The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
DEVILS/RANGERS, GAME 6: DEVILS 3, RANGERS 2 (DEVILS WIN SERIES 4-2)
THN’s TAKE: For the umpteenth time in this 2012 post-season, the New Jersey Devils bent but didn’t bust, riding a roller coaster in front of a frothy home crowd all the way to a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers and 4-2 series win in their Eastern Conference final. And 40-year-old veteran goalie Martin Brodeur showed 30-year-old rival Henrik Lundqvist he had a few tricks still up his sleeves, outplaying the Rangers star when it mattered most.
For the second consecutive game, the Devils broke out to a multi-goal lead, scoring two in the first and looking as if they had the heavily favored Blueshirts on the brink of a blowout. But the Devils sagged in the second frame, allowing the Rangers back in it with listless play that led to them being outshot 13-7 by the visitors. Brodeur didn’t exactly stand on his head – New Jersey’s skaters out-blocked New York’s 15-8 – but he made key saves when necessary and stopped 33 of 35 shots in both regulation time and overtime (which ended when rookie Adam Henrique popped in the series winner at the 1:03 mark).
Lundqvist, meanwhile, stopped 26 of 29 Devils shots and comes up short of a Stanley Cup championship yet again. You can’t blame Lundqvist for the Rangers losing either Game 6 or the series – his defensemen (especially Michael Del Zotto) and forwards (especially Marian Gaborik) were mostly either invisible or visible for all the wrong reasons – but this is his sixth post-season and he has yet to completely establish himself as the type of star goalie who raises his game to new levels as he ascends to games with the highest stakes.
He need only look across the ice at Brodeur to see an example of just such a netminder. The Devils legend doesn’t do it pretty all the time, especially now that he’s in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, but he makes the saves he needs to and he wins. Brodeur got a ton of assistance from throughout the Devils lineup (star winger Ilya Kovalchuk scored, as well as role player Ryan Carter), but the fact he’s back in the Cup final for the fifth time in his storied career says all you need to know about how much he has left.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk – He had some bumps in the road in Game 6, but for Kovalchuk to come through with a goal and two points in more than 20 minutes of ice time – especially given the rumblings he’s playing while far from healthy – is an indication of his growth as a playoff performer and leader. New Jersey will need him to be just as good against a Kings team Kovalchuk nearly signed with in 2010 before choosing to become a Devil.
2. Martin Brodeur – Even after the Game 6 win, Brodeur’s stats (including a 2.41 goals-against average and .908 save percentage) weren’t anything to brag about, but the fact New Jersey continues to play an aggressive forecheck game shows his teammates continue to believe in his abilities. The guy just wins – something you should remember when people point out how overmatched he is against Kings counterpart Jonathan Quick on paper.
3. Ryan McDonagh – The Rangers blueliner played a game-high 28:03 and had two assists, four hits and a pair of blocked shots in a losing cause. If there is any consolation for Blueshirts fans, it’s that they’ve got a budding star on the back end who won’t be 23 until June 13.
The Black Hole: To call Marian Gaborik a phantom not only in Game 6, but in much of the post-season, is an affront to the spirit world. The massively compensated right winger was a complete non-entity yet again, going pointless in more than 23 minutes of ice time. In the entire Eastern final against the Devils, the 30-year-old recorded just a single goal. There is no way that type of performance is worth $7.5 million a season. We’ll see what the Blueshirts choose to do with Gaborik, who has two more years left on his contract. Clearly, though, this is not the second coming of Mark Messier.