The New Jersey Devils eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night with a 3-1 win in Game 5. Admittedly, it still feels so, so good to type that. I also have to point out that the extra bit of rest could do the Devils some good as they prepare for the next round: the Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course, how the Devils prepare will depend on what happens in the only other active playoff series. The New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime of Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead. However, Caps fans shouldn't get too down on their team. The Devils were also down 3-2 to Florida back in April and fought back to win the series in seven games. It'll be difficult, but it is not impossible for them to come back in this series. Game 6 is tonight, and should the Capitals win, Game 7 will be on Saturday at MSG.
Since we have a little time on our hands, let's ask the obvious question. Who will the Devils face in the Eastern Conference Finals?
While I didn't ask who you want the Devils to face, I expect this poll to go one way. The Rangers are the most hated rivals of the Devils. Not Philadelphia, not the Islanders, and not anyone else. The Rangers are Our Hated Rivals. Devils fans cheer whenever they see the Rangers losing on the out of town scoreboard at the Rock. Devils fans will proclaim that the Rangers suck even in games that don't involve the Rangers whatsoever. (Aside: I wish that would end at non-Rangers games.) Devils fans are never shy about telling you that that really, really don't like the Rangers. And the feeling is mutual. They have the edge in the series; and many Devils fans weren't happy with how Game 5 went down as it meant the Rangers succeeded. I expect most fans to want to see the Capitals just because they hate the Rangers that much among other reasons; so they'll think the Capitals will win.
However, the Rangers are the more likely opponent. For starters, the Rangers are up 3-2 in the series; they do have the edge. They just need one game, which is much easier than two straight. This Capitals team is riding a third-string goaltender, their most talented players haven't always been utilized correctly, and they've yet to figure out the Rangers' collapsing defense. They did get two wins over the Rangers and took them beyond regulation in two other games; they can definitely hang with the Rangers. Yet, the Rangers won those overtime games and plenty of experience in close games. Again: they just need one game and should it be a close one, then the Rangers can take it. Having Lundqvist constantly bail out the team helps, though. That said, many Devils fans do despise the Rangers enough that they'll believe in the Caps' chances.
To make this a little more interesting, I've included a third option: "I don't care but I want this to go seven games." Maybe I'm still feeling real good about the Devils after their series win over the Flyers, but I personally don't mind either opponent. It's not going to be an easy series regardless. The Rangers provide the rivalry factor, the 1994 version 2.0 factor, and have the second best goaltender in the world in net. The Capitals are quick and dangerous when they're on - and they'll have to be to beat the Rangers in their series. Either isn't a "good" match-up for the Devils and at this point of the playoffs, the Devils will just have to deal with whatever happens. What I want is that this series goes long and hard for both teams. That will give the Devils more time to rest and prepare regardless of their next opponent.
That all said, here's the poll. Please use the comments to explain your choice, who you want to win the series, and to talk about tonight's Game 6 between New York and Washington. What happens there will affect the Devils one way or another. Thank you for voting and reading.