If you’re looking for a guarantee from this year’s Rangers team, you won’t get it.
Mark Messier’s guarantee before Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals is irrelevant to a Rangers team that finds itself in a 3-2 series hole going into a win-or-the-season-ends match in New Jersey, exactly like the captain’s squad did 18 years ago.
But both sides dismissed the subject as wholly unrelated to this series when it was raised Thursday.
“Not to disrespect what happened, but that has nothing to do with how we’re preparing, I guess, is the best way to put it,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
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The only player on either team that played in the 1994 series is Martin Brodeur. Then, like now, he was the Devils’ starting goaltender.
“I don’t even think about ‘94. In ‘94 I still had hair. It was that long ago. That plays no part in what we’re doing,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “Part of it is [Brodeur] is very impressive. He’s an impressive guy. He’s calm. He's been there before, and he’s a calming influence on our team and in our dressing room. That’s why he’s the best of all-time.”
“I don’t see anything that is similar,” Brodeur said. “I know if you guys look at it, it looks the same. But it’s different teams and a different way of playing the game. That’s 18 years ago. That’s a long time. I know I’m feeling a lot different. I’m feeling a lot more appreciative of what’s going on.”
“Before, the Rangers were a good team when they beat us. We were not supposed to compete with them at all in ‘94. They made these trades and they had all these big guys at the end, and they pulled it off in a dramatic way,” Brodeur said. “But this time around, we feel we can play with them. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going into these games coming up.”
The first five games of the series have supported Brodeur’s argument. Even though both teams have scored 12 goals apiece in the series, it has been the Devils who have the better of play throughout. The Rangers have been bothered by the ferocity of the Devils’ forecheck, and have been forced to play defense for long stretches.
Yet the Rangers are confident going into tonight’s match because of the way they dominated the Devils in Game 5. The Rangers held onto pucks and consistently forechecked for the first time in the series.
“I think we found our game last night, and I think that was mostly a mindset,” Tortorella said. “We played more on our toes. We played to who we are. We have to do that tomorrow.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.