It took four games but the Eastern Conference finals between the Rangers and Devils has officially grown chippy. The players are taking dirty shots at one another and even the head coaches are going at it. That's playoff hockey, New York style.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to revisit the
Hudson River Rivalry with this much on the line as the two teams have
experienced different levels of success over the last decade. With both teams
being members of the Northeast Division, they see plenty of each other in the
regular season, but you’d have to go all the way back to 1994 to revisit the
last time these two New York neighbors played in the Eastern Conference finals.
New York has won four of the previous five postseason
meetings between the teams and they’ve won 54% of the overall meetings in their
history with New Jersey.
The Good Years:
1994 & 1995
If you’re a fan of this series, it doesn’t get much
better than 1994 and 1995.
Starting with 1994, the two rivals met in the Eastern
Conference finals in what was one of the best playoff series we’ve ever seen.
The Rangers were 6-0 against the Devils in the regular season and appeared to
be in good shape to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
Game 1 was a classic as the Devils upended the Rangers in
double-overtime thanks to Stephane Richer’s goal. In Game 2, the Rangers
quickly bounced back with a 4-0 win. Game 3 was another double-overtime classic, but this time the Rangers prevailed thanks to Stephane Matteau. The series
shifted from there as the Devils won Games 4 and 5 rather easily to go up 3-2
before we witnessed one of hockey’s all-time legendary moments: Mark Messier’s
With their backs up against the wall, the Rangers
captain guaranteed a win. Not only did he talk the talk, he walked the walk
with a hat trick to will his team to the win. As for Game 7, how else could it
finish without more wild hysterics?
The Rangers appeared to be ready to advance to the finals
but Valeri Zelepukin kept the champagne on ice as he scored with 7.7 seconds
remaining to tie the game. Eventually, the Rangers persevered to another
double-overtime win – once again, thanks to Stephan Matteau. The Rangers would
go on to win the Stanley Cup.
In 1995, the two teams didn’t meet in the playoffs but it
was clearly visible that the Devils had a chip on their shoulder. Still stung
by the Rangers loss in the previous season, the Devils became the only team to
win the Stanley Cup without having home ice advantage in any of the four rounds
of the playoffs.
Now, each side of the Hudson River had tasted the
Rangers Too Great
1997 would be the last time the two teams met in the
postseason until 2006. While the previous meetings in the
1990’s were tenacious and hard-fought, 1997 was a cool breeze for the
Stocked with Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, the Rangers
rolled in five games. While they had plenty of firepower, the Devils were
impotent, scoring just five goals in the entire series.
Rivalry Renewed…Sort Of
The Rangers and Devils didn't meet in the playoffs
between 1998 and 2006, and when they got back to it, there just wasn’t the same
level of competitiveness. The Devils won four straight in the 2006 Eastern
Conference quarterfinals, and the Rangers won in five in the 2008 Eastern
The biggest story of those two meetings was when Rangers
pest Sean Avery used his hand to block the vision of Devils goaltender Martin
Brodeur, which wasn’t deemed illegal but was clearly a dirty play.
2012: Even Steven
The 2012 rivalry has rekindled the memories of 1994 as
the two teams are back in the Eastern Conference finals. More importantly, the
games have been very close, and the series has been highly contested – unlike
some of the more recent meetings.
now down to a best-of-three
and many fans believe it’s on a collision course
for Game 7. If that’s the case, does it get any sweeter than Rangers, Devils
and a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden?