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FISCHLER: Bruins can push the Devils

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foxsports admin

 
   
 
If ever there is a series that figures to go the full seven games, Beantown against the Meadowlands is it. Oh, I know that there are ' fans who will be both surprised and annoyed by this non-partisan observation, believing, of course, that a short series is in store for New Jersey. Sorry, I'm guided by reality more than emotion. Having watched the struggle against Boston — even in victory — this season, I can only conclude that the know how to play the better than just about any team in the league. Add to that the return of and the late-season appearance of Mike O'Connell behind the bench and you have two significant boosts for the Hub club. Sure, Pat Burns' outfit will be favored since it finished a good 21 points ahead of Boston. But anyone who saw the Bs and Ds at Continental Airline Arena last Thursday in a 1-1 tie will understand that the difference between these teams is about the width of a goal post. I'll simplify this series for you: For the , it will be made or broken by 's goaltending. No more, no less! A year ago Brodeur & Co. were upset by the Carolina . Marty's goaltending was average while ' was excellent. Thus, Canes in six. Brodeur has been a better goaltender in 2002-2003 than he was last year; which explains why he is a top candidate for both the Vezina and Hart trophies. But those two pieces of silverware are reserved for the regular season and not the playoffs. Brodeur must be better than Boston's or ; otherwise New Jersey is out again in the first-round. Marty is motivated, to be sure, and that's a good thing because he sure can't count on a basket full of goals from his offense — especially when it's on the power play. With that in mind I'm predicting in seven and the following are my reasons why:

GOAL

Anyone who saw Shields stand on his head at the Meadowlands last Thursday will attest to the fact that he can match Brodeur on any given night. The question is whether he — or Hackett — can do it over seven games. I say negative! EDGE:DEFENSE Scott Stevens has picked up his game at the right time. The venerable captain plays his best hockey in the Spring. Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko, Brian Rafalski and Colin White round out a deep defensive corps. Brian Berard, Nick Boynton, Hal Gill and Ian Moran will be a formidable challenge. EDGE: DEVILS too deep, Tommy Albelin, Richard Smehlik and Oleg Tverdosky can step up at any time.

OFFENSE

When you talk about the "best" players in the NHL, one name always pops up: JOE THORNTON. JT and his underrated linemates, Glenn Murray and Mike Knuble,are very difficult to control. With Sergei Samsonov back in yellow and black, the Bruins have an offensive edge, unless Pat Burns gets all four lines in synch. Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez will be pivotal, especially on the power play, which must deliver if the Ds are to succeed. If the Joe Nieuwendyk line is playing its 'A' game, the Devs offense will be OK. EDGE: BRUINS, especially if Brian Rolston revs it up against his former mates.

COACH

Pat Burns has the experience and three Adams Awards to back up his superiority. Mike O'Connell is the opposite. EDGE: DEVILS CONCLUSION: Devils in a very difficult seven game series, settled by Martin Brodeur's goaltending. Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey. Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on "MSG SportsDesk" and on Fox Sports Net's "Regional Sports Report — New York Edition." Fischler also provides studio interviews and pre- and post-game features and reports for both the Islanders and Devils on FSN. His columns appear regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
Tagged: Bruins, Hurricanes, Devils, Islanders, Hal Gill, Sergei Samsonov, Brian Rolston, Joe Nieuwendyk, Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Ian Moran, Kevin Weekes, Colin White

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