We sat down for a quick chat with Seth about the state of the Rangers so far and what we can expect from the first Devils-Rangers tilt of the season.
Devils Insiders: Looking in terms of last season, moving into this year, how much did the playoff series ratchet up the intensity of this rivalry?
Seth Rothman: Any time you get success against a successful team it’s obviously going to build the rivalry. What the Devils did, what the Rangers did last season, it always helps. I think there’s a lot of dislike, not only on the ice but on the bench as well. These two coaches don’t like each other. I saw a quote today that when they asked Pete DeBoer if he had seen Torts over the summer and he replied, “No. I didn’t spend any time with him over the summer.” I think that also helps to add to it as well.
DI: What do you think the lockout did for this season?
SR: I tweeted about this yesterday that after the Rangers made their recent moves, that JT Miller, Darryl Powe and Mike Rupp were all trending in this area. I felt that as long as they played this season that hockey would be okay. The fans are ecstatic to have hockey back. The interest I’m seeing is as high as I saw in the playoffs last year because people are so happy to have hockey back. We’re starting to see the intensity getting back into the game on the ice and in the crowd. I’m happy to see that in terms of TV ratings, in terms of the fan interest and twitter and such, that hockey has not lost a step since the lockout ended.
DI: Tell me about this Nash-Richards-Gaborik line. We’ve seen them put up some stats already, but how good are they?
SR: You see a level of skill on a Rangers forward line that we haven’t seen in a very long time. Rick Nash is a powerful skater, he gets to the net, he makes things happen. The kinds of moves he makes to get defenders off their pace are moves I haven’t seen a Ranger make in a long time. Brad Richards is a great puck-handler, he moves the puck really well. Then there’s Marian Gaborik with his shot, when it’s is on, he can get it past pretty much anybody. There’s a lot of extremely high level skill, you probably have two of the top twenty scorers in the league on that line, along with Richards.
DI: Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t exactly been himself so far this year. Was it the lockout that seems to have him starting slow?
SR: I think the lockout was definitely part of it; he’s one of the guys that didn’t go overseas to play. He’s getting there and we think that he looks better than he thinks he does right now. He’s still trying to say that he’s finding his game and a lot of the fans and writers are starting to say that he has found it as of late. The Rangers are only going to go as far Henrik Lundqvist takes them. He’s really going to need to be on his game if they want to win.
DI: A guy who has caught our eye so far has been young defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Where is he in terms of his development?
SR: I think it began last year for Michael Del Zotto. His sophomore season was a bit of a train wreck for him. He really found his game by the time the playoffs rolled around and now we’re seeing a guy who’s putting it all together. We’re seeing the full package with him, where he’s pretty good on the defensive side, but now this season we’re seeing a lot of those stretch passes, we’re seeing Del Zotto getting into the offense more and I think that it’s important for him to play a defensive style, but get involved in the offense as well.
DI: Both teams have been up and down so far and could use a big win in a game like this. How important is this early-season clash?
SR: It’s an important game. The Rangers played a really good game against Tampa Bay. Now they need to play another really good game. They have not yet this season had two back-to-back games where they played well. Forget the fact that it’s New Jersey and that they have the Islanders coming up; it’s about playing a 60-minute hockey game. They’ve done it a couple of times but they haven’t done it back-to-back yet. They’re still trying to find their game here, so from that perspective its a very important game for the Rangers.
DI: What can we expect out of this game and what do you think each team needs to do to win?
SR: I have a feeling we’re going to see at least one fight, maybe two. That always seems to happen. You’re going to see a Ranger team that is still trying to find how it’s going to play. They’re still a bit iffy in some places, the face-off dot has been a really big issue for them. I think if the Rangers are going to win, they’re going to have to be better in the face-off dot, they need to be more physical, they need to be hitting and they need to be blocking shots. If the Devils are going to play well I think it starts with Martin Brodeur, that’s where everything begins and ends with them.
DI: Ultimately, what do you think is going to be the x-factor in this game ?
SR: It’s going to come down to the bottom six forwards for both teams. We know what both teams have up front, but it’s going to come down to the 3rd and 4th lines. Can the Rangers get that secondary scoring that they’ve had trouble with all season. Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin both got their first goals of the season against Tampa; can they add to the offense? I think that’s where the Rangers will be able to win, if they can get their other lines involved, they can win.
DI: Alright Seth, thanks so much for your time, but before you go, care to make a prediction?
SR: I predict that the Rangers will play hard, they will play better than they played on Saturday, but whether that’s enough to win the game, we’ll have to wait and see.