Flyers Devils breezed through their second round matchup in five games, our attention immediately turned to the Caps/Rangers series. The consensus was that we'd be better off facing Washington--if not for matchup reasons, then at least for home ice. It would have brought us all a little joy to see Mr. Tortorella hit Ridgewood Country Club for a few rounds of golf. Mostly, we just wanted the series to go seven hard games. Most people leaned in that direction. I leaned in that direction. While a few of us wanted the Rangers, most of us wanted the outcome that would give us a slightly better chance.
Fair play. If we win the Cup, it won't just be about who we beat to get there. Above all else, it will be about the fact that we got there at all.
But a win over the Rangers would be memorable. Not just because they are our rivals, but because of the parallels with 1994.
18 years ago, the Devils went on a crazy run, backstopped by their Calder-winning goaltender. Not crazy as in improbable. Crazy as in 4OT against the Sabres. Crazy as in overcoming a 2-0 deficit against the Bruins. A goalie controversy between Brodeur and Terreri. Rangers leveling the ECF after they were left for dead. Devils tying Game 7 after they were left for dead. And we all know what happened next.
At the time, it was the worst agony one can imagine within the irrational context of sports fandom. A year later, we got our own Cup. Nine years later, we had enough names on the Cup to flirt with the D-word. Matteau had turned into a distant memory, nonwithstanding the 5 billion highlights we've all had to endure of that season. Messier is a distant memory. But it still sticks that little bit. It's not a gaping wound so much as it's just a missed opportunity.
The winner of the 1994 Calder Trophy is now the only player left from that series. And he is in the exact same situation as 1994. Get to the ECF. Meet the favored Rangers. Split on the road. Split at home. Win on the road. Game 6 at home. Winner gets a tantalizing matchup against a lower-seeded west coast opponent--one which has never won a Cup in its history. Brodeur has won everything there is to win besides the President's Trophy and the IIHF World Championship. Now, in possibly his last chance to win a Cup, his career has come full-circle. Most fans wanted the Caps. I wanted the Caps. He wanted the Rangers. Oh yes, he wanted the Rangers. Now he has a chance to correct perhaps the biggest defeat of his career.
As fans, we ought to savor this series. A conference final against an archrival is as tense as it gets--and it obviously doesn't happen every day. If you were to pick 2 teams out of a hat containing all 15 EC teams, the odds of picking Devils and Rangers is 1-in-105. Obviously, conference finalists aren't determined by pure randomness, but it does give us an idea of how rare this opportunity is. We may never see anything like this ever again. Beating the Rangers in Round 3, and then skating the Cup in Round 4? Sure we've won three already, but if we win it this year, then we'll never see anything like it again. Shoot, we even beat our #2 rivals in round 2. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event here.
Get ready. Hide yo kids. Hide you wives. Hide yo kids' wives.