Just after 9:30pm ET last night, the Devils were officially pronounced dead at The Rock. The 3-0 loss at home in Game 5 versus the hated Philadelphia Flyers was in reality just a formality. In theory, the Flyers could have had half a team injured and the result might have been almost the same. It was not that Brian Boucher played well and Marty Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk to blame. It was a lot more than that.
Post mortems always reflect on what went wrong. They even explore the why and the how and all those nooks and crannies (err nagging questions). The turning point of Game 5 at least was when Zach Parise could not get his stick on a puck that was about five feet from the net. Had that gone in, who knows the game may have been different. When he whiffed, you almost felt the air come out of The Rock. Not too long after Dany Briere scored off a very strange bounce (theme of the night) as the puck nearly did not get my Brodeur but sort of trickled its way in anyway. It was 1-0 and really after that (just a few minutes in), it was all over.
Something that will be talked about was the unusual amount of penalties called in this series. There were 15 Power Play chances last night which brought the five game total up to 61 combined for the two teams. The next nearest series was Pittsburgh and Ottawa and hell they played a triple overtime game last night at 48 after five contests. In a series that was already kind of bogged down, not knowing what would and would not be a penalty clearly got to the New Jersey Devils as the games went on. The Flyers on the other hand, to their credit, just kept on playing. They sucked the Devils into playing a style that they were clearly at a disadvantage. The Devils needed to take advantage of their speed and then get bodies in front of the net. They never really did that in this series except for Game 2. Ironically that was the only game that had a Devils pace to it and they won….go figure!
I will not sit there and attribute quotes at this time because it is pointless but here is kind of a synopsis of key points in this series that turned it in the Flyers favor.
- Chris Pronger’s Power Play goal in Game 1.
- The David Clarkson interference in Game 3 for “losing an edge”
- Game 4′s parade to the Power Play that resulted only in 1 goal.
- Parise’s early miss in Game 5
- Briere’s deflection of a sure Devils goal that would have tied Game 5.
Pretty much you can sum up this five game eulogy in five simple points. Yes there were probably more stomach turning ones but these are the ones that still play in the back of my head like Dominik Hasek’s version of “Afternoon Delight”. Now to indict some Devils players on what I would call lackluster play. Fair or unfair here, they need to be spotlighted for all the wrong reasons and yes I will leave out the smuckers because by now, its probably room temperature and not very tasty. Honestly it probably stinks something fierce as well. Oh wait, that is my stomach. I do apologize profusely.
Jamie Langenbrunner (Captain)
Some are going to disagree with this but I almost think that if Lemaire is back next year, Langenbrunner will not be a Captain of this team. He did not go down with the ship as many proud captains do and almost looked like he was sulking worse than most European players could ever dream about. Mr. Grumpy as some had called him after his spat with Jacques Lemaire, was clearly not the same player as he was earlier in the season. The question becomes should his C be stripped? The answer is yes based on the lackluster play and dumb penalties taken. Your heart starts with your captain and if there is no heart there, well then you know the rest of the story and it is not a happy one.
Colin White (Defense)
I will take my lumps here but this guy does not even deserve a million dollar paycheck let alone three million. Was it nice he scored in Game 2? Sure. Can a blind squirrel find a nut every so often? Yes. More times than not, Colin White besides aging before our very eyes literally could not see what was coming. The overtime goal where he had two chances to get the puck away before Dan Carcillo took the pass was painful enough. Last night was insult to injury where he was somehow put in front of the crease on the man advantage. He blocked two pucks from going into the net. There was only one problem. Those two pucks would have resulted in goals for his team. What may be more scary is that the guy with one good eye still has two more years remaining on his contract. While it may be unfair to single White out, he is not even close to a steady defenseman that the Devils try to pass him off as.
Martin Brodeur (Goalie)
In keeping with the one forward, one defender, and goaltender theme, Brodeur does deserve some blame here. He plays too much during the regular season which never used to be a problem but you have to sit there and go four first round exits in a row has to mean some kind of blame has to be shifted to the netminder. The goal he gave up in Game 4 to make it 2-1 Flyers was probably the killer of this series and the one goal that he just could not give up the way the Devils were playing. A shot from the right wing like that on that angle should not catch a great goalie napping but it did. Yes Brodeur made some amazing saves in these playoffs but he could not overcome the deficient penalty kill and the traffic in front of him. Would a rested Brodeur have made a difference? We will never know. However next year it might be something that is worth a try.
So what about next year? There are many uncertainties with this team. Will the coach be back? Will Lou Lamoriello be back? Will they even try to resign Ilya Kovalchuk (which I will maintain was worth the gamble but maybe a year or two too late)? Will Marty Brodeur finally get some rest and not because of an injury? One thing is for sure. There will be a lot of changes in New Jersey. Some will be surprising and some will not be.
There is some talk that there will be some wholesale changes and one name my good buddy Rick came up with was Anton Volchenkov. Here is a guy that actually has two eyes and can play some defense. Sure there are others out there and players to be shone the spotlight but that is not for this post mortem. Simply we will close this by saying the following. It was another nice regular season for the Devils and the banner will be nice but the first round exit is like another dagger into this fandom’s heart. The window is closing so get it together! See you next year and now Taps!