The New Jersey Devils aren’t in the current playoff picture, but they aren’t technically out of it either. Just three points out of the final wild card spot with seven games remaining, the team could certainly make one final surge to achieve a postseason berth.
Last night’s 6-3 victory over the Florida Panthers was a huge help to the Devils’ cause, but if you’re looking for positive comments regarding the win, I’d steer clear of Jaromir Jagr.
“We gotta play better hockey than today,” Jagr said. “That’s for sure. Otherwise we don’t have a chance. We’ve gotta play better hockey. We were lucky.”
To ice the cake, Jagr claimed the team played last night’s contest like “a (bleep)ing preseason game.”
At first glance, such a critique of what certainly looks like a lopsided win, one in which Jagr had four points, seems a bit harsh. But, honestly, the Devils certainly need to hear things like this from the 42-year-old forward.
Think about it. You’ve got a team in New Jersey that needs to play desperation hockey in the final few games this season. It doesn’t take much to realize a three-goal defeat of the hapless Panthers isn’t exactly on par with beating, say, the St. Louis Blues. It was a game the Devils should’ve won, and they did. But it wasn’t because they played at a high level.
It’d be very easy for other players in the locker room to look at the score and use it as an excuse to gloss over the mistakes they made. We won, right? That’s all that counts, isn’t it?
Instead, Jagr was quick to tell them, despite the much-needed victory, the style of play they brought to the ice is not going to succeed on a regular basis. And this is exactly the kind of critique his teammates need to receive.
You really have to credit Jagr for being a veteran leader and keeping his team in check. Of the remaining seven games on the schedule, the Devils only play one team – the Washington Capitals – still fighting for a playoff spot. Five of the bouts are against teams playing out the string, and then they finish with a Boston Bruins club who’ll most likely be resting as many key players as they can. After a win like last night’s, the team could try and convince themselves that minimal effort could easily net them points in almost all of these, since the majority of the teams they’re taking on are dead in the water.
However, this won’t fly for Jagr. His criticism of New Jersey’s play last night should ring true for everyone on the team. The Devils are desperate for points, and they need their play to reflect this all the way through season’s end regardless of who’s on the remaining schedule. New Jersey needs to hear these things, so good for Jagr for setting them straight and making sure they don’t over-celebrate the defeat of a Panthers team sitting at 15th place in the conference.