Five things to watch for in Game 5
Devils waiting for chance to take a run at Lundqvist?
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Linesman Brian Murphy pulls Mike Rupp, of the New York Rangers, away from Martin Brodeur after an altercation in the third period of Game 4 in Newark. (GETTY)
Five things to watch in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final between the Rangers and Devils.
1. De-throning King Henrik
Not content with beating Henrik Lundqvist three times (once more would have been a playoff high against the Rangers' MVP), the Devils might be picking a spot to give Lundqvist at least a snow shower after Michael Rupp's shocking smack of Martin Brodeur in Game 4.
Don't expect anything while the game is close, but a big lead for either team could see some kind of message being sent. The league did not judge Rupp or anyone else involved in Game 4's late melee harshly enough for a suspension, but that doesn't mean Brendan Shanahan won't be keeping watch for retaliation Wednesday night. Brodeur kept his cool when Rupp struck him and it's hard to believe the zoned-in Lundqvist would ever lose a bolt.
2. Cleaning up Broadway
The Rangers' defence simply can't afford a second straight game as sloppy as Monday.
Michael Del Zotto was parked on the bench by coach John Tortorella after he gummed up a couple of plays, but there were some extenuating circumstances. Ryan McDonagh's ill-advised fight with Adam Henrique broke up his effective regular pairing with Dan Girardi and put Del Zotto in a tough spot. And according to reports, the 21-year-old Del Zotto was deeply affected by the death of his grandmother two days before Game 4.
It was a good move by Tortorella to have big swing man Stu Bickel in the lineup once the decision to sit Del Zotto was made, but Bickel's last two games have seen him get too carried away trying to intimidate the Devils.
3. De-valued Euros
To the many overseas tourists wandering Manhattan the past few days, you can add a few European forwards who've been spectators in this series.
First-liners Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin come to mind for the Rangers. Hagelin has no goals and just three assists in the playoffs and is now a minus player. Gaborik looks like he's learned nothing from a high-profile benching in Game 2.
Ilya Kovalchuk changed wings in Game 4 and did come up with a nice assist but the Devils could be ahead at this point if he'd buried more chances in Game 3. Lundqvist admitted he was lucky on both Kovie breakaways.
Patrik Elias has five points in 16 playoff games for the Devils and was telling reporters before Game 4 that he just had to take a breath and he would have some success against Lundqvist. Thank goodness for Dainius Zubrus and Alexei Ponikarovsky (New Jersey) and Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov (New York) who have all stepped up.
4. Big game hunting
While the Rangers have stiffened their resolve every time people have doubted their credentials, New York can't keep playing with fire, as more than one of their number has warned.
That's in reference to their penchant for slow starts, the biggest factor in their puzzling record of 0-7 when given the chance to take a two-game lead in any series this spring. This week would be a great time for two in a row to take the series, but there are fears after Game 4 -- and in light of two previous seven-game marathons -- that their moment has passed.
Instead of wrapping things up Wednesday, they could be facing elimination in Newark at the end of the week. The Devils have Brodeur and a variety of weaponry, including their own defencemen who can score, while the only consistent element for the Rangers has been Lundqvist. Jersey taking a two-goal lead for the first time in the series was duly noted in Game 4.
5. Bench banter
Rinkside commentators Glenn Healy and Pierre McGuire were in the line of fire in Game 4 when Tortorella and Peter DeBoer engaged in another debate, not fought through the newspapers but in the eight short feet between the benches.
Tortorella didn't keep it up after the game -- hey, we're just glad he's talking in long sentences again -- and DeBoer has calmed down as well. But good on DeBoer for shushing Tortorella after his weekend rant and for showing he's not afraid to tell his rival to stuff it on national TV in the middle of a game.
Hard to believe these two and their staffs will be shaking hands in a few days, but don't expect anyone involved to like it.