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The Scintillating Second Round

Now that the 2015 NHL Playoffs are into the second round, let's take a look back at some of the more exciting and fun second round series that the New Jersey Devils have been involved in. What matchups led to some thrilling conclusions?

Stevens played in great second round matchups, both for and against NJ.
Stevens played in great second round matchups, both for and against NJ.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

As a follow up to last week's look at some of the New Jersey Devils' more exciting first round matchups, let's take a look today at some of the better second round series as well.  Before the 1993-1994 season, the second round was as it is today, the Division Finals.  The winner of the Patrick Division series would then go on to play in the Conference Finals against the winner of the other division in the Prince of Wales Conference.  Once the ‘93-'94 season rolled around, the second round simply became just the Conference Semifinals, as the divisions dissolved once the playoffs began.

Like with the first round, the Devils have had all different kinds of results in the second round.  Some were blowouts where New Jersey won easy, and others were blowouts of the kind where we Devils fans want to gouge our eyes out.  Then, there were some matchups that were just excellent to watch, and kept fans on the edges of their seats.  While the matchups where the Devils destroyed their opponents are always fun to relive, today let's check out those second round contests where the competition was strong, and the series were close.

Devils (4) vs. Washington Capitals (2), 1988 (stats)

After the Devils' crazy first round series against the Islanders where they won in 6, the Devils would enter into another tough, hard fought battle against the Caps.  Unlike the previous matchup, however, this one would go the distance.  Washington ended the regular season with a record of 38-33-9, an identical record to Philadelphia.  Those two squared off in the first round, with Washington winning in 7 games.  The Caps and Devils would split the first two games, played down in Washington.  The Caps would win game 1 by a score of 3-1.  Caps goalie Pete Peeters would be near perfect, stopping 33 of 34 in the win, with then Caps defenseman Scott Stevens scoring a goal on Sean Burke.  Game 2 would see the Devils tie the series up, with the Devils potting 5 goals against Peeters in 30 shots.  Aaron Broten would have a hat trick in the game, and 4 points total for New Jersey.

Heading home, the Devils would take game three as well by scoring a ridiculous 10 goals on Washington, despite only shooting 31 pucks on net.  Peeters would give up 3 goals, and backup Clint Malarchuk would give up the other 7.  Patrik Sundstrom would be the biggest contributor for New Jersey, scoring a hat trick to go along with 5 assists for an absurd 8 point evening.  Sadly, that magic would burst in game 4, and the Caps would tie the series on the road.  The Devils would manage only one goal in 25 shots, while Washington would put up 4 goals on Sean Burke.

The final three games would each see the home team lose.  In game 5, the Devils would get a great effort from backup goalie Bob Sauve, who would stop 28 of 29 shot attempts.  Meanwhile, Kirk Muller would score 2 goals for New Jersey, and Tom Kurvers would score the third, giving the Devils a 3-1 win.  Despite taking a 3-2 series lead home to New Jersey, however, the Devils would not be able to close out the Caps.  Washington would score 7 goals in game 6, with Scott Stevens getting 4 assists.  It would then come down to game 7 in Washington, and the Devils would win the only 1-goal game of the series.  Burke would save 30 of 32 shots for the Devils, while Peeters would give up 3 goals on 26 shots.  With a 3-2 win in Washington, the Devils would move on to the Conference Finals to face the Boston Bruins.

Sadly, I cannot find any real videos or highlights of the series.  There are videos about the 1988 playoffs in general, and I can find some things about the Devils Bruins Conference Finals series, but nothing for this one.  If you happen to find something online, please link to it in the comments!

Devils (4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (3), 2000 (stats)

In 2000, on the way to the team's second Stanley Cup victory, the Devils had to win a second round matchup against the higher seeded Leafs.  Despite only going 6 games, the series was a rather close one, with four of the six games being won by only one goal.  Martin Brodeur particularly would be dynamite, posting two shutouts against Toronto, one at home and one on the road.

The series would open up in Toronto, and the Leafs would take the opening game despite being considerably outshot.  Toronto goaltender Curtis Joseph was brilliant, stopping 32 of 33 shots, only letting a Petr Sykora shot squeak by.  Brodeur, on the other hand, would not start the series out all that well, stopping 19 of 21 shots.  Nevertheless, he would rebound in game 2, posting one of his two shutouts of the series.  He would only need to make 20 saves in game 2, but would stop them all.  Joseph was excellent again for Toronto, stopping 32 of 33 for the second game in a row.  Alas for Toronto, that night it would not be enough, and the series would shift back to New Jersey tied up 1-1.

