The Devils lost to the Kings in Game 6, with a final score of 6-1.
First of all: congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings on their 1st Stanley Cup! An award well earned and an excellent post season played. The first Cup is always sweetest.
Also, congratulations to the New Jersey Devils for compiling a charismatic and skilled roster, defeating their division rivals, and making Los Angeles sweat. After not making it last year despite their best effort, this season and post season were a treat to watch.
Inside: brief recap; Bernier – why we shouldn’t blame; refereeing; a breakdown of discipline; reflection on the playoffs.
The Devils played well in the opening of the 1st, but the Kings seemed to be determined to end the series and stop the Devils from taking it back to Newark. It’s hard to imagine what the game would’ve been like without Steve Bernier’s game-changing 5 minute major which came at 10:10 of the 1st. The penalty was served by Petr Sykora, and Bernier was also given a game misconduct.
The penalty changed the momentum of the game. The Devils were unable to establish a penalty kill and the Kings scored 3 in a four minute span, putting the game all but out of reach when considering the goalie at the other end was Conn Smythe-winner Jonathan Quick. Goal scorers: Dustin Brown (Doughty, Richards), Jeff Carter (Brown, Richards), and Lewis (King, Doughty).
Understandably, there was a large amount of resentment about Bernier from Devils fans. But Bernier did not cause the Devils to lose this game. Things happen – and while his penalty was unfortunate, so was the Devils’ penalty kill. Bernier also did not, singlehandedly, put the Devils in a 3-games-down hole in the series. Yes, the fact that he took the penalty and received a game misconduct dismantled the Devils’ prized 4th line. But a disciplined team would recover and the Devils, running high on frustration and emotions, did not.
At the end of the 1st, the Devils had been on the PK for roughly 13 minutes and allowed 3 goals on 13 shots. SOG were 13-4 in favor of the Kings. Patrik Elias had a chance to make the score 3-1 in the last 36 seconds of the 1st, but his shot went off the post.
There is still an ongoing debate whether Bernier’s boarding on Rob Scuderi came as retaliation for a Jarret Stoll hit on Stephen Gionta that went uncalled. After Bernier’s penalty, refereeing became somewhat disastrous in this game. A linesman got in the way of Anton Volchenkov attempting to return to the Devils’ defensive zone to prevent a rush by Brown, leading to the Kings’ fourth goal by Jeff Carter at 1:30 of the 2nd. But can, or should, Devils fans blame the officials for this game? No. Refereeing has been ‘dodgy,’ as we say, the entirety of this post season, and no team has been given treatment different from any other. Let’s keep conspiracy theories at home and focus on hockey.
What can be blamed is the Devils’ failure of discipline in a game that got away from them in the leading 15 minutes of the 1st. Ryan Carter received a 10 minute misconduct at 14:23 of the 2nd for roughing Quick in his net. Shortly after, David Clarkson also received a misconduct. Rookie hero Adam Henrique scored for the Devils at 18:45 to make the score 4-1 in favor of the Kings. This would be the only Devils goal in the game.
The Devils were unable to capitalize on further chances and the Kings, bolstered by the home crowd, went on to win 6-1. This is the first time the Stanley Cup has been won by the home team since 2007.
You know what? I will miss the beards and the mustaches. I’ll also miss this roster. And most of all, I’ll be missing hockey during the long following summer months.
Things that were great about these playoffs: our long run. Our coach. Being the Eastern Conference Champions. The fourth line. The development of Adam Henrique. Martin Brodeur’s renaissance and strong play. He’s pretty fly for an old guy.
Like many Devils fans, I don’t think any of us could have predicted that the Devils would ever reach the Final. Seeing their shaky performance at times during the first round against the Florida Panthers didn’t exactly spell ‘possible champions.’ But the Devils pulled through with a spectacular finish in double OT in Game 7, and in the second round faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers who had just pulled a decisive victory in the Battle of Pennsylvania against the much touted Penguins.
The Devils won the series against the Flyers 4-1, losing the first game but then winning four straight. It was a pleasant surprise, and gave the Devils confidence to roll into the Eastern Conference Finals against their rivals the New York Rangers.
Against the Rangers, the Devils were blanked by Vezina candidate Henrik Lundqvist in Games 1 and 3. But after winning Game 2 and losing Game 3, the Devils went on to win Games 4, 5, and 6. WInning against the Rangers is always sweet to the Devils fanbase, and the 2012 Eastern Conference Final will no doubt be a card often pulled when fans of either team are debating the rivalry.
This run also demonstrated the appeal of unsung heroes performing well when the stars were not able to. Ilya Kovalchuk played through the post season injured. In his stead, rookie Adam Henrique and fourth liners Bernier, Gionta, and Carter were up to the task. It was a comfort to fans that the depth of our lines was able to support the team in times of crisis. Henrique will hopefully be a Devil for a long time. His frank, calm demeanor and his performance speak for a possible future captaincy.
Fans had doubts about Pete DeBoer, but he has proved himself a great head coach for the Devils. As a fan, I’m excited for another season played under him, no matter what changes the roster will inevitably see during the summer.
Martin Brodeur also performed well during the playoffs, occasionally playing with such flashes of brilliance that those watching were brought 20 years back to the past. His performance seemed to prove to Brodeur himself that he has at least another year in him. He will be a UFA, and Brodeur has given himself a July 1st deadline to decide whether he will play for another season. But indications are that he will return and that he will return as a Devil.
Goodbye, 2011-2012 New Jersey Devils. Speaking as a fan, you were a joy to watch. Thank you for your hard work, determination, and the joy you showed as you played.
See you next year, guys.