March 29, 2014: The Devils' playoff hopes were hanging by threads as they visited the Islanders. They survived a rough first period and pushed really hard in the following two periods to break a 1-1 deadlock. They did not, so it ended in a shootout, their tenth of the season. The Devils scored no goals in it and lost.
April 12, 2014: The Devils and Islanders, both mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, played their penultimate game of the season in Newark. The Devils conceded the first goal when Anders Lee beat Martin Brodeur straight up on a counter-attack. Steve Bernier maintained control of a puck behind the net against a Brock Nelson defense and fed Ryan Carter for an equalizer. With seconds left in the first period, Patrik Elias took a wobbling puck and managed to pick a corner past Anders Nilsson for a go-ahead goal. After a second period of dominance, the Isles began the third period on a power play. Ryan Strome beat Andy Greene with a move and then Brodeur gloveside with a shot to make it 2-2. Both teams pushed for the go-ahead goal; especially the Islanders in overtime given that they got a power play. They did not, so the game ended in a shootout, their thirteenth of the season. Damien Brunner did score. So did all three Islanders, so they lost. 0-3 against the Islanders alone in shootouts. 0-13 over the whole season.
Honestly, I'm not even mad. I want to be mad that the Josh Bailey and Strome demonstrated the concept of a spin move in front of a team that thinks it's all about a bunch of dekes and taking it to the net. I want to be mad that the Devils didn't register a shot on net in overtime, which I find highly dubious since Nelson got his breakaway out of a scrum in front of the net of various Devils trying to find the puck to put home. I swore it all started with a shot of sorts. I want to be mad that the Devils played a very good first period and then spent the second doing very little in terms of offense, allowing the Isles to get back into it. I want to be mad that the Devils gave up plenty of odd man rushes against a team that had some heinous failures at clearing their own zone. I want to be mad that the Devils took three calls in a game where Mike Leggo and Brad Meier were only going to call the most obvious of fouls - and even missed a few of those. For example, Dainius Zubrus got picked on the zone entry that led to Strome's PPG. I want to be mad that despite the efforts and opportunities, they couldn't beat Nilsson for that extra goal, like they have been doing way too much this season against a lot of different goalies of various calibers across the league. But I am not mad. Simply because after about 5:30 PM EST on April 13, it's all meaningless.
The Opposition Opinion: Dominik has this recap up at Lighthouse Hockey. He notes how Brodeur was mad about Bailey and Strome beating him with spin moves. Par for the course for Brodeur in recent weeks, blaming others instead of himself for being beaten.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are the highlights from tonight's game:
Can't I Get a Yes Movement Storyline Instead? I Liked That One: With the end of the season and the Devils having nothing to play for, the story of "Martin Brodeur's potential farewell" has arisen with this start. Oh, I am not feeling this at all. Playing 38 or 39 starts in a season where the Devils are done after Sunday isn't going to make it anymore special. He received plenty of adoration when the now-stupid-in-retrospect rumor back in early March was that he would be traded. I fully understand, respect, appreciate, and love what Martin Brodeur has done for the franchise. He hasn't done that for the franchise this season, though. If there was something to play for or if he actually announced he'd be done after Sunday, then sure, I can see this being as a Special Occasion. I can recognize it as such and be fine with it. But right now, it's a Potential Farewell set of home games and nothing will matter. Whether he puts up a shutout or gives up ten goals won't change his legacy one iota good or bad. I won't be fooled into thinking this is it when it isn't. I'll wave goodbye when it actually happens.
That all said, I'll focus on the game for a bit. Brodeur did make plenty of good saves and important stops. He was very good in a second period that was pretty much all-Isles given the 3-13 shot differential in favor of the visitors. However, true to his form this season, he conceded goals on stoppable shots. I fail to see how that shot by Lee wasn't soft. While Strome beat Greene with a good move and the Isles got away with a pick at the blueline which opened up the passing lane to Strome, Brodeur was beaten straight up on th eshot. I could be convinced that one wasn't a bad one as I think it was live and upon seeing again on video. He did enough for long stretches where you think "Hey, he's doing pretty well," but then you realize that he let in some bad goals and that's partially why the Devils were tied in regulation instead of winning. As a sympathetic point, he got hit twice - including getting run into by Zubrus. A Lithuanian Freight Train must hurt, but Brodeur ended up looking more than OK to finish.
