Friday, April 23, 2010

Devils Should Be Ashamed of Themselves

The Yankees pulled off their 1st triple play in 42 years yesterday afternoon, and still lost, 4-2 to the Oakland Athletics.

That's okay. Taking 2 of 3 in Oakland is very much allowed. They move on down the Pacific Coast to Anaheim, another long-time trouble spot for them, to face the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Year Angels.

What really has me angry is the New Jersey Devils. Once again, they simply didn't show up for the Playoffs, losing Game 5 and the series at home to the Philadelphia Flyers, their second-biggest rival, 3-0.

It's bad enough that they were awful in the Playoffs -- although some teams would have loved that chance. (Have I ever mentioned that the RANGERS SUCK?)

It's that the Devils didn't take that chance. Simply getting clobbered by a better team (which the Flyers are not), or by a hotter team (which the Flyers definitely are), would be excusable. Not showing up is never excusable.

From 1995 to 2003, the Devils reached 4 Stanley Cup Finals, winning 3 of them. Since then:

2004: Lost Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to Flyers in 5. They still hadn't gotten used to the idea that Captain Scott Stevens, dealing with post-concussion syndrome, would never play again.

2005: No Playoffs. No Season. The Lockout. Gary Bettman, you better do some serious repenting, because otherwise you're going to Hell.

2006: Won the Atlantic Division title. Swept the Rangers in the Conference Quarterfinals, the greatest non-Cup moment in team history. And then followed it up by getting embarrassed in the Semifinals, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in 5.

2007: Won the Atlantic Division title. Beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in 6. Then lost to the Ottawa Senators in 5. Who loses a Playoff series to the Ottawa Senators? Don't forget, these were, essentially, the same Senators who, 4 years earlier, led the Devils 3 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, then lost Game 6 at the Meadowlands, then let the Devils score the winner with 3 minutes left in regulation in Ottawa (well, in Kanata) in Game 7. Losing a Playoff series to the Ottawa Senators is disgraceful.

2008: Lost to the Rangers in 5, including the first 3 Playoff games ever played at the Prudential Center. This was beyond disgrace.

2009: Won the Atlantic Division title. Blew a 3-games-to-2 lead against the Hurricanes, losing Game 6 in Raleigh. Then, in Game 7 in Newark, blew a 3-2 lead with a minute and a half to go. Putting aside all rivalry issues and concentrating solely on quality of play, this is the most notorious loss in Devils history. (And they do now have some history.)

2010: Won the Atlantic Division title. But I knew the Devils were going to lose the series when they lost Game 1 at home. After that, the series had "Uh oh" written all over it.

Since winning the 2003 Stanley Cup, the Devils' postseason record is 16-26. Since opening the Prudential, their home Playoff record is a miserable 3-7.

The problem isn't the goaltender: Martin Brodeur is still one of the top 3 goalies in the game. The problem isn't the offense: With Jamie Langenbrunner still a force, Travis Zajac having fully matured, Ilya Kovalchuk being a terrific acquisition and Zach Parise having become one of the best offensive players in the game, the Devils are quite capable of scoring goals. The problem is the defense: The Devils have never really replaced Scott Stevens with a "commanding officer" on defense.

Some changes will have to be made. It may be time to say goodbye to Colin White. Maybe one or two others. But the Devils must bring in a Stevens type, someone who will lead by example, by dirty looks if necessary, in order to change the team's lackadaisical attitude and become a threat again.

And that's what they need to be. The Devils are capable of beating teams. They are not, however, scaring anybody. They need to make the Prudential Center the kind of uh-oh-I-don't-wanna-go-there place that the Meadowlands was for a few years -- and not just for fans. (Yes, that's a joke about how inadequate the Brendan Byrne/Continental Airlines Arena was.)

I want to bring back the fear factor. We haven't had it for a while now. Not since Scottso decided further concussions weren't worth it. (And they're not. Don't get me wrong, I miss him, but he's 46, and and what good would he have been to the team with another concussion?)

We need to make men afraid of us again.

David Puddy was an idiot... but he was a real fan.

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