The First game at Continental Airlines Arena saw the biggest blowout of the series, with the Devils trouncing Toronto 5-1.  The Devils would have 5 different goal scorers, and would pepper Joseph for a third night in a row, putting 36 on net.  And again, Brodeur would only have minimal work, stopping 22 of 23.  Game 4 would continue the trend of the Devils far outpacing the Leafs in shots on net (and likely possession), with Joseph seeing 36 shots and Brodeur only seeing 22.  Sadly, however, Marty would only make 19 saves, while Joseph would stop 34.  The Leafs would win 3-2, and the series would be tied 2-2.

Eventually, however, the massive difference in shot attempts in the series would catch up to the Leafs. In game 5, Toronto would be outshot 32-25, and the Devils would win 4-3.  Again, all four goals would come from different skaters.  In game 6 back in Jersey, Marty would face a grand total of 6 shots on net, while Joseph had to deal with 26 of them.  Marty would make all 6 saves, Joseph would let in 2, and the Devils would finish off the Leafs, winning the series 4-2.  Brodeur set a Stanley Cup Playoff record for facing the least shots in a shutout, and the Devils would move on to face Philadelphia.

This video here is about the entire 2000 cup run.  It has some good highlights and notes from the series if you are interested in checking it out:

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Devils (1) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (7), 2001 (stats)

The following season, the Devils and Leafs met again in the second round of the playoffs.  This series was perhaps even more exciting than the first, as it took a game 7 to decide the outcome.  The Devils would still hold a strong possession and shot advantage over Toronto throughout the series: after it was all said and done, Brodeur had faced 148 shots, while Joseph had to see 206.

One major difference this time around was that the Devils were the higher seed; as a result, the series started in New Jersey.  Despite the advantage, Toronto would come out strong, shutting out the Devils 2-0 in game 1.  Curtis Joseph would save all 32 shots faced, while Brodeur was quite shaky, stopping only 15 shots on 17 Toronto attempts.  Game 2 would perhaps be even worse for Marty, as he only stopped 16 of 21 shots on net.  He got lucky this time around, however, as Joseph was not nearly as good as he was in game 1.  At the end of regulation the score would be 5-5, thanks mostly to 2 goals and 3 assists from Alexander Mogilny.  Randy McKay would get the game winning goal over 5 minutes into overtime, and the Devils would at least head to Toronto with the series tied.

In game 3, Brodeur would produce much better play in net, stopping 26 of 28.  The Devils would pepper Joseph as well, putting 45 shots on net.  Brian Rafalski and Bobby Holik would each produce a goal and an assist, and the Devils would manage to take a series lead after winning the game 3-2, the second straight game to go to overtime.  In game 4, the Leafs would manage to keep the game from going to overtime, and they would slip three past Brodeur to win the game 3-1.  Marty was back to his struggling ways in game 4, allowing 3 goals on only 20 shots.  The Devils would also come back down to Earth in terms of shots, putting up only 24 on Joseph, who would save 23 in the Toronto win.

Toronto would also take game 5 in New Jersey for a 3-2 series lead.  For the second game in a row, Brodeur would allow 3 goals on 20 shots.  Tomas Kaberle would be the hero for Toronto, potting the game winning goal and also adding an assist.  On the brink of elimination, the Devils would go up to Toronto for game 6, and the offense would come back to life.  Despite a still-low 26 shots on net, four separate Devils would find net, one each from Jason Arnott, Randy McKay, Brian Rafalski and Petr Sykora.  Game 7 would come back to Continental, and the Devils would not disappoint the home crowd.  Curtis Joseph would fall apart, allowing 5 goals on 20 shots, while Brodeur would hold his own, stopping 15 of 16.  The Devils would win 5-1, and come back to win the series 4-3.

I cannot find a highlight video for the entire series, but here are highlights from the end of game 2, a fascinating turn of events:

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Here is a nasty incident between Tie Domi and Scott Niedermayer in game 4:

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Conclusion

Those are three quality, exciting, and fun second round matchups that the New Jersey Devils were a part of that they managed to win.  There was another similar series like this, when the Devils beat Boston in 6 games in 1994, but I decided to include both of the Toronto matchups instead as I felt going from one year to the next really helped to increase the drama.

There were some great second round matchups where the Devils just dominated as well.  En route to the '95 cup, NJ trounced Pittsburgh 4 games to 1, with Pittsburgh only scoring 3 goals combined in the final 3 games.  On the road to the 2003 cup, the Devils made easy work of Tampa Bay, in a series where Tampa scored a combined 4 goals in the 4 games that they lost.  And of course, in 2012 the Devils took down Philadelphia in 5 games, and won the final 4 games after losing game 1 in overtime.

All-time, the Devils are 8-3 in second round matchups.  That is a pretty good record.  New Jersey has a much harder time getting out of the first round (10-11 all-time), but if they manage to make it to the second round, there is a good chance that another win is coming.

Your Thoughts

Do you have any thoughts or memories that you would like to share relating to the Devils and the second round of the playoffs?  What games, players, series, or specific events do you remember?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.