Being out all night at the movies, I had hopes that when I came home to see the NHL scores, the Devils would be within five of a playoff berth. After what’s happened in the second half of the season part of me still felt there was more excitement to come and Buffalo did have a tough game in Montreal. Instead though, the Devils’ playoff run is all but over now after a 4-1 loss to a slumping Bruins team that came to play and the Sabres’ 2-0 shutout in Montreal. Not to mention the Rangers, Carolina and Toronto also winning in front of us.
Really you had to figure Boston had too much talent to go on stinking up the joint the way they have the last couple weeks. As Chico Resch adroitly pointed out in the pregame the start of their slump coincided with the Zdeno Chara–Max Pacioretty incident. And now it’s obvious the Devils have finally run out of gas after not only having a Game 7-like intensity to every game for two months, but taking just about every game down to the wire in the process. I know theoretically the team can still win nine in a row and make it interesting, but it just ain’t happening. Even if it does, I’m not sure we get in with how the teams in front of us are playing anyway.
I should feel happy that the Devils didn’t give up on a season that was an utter embarassment halfway through and from that we managed to restore the pride in the uniform. And really you can’t expect to come back from a 27-point deficit to make the playoffs, not when the largest deficit overcome was 12. Even getting that 27-point deficit down to six (with a game in hand) and having a chance to finish over .500 is a tremendous feat in itself. Many good things happened in the second half, from the development of the rookies to the resurgence of Ilya Kovalchuk as an elite player and improvement of the defense as a whole.
Yet, right now I’m sitting here in a melancholy mood like I would at the end of a playoff series. I guess part of it is you do get greedy when you have a chance to make all-time history, and another part of it is just the fun coming to an end after the two best months of being a hockey fan outside of our three Stanley Cup runs. Arguably, even those runs didn’t have the sheer excitement or the number of dramatic finishes that we’ve seen the last two months. MSG+ showed a montage of all of our critical goals recently before one of the games last weekend and that made me want to stand up and cheer.
However part of my sadness is also for reasons having nothing to do with this improbable playoff chase. Due to issues beyond my control this season might be my last as a Devils season ticket holder. I’ve loved having the seats in 208 for each of the four years in Prudential Center history, especially given the people around me in that section and the $15 price of the seats. I’ll never be able to thank the buddy enough who’s let me have the seats (they were in his name but he couldn’t use them since he had to move out of the state) but he no longer has the time to help me out, and it’s been a hassle trying to get season ticket holder rights transferred from him to me.
That’s a long story in itself but suffice it to say, if we’re not able to do it within a couple weeks I doubt I’ll be able to continue getting season tickets there since there is a deadline of April 1 to retain your rights to a specific seat. And if I’m not an sth there I probably won’t be one anywhere else since there are numerous discounts available elsewhere in the building and cheap tickets on the secondary market. Needless to say I figured if this was going to be my last season as a season ticket holder I wanted to go out with a bang but it looks like that won’t be possible. Our last five games will mean little other than playing spoiler to the Leafs maybe and perhaps affecting division and seeding races against the Flyers, Bruins and Canadiens.
Oh, don’t get me wrong – I still want to finish above .500 and with nine games left it’s very possible the Devils finish above 82 points, which would be a tremendous tangible achievement after the start we had. And one other thing I want to get out of this last nine games is to see Zach Parise return. I know the school of thought probably will be don’t risk his health now but I honestly think if there’s no danger of reaggravating his injury then he should play, even if we’re just playing out the string. He hasn’t played since Halloween, it would do his own psyche good to step on the ice at least once or twice before this season’s over with. Not to mention we’re gonna need to figure out how he and Kovy can share the ice sooner or later.
And playing spoiler is a new role for us, I don’t know whether we’ll embrace it or not but my hope is with so few games left in the season that we – players and fans alike – give it all we’ve got the last several games. I mean the players’ll have long enough to rest after the next two and a half weeks and the fans’ll also get a well-deserved rest after we had our offseason hijacked by the Kovy contract nonsense and with the wild roller-coaster ride of this season. Plus, sportswise there’s really little else for me to look forward to until the Jets come back…assuming no NFL lockout into September anyway. Well nothing except for this weekend when I’ll be attending the NCAA tournament regional games at the Rock, after taking advantage of a presale last year and winding up with a seat in section twelve for a reasonable price ($200 for the three games).
Another day and another time I’ll write a post on how the second half was good for us, on and off the ice. I do have a lot to say on that end too, from the strides the Devils have made in public relations off the ice to the growth that this second half has shown in the team. Right now I’m still too depressed about everything, and determined to enjoy my final three or four home games as much as possible given the circumstances (I won’t be at the game on the 30th and might not be at the one on the 2nd next month but will be at every other one). After all, it’ll be another six months until the Devils play their next meaningful game.
Man, that really is gonna be a long wait.