At the end of the game, The Rock made their voices heard. Various chants involved Martin Brodeur. Not Brodeur. Not Martin. But Marty. Because entire groups of fans, myself included, grew up with the man. His ascendancy from backup behind Chris Terreri to taking the job over all the way to where his illustrious past and play was behind him. That's like an eternity these days in sports. I all but swore that I wouldn't think this could be it and act like it per the preview. After all, the man never said anything about whether this is the end before and he hasn't said anything since. The crowd felt otherwise. Perhaps as they should since one never knows when it's over for a player, a worker, and a person.
Seeing the entire 2013-14 New Jersey Devils roster stay on the bench tapping their sticks on the ice or on the bench as Brodeur recognized the crowd on his own, though, is a pretty big tell that this may really be it for him. It's still up in the air as to whether that's it for 2013-14, that's it for his time as a New Jersey Devils, or that's it for his entire career. I will admit, my heart melted.
In the scope of the whole season, this may have been more appropriate than one may think. A big part of this season was the situation at goaltender. That Brodeur started 39 games and put up a 90.1% overall save percentage definitely contributed as to why today was the last day of the season. His comments to the media certainly put a sour taste in a few fans' mouths. But rather than ending it with sadness, disappointment, frustration, or even anger, it was a more positive chant from the fans. A grateful chant, to be precise. Not for this season, certainly, but for all the other ones. Of course, it was made easier today since Brodeur wasn't bad.
The Devils hosted the Boston Bruins, but not the Boston Bruins. The team scratched Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara while also starting Chad Johnson. That's four out of their top six plus their ace defenseman. The goal for the B's was to play the game but not to risk injury. They accomplished that goal. The Devils took advantage as they out-shot the Bruins 31-18 and out-attempted them 45-28. The first period was nearly all controlled by the Devils, the second period saw the Devils end up doing more than the Bruins, and the third was just played out as the Devils scored early. The final score was 3-2.
Both goals against were power play goals and both were on shots where Brodeur didn't have a fair chance to stop either. A penalty killer didn't pick up an open Bruin on two occasions, and so when they got the puck, they didn't miss. So while 16-for-18 in saves isn't pretty, the two weren't soft at all. Besides, the Devils provided enough goal support. As for the sixteen saves he did make, it involved a breakaway save on Reilly Smith in the first period, a shorthanded stop on Matt Bartkowski in the third period, and flashed the glove on a time or two. It was the sort of performance that's perfectly acceptable. Whether that's the last one from him remains to be seen; it was the last one for this season.
The Opposition Opinion: Stanley Cup of Chowder may have something but they're probably more focused on Detroit anyway. Like the rest of the team, really.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are the highlights from today's game where Marek Zidlicky was featured twice:
The Gambler Won Big: Marek Zidlicky scored on a wraparound. He would attempt a move where he'd curl around the net with the puck, often deciding to not pass or even shoot because defenders would follow him such that there was little space. But today, the move paid off big as he beat Johnson with a wraparound. I think this is the first time he actually scored on that move. It was glorious. His game overall was quite good. He may have attempted to set up guys a few too many times, but overall he finished favorable in possession, shots, and, oh yeah, scored two goals. The wrap was the first goal of the game. The third for New Jersey - and ultimately the game winner - came from a blast of a slapshot. Two goals out of four shots from #2 plus not being questionable on defense and with the puck? Yeah, that's a great game from him.
Bringing the Shots Today - 12, 9, and 8?!: Boston definitely didn't play their best roster or even their "B" game today. The Devils took advantage and that saw some amazing things. For example: the unit of Danius Zubrus, Mike Sislo, and Damien Brunner crushed it today. By game's end, Brunner finished the game with five shots out of eight attempts (drew two calls, took one after drawing the first one); Sislo had four shots on net; and Zubrus only had one but boy did he set the table for the other two. There were times I thought either were going to score. It would have been big if Sislo finally got his first NHL goal today. Alas, it was not to be. Brunner was the only one of the three to get a point; a primary assist on Zidlicky's PPG. They deserved more from how they played today.
Power Duo: Today featured yet another strong performance from Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac. They were yet again very favorable in terms of possession. Each had three shots on net. Zajac's delay and pass to allow Zidlicky to go for his wraparound attempt was very nice, and he got a goal himself when he went to the net in the third period. Jagr picked up two assists: setting up Zajac's goal and the secondary on Zidlicky's PPG. I would love to see these two play again with each other next season.
The PPGAs: More specifically, Andy Greene was caught a bit too far up from Loui Eriksson for his PPG. Jon Merrill was present but not actually aware quickly enough to knock a loose puck away before Brad Marchand roofed it. Admittedly, it was among the few mistakes the defense made all day (Mark Fayne's giveaway to Smith also sticks out in my mind). I'd also fault the penalties themselves. Peter Harrold had a very good game but his interference penalty, while a little weak, was also a silly one to take. Michael Ryder holding Gregory Campbell in the neutral zone near the end of the game wasn't a smart one either. I don't know why he did that, it was a blemish on a fine day for Ryder, actually. But the damage done wasn't enough so it's not worth complaining about.
More Proof the B's Didn't Exactly Put a Full Effort In: In case the 42-28 attempt differential, 31-18 shot differential, and the number of top players they scratched wasn't enough, consider that they got a late power play in the third period down 3-1. Claude Julien took a timeout, but never pulled Chad Johnson to get that extra skater to help out. A quick PPG could have made the game interesting. Instead, they got one 54 seconds into a 1:10 power play. I think that doesn't happen in a meaningful game. Then again, with a better roster, they likely would have played a lot better such that they wouldn't need a PPG to get within one late in regulation.
Secure: I was really, really, really, really happy when I found out Peter DeBoer will stay on for 2014-15. Seeing Tom Gulitti's in-game post at Fire & Ice made a good day even better. I'm sure the pressure will be on. But I'm glad he's staying because he's a good coach, his system absolutely works with most of the players here, and he can't go to Toronto now and make them much better.
End of an Era: It was great to see and hear an announcement during a first period stoppage that Glenn "Chico" Resch had his final broadcast today as color commentator for the Devils. I thought about writing a whole thing about him. That, to me, his work with Doc Emrick was sublime. His enthusiasm for hockey, the Devils, and food was genuine and enjoyable. Chico was rarely perfect, but he was almost always appropriate. I really can't write it better than that, so I'll leave it at that. Thank you, Chico.
That's All I Want: While the opposition definitely didn't put a full effort, I got what I wanted from the Devils today. I wanted everyone to get through the game without injury and they did. I wanted the team to play well and they did. I wanted a win and they got that. I saw a lot of hard effort over 82 games but that doesn't always lead to wins for one reason or another. I really wish the Devils would be playing later this week. Even if they were to be demolished in four games by a full-strength Boston team, I would take that over being done until September this evening. But today was a happy goodbye. I left the Rock smiling. Ultimately, that's all I want on most nights.
Your Take: It was the final game of the 2013-14 season. What's your take on what happened? Were you at the game, and if so, how did you feel throughout? If you were not at the game but watched it on TV, how was Chico's last game as a color commentator?
I'd like to thank everyone who commentated in the gamethread. And I'd also like to thank everyone who read the site, commented on the site, told someone on the site, complained about the site, complimented the site, said "hello" to me or someone else because of the site, wrote on the site - especially Jerry, JT, Karen, Matt, Mike, Nathan, and Ryan - , and everything else about the site this season. What happens now here? Well, we'll still carry on. Hockey doesn't stop at ILWT. Maybe you can help one day.
For the final recap of this season: Thank you for reading.