A few questions regarding the Rangers' loss to the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals:
Is there a way to encapsulate what went wrong?
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There were a few factors, most notably the lack of good starts by the Rangers in all six games of the series, coupled with the Devils' ability to start strong and set an early tone. The Devils' forechecking system was much more aggressive than either of the Rangers' previous two opponents, and there was very little feeling-out process in any game. The Devils jumped in and took charge, and the Rangers were a bit too passive until later in games.
Was it a matter of the Devils' stars outplaying the Rangers' big names?
Not quite, though Marian Gaborik (one goal, no assists), Brad Richards (four assists, minus-3) and Derek Stepan (one assist) were not good enough. Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk had some good moments, but the real difference-makers among the forwards were the pluggers. Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta had terrific series for the Devils and the Rangers got very little from their depth forwards.
How about the famed goaltending matchup?
Marty Brodeur is in the Stanley Cup Finals and Henrik Lundqvist is not, so Brodeur can gloat. But Lundqvist was the only reason the Rangers won two games in the series, and he had a tremendous Game 6 after a so-so Game 5, his only subpar game of the postseason. Brodeur benefited more from an exceptional series by his teammates than they benefited from his saves.
What happened to Michael Del Zotto?
Whether or not a death in the family was a factor in the 21-year-old's rough series is a difficult thing to dissect. Unfortunately, Del Zotto seemed to lose his confidence from the start of Game 4 on, going minus-4 in the last two games. He had been a big reason why the Rangers' defense was so strong in the first two rounds.
Was fatigue a factor for the Rangers?
They played 20 playoff games in 44 days, which is a lot of hockey any time of year. Factor in four elimination games and one triple-overtime game and you've got the potential for tired players, especially ones such as Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, who play half a game. John Tortorella refused to accept it as any sort of excuse. "You can't be tired this time of year," he said after Game 6.
What does the future hold for Chris Kreider?
A lot, it seems, and all of it in a Rangers uniform. The 21-year-old went from a national championship with Boston College to within two wins of the Stanley Cup Finals within seven weeks, and he set a record for most playoff goals by a player who had yet to play a regular-season game. It's a safe assumption that Kreider won't be included in any trade discussions in the upcoming months.