The New Jersey Devils were eliminated in six games by the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils fell behind three games to none, but rallied to force a Game 6. They were only the third team in NHL history and the first since 1945 to accomplish this feat.
However Game 6 would be a disaster for New Jersey. Steve Bernier was whistled for a boarding major in the first period moments after a questionable no call against the Kings. The Kings went on to score three times during the power play, finishing the Devils before the first buzzer. To add insult to injury, the Kings scored a fourth goal following a linesman colliding with Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov.
While the entire Devils roster deserves to be commended for making an improbable finals run, their top scorers fell dormant against the Kings. The Devils managed only seven goals against Jonathan Quick in the six game series. The bottom line is that winning will be next to impossible with that type of production.
The Kings, mostly Quick and the defense, deserve much credit for this occurring. However, the Devils top scorers need to be held somewhat accountable for their collective lack of production. One Devils goat is not a top scorer, but he made the dumbest play of the series in game six. I am sure you already know who I am referencing.
Here are the five goats of the series for the New Jersey Devils.
Kovalchuk deserves praise for even playing during the finals. It is rumored that he is suffering from a back injury. Whatever the case, he was not close to his normal self during the finals. During the regular season he finished fifth in the NHL with 83 points. After leading the league in playoff scoring after three rounds, Kovalchuk went silent against the Kings.
He managed all of one point, that coming off an empty net goal, and was a minus-three during the series. It was clear from his alarming lack of speed that something was wrong as he looked like a shell of himself. While it is unfair to label a player going through an injury a goat, the Devils were not going to win this series without production from their top superstar.
The Devils captain and upcoming unrestricted free agent had a poor series against the Kings. Like Kovalchuk, he finished with only one point and was a minus-three. That is not acceptable production from the second best scorer and team captain. Unlike Kovalchuk, he was not injured, so it makes his performance even more goat worthy. Parise finished with 69 points during the regular season but recorded only 15 points in 24 playoff games
Parise and Kovalchuk were paired together during the finals in order to generate more punch as Pete DeBoer juggled the lines. Parise had been playing with the struggling Patrick Elias and Travis Zajac. While Parise clearly played hard, his production needed to be better considering the exorbitant price tag he is said to want as a free agent.
The Devils top line center missed much of the regular season with an Achilles tendon injury. His return to the lineup was a key factor in the Devils playoff run. However, he hit a wall in the finals, along with his superstar linemates.
Zajac put up seven goals in the first three rounds for the Devils. He was probably their best forward against the Florida Panthers. He failed to record a single goal against the Kings. He chipped in two assists and was a minus-three.
His production had slipped against the New York Rangers in the prior round. It is possible that Zajac's injury, which caused him to hastily prepare for the season, caused him to run out of gas during the grueling playoffs.
Elias was a ghost the entire post season and this continued against the Kings. He scored an impressive 78 points during the regular season. However he would record a measly eight points during the second season. Elias' lack of production has no partial excuse like the prior three players.
Age cannot be used to excuse Elias' play as he suffered no drop off during the regular season. He was every bit as good in April as he was in October. Rather it was like a light switched off during the playoffs.
This was particularly damaging against the Kings. Elias needed to score as the Devils top line would be facing Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi on defense. With his failure to contribute it destroyed the depth advantage that the Devils enjoyed on offense.
He was a positive all playoffs long on the Devils fourth line with Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta. However, Bernier would make the biggest mistake of his career. He boarded Rob Scuderi from behind in Game 6 and was given a five minute major. The Kings scored three times and finished off the Devils. I guess his brain stopped working momentarily, because it was an absolutely mindless thing to do.