Tonight was the 82nd game of the regular season for the New Jersey Devils. Since this team is far from being playoff-bound, it was also their last of the 2014-15 season. For most Devils fans, it is a season that is better off being in the past. Too many losses, too much misery, not enough bright spots. Regardless, there was a game tonight, and as professionals, it was clear that the Devils would come out and play their best. The Florida Panthers also did as well, being in the same boat as New Jersey. Their 91 points this season is not enough to propel them into playoff contention, although it is markedly better than the 78 the Devils have given us.
Because neither team had anything to play for, and neither had anything to spoil for the other team, it could have been a very boring game to watch. Thankfully, it was not so boring. There were a good amount of shots on net, and both goalies were forced to be fairly active. I am not talking about 40+ shot games here, but when the Devils have 33 shots on net in a game these days, it is worth mentioning.
The game started off real slow, with only a handful of shots through the first half of the first period. That period would end scoreless as well, and it had the makings of that boring game I mentioned above. Thankfully, the second period changed all of that. Jordin Tootoo opened the scoring with a nice wrist shot past Al Montoya. It was a breakaway goal, and was scored after a pretty nifty give-and-go with Travis Zajac. It was a pretty sight for sure. What was also pretty, although not really if you were rooting for the Devils, was the tying goal by Dave Bolland. The Panthers managed a really nice passing display in between a bunch of Devils who looked completely flat footed, and Bolland eventually had an open net to work with. Cory Schneider had no chance on it.
After Florida would take a 2-1 lead early in the third period, Damon Severson would score the last Devils goal of this season. Thanks to a ridiculous no-look backwards pass from Mike Cammalleri, Damon would find himself with the puck on the opposite side of the ice with no one else there but the goalie. Severson would make it count, wristing one over Montoya's blocker to make it 2-2.
Ironically enough, however, it would be Jaromir Jagr who would score the game winner and end the Devils season for good. He would wrap a rebound around Schneider's right pad on a power play to take a 3-2 lead for Florida. The Devils would get some decent chances to tie the game up, but it was not meant to be. Montoya was on his game, and so the game would end in favor of the home team. And so would end the season for both teams. The Devils can now enter the offseason hopefully coming up with a plan to add some scorers and regain some sort of respectability in this league. It was a forgettable season for sure, and one that is now in the rear view mirror.
The Opposition Opinion: For Panthers' coverage, check out Litter Box Cats.
The Game Highlights: I was having trouble embedding the video file for this recap. For some reason I cannot get to the embed link to put the video here. Therefore, if you would like to see the highlight video, follow this link to the recap of the game. The video is on the webpage.
Terrific Montoya: Tonight, Roberto Luongo did not get Florida's final game of the season. Instead, Montoya got the nod, and he was brilliant. He made some excellent saves to preserve the lead for the Panthers. While Luongo had a good season, Montoya had a great night to end Florida's year on a positive note.
Third Period of Penalties: While the first two periods saw relatively clean hockey, the third period was a disaster. There were seven penalties called, four of which were against New Jersey. Two of New Jersey's penalties were 10 minute misconducts, one by Adam Henrique and the other by Steve Bernier, which gave Florida a 5 minute powerplay opportunity. Since Jagr would eventually score the game winner with the man advantage, it was not a great move by the Devils players to play so much of the period a man down. While it is of course irrelevant in the end, it was still something that could have been avoided.
Speaking of Jagr: It was good to see him play some hockey again, even it was against NJ this time. He is still fun to watch with the puck sometimes, and the game winning goal that he scored was a real nice move on a rebound. He really reached out his stick with the puck to get it by Schneider. If this game mattered I would not have been happy at all, but seeing as it did not matter so much, I was able to better appreciate it. While I am really happy with the second round pick that NJ got for him, Florida still got a quality player.
Ice Time Leaders: Adam Larsson and Andy Greene were the ice time leaders for the Devils tonight, and it was not even close. Larsson led the team with 24:09 of total ice time, with over 3:30 of that coming on the penalty kill. Greene had 22:13 of ice time, with just over 3 minutes of that on the kill. Both were relied on heavily throughout the game, and especially for those third period penalty kills. Both ended up slightly negative in possession, but not terribly so despite playing all of that kill time.
Speaking of Possession: Several Devils skaters had real good nights in terms of possession. Scott Gomez was an amazing +16 in Corsi differential, and both Steve Bernier and Eric Gelinas had a +11 Corsi differential. Those are excellent numbers. While Gelinas was buoyed with a 86% zone start percentage, Scott Gomez only had a 50% start percentage, and Bernier had a 33% zone start percentage. Those two played really well tonight, and worked hard to push the puck forward in the Devils' favor.
Lets Go (Insert Team Name): Now it is time to root for someone else. For me, that is easy. Seeing as Pittsburgh will be facing off against the Rangers in round 1 of the playoffs, I will be rooting hard for Marc-Andre Fleury to not have a meltdown. Let's hope they can string together some wins and knock out those rivals from Manhattan.
Your Thoughts: For those of you who caught the final game of the Devils' season, what were your general thoughts? How did you feel about the game, and how the Devils went out? What are you looking forward to now that the season is done? Who are you rooting for in the playoffs? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading. Similarly, thank you for reading all season, and please stick with us this offseason as we continue to cover all things related to the New Jersey Devils!