Forget saving the last one, the dance has been over for the New Jersey Devils for a while. Their demise started back in February when they experienced their first major losing streak of the lockout-shortened season. Luckily, the team had a sizzling start and had a bit of a cushion.
However, it wasn’t long before that had deflated along with any hope of another run at the coveted Stanley Cup. The team’s monumental 10 game losing skid which tied a franchise worst dating back to the Mickey Mouse days of the early 1980′s more than sealed their fate. Yet, it was the New York Rangers who doused the small glimmer of hope the team held for a surprise comeback.
Last week’s convincing defeat, by the Rangers, officially announced what most fans already surmised: the Devils were done.
Today’s match up against their Hudson River Rivals at Madison Square Garden is as meaningless as they come. The Devils don’t even get to play the role of spoilers since the Rangers took care of that with a win Thursday night over the Carolina Hurricanes, clinching the final playoff spot.
There is only position in the standings at stake for the Blueshirts and pride for the Devils. It is much better to close a lost season on a winning note than on a losing one.
For many of the Devils, this afternoon’s contest may be bittersweet. Players like Patrik Elias and David Clarkson are unrestricted free agents come July 1. With the salary cap dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3, difficult decisions will have to be made by General Manager Lou Lamoriello and some will not be back in red and black come September.
Clearly, the team was lacking something this season and changes will need to be made. But the question is, do the Devils have the finances to do it?
For the first time since December of 1993, Martin Brodeur will be a healthy scratch for a game at the Garden. The future Hall of Fame goaltender will turn 41 on May 6. He has one year remaining on a two-year deal, which was worked out last summer.
As Brodeur watched from the bench and the mocking chants of “Marty, Mary” echoed down from the rafters, the scoring curse which plagued the Devils for most of the year was again front and center as the offense was unable to capitalize on multiple power plays. By the end of the second period, they were in a three-goal hole, a familiar spot for the goal-challenged offense. The Rangers would add one more before shutting out the Devils.
Only Brodeur knows whether or not next season will be his final curtain call in the NHL. However, one thing is for sure. He wants to go out on the top, not the bottom.