Through the last couple of weeks I've let Derek and Brian have the stage as far as blogging, since after all their teams had playoffs to chase and ultimately attain and ours was just playing out the string for the most part, other than today where they had their one chance to do something to leave a good taste in what's been a poor season for the most part. With a chance to knock their bitter rival out of the playoffs, all the Devils sans Ilya Kovalchuk came up small in a 5-2 defeat, including Martin Brodeur, whose overall record against the Rangers I don't want to see ever again. It's too much of a reminder of what used to be. Before the lockout, Marty was every bit as good against the Rangers as he was against his hometown Canadiens, at least in the regular season. Now, not so much.
Granted, you have to say the Rangers were the healthier, grittier team and there's a reason they (and the Sabres) are going to the playoffs and we aren't. In a way it almost makes me feel better that the final playoff number in the East wound up being 93 points. That means the Devils would literally have had to earn 73 of a possible 82 points in the second half to make it. Wouldn't have mattered how many games we lost to Ottawa, that hole was just too deep to make up. To their credit, the Devils tried and made it fun for two months but ultimately this season will be remembered as one fiasco on top of another, from the Kovalchuk cap saga this offseason to the John MacLean thirty-three game nightmare and now one final letdown in Game #81, where if the Devils had won they would have guaranteed themselves a standing ovation on Fan Appreciation Day tomorrow, as well as a chance to finish over NHL .500.
Unfortunately the possible final game in the great coaching career of Jacques Lemaire will probably see the team get booed, although one has to say at least he's going out on a better note than last year's playoff loss would have been. He breathed life back into a corpse and not only gave us two good months of hockey (two more than we had any right to hope for after the first half) but also helped rookies like Nick Palmeri, Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson and Mark Fayne develop as well as brought out the best in $100 million man Kovalchuk, whose 21-goal second half and overall improved play at both ends of the ice proves he can indeed acclimate to the Devils' system, at least under the right coach.
Really though, I've had enough not only with speculating on the Devils' future, but also with this hockey season in general. Carolina going flat in a must-win game at home against a Tampa team with absolutely nothing to play for is the final insult. You wish they could have thrown up a clunker in the clutch like that against us at least once considering we've lost three crushing playoff series to them since 2002. And now the Rangers luck into the one team they have the best shot against - the Caps, who they beat by a touchdown just about every game they've played this year and should have beaten them in the playoffs two years ago if not for a couple of unfortunate incidents involving Sean Avery and John Tortorella.
A while back when the Devils were still going well, I thought I'd wind up ending the season with my final blog before Fan Appreciation Night on a happier note. Right now though, there are things in life to be happy about - but my sports teams aren't among them. Wake me when the NHL playoffs are over, but with our luck this year the Finals will probably be Rangers-Canucks.