Open Up Your Eyes People!
Last night the best New York local rivalry took center stage at Madison Square Garden. Only problem is just a few people seemed to notice. The Rangers and Devils are the best the tri-state area has to offer in terms of natural rivalry. Sure, Mets fans will always be envious and hate the Yankees, while Yankee fans kind of laugh at this point. Jets fans and Giants fans will argue about which team is better, though I’m pretty sure that debate was settled this past year. The Knicks were good in the 90’s when the Nets were awful. Then the Nets got good in the early 2000’s while the Knicks were a joke. Then they both sucked for a bunch of years. Can’t say much a rivalry exists there.
Last night the Ranger and Devils put on a show from start to finish in front of the Garden faithful. The game started with a 6 man melee, and ended with a Ranger insurance goal to give the Blue Shirts a 4-2 win. The hatred these teams have for each other was evident from the first drop of the puck. The Devils threw out their toughest line to start the game, so the Ranger coach countered by starting his bruisers, to match up. Then Ranger coach John Torterella had defenseman Stu Bickel take the face-off, the first in his NHL career, solely because it was a good fighting matchup for the club. The best part is that this was the third time this season a similar scenario occurred between the two teams. On Dec. 20, they had two fights in the first minute and then a month ago they had two more fights in the first 2 seconds.
(Click below to see video of last nights fight)
Other than the fist-a-cuffs, the rivalry between the two teams features all-around great hockey. Each team has a Hall of Fame caliber goalies playing net, the Devils Martin Brodeur and the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist. Both teams have young talent, such as Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Dan Girardi in New York and Zach Parise and Travis Zajak of the Devils. Both teams sport great goal scorers like New York’s Marion Gaborik and Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk. Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias give the Devils great veteran leadership, as does Brad Richards for teh Rangers. The teams have been battling for the Atlantic Division all year long, and while the Devils might have fallen out of contention last night, while the Rangers still battle the Penguins and Flyers, both teams will surely make the playoffs.
My favorite hockey memory ever was when the Rangers defeated the Devils in the 1994 Conference Finals, lead by Mark Messier’s guarantee and subsequent hat trick in Game 6. Game 7 was capped off by a thrilling OT victory by New York, which lead to their Cup matchup and eventual victory against Vancouver. This year the games have been just about as tight and contentious and the teams have split the 6 games evenly. I have my fingers crossed that the tie-breaker is settled in the playoffs this year, which is looking extremely possible. Lets just hope that people living in the Tri-State area don’t miss the show.