Is this déjà vu from the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals? The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils face off tonight in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals with the Devils looking to advance to their fifth Stanley Cup Final.
This series is playing out eerily similar to a previous playoff matchup between these teams in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. The dates of Games 3-7 from that series are the exact same dates as this season, and this year’s results for those games have gone exactly as they did in 1994.
Rangers vs. Devils
Eastern Conference Finals
The teams once again head to New Jersey for a Game 6, with the Rangers trailing 3-2 and needing a win to avoid elimination.
Don’t forget, it was after New York’s Game 5 loss in 1994 that Mark Messier guaranteed a win in Game 6. The Devils jumped out 2-0 in that game before the Rangers scored four unanswered goals, including a hat trick from Messier. Will the Rangers be able to find that same magic again tonight?
So far there have been no Messier-like guarantees from the Rangers locker room and the team is trying to downplay the comparison while maintaining a similar urgency to win.
"We can't put more pressure on ourselves. We always want to win," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "You always want to play a desperate game. (But) you don't want to go out there and do too much and be too excited. You need to find a good balance emotionally, and just go out there and try to play as well as you can."
Stats To Know
History is not on the Rangers side as they try to rally and advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers have won just two of 18 series all-time in which they trailed 3-2. However, one of those comebacks was in 1994 against the Devils and the other was this postseason against the Ottawa Senators.
There is a good chance that the Blueshirts could force a Game 7, though. Henrik Lundqvist is 3-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and .948 save percentage in games in which his team could have been eliminated this postseason.
The key in this game might just be who lights the lamp first. Starting with Game 7 against Ottawa, the Rangers have won all seven games in which they scored the first goal and lost all six games in which their opponent scored first, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Devils have not suffered any early-game jitters in the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 21-9 in the first period, including 6-1 in this series.
The Devils also should feel confident about their chances tonight with Martin Brodeur, one of the greatest netminders in NHL history, looking for his 111th career playoff win (2nd-most all-time). Since being pulled versus the Florida Panthers in Game 3, Brodeur is 5-1 with a .930 save percentage in six home games.