After looking dead in games one and two, the Devils won four of the next five games to advance to the second round while sending the Rangers packing.
What a comeback. Many people, myself included, declared the Devils dead after the first two games of this series. However the Devils themselves never gave up, never doubted themselves, and proved to be the FAR better team. Especially in game seven. The Rangers never stood a chance in game seven. The Devils pretty much dominated from the drop of the puck despite taking three penalties in the first period alone. Akira Schmid was incredible when he had to be and the Devils just out skated the Rangers all game long on their way to a 4-0 win.
The eventual game winning goal, a shorthanded goal scored by Michael McLeod and created by Ondrej Palat, showed just how much more the Devils wanted this game than the Rangers did. Palat outworked Fox and Kreider to win the puck, and get the pass off to McLeod. McLeod finished perfectly by dragging the puck around Shesterkin and sliding it into the open net. The Devils had been dominating the game prior to this goal, but this goal really showed just how much more the Devils wanted it than the Rangers did. To outwork two highly killed Rangers, while shorthanded, and take the lead, was massive as the home crowd blew the roof off the building and the Devils momentum only grew from there. The Devils were winning races to loose pucks and winning board battles all night long and never let the Rangers establish any real sustained pressure in the Devils zone.
John Marino, a defensive defenseman, dangled the puck through just about every Ranger defenseman before Tomas Tatar picked up the loose puck and flipped it over a sprawled Shesterkin to give the Devils a two goal lead. Every single Devils player was on their best game tonight and they got the result they deserved. The Devils were able to limit most of the Rangers 31 shots to outside of the slot, a vast improvement from game six where the Devils developed a nasty habit of leaving snipers wide open in the slot. On the contrary, the Devils basically owned the middle of the offensive zone in front of Shesterkin. The only reason the Devils did not run away with this game earlier is because Shesterkin a world class goalie. But speaking of world class goalies, Akira Schmid might win the Conn Smythe trophy….
Four wins and one loss, two shutouts, including in game 7, a .951 save percentage. Akira Schmid turned this series around and with him on a roll like this, its tough to picture the Devils losing a series. Especially when you consider the fact that the Devils next opponent, the Hurricanes, don’t have a goalie anywhere near as good as Shesterkin was or as good as Schmid has been, the Devils have a big advantage in the next series. A hot goalie can take you far in the playoffs and Akira Schmid is absolutely on fire right now. Like I said earlier, he has to be an early Conn Smythe favorite right now.
Four wins down, 12 to go. The Devils are 25% of the way to hoisting the fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history. I picked the Devils to beat the Rangers in six games before the series started and now I’m picking the Devils to beat Carolina in five games in the next series. This run is just getting started and it continues on Wednesday night! Let’s Go Devils! Follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth.