It's over. The 2010-11 NHL regular season is over for the New Jersey Devils. It ends with the team failing overall, but at least capped it off a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins. The Devils finish with a record of 38-39-5, the 23rd best record in the league.
Since the game ultimately didn't matter for both teams, they made some changes to their roster. The Devils sat David Steckel and Jay Leach for Adam Henrique and Alexander Urbom. The Bruins gave Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi the day off. Both teams played their backup goaltenders: Johan Hedberg and Tuukka Rask tended the nets.
What was different between the two teams was that the Devils clearly wanted this game more than Boston. The Devils had the better of possession, they attacked more, they owned the second period, and Boston didn't decide to really attempt a comeback until after the Devils went up 3-1. Even then, their second goal of the game came with 3.2 seconds left: a pure consolation goal. The Devils were the better team throughout the game and they deserved the win. If anything, the score could have been much worse if it wasn't for some good fortune and Rask making some big saves.
Of course, some may wonder where this effort was on Saturday. Well, the difference was that the Rangers needed that game and the Bruins didn't need it in this one. The "Care Level" was easily noticeable in both games for the opposition; and it was quite low for the B's. That's why you saw Devils storm through the Bruins' defense more easily than the Rangers'; why the Bruins didn't apply much of a forecheck; why they didn't try to bruise the Devils on cycles; why the Devils had so many odd-man rushes; and so forth.
Some may regret the effort since it means the Devils will be selecting 8th overall in the draft as opposed to 6th; but being at the game, I can say it was good to leave the Rock with a smile. It was a long, frustrating, disappointing, and trying season but the win today was symbolic of the whole second half. A watchable performance regardless of the standings situation; a competitive team when many were ready to claim them done in December; and a winning performance
I have a few more thoughts on today's game after the jump. For the opposition's perspective, please check out this recap at Stanley Cup of Chowder. And, yes, it will be more wordy and in-depth; the readers wouldn't have it any other way.
The Game Highlights: If you want to see the final game highlights video of the Devils' season from NHL.com, then here it is. It's a must watch.
I Got Four Words For You - VLADIMIR ZHARKOV BREAKAWAY GOAL: Haters to the left. Here's the goal. Anssi Salmela sprung Vladimir Zharkov for this glorious moment. Yes, it's in the game highlights, but it deserves it's own video.
Zharkov had a great game. He scored a goal, he worked hard in traffic, he had a great individual move that set up David Clarkson for a one-timer that Rask miraculously saved, he finished with a Corsi of +6, and was named the first star of the game by the media. The PA incorrectly announced his goal as the game winner (it must have been written up before Chris Kelly's tip-in.
Zharkov was part of an excellent effort by the fourth line today. How excellent were they? Rod Pelley had 5 shots on net and finished with a +8; and Adam Mair even had a breakaway while also finishing at +8. That line drew Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton at evens and they beat on them over and over again. The fourth line wasn't great all season long, but today, they were and I give them their due.
The Called Up Rats: Adam Henrique and Alexander Urbom were called up from Albany to play in today's game and should feel pleased with how they did. I sure was.
Henrique played at wing along side Jacob Josefson and David Clarkson. Josefson didn't have the greatest of games, going 2-for-9 on draws, finished with the lowest Corsi on the team at -5, and had only one shot on net. Clarkson was more into the game with a +1 in Corsi and 5 shots on net, including one where Rask totally robbed him in the second period. Henrique did OK with them. He got 3 shots on net, played 13:26, and finished even in Corsi. While he didn't get any points, I have to credit his positioning on the third Devils' goal, which made it possible.
When a defenseman scores his first NHL goal, one may be led to believe it was a shot from the point or perhaps a shot in the circle on a backdoor play or pinching attempt. Urbom did it differently. He scored his first goal in the NHL by a wraparound. As Clarkson fired a shot wide (intentionally?), Josefson got to the puck first and saw Urbom crashing in. Urbom took the feed, Rask came out too aggressively, Henrique was in front ready to box guys out, and Urbom immediately curled around the net to put it in. Not what you would expect from a defenseman, but it was a great heads-up decision by the youngster. The rest of his game was OK. He played mostly with Mark Fayne, finished at -1 in Corsi, and played 16:28. I didn't notice any major gaffes, he played a simple game and that's perfectly fine for a defender.
As much as I think Urbom and Henrique did well, I don't think they earned anything for next season. Though I think today's game is certainly enough reason to think they'll be in the mix at training camp this fall.
The Last Corsi Update of the Season: The Devils were superior in Corsi as they finished at +10. They out-shot the Bruins 27-22 at evens and out-attempted them 46-36.
