Yesterday was mixed. In their season finale, in front of a sellout crowd that included me, the New Jersey Devils beat the Boston Bruins, 3-2 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Captain Patrik Elias opened the scoring in the first 2 minutes, before the Beantown Brats (a name usually given only to the Bruins, not to the other Boston teams) equalized later in the 1st period. The 2nd period was awful, with both teams being very sloppy. Vladimir Zharkov gave the Devils the lead early in the 3rd period, and Alexander Urbom, a 20-year-old defenseman from Sweden, scored his 1st NHL goal. It proved to be vital, as the Bruins managed to tally with 4 seconds left, for the 3-2 final.
I went into this game thinking that it could be the final game for Martin Brodeur, the Devils' legendary goalie. Instead, they were led onto the ice by backup Johan "Moose" Hedberg, and he played the whole game. So I'm really hoping that Marty comes back for at least one more season. There is, as yet, no reason to expect him to retire.
This is not true of Devils' coach Jacques Lemaire. In spite of the remarkable job he did this season, taking a team that was dead last in points among the 30 NHL teams right before Christmas and making them a serious contender for the Playoffs in March, before tailing off at the end -- I guess we ran out of luck -- Lemaire announced his retirement after the game.
This is the 3rd time he has left the post of Devils' coach, the first time to become the coach and general manager of the expansion Minnesota Wild. When he left that job, he said he was retiring from coaching. So he has now left the Devils 3 times, and retired from coaching 3 times. What is he, a boxer? Or maybe he's like The Who, doing one "farewell tour" after another. Anyway, for the moment, I have no idea who the next Devils coach will be.
The amazing thing is that 1,600 people came to the game from Nordique Nation, a group lobbying to bring an NHL team back to Quebec City, after the old Nordiques (WHA 1972-79, NHL 1979-95) moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.
This is the 2nd time this season that they've come into the New York Tri-State Area, having gotten into the Nassau Coliseum for a New York Islanders-Atlanta Thrashers game in December.
It was weird to see hundreds of Nordique blue jerseys in our usually mostly-red arena, but they turned the Prudential into a European soccer game with their noise, chanting, singing and passion. This included one guy yelling, in French, "Fuck the Bruins!" And they playfully joined in the "RANGERS SUCK!" chants. But no flares, like you sometimes see in European soccer, especially on the Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, the nations that used to make up Yugoslavia).
This is the way The Rock should always sound. Ranger and Flyer fans love to mock us for dearth of sellouts and the lack of passion from those who do show up. Having previously seen a game between the Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal, I had previously seen the people of Quebec in their element -- in the stands at a hockey game -- and I recognized it. But to see it inside The Rock was a welcome change, and I hope the "Devils Army" will, as the club asks, "Rise Up" and follow that lead.
Once upon a time, Montreal showed New Jersey the way with Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Martin Brodeur, Claude Lemieux and Tom Chorske. Now, let us follow the lead of Quebec City. As the Province's motto says, and as their license plates read, "Je me souviens."
I'll do a piece soon on fans who've been stripped of their teams, and which ones most deserve to get them back. Certainly, these Quebecois do.
The Yankees were not as fortunate in their game against Boston. Last night, CC Sabathia worked his way out of trouble until the 6th, and then Joe Girardi panicked and brought in Joba Chamberlain. Joba fell apart in the 7th, and turned a 1-0 deficit into 3-0, on the way to a 4-0 Red Sox win over the Yankees at Fenway.
Josh Beckett, ol' Super Punk, struck out 10. Beckett was the WP (1-1), CC the LP (0-1), there was no save, there were no homers, Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 to get no closer to 3,000, Mark Teixeira's serious cooloff after his sizzling start put him back into Bad April mode, and Alex Rodriguez did not play due to what's being reported as "flu-like symptoms." (Hey, Alex, look up Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals sometime. Need I remind you, that was at altitude.)
The Red Sox thus take 2 out of 3 after an 0-6 start, and, suddenly, the Yankees are 5-4, just 1 game above .500. They are, however, only 1 game behind the 1st-place Baltimore Orioles. After a day off today, the Yankees can do something about that by playing the O's in a 3-game set at Yankee Stadium II.