I'm pleased and happy to report that the sun did rise in New Jersey after last night's shocking, heartbreaking, depressing, and stomach/groin-punchingly-bad Game 7 loss to Carolina. Other than that, I'm not really feeling pleased or happy.
Anyway. Not to steal from Tibbs' thunder, but there were a few stories that deserve a little extra notice.
First Tom Gulitti provides the near-definitive explanation as to what happened in those fateful 80 seconds by doing what few non-Canes who saw the game did: watch those 80 seconds again. Gulitti is wise to point out that it was the ZZ Pops line who was out there for the equalizer - putting lie to the theory that the top lines = defensive stops; and that Eric Staal being given the space he had really was a mistake in retrospect. The only item that Gulitti missed is that Mike Mottau felt he could have done something. Rich Chere had the telling quote last night:
"I had my stick out thinking he was going to cut back," Mottau explained. "I figured, 'Give him that shot.' I didn't want him to get to the middle. He got good wood on it. A perfect shot."
Even so, if someone wants to know exactly happened, send them the link to Gulitti's description. It deserves the posterity, really.
Second Relevant to that last quote, Lou summed up the general reaction about the loss to Chere, who had the same reaction: shock.
I have covered all 223 New Jersey Devils playoff games for The Star-Ledger. There have been worse losses, like Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup finals, and more embarrassing losses.
Never has there been a more shocking loss than Tuesday night's seventh game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Prudential Center. On that, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello agreed with me.
"I don't have any explanation for what occurred last night," Lamoriello told me Wednesday morning. "In all my years I have not seen something like that."
Gulitti had more from Lou, including, I think, the most important and telling quote about how the Devils operate:
"You don't blame anybody," Lamoriello said. "Anybody who does that or thinks that way or insituates that is just looking for excuses."
As much as we'd like to find a scapegoat (e.g. Havelid, Mottau, Brodeur, the Madden line, Brent Sutter, "the new NHL," the fact that you didn't wear your lucky underwear, etc.), this is the correct approach.
Even if one of the Devils players or coaches stood up and said, "It's all my fault, I did X, I didn't do Y, and I caused us to lose Game 7 and the series," it won't change what happened. The Devils still lost regardless. It doesn't even guarantee it won't happen again. Outside of catharsis, what do we get out of it? What do the Devils get out of it? Nothing all that much. The mature and constructive approach is to (begrudgingly) accept that it happened, look at what happened within the entire series (not just one game or 2 minutes) and the entire season (not just 2 weeks in March), and determine what truly does need change - be it by adjustment or replacement.
The anger and emotion is understandable. I feel it too, but it makes for some pretty poor decision making. Fortunately, we don't make those decisions: Lou does.
Third Because some loudmouth leaving the Rock tried to assure me that Sutter was leaving with some choice words, I argued otherwise with some other choice words. (The only "clean" part of it was when I said he sounded like a Rangers fan) In any case, since some of the sentiment of anger is calling for Sutter's head, I think this is important: Gulitti gets a statement from Lou regarding Sutter's status.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said this morning that he has no reason to believe that Brent Sutter won't be back as his head coach next season.
He also made it clear that he wants Sutter to come back.
"There should be no discussion on this," Lamoriello told me today. "I have no knowledge of anything. You have to speak to Brent about this. Even to get into discussions about this makes no sense."
Comparing how the Devils played under Sutter in comparison to, say, Claude Julien, I don't disagree with Lou's feeling here. Especially given the earlier quote. I don't think Sutter is the problem. With respect to Sutter's thoughts on his own status, I would have to think Sutter doesn't want to go out like this. I don't think anyone would want to end a coaching tenure on such a poor note.
Fourth I don't know about you, but personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Boston 1-2-2 their way to dominate Carolina in Round 2. I'm also looking forward to seeing Eric Staal fall down some more. Round 2 begins on Friday, so expect a poll on that tomorrow.