In the shootout, Brodeur looked miserable. His five-hole was more like a big cave on Frans Nielsen's attempt. He was mad about Bailey's Ode to Savard and then he went down early to Strome's on the next attempt. Not that the Devils were helping him much on offense, but it's fitting that in a season where his poor performance at that little stat of saves made over saves attempted, he looked like the second best goalie on the ice. It's a big reason why I'm not exactly feeling warm and fuzzy and nostalgic and forlorn at the possibility that this may be it for the legendary goaltender.
Oh, by the way, was this the farewell game? Not quite. You're killing me, Peter DeBoer. (But please stay or at least not go to Toronto.)
Shortened: Tim Sestito only played two shifts in the third and one was on the penalty kill. Granted, I don't think anyone is minding Sestito not getting regular shifts in a 2-2 game in the third. But if you wanted to know why Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias were moved about, then there's your answer. Sestito also took the first penalty in a game full of non-calls, a clearly obvious trip of Casey Cizikas in the second period. That penalty would end up being costly. But, again, I don't know if it was any kind of punishment since it's, well, Tim Sestito.
CBGB Moving: This was a far better night for CBGB. They beat on their match-ups at evens and created a goal. Steve Bernier may have received ire for botching a two-on-one in the third period, but I find few faults with his night overall. He put four shots on net and set up Carter's goal in his 12:29 of ice time. He was certainly more noticeable than Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner.
The Slump Is Over: Jaromir Jagr got a secondary assist on Elias' goal. That's his first point in five games. That's good.
His game was weird, though. He wasn't driving the play at evens, believe it or not. The puck bounced off his stick that eventually got to Lee for a 2-on-1 that he scored on in the first period. He lost the puck in his shootout attempt, which was unfortunate since Nilsson took his last deke. He hooked Cizikas to deny him a clear shot against Brodeur in the third period. Again, an obvious foul but perhaps more forgiveable since it may have denied a potential goal. But he still managed to get five shots on net and play the way one expects from Jagr.
Let me explain: After his penalty, the puck was cleared with no one around it through the neutral zone. As it drifted wide to the left circle, Jagr picked it up and turned sharply to head towards the net. He fired a high shot on Nilsson that went to the sideboards. Jagr beat the defender to the puck along the sideboards, saw Zubrus open in the high slot, and fed him for a one-timer. Nilsson couldn't hang onto it and both Zubrus and Jagr tried to pounce on the loose puck; but Nilsson managed to snag it. It was a near sublime play from the greatest Czech player ever and I'm going to remember plays like that as to when I write that the Devils may want to keep the 42-year old man around for another season.
Did I Miss Gelinas?: I wasn't real thrilled with the defense tonight. Conceding 30 shots isn't a cause for celebration. I think Adam Larsson had his struggles despite coming out very favorable in possession. Mark Fayne and Andy Greene were pinned back quite a bit. Marek Zidlicky may be exonerated by Ryan's passing counts but I didn't think he was much of a factor. I really didn't like his non-defense on the 2-on-1 with Lee since he just stood where he was and waved his stick. Jon Merrill seemed OK. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded seeing Eric Gelinas in this one in retrospect. Nilsson was fighting the puck and a big shot could've been very useful. The defense as a whole contributed only five out of 27 shots and four of those came from Merrill and Anton Volchenkov, not exactly big shooters. Sure, Gelinas may have had issues when the Isles started hitting odd-man rushes but I think that was on the fault of neutral zone play more so than the defensemen.
The Best Islander: Tonight, I think it was Strome. Seven shots on net, a game tying PPG, and a shootout sealing goal. Yeah, Nilsson was important in the third period but Strome kept firing away as the team clawed back into the game.
Farewell, Chico: I may write a little more about this later. But it was made official during tonight's broadcast (and further confirmed here by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice with plenty of quotes): he will retire and Ken Daneyko will take over his spot on color commentary.
Your Take: Well, there's only one game left now. What did you think of this one? Based on what you saw, what would you like to see for the final game of the 2013-14 campaign? At least not a fourteenth shootout loss? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's shootout loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and the sparse tweets of @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.