What a week this has been in the NHL.  Yes, the playoffs are here, and all bets are off.  Nobody cares what you did in the regular season – this is the Stanley Cup playoffs, and you better show up ready to play or get ready to go home.  For the New Jersey Devils, things look, well, bleak. Forget about the 112 points this season.

Forget about coming in second place in the tough Metro Division and only one point out of first place.  Forget about the massive turnaround head coach Lindy Ruff & Company have down from last season to this season.  Those accomplishments don’t matter in the playoffs.  The Devils have to find a way to win, or you can stick a fork in ’em and say see you in September.

The Rangers have woken up – the Devils are getting hammered.

The New Jersey Devils made this past regular season a thing of offensive style and beauty with their goal-scoring, and it got them into the playoffs.  Now what?   The Devils have run into a giant brick wall named the New York Rangers, and in two playoff games at the Prudential Center, they’ve dropped behind 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs.  One of the most prolific scoring teams this season is in danger of watching their season end by this time next week, if not sooner.

While the Devils have a fluid offensive style under their “young guns,” such as Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, the Broadway Blueshirts want to simply punish you on the ice.  The combination of top-flight scoring from Patrick Kane and Chris Kreider, along with the punishing hits the Rangers like to dish out with every single line shift, has turned out to be too much for the Devils so far.

NEWARK, NJ – JANUARY 23: Jack Hughes, #86 of the New Jersey Devils, warms up prior to the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings on January 23, 2022, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)

What can the Devils do to stay alive in the playoffs?

The Devils have one simple choice to make – let the Rangers play their style of hockey while the Devils figure out a way to play their style of the game.  The Rangers will come at you and challenge you physically, no matter what.  The Devils have speed on their side and need to find that speed again quickly.  With the shift in playoff venues over to Madison Square Garden, the echoes of 1994 are already starting to be heard, and the Blueshirt faithful will no doubt be heard as well.

Being down 2-0 in the playoffs certainly isn’t the end of the world for the New Jersey Devils.  However, being down 2-0 means they have to win at least one game at Madison Square Garden to have a chance to make it back to home ice and fight it out with the Rangers.  Yes, your regular season was great, but nobody will remember you for anything other than a quick first-round playoff exit, so the Devils have their work cut out for them.  It’s simple: win or go home.

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