No topic in the still-embryonic Eastern Conference finals has drawn the ire of the Devils more than the subject of blocked shots. But until New Jersey finds a solution to the Rangers’ prowess at blocking shots the topic will continue to be examined ad nauseum.
“It’s definitely not the story of the series. They’re a good shot-blocking team. Every team you play has strengths in certain areas. And that’s one of the Rangers’ strengths,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said yesterday after practice at the Rock. “One of the strengths of the New Jersey Devils is our penalty kill. It’s something you have to deal with. It’s not the story of the series. And when I look back at the game last night, I think it was as much our execution or lack of execution, and whether that was the layoff or whatever, but we have to do a better job executing, too.”
The Rangers blocked 26 Devils shots in Monday night’s series opener. The Rangers finished fourth in the NHL with 1,338 in the regular season. The Rangers are ranked second overall with 293 blocks in the playoffs, trailing just Washington’s 308.
“It’s a bunch of different things,”DeBoer said. “Finding lanes, moving the puck quickly, being in the right places.We’ve got a plan.”
The Rangers’ shot-blocking system has been widely criticized for eliminating skill and entertainment from the games. But Martin Brodeur pointed out that on-ice success is the ultimate trump card.
“I’m the wrong guy to answer that question,”Brodeur said. “We were blamed for the trap when we were successful at it.So whatever brings success is what you need to do.And I know it’s probably not the most exciting brand of hockey.But it’s really effective. And, again, they got it in people’s heads by doing what they’re doing, and they’re tough to play against because of that.”
Prust on Torts
Brandon Prust has experienced opposite character traits in playing for Dale Hunter as a junior and John Tortorella as a professional. Yet the grinding winger is adamant that Hunter and Tortorella share a common bond.
“It’s just the passion and work he brings to the rink every day,” Prust said of Tortorella.
When asked how Tortorella compares to Hunter, Prust said, “I’d say it’s a little different. Dale’s a little more soft-spoken. But they both know the game very well and they’re both very good teachers. They love the game; that passion is the same. The way they express it is different.
“Just like you have in school; you have different personalities and different ways to go about it. People respond differently and I think everyone responds well to it.”
The Rangers announced that goaltender Cam Talbot, defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Tim Erixon and forwards J.T. Miller, Kris Newbury and Casey Wellman were called up from AHL Connecticut.
The Whale were eliminated from the AHL playoffs following a 2-1 loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Norfolk Admirals.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman throughout the playoffs.