Someone needs to remind me why the season finale between the Rangers and the Devils was so important? So far the road team has won all three games – which bodes well for the Rangers if form holds true for the entire series.

One thing that has held true for all 11 games the two teams have played this season – the Devils have not defeated the Rangers in regulation time.

For the first time in 16 games against Henrik Lundqvist, the Devils managed to score more than two goals – and even that has to be taken with a grain of salt because the Rangers were guilty of two own goals and one of the most bizarre deflection goals you will ever see. Yes, the bounces were going the Devils way and that is what happens when one team elevates their play while the other doesn’t.

The Blueshirts might be able to take advantage of these bounces if they didn’t have the bad habit of over-passing. Could Martin Straka please hoot the puck and stop passing up shots on goal.

The Rangers never seemed to be able to capitalize on their home ice advantage. The Devils first goal deflated the Garden and even when the Rangers did fight back to tie the game and go ahead, the Rangers knack for taking bad penalties crept back into the picture – which coincided with the Devils finding some life in their power play.

Actually, this game had all the earmarks of a disturbing trend that has dogged the Rangers all season long. Far too many times the Rangers were in a position to put a game away and then let their skate off the accelerator. The most glaring example was blowing the five goal lead against the Canadiens in Montreal.

No one really expected to sweep the Devils like they did the Thrashers last year, but it is still a little disconcerting that the Blueshirts did not raise their game.

Another disconcerting thing from last night is the media’s overreaction to Sean Avery’s “face guarding” of Martin Brodeur during the Rangers two-man advantage. Let’s face it, if someone other than Avery did it he would be hailed as an innovator – especially if that player were Sidney “I Can Do No Wrong” Crosby.

That play is the quintessential Avery being Avery. He straddles the line between pest and detriment on every shift. Did he overdo it a bit? Yes. That is why Chris Drury skated over to him and said something to him prior to Avery lighting the lamp.

The referees assured Brent Sutter that the next time Avery would be whistled for a penalty. Hmm, Avery would get a penalty, but Brodeur gets nothing for the jab with the stick and the punch to the face? Avery gets a penalty for not touching Brodeur, but the Devils don’t get whistled for jabbing at Lundqvist after the play is dead.

As expected, the NHL has already waded into the fray with an overreaction of their own. The following NHL statement was posted on Steve Zipay’s Newsday blog.

“National Hockey League Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued the following advisory on the interpretation of Rule 75: Unsportsmanlike Conduct:

‘An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender’s face for the purpose of interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play.’”
No, I am not blaming the officials for the Rangers loss. The blame for the loss falls squarely on the Rangers. However, it is interesting to note the discrepancies in the inconsistency among the referees.

It is time for Glen Sather to poke his head of his groundhog hole and rip a page out of Lou Lamoriello’s playbook. If the Devils are going to curry the NHL’s favor in the media, then Sather needs to do the same thing while standing up for his player and his team.

Unlike the Devils who looked outward to blame the officiating for their losses, the Rangers need to look inward. They need to take better care with the puck and not be so cavalier when trying to clear the puck – like Blair Betts did on the first goal. They need to stop taking foolish penalties – like Fedor Tyutin did in the second period. They need a better job on face-offs from Chris Drury (29%) and Scott Gomez (41%).

Branch Rickey said it best when he said that “Luck is the residue of design”.

“It was a fortuitous bounce, but they did what they needed to do, ” Tom Renney told Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “They lost the faceoff, but then jumped on it.

“You make your breaks. Luck always follows on the heels of effort. We understand that.”

I think Renney’s quote goes a little deeper than what appears on first read. I think Renney was trying to get a subtle point across to his team in the press and I am sure it is a point that Renney and the coaching staff will pound home prior to Game 4.

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