Round two between New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden is set to take place on Tuesday. The first game between these two heated rivals was back in October in New Jersey, where the Devils shut out the Rangers by a 4-0 score.
Both teams had a rough go of it in October, but things are starting to come around for both teams this month. The Rangers, who at one point in the season were 3-7, are now 9-8. The Devils, who started the year 0-4-3, are now 5-7-5. So as you can see, while neither team is perfect, they are showing signs of improvement and go into their second matchup against each other being better teams.
Like the Devils, the Rangers have prided themselves on their defensive ability for a number of years, and both usually sitting at the bottom of the league in goals scored at season’s end. However, with New York’s new head coach Alain Vigneault preaching an offensive style of play, the Rangers have been starting to generate more offense.
The new system occasionally leads to more goals than expected from a team currently missing their biggest scoring threat in Rick Nash due to a concussion.
The Rangers’ last game was a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers, and it was a game that shouldn’t have been close … even though it was. What I found in that game was that, believe it or not, the Rangers’ offense was not the problem. Instead, it was their defense. Over the past few games, I have noticed the Rangers’ defense playing more and more loosely, but last game was ridiculous.
On numerous occasions, the Panthers’ offense was buzzing in the Rangers’ zone and creating prime scoring opportunities that New York does not usually give up. They were lucky they were playing the Panthers, or they would have lost.
Many will say “hey, a win is a win”, which is true, but my point is that the Rangers’ defense must tighten up fast. They simply cannot play that loosely against a Devils’ team that has surrendered one goal and have scored nine in their last three games. Goals will be hard to come by for the Rangers, no matter if it’s Martin Brodeur or Cory Schneider in net for the Devils.
My guess would be Brodeur because he did not face the Rangers the first time around and is coming off back-to-back shutouts, but whoever is in net has the capability of shutting the Rangers out. Defense needs to be a major priority in this game for the Rangers, and their defenseman and forwards alike have to tighten up their play defensively if they want to beat the Devils and come away with two points.