Eastern Conference Finals: Why Devils Have Edge in Coaching vs. Rangers
As the Rangers rolled through the 2011-2012 season with relative ease, their coach, John Tortorella, became a popular topic of New York hockey writers.
To his credit, he did change the culture of the Rangers, who spend the last decade trying "get rich quick" schemes with big signings of proven veterans, many of them Devils leftovers from playoff runs.
Now, the Rangers are a new club. Players sacrifice their bodies in blocking shots, they play a physical style and Tortorella's press conferences are incredibly concise.
However, even though the series is tied, the talk is about what is wrong with the Rangers, not what is going right for Peter DeBoer's Devils.
When Lou Lamoriello hired DeBoer, it certainly raised a lot of eyebrows. After being fired by the Panthers for failing to reach the playoffs, he was hardly considered to be highly sought-after.
Nonetheless, DeBoer changed the Devils' Old Testament of defense-first, offense-be-damned philosophy. Even under the new post-lockout rules, the Devils were resistant to adapt to the new-age hockey, until DeBoer finally pushed the right buttons to get the Devils back into position to compete for a Stanley Cup.
The Devils are now a more balanced team, still playing quality defense while making the most out of their superior offensive talent.
Throughout the playoffs, DeBoer has been masterful in his roster moves. Whether it is putting Adam Larsson in the starting lineup to score arguably the most important goal in the Flyers' series or shuffling the lines prior to Game 4 against the Rangers, DeBoer has pushed the right buttons at the right time to have his team poised to upset the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
He has gotten production out of his stars, like Ilya Kovalchuck and Zach Parise, while also getting the most out of his fourth line, which has been almost as productive as the first two lines: The combination of Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta has yielded six goals and a plus-nine rating in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, while DeBoer must be pleased with the play of his goaltender, John Tortorella's team may have already been eliminated if he did not have the best goaltender in the world between the pipes.
The Rangers, like the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, have tried to regain momentum by provoking the Devils to get into fights and retaliating. But DeBoer's squad has refused to give in and continue to play whistle-to-whistle.
That does not mean that DeBoer is not willing to stick up for his players; he clearly had an issue with Mike Rupp shoving Brodeur after receiving a penalty and confronted Tortorella for it. This shows that while the Devils are not interested in getting too emotional, their coach recognizes what is happening on the ice and will stand up for his players.
The Devils also have Larry Robinson, who has a more impressive resume than either of the head coaches, at DeBoer's side to provide insight and wisdom only known by a man who has won several Stanley Cups—both as a player and as a coach.
This series may very well go down to seven games and both teams are deserving of a chance to play for the Stanley Cup, but the Devils will play the remainder of this series knowing that they have the edge in coaching.
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