It’s easy enough to fall into one of two traps when your team crashes out in the first round of the postseason: the angry-at-the-team trap, or the angry-at-everyone-else trap.
The first one goes something like this: they played with no heart, they didn’t want it at all, they couldn’t get it together, they didn’t deserve it.
The second, something like this: the officials were awful, they had so many injuries, they’re in the middle of restructuring, the other team are goons, [opponents] didn’t deserve to win.
There’s no real shame in taking either one of these perspectives. A lot of the time it’s justified. Even if it isn’t, the heat of the moment makes people say some stupid things. That’s hockey.
However, New Jersey fans who watched the Devils sink of out the Cup race last night should really be standing somewhere between the two at the moment.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago suggesting that Brodeur might be getting a little rusty. Regardless of whether or not this is true, he upped his game in these past five matches.
As always, it's difficult to imagine a New Jersey team without him.
It wouldn’t be fair to blame the rest of the team either, as they definitely didn’t roll over and die as much as the 4-1 series score would suggest.
The offense got some drive, the Parise-Elias-Langenbrunner line did its job, and all the guys put pressure in all the right places.
Yet No. 4 vs. No. 5 in the conference is always going to be a tough matchup, and the Rangers had something in this series that the Devils just didn’t.
New Jersey was scoring pretty goals and functional goals (Gionta’s two goals in game 5 being brilliant examples of each type), getting the step on their opponents at appropriate times, and not letting despondency kick in when hope was fading fast.
However, Lundqvist was on great form, Gomez seemed to know his old team's play inside out, and Jagr’s experience and leadership tipped the scales the way of the Rangers.
The Devils were just outclassed, outplayed and outmanoeuvred by a team that had that ‘je ne sais quoi’.
Yet as much as I respect the Rangers’ achievement, there’s one guy I simply cannot respect: Sean Avery.
Enough has already been said of his antics without me claiming that he couldn’t outclass a tramp.
I think Darcy Tucker got it right last year when he said of the Rangers left winger, “No matter who he’s playing against, he always crosses the line.”
Still, no matter how many new members the I-Hate-Sean-Avery club has, the fact remains that his team can pull it out of the bag when the situation calls for it.
Gutted as they undoubtedly are, the Devils can at least enjoy their off-season knowing that they were simply outdone this time, and start thinking about how to really get things going in September.
And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that ‘Fatso’ Brodeur and the team will be avidly watching the Rangers’ progression, not to see them lift the cup, but perhaps to see a certain player get his just desserts.