NHL Closer writer Greg Wyshynski previews the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals right up until they drop what is commonly referred to as "the puck."

No. 4 New Jersey Devils (46-29-7, 99 Points; Beat the Lightning last postseason before getting ass-whupped by Ottawa) vs. No. 5 New York Rangers (42-27-13, 97 Points; Swept the Thrashers before losing to Buffalo in what someone upstate probably considered "The Battle of New York.")


At Devils home games, there's a fairly common chant in the cheap seats: "Rangers Suck," followed quickly by "Flyers Swallow." On the occasion of this latest installment of "The Battle of the Hudson," and with the Flyers lurking in the conference playoffs as well, we feel it's necessary to examine this observation from the Devils' faithful and determine who, exactly, gets it worse: The Rangers or the Flyers?

Taking into consideration the explicit sexual connotation of the chant, the Flyers appear meant to be the more demeaned of the two teams, reaching a punctuated level of emasculating finality. But the swallower, at least to us, infers someone who has reaped the rewards but hasn't put in the effort; someone, for example, who picks up the bowling trophy without ever having seen a pin go down.

The sucker, as it were, infers someone who has put in the work but does not reach finality or reap any reward. True, the inherent homophobia in the chant makes the sucker as humiliated as swallower; but isn't there something more noble about the workmanlike symbolism in the Rangers' sucking rather than the privileged insinuation of the Flyers' swallowing? Especially if the work is the reward for the Rangers. Or, as Pearl S. Buck once said: "To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth."


OK, considering the chant, perhaps using a quote with the word "fountain" may not have been appropriate. Or a quote from someone named "Pearl," now that I think of it.

Key Match-Up for New Jersey: Any Devil against Jaromir Jagr. Ever since the days of Scott Stevens concussing anyone he could lay a shoulder into, the Devils have always had an effective game-plan against Jagr. Whether it's Jay Pandolfo or John Madden or Colin White or David Clarkson, New Jersey will flat out piss Jags off - might like they did when these teams last met in the postseason, and Jagr injured his arm trying to punch Scott Gomez in the back of the head. If the Rangers are going to win, they need Jagr to not be the streaky headache he's been in the regular season.

Key Match-Up for New York: Sean Avery against any Devil. Everyone's favorite asshole has already stirred the pot against Marty Brodeur, Zach Parise and Clarkson this season. Avery scrapped with Clarkson yesterday, in fact. He's not scoring much these days, but Avery certainly knows how to get under your skin and get you off your game. He could be the most annoying thing New Jersey's seen since gay governor jokes.

Worst Case Scenario for New Jersey: The series goes six games, preventing the Devils from setting a franchise record with four sellouts in the first round of the playoffs. (I kid, I kid.) Oh, and four words: Starting Goalie Kevin Weekes.

Worst Case Scenario for New York. Chris Drury fails to conjure up any postseason magic, Lundqvist is outplayed by Marty, and Jagr says "fuck this shit" and gets on a plane for Omsk by Game 3.

Well, If You're Going To Twist My Arm: Devils in seven. I have tickets to Game 2 in Jersey. Yes, I'm already warming up my vocal chords.

Vital YouTubeage: Teach your children well...even if they're Islander fans:

No. 4 Anaheim Ducks (47-27-8, 102 Points; Current keepers of the Big Silver Thingy) vs. No. 5 Dallas Stars (45-30-7, 97 Points; Wasted three Marty Turco shutouts and lost to Vancouver in Round One)


Has another team gone from somewhat acceptable Stanley Cup champion to completely loathsome as quickly as the Anaheim Ducks? I mean, besides the 1995 Devils?

Seems like just yesterday we were happy for Teemu Selanne on the occasion of his first Stanley Cup; joyful that the Bros. Niedermayer were able to drink from the same silver chalice; happy for J-S Giguere for winning the big prize after dealing with the difficult birth of his newborn son early in the playoffs; and generally in awe of everything George Parros.


Fast forward a season, and Selanne and Scott Niedermayer are lazy veterans whose procrastination and eventual success may lead to a rewriting of the NHL rulebook; the Ducks are viewed as a collection of physical brutes, led by perhaps the most talented thug this side of Tupac in Chris Pronger; heck, even Parros's mustache doesn't turn the key anymore.

Meanwhile ... hey, remember when everyone was about to hand Dallas the Stanley Cup after the Brad Richards trade? Well, since then, he's been outscored (12 points) by both of the forwards who went to Tampa Bay - Jussi Jokinen (18 points) and Jeff Halpern (14 points). The Stars are also missing defenseman Sergei Zubov, which would really hurt if they had a chance in hell of winning the Stanley Cup this season.


Key Match-Up for Dallas: The Stars' power play against the Ducks' kill. If Dallas has a prayer of winning this series, it needs hang goals on that Anaheim defense whenever it can - especially with the Ducks missing scorer Corey Perry and having a second line that fluctuates between being pointless and worthless. Anaheim's kill was 12th in the League; Dallas went 9-for-23 on the power play in its five wins over the Ducks this season and 0-for-15 in its three losses. I'm no math major, but...

Key Match-Up for Anaheim: Chris Pronger's elbow against any player whose head is about that height. Pronger just finished his suspension for trying to break a Ryan Kesler scissor-lock by slicing off Kesler's leg with his skate. Please recall last postseason, when Pronger was suspended twice for violent infractions against smaller players. This does not bode well for Mike Ribeiro.

Worst Case Scenario for Dallas: After a one-postseason reprieve, Marty Turco's five-hole once again becomes as well-trafficked as the Lincoln Tunnel.


Worst Case Scenario for Anaheim. The offense is non-existent, Marty outplays Giggy and Pronger has another "episode" that derails his postseason.

Well, If You're Going To Twist My Arm: Ducks in six. Turco's good for a couple of wins, but Anaheim's physical advantage is too much for the Stars. And Dallas losing the first round is, at this point, a rite of Spring.

Vital YouTubage: Trying to win a truck with a parody of "The Office." Needs less Duck, more Schrute.

More Arnie/Ducks photos found here.