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Out of Contention, Devils Look to Finish Strong

Posted By Matt Pellicane On Apr 5 2011 @ 6:15 pm In New Jersey Devils | 2 Comments

With their 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at the Prudential Center, the New Jersey Devils were eliminated from playoff contention.  This marks the first time since 1996 that the Devils will not be one of the eight teams to represent the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

With four games remaining, the Devils must look to end the season on a positive note.  After all, their second half run just to get into contention is certainly something to build on.  However, players are not content with how this season has come to a close.

“You’ve got to go for that chance to compete for the Stanley Cup and the first step is the playoffs and we didn’t make it, so it’s a failure of a season,” Martin Brodeur told the Bergen Record.

The Devils failure to build a rapport with rookie head coach John MacLean was what ultimately did them in.  Finishing the first half of the season with a 10-29-2 record put the team in what turned out to be an insurmountable hole.

After Jacques Lemaire took the reigns, the Devils began to look more like the team most people envisioned when the season began.  Players and fans alike can only hope that Lemaire returns next year.  This team needs stability behind the bench.  It’s hard to continue to ask players to buy into another new coach’s system year in and year out.  What Lemaire did with this team in less than a full season is remarkable.  Had the Devils gone on to make the playoffs, you would have to think Lemaire would be on the short list for the Jack Adams award (Coach of the Year).

The Devils will begin the final week of the season tonight in Pittsburgh where they will take on the Penguins.  Johan Hedberg will be in net for the Devils, and he and Brodeur will split the four remaining games. 

Zach Parise made his long-awaited return to the Devils lineup on Saturday, but he will be a scratch tonight in Pittsburgh.  The Devils are exercising caution with Parise, especially since they will be in action tomorrow against Toronto.

With the playoffs out of reach, the Devils need to finish out the season playing sound, fundamental hockey.  Finishing the season above .500 will be a small moral victory for a team that looked destined for the dungeon of the Eastern Conference just months ago.  In a season that has fallen well short of expectations, it would be wise to take something positive away from this year’s campaign and build on it for next year.

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