Now that the New Jersey Devils have booked a date in the Eastern Conference finals, they’ll be waiting to see if they’ll be facing the top-seeded New York Rangers or eighth-seeded Washington Capitals. Fortunately for the Devils, they’ve done pretty well against both teams during the regular season.
NHL.com’s Brian Compton broke down how the Devils fared against both teams and, unsurprisingly, they fared a bit better against the Capitals.
The Devils experienced more success against the Capitals than the Rangers during the regular season. New Jersey went 3-1-0 (two of those wins came via the shootout), while taking three of six meetings from the Rangers.
Taking two shootout wins into account basically means those games were draws. With how the Capitals have played things tight to the vest in the playoffs, more close games would almost certainly be the norm should the Devils draw Washington. Taking half of their meetings against the Rangers is solid work against the conference’s top team.
The Devils probably aren’t rooting to see one team over the other but rather to have the series go seven games and multiple overtimes to maximize the amount of rest they get before the next round. Should the Capitals wind up taking the series, however, New Jersey will have home ice. Maybe they do have rooting interest after all.
Playoff beards. Avoiding conference championship trophies. Lying about injuries. Another of the oldest playoff traditions is when teams and players start disclosing injuries suffered throughout the playoffs. The latest to announce a playoff injury is Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos. Apparently, he’d been dealing with a left shoulder problem for the conference semifinals against the Washington Capitals and the conference finals against the Boston Bruins.
From the Tampa Tribune:
Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos never did catch fire the way he or his team hoped he would during the playoffs. Now we know one of the reasons why. Though he denied it was a hindrance to him, Stamkos admitted Monday that he spent the playoffs playing through a nagging left shoulder injury.
“I was a little banged up in the Pittsburgh series, but you know, it wasn’t anything that I think really affected my play,” Stamkos said. “When the game started, you’re running on adrenalin and stuff and I felt pretty good for the most part. I feel like I got better and better as the playoffs went on.”
Despite suffering an injury in the first round, Stamkos still managed 6 goals and 7 assists in 18 games. Even though he had 45 goals this season and 91 points, there were those who thought he was a bit of a disappointment during the playoffs. Despite people openly questioning Stamkos’ play, he still was able to score two goals in the 4-game sweep against the Capitals and another two goals against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Four goals aren’t bad on their own—but it’s a little more impressive after finding out he was playing through a shoulder injury.
Then again, no one would have questioned his toughness after this:
The next step for Stamkos and the Lightning is to agree on a contract for next season. Obviously, the restricted free agent will command a serious payday after scoring 96 goals over the past two seasons. Tampa GM Steve Yzerman has made no secret that he plans on getting a deal done with Stamkos’ agent Don Meehan, but it’s anyone’s guess when that will come to fruition. In the meantime, Stamkos has proven that he’ll be able to play through (multiple) injuries when the games matter most. ‘
Not a bad start to the guy’s career, eh?