In the 2012 NHL playoffs, the New York Rangers have fallen into the pattern of not taking advantage of a Game 1 win. The Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed has won the first game in all three playoff rounds, only to have trouble seizing early-round momentum in a series because of a Game 2 loss, the latest coming in the conference final versus the New Jersey Devils.
Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m., NBC) at Prudential Center, New Jersey would like to start its own trend: losing the first game of a series (like it did in the second round), only to knock off its opponent with relative ease. The Rangers have proven to be a bunch that participates -- and is comfortable -- in a lot of close games and for better (and worse) have not allowed the outcome of one game to affect the next. New York alternated wins and losses throughout its second-round series against the Washington Capitals.
The Devils showed in Game 2 that they were the quicker, more desperate team. They won most of the battles along the boards, they were faster to pucks and they continued to cause bad decision making from New York in the defensive end because of their forecheck. With that being said, the Rangers only lost the game by one goal, 3-2. In a rather discouraging effort, the Blueshirts had a chance to still come away with a win. Worrisome is that coach John Tortorella during the in-game interview called his team "slow." The coach needs to get a higher effort level in Game 3 and hope that the wear and tear of the regular season and playoffs -- Saturday will be the 17th game for New York -- isn't taking its toll on his squad. With that being said, more jump from the visitors should be expected in this one, after two days off and an unhappy coach who surely got his point across after the Game 2 loss and in practice.
Home ice has been a welcome site for the Devils, as they've gone 4-1 in the playoffs at Prudential Center. When you boil down the series, the obvious focal point will continue to be Martin Brodeur versus Henrik Lundqvist. It also will be difficult for Tortorella to match the Devils' lines in this one, and removing that advantage has been a noted Achilles' heel for the coach in these playoffs. The Devils have balance, and that could cause an issue for the Rangers, though their shot-blocking and physical defense has played very well for the most part. What the Devils can do, though, is be more disciplined: the Rangers have scored one of their five goals (one was an empty-netter) in this series on five-on-five play.