NEWARK, N.J. – The Devils don’t need to look far to find the positives and negatives of lengthy waits in the post-season.
New Jersey, after all, needed seven games to defeat Florida in the first round, all while Philadelphia—the Devils’ second-round opponent—waited six days to meet New Jersey in Round 2.
It didn’t work out so well for the Flyers. The Devils, after dominating stretches of play in a Game 1 overtime loss to Philadelphia, won four straight games, bounced the well-rested Flyers right out of the tournament, and punched a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2003.
They did all that with just two days in between the finale vs. the Panthers, and the opener vs. the Flyers.
So now, it’s on them to make the most of a break without letting it bog them down. New Jersey last played on Tuesday, and won’t play Game 1 of Round 3 until Monday night against the Rangers.
New York outlasted Washington, 2-1, on Saturday night in Game 7 to set up the sixth post-season meeting between these two rivals. The Rangers have won four of the previous series.
“I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much rest this time of year,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We have to stay sharp. We know that’s our job to manage our schedule, and our days off, to be ready for Game 1.
“That’s on the staff to treat that properly.”
In his first post-season, DeBoer is 8-4 headed into the conference finals, and has managed his lines and his personnel decisions quite well. Across those 12 games, in looking for a spark, he called upon rookie defenceman Adam Larsson to get out of the press box and onto the ice. And the 19-year-old first-round draft pick delivered with a goal in his debut game vs. Philadelphia.
DeBoer also pulled veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur in Game 3 vs. Florida. A game later, Brodeur responded with a shutout.
“We have to manage our rest and our workload,” Brodeur said. “It’s pretty simple. It’s on ourselves, mentally and physically, to make sure we’re ready to go.”
They were ready against the Flyers. In fact, dating back to Game 6 against Florida, when New Jersey trailed in that series, 3-2, the Devils have won six of their last seven games.
“We’re very fortunate to be in this position,” Brodeur said. “This is a little luxury that we have. And we just have to make sure we make the best of it.”
Just don’t expect any details of what they did during this respite, on or off the ice. When asked, they responded in generalities.
“It’s been fine. It’s been OK,” New Jersey forward Dainius Zubrus said. “We’ve just tried to use it to our advantage.”
“I’ve tried to do my homework,” he said. “But for us, it’s about doing what we do, and taking care of ourselves. That’s how we can be successful.”
New Jersey will be making its seventh trip to the conference finals. They have won their last four trips to this round (1995, 2000, 2001, and 2003). They went on to win the Stanley Cup in all of those years except 2001.