The rangers impressively surrendered only 2.22 goals per game in the regular season, and only 1.86 goals per game since the post seaosn began. They did so against an ottawa team that was 4th best in goals per game during the regular season, scoring 2.96. The rangers sterilized the ottawa offense allowing them to score just 1.86 goals per game...pretty impressive. The rangers also reduced the regular season output of the caps (2.66 goals per game, which is slightly better than the devils) to just 2.07 goals per game. In other words, the rangers are a much better on defense and in net than either florida or philly. I don't think anyone could deny that. Given their average performance against the average d and goaltending of the panthers, i think the devils offense is in for a wakeup call. A few days from now, i hope we are listening to nbc's analyst asking where all of the offensive production of the devils has gone.
So here's the bad news. Although they had similar offensive output to the caps during the regular season...they were much better definsively. The devils were 9th in goals againt per game at 2.50, and have lowered that number to 2.33 in the post season despite have played against phillys explosive offense. Couple this with the fact that the rangers have dropped from scoring 2.71 in the regular season to 2.07 goals per game in the post season...and there is reason to believe that the rangers offensive struggles might get worse. The question here is...why has the rangers offense dropped off? and will those factors continue to hurt them during this series? In the ottawa series...its tough to point to a single factor...Losing hagelin off the top line for three games hurt their offense. Getting too emotional hurt their offense. Against the caps...holtby was phenomenal...no doubt about it. Much better than brodeur has looked thus far. The caps also appeared to commit to hunters defensive system more consistently than they had done in the regular season. Everyone (including ovechkin and semin) were blocking shots like crazy. Tough to say who has the better D between the caps and devils, but based on goals against per game during the regular season the devils have the edge. In the post season the caps had the edge, allowing only 2.14 goals per game against the bruins and rangers. So who's better? I would say the devils defense/goaltending will give the rangers offense less trouble than those of washington. Just a hunch.
What does it all mean? Well, i see no reason to fear the offense of the devils. they have their threats...but they arent any better than they were during the regular season, in my opinion. Blueshirt have shown that they can sterilize the devil's offense before...and the rangers are playing some of their best defense of the year this post season. The real question is how effective the rangers offense will be against this devils defense. Brodeur will let up more goals than holtby...but only if the blueshirts are able to get a similar number of shots to the net.
Now I realize i have used just a couple stat categories to talk about the offensive and defensive abilities of these teams...and that doing so is in some ways limiting. But i do think these numbers tell a tale....tonight we'll see how true that tale is! Let's go Rangers!!!