Fifty-one regular season wins and 109 points have earned the Rangers their coach’s confidence.
“I have total confidence in our players. Again, this isn’t a new experience for us as we go into tonight’s game,” John Tortorella said in his media availability Wednesday morning at Madison Square Garden. “So I have total confidence.”
The Rangers entered last night’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Devils tied 2-2. It marked the sixth time in this playoff season that the Rangers were tied in a series.
Unlike the first two rounds against Ottawa and Washington, the Rangers have been reactive against the Devils. The Rangers have survived two of the first four games because of Henrik Lundqvist. But playing rope-a-dope against a team that has scored the most goals in the playoffs is not a formula for advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.
“We do need a good one,” Tortorella said of his team’s slow starts against the Devils. “There’s no question Jersey — right on through the playoffs, not just our series — they have blitzed teams and gained momentum. Momentum is a big part of playoff hockey. There’s no question we like to get that on our side right away.”
His charges echoed his message.
“It’s time for us to have a good start, get some forecheck going, gain some moment and get some confidence — realize we can play in their zone, take some pressure off our [defense],” Carl Hagelin said. “It’s not easy for our ‘D’ to spend 15 out of the first 20 minutes in their own end. When that happens, it’s going to be a long night; they’ll get tired. For us, come off strong, get some shots, containing the puck down low.”
Prust shakes off rust
Tortorella announced Brandon Prust would be in the lineup for Game 5. He missed Game 4 due to a one-game suspension for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3. The coach hinted at other changes, saying, “We need something to happen for ourselves. We’ll try different things.”
The Devils lineup was unchanged from Game 4.
The Devils entered Wednesday night with a 10-6 record in the playoffs. One aspect to their success has been their depth. Twenty-one skaters have dressed for the Devils. Of those 21 players, 20 have recorded one or more points and 15 have scored one or more goals.
“Lou does nothing but win. He knows how to win. He knows the formula,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said during his morning press conference at the Prudential Center in reference to general manager Lou Lamoriello. “I think that’s where the bar is with him, and it has been here since the day he got here.
“It’s no secret that our season turned from the All-Star break on when Lou added some depth up front and we got to the point where we could roll four lines,” DeBoer said. “We went out and got [Alex] Ponikarovsky [in a trade with Carolina], we brought [Steve] Bernier up and [Travis] Zajac got healthy. Our season turned at that point. You can’t overstate the importance [of depth].”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.