was part of the whole seven games,” Brodeur said. “I was on the bench. I was in the locker room. I got to hate the Rangers early on, got the taste of it. And all (this) year with what happened and all the new faces, we’ve got a little bit of that feeling.”

— And finally…if you’re talking the Devils-Rangers playoff rivalry, you have to mention this:

2. R&R.

The Devils haven’t played since Tuesday — they’ll have six full days off before beginning the series. That’s a far cry from the Rangers, who will have less than 48 hours to recover from their grueling seven game series against Washington (that, including all the overtime, was more like an eight-gamer.)

Also worth noting: New York has played 14 games in its first two series. Since the NHL playoffs expanded beyond two rounds in 1968, no team has won the Stanley Cup after playing the maximum 14 games in the opening rounds.

3. The goalies.

As two of the longest-tenured starters in the East, Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist have developed a friendly rivalry with one another. (The fact they play across the Hudson River from each other doesn’t hurt, either.) Individually, both have plenty at stake.

For Lundqvist, this is the crowning achievement of his career — while he’s enjoyed plenty of regular season success, he’s never played in a conference final.

For Brodeur, it could be his last kick at the can — he just turned 40 last week and his six-year, $31.2 million contract expires on July 1.

Records (reg. season)

No. 1 New York: 51-24-7, 109 points (1st in Atlantic) | No. 6 New Jersey: 48-28-6, 102 points (4th in Atlantic).

Leading playoff scorers

New York: Brad Richards (6G-5A-11PTS) | New Jersey: Ilya Kovalchuk (5G-7A-12PTS)

Starting goalies

New York: Henrik Lundqvist (7-6, 1.73 GAA) | Washington: Martin Brodeur (8-3, 2.05 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series tied 3-3

Dec. 20: New York 4, at New Jersey 1
Jan. 31: at New Jersey 4, New York 3, SO
Feb. 7: New Jersey 1, at New York 0
Feb. 27: at New York 2, New Jersey 0
Mar. 6: at New Jersey 4, New York 1
Mar. 19: at New York 4, New Jersey 2

Playoff history

New York leads 4-1

1992: New York 4-3 (Patrick Division semis)
1994: New York 4-3 (Eastern Conference finals)
1997: New York 4-1 (Eastern Conference semis)
2006: New Jersey 4-0 (Eastern Conference quarters)
2008: New York 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarters)

2012 playoffs

New York: Def. Ottawa 4-3 (EC quarters), Def. Washington 4-3 (EC semis) | New Jersey: Def. Florida 4-3 (EC quarters), Def. Philadelphia 4-1 (EC semis)

2011 playoffs

New York: Lost to Washington 4-1 (EC quarters) | New Jersey: Did not qualify.

Stanley Cups

New York: Four (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994) | New Jersey: Three (1995, 2000, 2003)

Injuries

New York: Brandon Dubinsky (foot), Steve Eminger (ankle), Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Michael Sauer (concussion) | New Jersey: Jacob Josefson (wrist), Henrik Tallinder (leg)

Poll

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.