No Fun in Florida Sun for the Devils
The New Jersey Devils went into the two-game Florida series with high hopes for a playoff spot. They left wounded and bewildered, seeking answers as to what went wrong; the team went from two points back in both the wild card and the division to five points back in both.
The goaltending, defense, and offense — all of which had been so dominant for the Devils following the Olympic break— dissipated quickly in the glare of the Sunshine State. In the two games, eight goals were allowed with only three goals scored (the three all came in one game against the Florida Panthers). Cory Schneider, so effective throughout the season in keeping the Devils in games, let up four Panther goals on 21 shots (the fifth was an empty net goal). Martin Brodeur, who had been 4-0-0 in his last four starts, let up three goals on 32 shots by the Lightning.
The Devils held a 3-1 lead over the Panthers in the second at Sunrise and a 3-2 lead in the third, yet the lead melted away as Schneider let up two more goals and lost the game to his former Canuck teammate, and current Panther goalie Roberto Luongo. The Devils could never really got anything going in Tampa Bay against the Lightning as Ben Bishop blanked the Devils for 60 minutes. Brodeur, despite giving up three goals, actually played a heck of a game in net. He stopped a penalty shot and made a few key saves throughout the game to keep the Devils in it, but it just wasn’t enough.
The Devils have just 14 games remaining, so the upcoming stretch of games are all must-wins. Six out of their next eight games are at home, and the two road games are in New York State (Buffalo and Long Island) so not much travel is required. The Devils play both the Rangers and Maple Leafs, who are contenders with the Devils for the same playoff spots, and they also have games against basement dwellers Islanders, Panthers, and the Sabres. Following this stretch of eight games we will know whether the Devils are contenders or not for the playoffs. If they can take at least five of these games, there is a very good chance the team will make the playoffs. However, if the Devils cannot find a way past these weaker opponents, it’s going to be painfully obvious that the Devils team ran out of gas before the finish line
The next time the Devils play is on Tuesday, March 18th against the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center. The game is at 7:00 pm on MSG Plus.