The Devils record against the Rangers dating back to the beginning of the 2007-08 season (not counting postseason) runs 4-11. Forget overtime losses in this case, a loss is a loss. Especially against the Rangers, arguably the Devils biggest rival.
Even those four wins they've been lucky enough to get didn't come easily. Every game was a battle.
Thursday night, New Jersey will make their first visit of this young season to Madison Square Garden to take on these same Rangers. The Rangers are off to a fast 7-2 start, while New Jersey is currently 4-3, certainly acceptable after starting off 0-2.
I concocted five ways the Devils can leave MSG with a win tomorrow night:
Marty, be Marty
Those three wins against the Rangers? All three came with backup Scott Clemmensen in net due to Brodeur's elbow injury. All three losses came with Brodeur in the crease, however. The Rangers either have Marty figured out, or Brodeur's having some psychological/confidence issues with playing the Rangers. Unfortunately, I think it's a combination of the two. With Lundqvist always coming with his "A" game against the Devs, it's imperative that Brodeur plays like he did Saturday against Carolina.
Power Play Improvement
These Devils-Rangers games tend to get pretty physical, and recently there's been a lot of penalties called in these games by the referees. If the Devils are fortunate enough to have these calls go in their favor, they'd be wise to capitalize on a few of those opportunities. If the Devils lose by one or two goals and go 0-for-5 on the powerplay, we all know where the blame will lie.
Ignore Sean Avery
As hard as it sounds, do it. Paying attention to Avery equals penalties. Penalties equal power plays, and power plays equal goals if you give them enough opportunities. Notice that almost every game where Avery becomes a focal point, the Rangers come out on top. It's not an accident.
Defense, Come Up Big
The Rangers are tied for the league lead in goals scored with 35 through nine games. The defense needs to come out and play defense. In other words, Johnny Oduya better not bring his minus-six to the rink tomorrow, and bring his play that earned him his multi-year contract instead.
Lundqvist always plays big against the Devils, and in front of his home crowd. The Devils best bet, in my humble opinion, is to just throw pucks at the net and hope for something to beat Lundqvist, or at the very least to get some lucky bounces and/or deflections. The way Marty's been playing against the Rangers, I'm thinking it might take four goals to win.
So, there they are. Five things the Devils need to do in order to win tomorrow night. In all honesty, they could probably do two or three of the things and still win somehow. But if they can go out there and do all five, it will be no contest.
The defending Atlantic division champs will show the Rangers who's boss.