In order for the Devils to make the playoffs, everyone was predicting that in their last ten games they could only lose one more game. And even then there was no guarantee.
Tonight the Devils dropped to the Boston Bruins. They did not have a good game at all. Nerves were part of it, that’s certain. The Devils took five consecutive penalties, one of which gave the Bruins the go-ahead goal.
Things started well for the Devils who came out strong and positing Boston on their heals. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the first goal of the game at around the halfway point. But not more than five minutes later Boston’s Shawn Thornton tied things up and Boston appeared to have a leg up on the Devils. Prior to the goal being scored Boston only had three shots on goal and the Devils had over a dozen – a trend that has been going on for the Devils’past three games. But everything changed after that tying goal was made.
The second period had the Devils on their heals for the entire twenty minutes. If it had not been for Devils net minder Martin Brodeur, the score could have easily been much higher. The Devils defense could not gain control of the action, nor could they get a simple clear. This lead to some sloppy plays and four penalties taken by Mark Fayne, Nick Palmieri, Dainius Zubrus and David Steckle.
Nick Palmieri sat in the penalty box for only nine seconds until Boston’s Zdeno Chara put the puck past Brodeur; Chara’s goal would be credited as the game wining goal. By the end of the second period the shot disparity had shrunk and the Devils sat one shot ahead of Boston, 24 – 23.
Goal number three hurt the most, however, as the play began with a near game-tying goal by Ilya Kovalchuk. After the attempt, Boston was able to get the puck down the ice and immediately score a goal off the stick of Milan Lucic.
So where do the Devils stand at this juncture. Without even looking at the out-of-town scoreboard, since really the Devils have even less control over that than there own game play, the Devils playoffs chances have gone from “Believe in the Devils” to “Believe in a Miracle.”
Truth be told, the Devils play was not that of a playoff team. There was an over-abundance of bad penalties, there was a lack of scoring, and there was a significant drop in playing ability after the first 15 minutes of the first period. At that point the Devils never really recovered.
The only possible way the Devils can hope to get in to the playoff is to get a nine game winning streak. Possible, yes. Especially with the Devils miraculous streak that got them in to striking range of making the playoffs in the first place. The Devils need to be solid defensively, stick to simple, keep offensive pressure up and tight, and play with confidence. They can’t take bad penalties, and they can’t think past the current 60 minutes.