What a difference a month has made for the New Jersey Devils. At this point a few weeks ago, the season was so bright you had to wear shades. Now, the team has been knocked out of the last playoff spot by their dreaded Hudson River Rivals, the New York Rangers.
And T.S. Eliot said “April is the cruelest month.”
For the Devils, it has been March — or Feb. 24 to be exact — the day Martin Brodeur took himself out of the game against the Winnipeg Jets with what would later be explained as a pinched nerve.
That weekend would be the beginning of a six-game skid which would initiate the slide from the top of the Eastern Conference to the outside looking in.
Now, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Yes, they are technically tied for the last playoff spot with the Rangers. Four teams are actually knotted at 32 points for the eighth slot. The reality is the Devils are only six tallies from the fifth spot. However, it might as well be 60 with the anemic way the club has been playing of late.
Certainly, losing their No. 1 goaltender for an extended period of time hurt the team, but all clubs deal with injuries. They are indeed a part of the game which is why you have a backup. While Johan Hedberg hasn’t exactly been stellar between the pipes, he hasn’t been horrible either.
The rest of the crew has had issues too. First and foremost is the offense — the team doesn’t seem to have any.
Sure, Zach Parise packed up his 30-plus goals and moved back home to Minnesota, but the Devils do have other players who are quite capable of putting the puck in the net: Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and Patrick Elias, to name a few.
Let’s not forget David Clarkson, who scored 10 goals in the first 14 games and only one in the last 15. How’s that for a slump?
Then, there’s the blueliners who have made a few blunders and aren’t chipping in offensively either. As a team, they have only scored more than two goals twice during this 13-game stretch everyone would rather forget. We won’t even get into the power play, which seems to be on life support.
With 18 games left in this lockout shortened season, we shouldn’t pull the plug. As the saying goes, it’s not “over till it’s over.” Hedberg echoed that sentiment to reporters last night when he said, “It’s not over yet. It’s far from over.”
There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Brodeur may do more than sit on the bench for the team against the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow night down south. While he may not be superman, he may just be what the doctor ordered.