The starkest difference in possession came in the second period, where the Devils out-shot the Bruins 10-1. Yes, 1 shot for the visitors. The game was 1-1 at the time, so it's not like the game was out of reach. It's a perfect example of why the Bruins didn't really give a caring effort in this one. I wonder if the the Bruins' local broadcast should have had a graphic flashing "THIS IS NOT THE REAL BRUINS TEAM. THEY WILL DO BETTER AGAINST MONTREAL" throughout the game. The Bruins didn't get their attack into gear until the third period; and even then, most of their shots came after Urbom's goal. Boston only had 4 shots in the period before Urbom's goal and only 2 of them came at even strength. They piled 10 more on net afterward and only cashed in on a tip-in off a Dennis Seidenbeg attempt in the dying seconds of the game.
Other than the fourth line, the Elias line enjoyed most of the possession today. Patrik Elias coolly finished a Brian Rolston feed early in the game to make it 1-0 and proceeded to keep attacking against Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton. While the three forwards didn't pound Rask with shots, Elias finished with a +8, Rolston a +9, and Tedenby a +7.
The only negative line was the Zajac line. Travis Zajac (1 SOG, 5-for-12 on draws) and Ilya Kovalchuk (3 SOG) both finished at -4 and Nick Palmieri (0 SOG) was -2. While they had their moments, namely Zajac all alone in front of Rask after turnover from an epic stick failure by a Bruin, I felt that line didn't really get going on offense. Kovalchuk did well to deke around Bruins players but Zajac and Palmieri were just too stationary to give him options. I feel that's something to work on for next season, but that will come later.
One last item to note for Corsi: Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, and Mark Fraser all finished at +5. That's impressive for the latter two since they haven't been all that great in terms of possession this season. Tallinder's is notable because he went up against Boston's top line (Lucic, Krejci, Horton) along with the Elias line and came out winning. While you may not like the production or how he played in the first three months of the season, Tallinder looks like a guy who can take on the toughs and come out ahead. That's worthy of a top pairing spot for a defenseman in my view.
MOOSE: Johan Hedberg didn't see a lot of rubber in the middle part of a game, but did see quite a bit in the first and third periods. He made some big stops, the kind where you wonder why Boston didn't score even if you're glad that they didn't. The goals against aren't his fault at all. Rich Peverley, who will be big for Boston in the playoffs, pounded a rebound in on his flank. The second goal against came at the very end of a game on a deflection. For a guy who I thought was overpaid at a $1.5 million cap hit at the beginning of the season, he's provided good value. Thank you, Moose.
Straight Out of Quebec City: 1,600 (or more) Quebec Nordiques fans showed up at the Rock to make a statement. I'm not sure what kind of statement. That there's a lot of nostalgia for the Nords? That they're willing to travel and give other franchises their money? Especially a franchise with a 26-year lease with the city they are in with a relatively new arena? I guess they intended to show that there is still a fanbase for a team that moved for more serious and complex reasons than they may admit to. Will this get them a team? Of course not, but it was a Thing and they had fun with it.
Well, they brought the noise for two parties: the Devils and themselves. I think they started more "Let's Go Devils" chants than the regulars; and they were just as happy for every goal scored as you and I would be. Every 4th minute into each period, they went a whoopin-and-a-hollerin as an ode to their former team. They chanted "Nordiques Nation" and some other stuff, including a "USA" chant. (Seriously). Some, I think in French or in words that wouldn't be used on this site. Either way, for the most part, they added a lot to the atmosphere and made the game more fun to watch. I was glad to see their enthusiasm for the Devils - the opponent being Boston certainly helped that sentiment; and the majority of them were pleasant enough. As weird as it was to see and be around, admittedly.
Their shining moment came at the end of the game when they filled the stairways in the lower bowl in the final two minutes of the game. All these people clad in blue cheering wildly with guys in red, black, and white for the Devils. Even the Kelly goal didn't deflate them much, they booed for a bit, and then went back to banging the glass, stomping their feet, and clapping their hands.
Jacques Lemaire is Done: Right after the game, he publicly said it: he's retired. He's now back to being a Special Assignment Coach, per the post-game press conference reported on by Tom Gulitti. I have more to say about him than in a little section of a recap and I think you'll agree that he deserves a post of it's own. That'll come later this evening. For now: Thank you, Jacques Lemaire.
What Now?: There's a draft lottery on Tuesday and if the Devils win it, they'll move up to fourth place. Don't hold your breath for that, though. The odds are at 3.6% per the NHL. As for this site? Well, there will be a post on Lemaire after this recap. Tomorrow, you'll see the April in Review; and on Tuesday, the whole 2010-11 season in review. From then on, it's up in the air but I do hope you keep checking. Just because the Devils' season is done, doesn't mean there's nothing to discuss, analyze, and opine on.
Please leave your thoughts on today's 3-2 win in the comments. Thank you all in the Gamethread for commenting today and throughout the season. Above all, thank you for reading.