With the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes approaching Game 7 tomorrow night at the Rock, much of what Gulitti has today, outside of Bryce Salvador playing with the scratches in practice, is about past Game 7s. Gulitti details who has the edge in Game 7 experience (Devils, at least in terms of players) and he brings up the memories of past Game 7s (e.g. the Mike Rupp Experience in 2003 to clinch the Devils third Cup, the Devils' last Game 7). In the latter post, John Madden sums up the goal in a Game 7.
"You've got to raise it way beyond what you think your level is and then some," Madden said. "It's one game. You're playing for your life. There's no tomorrow."
This is true, as we saw Carolina play like this in Game 6 last night.
In any case, tomorrow's game will decide the series one way or another. That's obvious. What may not be as obvious is that this game is much more than just determining who moves on to the second round and who gets to think about the NHL Draft a little earlier than expected. I fear that tomorrow's game very well decide how we will view the Devils' season. Especially if it's a loss.
In the 2008-09 regular season, we saw the Devils actually as an offensively productive team - able to win games through scoring at times. We saw one of our worst nightmares come true - Martin Brodeur sustaining a major injury - but then we saw that the Devils can continue to be successful with Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes. We saw Brodeur return from this injury and saw his performance basically didn't skip a beat. Oh, and in doing so, we saw him become the NHL's all time leader in wins. We saw Zach Parise emerge as a star, finish in the top 5 in scoring in the league and seriously challenge the franchise record of 96 points. We saw the holder of the franchise record for scoring in a single season, Patrik Elias, set a franchise record for points and enjoy a point per game season. We saw the comeback seasons of Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. We saw the quiet growth of Paul Martin as a #1 defenseman and Johnny Oduya as a top-pairing defenseman. We saw this Devils team play possession hockey, dominate teams along the boards, and much more. And the Devils set a franchise record in wins with 51 in doing all of this.
And this will all be ignored if the Devils lose tomorrow.
All of these positives and achievements and accomplishments and records - meaningless if the Devils lose Game 7 tomorrow. We may remember them looking back at this season, I know I will. But immediately after the series, it will be forgotten - even for a little bit.
The expectation after all that we saw this season is that this team needs to go deep in the playoffs. Of course, Lou builds the Devils expecting to go deep every season; but this season is different considering how well they have performed all throughout the season. We know they are good enough to get to the promised land, but they actually need to show that they are good enough.
Not to pick on Frank D, but since we'll probably see a lot of this in the papers and online should the Devils lose tomorrow, he had this comment when he asked the Pensburgh readers who they'd like Pittsburgh to play in the second round:
The Carolina/New Jersey series isn't half bad either. Game 7 is tomorrow at 7:30 in NJ and will ultimately stand as the deciding factor in whether or not Devils fans will cry all offseason about that goal Marty allowed with .2 seconds left on the clock in Game 4.
Sorry Frank, but I thnk you couldn't be further from the truth there. Not only because it didn't decide anything, as evidenced by the fact it's a 3-3 series. The main reason is this: No matter how close the first round has been. No matter how well Cam Ward has played - and he has played exceptionally well. (Aside: I think both goaltenders have gone above and beyond the call of duty in this series. Fans of both teams, if you're looking to assign blame for the first round loss, the goaltenders are not deserving of any blame. Neither lost this series.) No matter what happens in Game 7 - be it a beatdown (Game 6) or a game that ended in a fluke (Game 4) or an overtime loss (Game 2). You'l; be likely to hear something like this regardless of all that I just mentions: "The Devils got 51 wins last season, but the Devils lost in the first round." "Zach Parise had an amazing season wherein he did amazing things but the Devils lost in the first round." "Paul Martin became the Devils' #1 blueliner but the Devils lost in the first round." "David Clarkson continues to become the next Randy McKay but the Devils lost in the first round." "Martin Brodeur solidified his status as a hockey legend by coming back from injury with a shutout and going on to win his 552nd game but the Devils lost in the first round."
In the end, it all comes down to results. This is a results-oriented business. It's why it doesn't matter if the Devils win 4-1, 3-2 in OT, or 1-0. Likewise, it won't matter if they lose 2-1 in OT, 4-3, or 4-0. They won't blame a game or a call, they will see the overall result and that will be what is remembered most of all about 2008-09: another early exit from the playoffs.
The season is truly at stake for the Devils tomorrow at the Rock. Not just in whether it will end, but in how it will be remembered.