Philadelphia, PA – One of the more popular debates during the Stanley Cup playoffs is the old rest vs. rust argument.
On one side of the debate, there are those who favor extra time off for players between rounds, and at the other end of the spectrum are those who believe too much down time will cause a team to lose its edge.
The New Jersey Devils and head coach Peter DeBoer are currently faced with this conundrum after needing only five games to eliminate the rival Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Devils will have to wait until Saturday, when the New York Rangers host the Washington Capitals in a decisive Game 7, to find out who they'll be playing for the right to represent the East in this year's Stanley Cup Finals.
The NHL has released a start date for the East finals and it will begin on Monday. Where Game 1 of the series will be played is another story, as New Jersey would have home-ice against Washington, but the top-seeded Rangers would hold that advantage over the No. 6 Devils.
Considering the Devils polished off the Flyers on Tuesday, the schedule gives New Jersey the better part of a week to prepare for their first conference finals appearance since 2003.
Of course, coaches and players rarely disclose their true feelings to the media on the topic of rest vs. rust. More than likely, if a team gets significant down-time between series, then the company line becomes some variation of "we could use the rest." Likewise, if they only get a day or two off, then the mantra is "we're eager to get back out there."
The elder statesman for the Devils is goaltender Martin Brodeur, and at 40 years of age it's safe to say Brodeur is not just blowing smoke when he says he could use the time off.
"It's nice, I think we deserved it," Brodeur told NHL.com. "We played really hard this series, we survived a few scares in the first series. So it's nice that we finished this off today and looking forward to a little break here and see what we're going to face in the conference finals."
Brodeur received a rest of sorts in his team's dominating series win over the Flyers. After allowing four goals on 36 shots in New Jersey's Game 1 loss, Brodeur never saw more than 28 shots in any of the final four games, all of which were wins for the Devils.
The fact that New Jersey went seven games in Round 1 with Florida before getting just two days off prior to the Philadelphia series would suggest the Devils don't need the extra rest.
After all, DeBoer and his coaching staff had all the time they needed to create a winning game plan for the Flyers, who were coming off a spectacular offensive performance in the first round against Pittsburgh. Philly scored 30 times over six games against the Penguins, but the Devils held the Flyers to 11 goals in the conference semifinals.
DeBoer and assistants Larry Robinson and Adam Oates likely will have to come up with a new strategy for the conference finals. Unlike the up-tempo Flyers, the Capitals and Rangers both are utilizing conservative styles that rely on defense and goaltending. Oddly enough, that's the type of system the Devils used to win three Stanley Cup titles from 1995-2003, but the team that recently disposed of the Flyers employed an aggressive fore-checking strategy.
The main task for DeBoer and his staff is keeping his team on the same page. The Devils picked Philadelphia apart mainly because they played better as a team. From New Jersey's biggest star Ilya Kovalchuk all the way down to the fourth-line grinders, the Devils' biggest strength in the last round was their ability to pull together in the same direction.
It will be interesting to see how the Devils emerge from their lengthy layoff when the East finals get underway. Once the battle for a spot in the Cup Finals begins, it should be easy to tell if New Jersey if the vacation left the Devils rested or rusty.