On Saturday, The New Jersey Devils squared off with their hated rival, New York Rangers, in their final game of the 2013 campaign. Going into the matchup, neither team had anything much to play for. The Rangers had already clinched a playoff spot a game before, and the Devils were eliminated a week earlier by the very same Rangers, so a low energy game was to be expected; that was exactly what the Devils gave their fans from the first whistle to the last.
Right off the opening, the Rangers took control of the game, and never gave it up. Second year center Derek Stepan took a pass from behind the net from captain Ryan Callahan, just over two minutes in, and the Blue Shirts never looked back. The Devils were unable to generate high quality scoring chances all night long. For the first time in a span of 13 games, New Jersey was out shot, out hit, and out played by a much faster Rangers team. Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils were unable to solve Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, as he stopped all 20 shots in route to his 7 career shutout over New Jersey.
John Hedberg got the start at the other end of the ice for the Devils. The Rangers registered only one more shot than the Devils, but almost every shot was a high scoring opportunity. Had it not been for the timely saves Hedberg provided for his team, the score could have easily been a lot worse than 4-0.
The look on each player’s faces was a show of depletion and disappointment. They knew they played well enough all season long to be in the playoffs, but were unable to finish their chances night in and night out. All game long, it looked as if New Jersey had mailed this game in, and were just going through the motions for the full 60 minutes. Head Coach Peter DeBoer referred to this game as “ugly”, and being in an “ugly situation”.
With the regular season officially over, and the Devils sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, General Manager Lou Lamoriello and his scouting staff will look to the 2013 NHL Draft, which is being held at the Prudential Center, in Newark, New Jersey, on June 30. For the first time in the history of the NHL, each team will have a chance to win the Draft Lottery, for a chance to pick first overall in this year’s draft. The worst team in the NHL this season was the Florida Panthers, so they have the best chance at receiving the first pick in this lottery. Here are the percentage chances for each non-playoff team:
- Florida Panthers- 25.0%
- Colorado Avalanche- 18.8%
- Tampa Bay Lightning- 14.2%
- Nashville Predators- 10.7%
- Carolina Hurricanes- 8.1%
- Calgary Flames- 6.2%
- Edmonton Oilers- 4.7%
- Buffalo Sabres- 3.6%
- New Jersey Devils- 2.7%
- Dallas Stars- 2.1%
- Philadelphia Flyers- 1.5%
- Phoenix Coyotes- 1.1%
- Winnipeg Jets- 0.8%
- Columbus Blue Jackets- 0.5%
New Jersey has to forfeit their first round pick, either this season or next, as punishment from the failed Ilya Kovalchuk contract extension. Since the draft is in their own home building this season, and they are guaranteed a top 10 pick, I believer Lou will surrender his pick next season. This draft should be very interesting. New Jersey has many holes to fill, and contracts to renegotiate this offseason.
This should be a busy summer for Lamoriello and the rest of the Devils organization.