For all of the talk that surrounded this game as a potential repeat of the 1994 series, none of it would come to fruition.
The Rangers had a great season. They won more games than any other team in the Eastern Conference. For the first time in years, they had an established identity and a coach they could believe in. It was supposed to be their year.
Meanwhile, Peter DeBoer's Devils had a different outcome in mind.
The storyline leading up to this game was largely viewed through the Ranger' lens: Could they repeat what Mark Messier did in 1994? Is it time for "King Henrik" to finally get his hardware?
For one reason or another, the Devils eluded the national spotlight in Spurs-like fashion, who, despite losing to the Rangers in that fateful 1994 series, went on to win three more Stanley Cups, and never quite got the recognition they deserved.
As it turns out, this game was not about the Rangers' road back to glory. It was about the new-age Devils making their own mark in league history—with the help of a 40-year-old goaltender, the only remaining player from the 1994 series, who was playing like he was half his age.
The truth is, for as juicy as the storyline the Rangers were riding into this game, the Devils' locker room was filled with personal stories just as, if not more enticing than, their Ranger counterparts. After all, the Devils were supposed to be the underdogs in this series.
Where was the coverage of Zach Parise, the young captain who can cement himself in Devils' history with a Stanley Cup victory (and returning to the team next season)? How about Ilya Kovalchuk, who was once known for being a "one-dimensional" player during his time in Atlanta, finally getting his chance to play on the game's biggest stage?
How about the world's most underrated sports executive, Lou Lamoriello, who made the necessary trade for Kovalchuk and moved up in the draft for Zach Parise? Or Peter DeBoer, a law school graduate who you would pass in the supermarket without a second thought, rising through the coaching ranks to bring the Devils back to their former glory?
Of course, the man with the most on the line for the Devils in this series was Martin Brodeur, who was phenomenal in Game 6. For all of his accomplishments, Brodeur never quite got the recognition he deserved for being one of the greatest athletes of this generation, even in his own town.
Perhaps his lack of recognition was because he never could get past the Rangers in the playoffs. Despite the fact that the Devils have been immensely more successful than the Rangers since 1994, they would never truly usurp the Rangers' rule of the market until they beat them in the postseason.
After the game, it was evident that the lack of credit he and his franchise was given certainly bothered him a bit:
Brodeur cont: 'So it’s now it’s at least 1-1. I don’t know if they’re going to give us credit, but it’s 1-1.'— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) May 26, 2012
Brodeur also understood the unwarranted "big-brother syndrome" that Devils fans have endured. As he said after the game (via Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice):
But, I think winning against them in the big stage, not just for me, but for the fans of New Jersey, people that are supporting us, and always take a second seat to these guy for whatever reason, now they’ve got to be pretty happy going to work and going to school and doing all their things that they do. I know from some of the messages I got throughout this playoff series we made a lot o f people real happy right now by beating them.
Still, there is work to be done by the New Jersey Devils if they are not to waste their incredible efforts. But the nightmares of 1994 can begin to recede and be replaced by new memories from the 2012 campaign.
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