It's hard not to think about history when you think about the Rangers and the Devils.
Mark Messier's "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" guarantee of a Devils sweep of the Jaromir Jagr-less Rangers. Martin Brodeur's refusing to shake Sean Avery's hand after the pest spent a series burrowing his way into the darkest depths of Brodeur's soul. Oh, and the whole Devils winning three Stanley Cups while the Rangers wandered in the post-1994 desert.
There's no shortage of history between these two teams. But history doesn't matter all that much right now.
It'll be good for the fans, but it's not like these are the same old Rangers and Devils. The Rangers have built from within to create a roster heavier on grit than on flashy names, and the Devils have eschewed the stultifying schemes of the past to build around a talented group of forwards.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Adam Henrique and others have made the Devils into a mobile, attacking team instead of the traditional trapping machine that bedeviled so many around hockey. And it is the Rangers who have ripped a page -- the one with Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermeyer, Brian Rafalski and Ken Danyeko -- by building around a crew of defensemen who can shut down opponents every night.
This series figures to provide the Rangers with more open ice than the one they saw in the first two series combined --but it also figures to provide Henrik Lundqvist with the most trouble. The Devils will find a team less equipped to light up their vulnerable defense and better equipped to stop their potent offense.
It's not an exaggeration to say that we've never seen a Rangers-Devils series quite like this. The only constant is Broduer, who has played in every playoff series between these two teams after seeing action as a backup in 1992.
That's a remarkable link to the past, but it is one that doesn't have much bearing on the present. More recent meetings between the teams, namely the blood-soaked fight fest at the Garden, should be more relevant.
While they might not look like those old Rangers-Devils games, this series promises action that's on the same level. The teams are too closely matched to think otherwise.
And the best part of the whole thing? If there is a Game Seven, it will be played on the same day that Stephane Matteau made grown men weep.
Maybe history will count for something overall.