Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports
It has to start tonight against Boston.
It's not pretty. The most objective way to look at things: this team is 6-12-6 since mid-February. It's been almost two months of losing hockey in Newark. And it doesn't get any easier tonight against a Bruins team who shut them out last week.
Looking for a silver lining? Despite going winless in their past seven games, the Devils have been out shot just once. That means they aren't getting outplayed the way their record might indicate. It's not like the ice is tilted towards Martin Brodeur.
The forecheck is good. The possession numbers indicate they shouldn't be on a seven-game losing streak. This team simply isn't finishing. But is it bad luck, or just a roster that lacks finishing ability? I think it's probably a bit of both. Frankly, Martin Brodeur hasn't been razor-sharp, either.
The winning culture and last year's experience are still there. And they are just two points out of eighth place. However, a points tie with the Rangers or Islanders will probably not suffice, because the Devils are losing the tiebreaker of non-shootout wins with both teams. They will have to leapfrog. Again, the two games at the Garden will be huge.
Ilya Kovalchuk has returned to practice, as reported by Tom Gulitti. He could return in a week or two and that would be an obvious boost for the slumping club. But will he be enough to turn New Jersey back into a winning team down the gauntlet schedule that is the final stretch?
If I'm forecasting the future, I don't think so. The Devils just don't have the mojo. The Islanders are going to beat lesser teams, and the Rangers, who are 12-6-2 at home, will get at least one of the games against New Jersey, and that may be enough.
It could be the crumbling of an empire that has been facing invasion for years now.