Who Would the Devils Rather Play in the Eastern Conference Finals?

The New Jersey Devils have been off since Wednesday, when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Now, tonight’s other semifinal Game 7 will decide if they will take on the New York Rangers or the Washington Capitals in their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in nearly 10 years. 

While the Devils have been preparing to face both of these opponents, there is no doubt they might have a preference as to who they’d rather square off against.

Let’s break down how these two teams have fared in the postseason, both in the present and in recent history, and see who would be the most preferred match, or if there is one at all.


Playoff History

The Devils are 1-4 all-time against the Rangers in playoff meetings. Most notably, they lost to the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals, a season in which New York won its first Stanley Cup in 42 years.

New Jersey’s lone playoff win against the Rangers came in the 2006 quarterfinals, when it swept the Blueshirts. In 2008, the Rangers won in five games, and during that series, the infamous Sean Avery rule came about. Avery screened Martin Brodeur by standing in front of him and waving his stick around, and the NHL used the incident to implement a rule that any player committing a similar action would receive an unsportsmanlike penalty.

The Capitals and Devils have only met twice in postseason history, with each team taking one series win. The Devils won the Patrick Division Finals in seven games in 1988, and the Caps claimed the division finals in 1990 in six games. Therefore, these matchups really have no bearing on what’s going on today.

Preferred Matchup: Capitals


2011-12 Regular Season

The Devils went 3-3 against the Rangers this season. Both teams each had a shutout during the series. These matchups highlight the Devils’ calendar, as the two teams have been fierce rivals for several years.

Brandon Dubinsky Rangers
The Rangers and Devils have always been fierce rivals, and this will carry over to a possible conference finals. (Icon SMI)

New Jersey fared better against the Caps, going 3-1 against them this season. This includes a 5-0 shutout victory back in March. The squads also split a home-and-home in November.

Preferred Matchup: Capitals


Home-Ice Advantage

In the regular season, the Devils were 24th in the NHL with an average attendance of 15,396 fans per game. Both the Capitals (18,506 fans per game, 12th in NHL) and Rangers (18,191 fans, 14th) brought in more fans.

However, the Devils have already sold out all of their possible home games in the conference finals. They would get home ice if they end up facing the Caps, the first time they had such an advantage these playoffs. In addition, they are 4-1 at home so far in the postseason.

New Jersey would not have home ice if it ended up facing the Rangers. However, it would have very little travel time, and this would not affect its performance, keeping it fresh in between trips to New York City and Newark.

Preferred Matchup: No preference


Team Statistics

Here is how the Devils stack up to their potential opponents in overall team statistics in the postseason:


Devils: 3.00 goals per game (third in NHL)

Rangers: 2.08 goals per game (11th)

Capitals: 2.15 goals per game (ninth)

Edge: Devils over both Caps and Rangers



Devils: 2.33 goals against per game (eighth)

Rangers: 1.92 goals against (third)

Caps: 2.15 goals against (sixth)

Edge: Rangers and Caps over the Devils


Power Play

Devils: 20.9 percent (fourth)

Rangers: 16.4 percent (eighth)

Caps: 18.4 percent (fifth)

Edge: Devils over Caps and Rangers


Penalty Kill

Devils: 73.9 percent (13th)

Rangers: 82.2 percent (10th)

Capitals: 87 percent (sixth)

Edge: Rangers and Caps over Devils

The Devils hold two advantages in team categories over their opponents. Although the Devils had the regular season edge over the Caps, the Caps have been on pace with them this postseason in the first two rounds.

Preferred Matchup: No preference


Goaltending Matchup

New Jersey still has Martin Brodeur going strong in goal. Brodeur has been in 17 playoff runs with the Devils and has won three Stanley Cups while also going to the 2001 finals, where the Devils lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur's playoff experience could give New Jersey an advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals, regardless of opponent. (Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE)

This postseason, Brodeur is first in the NHL in wins with a record of 8-3-1. He is also 10th with a .920 save percentage and eighth with a 2.05 GAA.

Henrik Lundqvist has been carrying the load for the Rangers. He is making his seventh postseason appearance, but has never been beyond the second round. However, he has been one of the league’s strongest goalies so far these playoffs. He sits fourth in the league with seven wins (7-6 record) and is fourth in save percentage (.936) and third in goals against average (1.73).

The Capitals have rookie Braden Holtby in goal after Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth went down to injuries. Holtby has been remarkable, also posting seven wins for a 7-6 record overall. His .935 save percentage is fifth, while his 1.95 GAA is sixth. He previously played in the Calder Cup Playoffs for the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

While the Devils would prefer to see rookie Holtby, as he cannot match Brodeur’s experience, Lundqvist and Holtby have been evenly matched, and neither will be easy to solve.

Preferred Matchup: No preference


Previous Playoff Rounds

The Devils went to seven games with an arguably less talented Florida Panthers team in the conference quarterfinals before beating the Flyers in five games. New Jersey has been in three overtime games this postseason and is 3-0 in them, including winning in double overtime in Game 7 with Florida.

Both the Rangers and the Caps will be playing in their second Game 7 of the playoffs tonight. The Rangers have played in four overtime games and are 2-2, having gone to three overtimes against the Caps.

The Capitals have been in five overtime games so far, which includes three extra-frame games against the Boston Bruins in the first round. They are 2-3 in those games, including losing the triple-overtime marathon to the Rangers.

Both teams may be tired because of the gaps in the schedule. By the time the conference finals start on Monday, the Caps have the potential to be the most worn out. The fact that they haven’t been able to get the job done in overtime could be enticing to the Devils.

Preferred Matchup: Capitals


Final Analysis

Although it looks like the Devils would rather play the Capitals, as they have generally fared better against them, it won’t be easy no matter who wins tonight’s Game 7. The Rangers have been dominant all regular season, but have certainly seen their share of problems in the playoffs. But with that said, they have a confident goalie in Lundqvist and young stars such as Chris Krieder making their mark.

The Capitals struggled most of the regular season and gained heat going into the playoffs. Alexander Ovechkin could very well lead the Caps to their first Stanley Cup, and Holtby has surprised the league with his rookie poise. They have given the Rangers fits in recent postseason runs, and they could skate away with another series win over the Blueshirts. This could give them confidence heading into a possible series with the Devils.

The Devils might also want a Rangers series, as it looks good for TV storylines and gate revenue. The trash talk and physical play would be unmatched, and both teams would be fired up.

Either way, the Devils are ready and eager to continue making their postseason marks.