The New Jersey Devils, the team that did the impossible and made Newark an attractive destination for a few brief weeks, passed away into the footnotes of history on Monday night.
They were dispatched by the Los Angeles Kings, as unlikely a juggernaut as there could be in the playoffs this postseason. The Devils themselves were unlikely finalists, as their run to the Cup was more like an easy amble. Or in their goaltender's case, waddle.
[Nicholas J. Cotsonika: Kings unleash '45 years of frustration' with unlikely Stanley Cup]
First they defeated the mighty, mighty Panthers! Still made up of has-beens, never weres and nobodies 18 years after their expansion, the Frankenstein's monster that is the Florida franchise took Marty and his minions to double overtime in Game 7.
Then it was on to Philadelphia for some cheesesteaks. The hungry, hungry hippo and his bloat took on an exhausted Philly team that clearly had run out of gas winning their own Cup by beating the Penguins. And yet they still needed two-time Devil Brendan Shanahan to kick out Giroux so they could advance to the conference finals.
That, of course, brings us to the Blueshirts and I really have no singular explanation for the Rangers choke-job to the Devils. Tortorella's refusal to use his whole roster, Gaborik's bad shoulder, Boyle's concussion, Carl Hagelin's unearned bad reputation, Sean Avery's ostracization, Michael Del Zotto's Del Zastrous defensive play … New York lost this series, New Jersey hardly won it. 'Blah blah, bitter Ranger fan, blah blah.' I know. Whatever. Bite me. Move along.
New York's loss was New Jersey's gain as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. What a stage for Lou's stooges. They were four wins away from their fourth Cup, the one to match the mark held by the Rangers and the Islanders, their metro rivals.
But they didn't get it.
Instead Devils slink back to their swamp state empty handed, while their few fans raise the ever classic 'ref screwed us' flag. But, alas, it wasn't the officials who critically wounded Jersey's chances at the Cup but a sequence of stupidity.
The latest and greatest instance of idiocy being, of course, Steve Bernier's boarding in the first period of Game 6. An utterly inexcusable hit that could have easily been avoided, the check was a prime example of what the NHL has been trying to remove from the game this season. And the fourth liner, a failed first round pick (one spot ahead of Parise!), was sent to the dressing room while Los Angeles undressed his teammates.
But it was not Bernier who put his team in a 0-3 hole. That honor largely goes to Pete DeBoer for making Petr Sykora a healthy scratch. Sykora sat on the bench for the first three games - a guy who had 73 points in 130 career playoff games, a span that included five previous trips to the Cup final. Because why would DeBoer play him when Josef Jacobson was available? Jacobson, with his 69 prior NHL regular season games and three playoff matches (against the Rangers in the previous round), contributed absolutely nothing to New Jersey and Sykora sat while his team lost by the narrowest of margins the first two games.
But to ask for logic and reason from a man who was somehow able to ignore bodacious tatas and call it focus? That's to ask too much.
And too much was asked of Ilya Kovalchuk, with his bad back. Apparently carrying the load for the likes of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Travis Zajac and Diving Dainus Zubrus was too much for the former Thrasher to take. His slipped disc certainly screwed up the power play plans of Adam Oates as the man advantage went 1-19 including that five-on-three in Game 3. The Devils have to be happy that they will have the one-way ice hog for 13 more seasons.
And that helps bring us to the architect of the team, Lou Lamoriello.
But alas Lou, you did not keep Gomez, and you did not get Ryan McDonagh. There is no Scott Neidermayer, no Scott Stevens, no Brian Rafalski, no Ken Daneyko … hell, no Paul Martin — although I'm sure the Pens will gladly give him back.
Instead of those former stalwarts, the current unit included Peter Harrold, Mark Fayne, Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene on the blueline. Uberkind Adam Larsson proved unready for regular duty with the big boys and had to watch. Because there is no way a super young Swede could possible supplant any of the aforementioned 'stars,' right?
Oh, and how could anyone forget Anton Volchenkov? Anton Volchenkov, who was — in the words of Devil fan Puck Daddy himself — "completely terrible." Good thing he has a no trade clause and is signed through 2015, making more than four mil a year …
Meanwhile Zach Parise is set to do what all intelligent people do — get the hell out of Newark.
He may go but the identity of the Devils, the very heart, soul and rotund gut of the franchise is expected to remain Marty Brodeur. It's easy to go heavy on Marty because he is a big target - puns entirely intended - and not just for his mockery of the institution of marriage.
You have to imagine little Marty — if you can imagine Marty little — dreaming of winning Stanley Cups like the Montreal teams his dad photographed. And he did win three. While he was foiled from winning his fourth, he did secure redemption for "Matteau!" and 1994 when the current Ranger team laid down before him like they were a member of his extended family.
And yet he still refuses to just retire back to his pizza place with pride intact. He could spend his summer telling women to get back to cooking, offering up more recipes through his website. But no, Brodeur says he will be back. When you think about it, his return was a certainty — those alimony payments last until 2020.
So we will have at least one more season of the flopping and flailing in front of referees that somehow still works. Diving Plongeon Canada would be wise to use him over in London, if the platforms prove able to hold his weight. But come the fall he should be back to the Rock, where a shockingly stable franchise will greet him.
Even before the shocking revenue numbers came out, the Devils' "highfalutin, high-class huckster and hustler" of an owner was able to find an anonymous benefactor willing to lend his money to the team, if not his name.
Now all New Jersey will have to do is pray that Lou can replace Parise and poor DeBoer can somehow get David Clarkson to put up another 30 goal season. Plus someone needs to help Adam Henrique avoid a sophomore slump and Bryce Salvador has to find more soul to sell to keep that playoff magic going.
But that is for the months to come. Right now the Devils' Army has been defeated and their season is done. New Jersey will go back to being the ignored bratty brother of the Blueshirts and their bandwagon fans will go back to their Jersey shore bars and clubs.
The 2011-12 Devils team will rest in ignominy where they belong, soon to be an afterthought, an answer to the trivia question: 'Who handed the Kings their first Cup?'
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