The signs and similarities are impossible to ignore. Eighteen years have passed, but as they were in the ’94 Eastern Conference Final, the New York Rangers are the #1 seed in the 2012 version. And they are again facing the New Jersey Devils. And again, after five games, just as it was in 1994, the Devils hold a 3-2 series lead with a chance to win it on home ice in Game 6, despite the fact that the Rangers held a 2-1 series lead after three games…just like in 1994. Heck, even Martin Brodeur, who netminded that ’94 Devils team, is still the goalie for the 2012 incarnation of New Jersey’s ice hockey team.
However, unlike the 1994 team, but very much like today’s let-their-play-on-the-ice-speak-for –itself New York Rangers, there are no bold guarantees of a Game 6 win from the 2012 Rangers, a win that evened the series back in 1994 and would do the same today for a Rangers team facing elimination. 18 years ago, Rangers captain Mark Messier famously guaranteed “we’ll win tonight”, a quote that itself has become one of the most famous guarantees in hockey history, as it was splashed across New York City newspapers before game day, and became fulfilled when Messier scored a hat trick to give the Rangers a 4-2 win over the Devils, evening their series at 3; a series that the Rangers would go on to win in seven games en route to a Stanley Cup berth and victory.
Still, the Devils still stand in the way of the Rangers’ chance to repeat history. After 18 years, Brodeur , now 40 years old, is the only remaining player from that series ’94 series. And 18 years later, he has a chance to redeem himself against the team that denied him all those years ago, as screams of “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!” rang from television and radio sets all across the New York/New Jersey area when New York’s Stefan Matteau stuffed home the series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 back in 1994. There is no Matteau now, but there is still Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, or perhaps another playoff hero waiting to emerge on the Rangers, and the ghosts of Brodeur’s past should be enough to keep him motivated to stop that from happening again.
The Hudson River Rivalry. New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils. Game 6. Rangers fighting to stay alive, Devils looking to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. No matter the outcome of tonight’s game, the only guarantee is this: it’ll be one damn good game.
By Arun Morace