One way or another, this would be the last New Jersey Devils game this season. As of this writing, the result of this game doesn't really matter. The Devils weren't going to play any more games. Still, one would hope the team would put out a good effort against a hated rival. The New York Rangers aren't just rivals. They are Our Hated Rivals. Surely, the Devils would want to make a point of it to take them down a peg even if it's meaningless in the big picture. Especially given how the Rangers knocked them out six days ago.
That didn't happen. It didn't even remotely happen. The Devils lost 4-0 to the Rangers and stunk up the joint, quite frankly. The season itself was a disappointment as the Devils didn't make the post season. Despite usually doing very well in possession, limiting the opposition's shots, and doing other things right, the team's inability to score at times really undercut their chances this season. There were many games where they were the better team on the ice but not on the scoreboard. Today was something different; the Devils were just the inferior team on the ice. They were second-rate in effort. They were lackadaisical in both ends of the rink. I saw a team that just wanted the season to be over and, well, the Rangers happily helped them down that path this afternoon. They deserved to lose big and they did.
Not once, not twice, but three times the Rangers scored due in part to a lack of attention on defense. The first goal came less than three minutes into the game - not within the first minute, but progress? - but it came from behind the goal line all the same. Ryan Callahan gets the puck behind the net thanks to Ryan Carter botching a clearance so John Moore could dump it in to him. Devils are looking at Callahan - especially Stephen Gionta with his stick not on the ice - but no one was looking at Derek Stepan. Pass, shot, score. The third goal of the game came in the second period and had a similar set-up. Adam Larsson gaveaway the puck in the right corner to Brad Richards. Devils skaters look at Richards, no one's on Rick Nash in the high slot. Pass, shot, score. The fourth goal of the game didn't start from behind the goal line but the Devils looked like statues anyway. Along the perimeter, Mats Zucarello from the point fed it to Richards into the left corner, Richards hit a cutting Zuccarello across the slot, and then he passed it back to Nash in the slot. Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson covered no one; Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk did nothing but watch; and it was pass, shot, score once again. They were good plays by the Rangers, but entirely defendable. The otherwise stingy Devils defense wasn't today.
Oh, the second goal was a bit different from the norm. That came during a late Devils power play in the first period. Marek Zidlicky was leading the build-up as the trailer in the neutral zone. He attempts to fire a pass only for it to be picked off by Stepan. Stepan cuts out wide, Zidlicky chases, and so the Ranger found Callahan streaking into the middle. Pass, drive in, shot, score. The box score should have given a secondary assist to Zidlicky but scorers don't count own-assists so a recap like this one and video of the goal will suffice in highlighting the error.
But beyond the goals, it was just a poor performance all around. Ilya Kovalchuk was bad. Patrik Elias was bad. Adam Henrique was invisible. Steve Sullivan was invisible. The CBGB unit wasn't good. Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson looked poor. Only Andy Greene and Peter Harrold looked a bit more than OK in their own end; and among the forwards, I would say I liked Travis Zajac the most. Johan Hedberg made a number of crucial stops but he couldn't stem the bleeding by the team's performance. The only aspect of the game I can say that went really well for the Devils was the penalty kill, which was featured far too many times for my liking. But the Devils were out-shot 20-21. Attempts were 51-37 in favor of the Devils but 21 of them were blocks which speaks to how poor the shooting really was. The Devils' power play was a waste and ultimately a net negative today. The usually strong even strength play wasn't there even for a stretch of time. The Rangers did quite well and the Devils played like a bottom-ten team in the league today.
It should only be seen as just that. Today was a terrible game. It definitely wasn't indicative of how the 2013 season went for New Jersey. The Devils were a lot better than this even when they went winless in ten games or when they went winless in six games. And given that it's the last game of the regular season and it's against a hated rival, it stings a bit more. The proverbial bad taste left in your mouth will remain a little longer than a day. So it goes.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Faceoff Comparison | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | The Time on Ice Corsi & Fenwick Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts
The Opposition Opinion: Those at Blueshirt Banter are pleased. They should be. Their favorite team creamed their rivals as they head into the playoffs and possibly a more favorable first round match-up.
The Game Highlights: Well, they're highlights if you're a Rangers fan or enjoy failure. Here's the video from NHL.com anyway:
Who Was the Devils' Shot Leader: Anton Volchenkov led the Devils with shots on net with three. Anton. Volchenkov. There were many other Devils who attempted as many shots as A-Train but they got blocked and/or missed the net more frequently than him.
Silver Lining Penalty Kill: The Rangers had six power plays, including a long 5-on-3 and a short 5-on-3, and they didn't register one official shot on net. They hit the post once on the 5-on-3 but that was it. Meanwhile the Devils registered three shots on net and looked quite good in killing them.
The Power Play Was A Waste: Their four power plays were pretty bad, struggled to gain the zone, and one even ended early thanks to a penalty by Adam Henrique. They got five shots on net but managed to give up three great shorthanded shots on net. The first was a giveaway by Steve Sullivan that led to Callahan beating a disinterested-on-backchecking Sullivan and Kovalchuk in a one-on-two. the second was Zidlicky's giveaway leading to Callahan's SHG. The third was a giveaway by Henrique that Nash took to the end but only got a weak one on Hedberg as Kovalchuk knocked him away. The man advantage wasn't for New Jersey and it's one more aspect the team will need to address this spring and summer.
They Wouldn't Have Mattered: Alexander Urbom and Eric Gelinas did not play today, the called-up Harri Pesonen didn't get back in, and Mike Sislo stayed out. Let me be clear, none of them would have helped today. As poor as Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson looked in their own end as the game went on, I doubt either Urbom or Gelinas would've saved it. The team performance wasn't going to be better if they had more inexperienced guys in the lineup. Besides, all but Sislo got a game in, they'll have opportunities to make their case in camp as I don't expect Zidlicky among others to return.
The Rick Nash Show: If you're wondering why the Rangers made the move they did to get Rick Nash, today's game showed exactly why he's so dangerous. He was a force today. He led the Rangers' with seven shots on net, he had two goals, he came close to scoring two to three more, and tied with Richards for the highest Fenwick differential on the Rangers today at +10. The Devils had little answer for him and whoever draws the Rangers next week will have to think of a plan for him.
Pro Tip for the Rangers' First Round Opponents: When the line of Stepan, Callahan, and Carl Hagelin are out there, they love to get it in deep and set up for a man in the slot. Learn from the Devils and actually cover the guy in the slot. The puck carrier isn't scoring from behind the goal line. Why the Devils didn't learn this from Sunday's game or after the first near-chance less than a minute in or after the first goal against, I couldn't tell you.
So What's Next for this Site: The Devils' season is now done but the content doesn't stop at ILWT. We didn't stop during the lockout, we're not going to quit now. Tomorrow, I reveal our writers' player awards that we decided prior to today's game. On Monday, I will write an April in Review post summing up the past few weeks and lamenting a lack of scoring throughout. Monday night is the draft lottery, so we'll know exactly how high the Devils will be picking in the first round. From then on, there's plenty ahead. We've got goal against reviews. We've got analysis of various kinds from this past season. We've got scoring chance reports to catch up on. We've got looks ahead at free agency both from within and on the market. We've got draft prospect profiles. Our favorite team may be golfing early and as fun as golfing is (and it is despite it being a game of failure), please remember to visit this site as we'll give you plenty of reasons to come back.
What's your take on this game? Will you be reading ILWT? Please leave your answers and other thoughts this terrible loss in the comments. Thanks to those who followed along in the Gamethread and those on Twitter through @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading this recap and all season long.