The Devils were facing a must-win situation tonight in Philadelphia. Down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, New Jersey was looking to even up the series and head back to the Rock with home-ice advantage regained.
Unfortunately, the Devils came out flat, and got embarrassed on Philadelphia ice by the Flyers—the same team that made it into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season by the hair on their chinny chin chin—by the score of 4-1.
Unfortunate, yet not exactly unexpected. The Devils have not eclipsed the second round since their most recent Stanley Cup championship in 2003, and they haven't been able to escape the first round since moving into the Prudential Center.
The frustrations are legitimate. How are the Devils not taking advantage of the frequent power play opportunities right in front of them? New Jersey went 1-for-8 on the power play in Game 4, and are 4-for-24 in the series thus far.
If the power play isn't clicking, quite often the offense as a cohesive unit isn't as well, and that's very true in this series. The Devils didn't score a single even strength goal in Game 3 or Game 4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, and Zach Parise have only one goal each through the first four games of this series. Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner don't have a goal tallied between them.
In a matchup where it was originally thought that Brian Boucher would need to be outstanding to give the Flyers a chance, the Devils haven't tested him with enough quality shots for him to exactly qualify as "outstanding".
The frustrations mount even higher when you consider the Devils are about to lose their third straight first-round series in which they had home ice advantage—two of them to the Devils' two biggest rivals, the Rangers and the Flyers.
They'll enter an off-season full of uncertainties much earlier than anticipated. Will Ilya Kovalchuk stay? Should Ilya Kovalchuk stay? Will the Devils make a respectable attempt to bring back Paul Martin? What will the Devils do in the draft and in the free agent market? There's a lot of question marks there.
The Devils are certainly not yet eliminated, but they're about as close as it gets, far behind the Flyers on the series scoreboard and even further behind in passion and desperation, which is pretty pathetic considering the team behind in the series should be the ones showing more of those traits. The Flyers came out to play how the Devils should have: desperate to win and unwilling to accept any other options.
Now the Devils don't have any other options. They win, they move on to live another day. They lose, they go home for an extremely long summer, spending the first two months of that vacation watching other NHL teams that were able to move on by displaying that passion and grit the Devils haven't shown enough of in this series.
Hard to not expect another disappointment if you're a Devils fan. Jacques Lemaire stated in his postgame press conference how it would give the team a lift if the crowd was into it in Game 5, but how can you blame the Devils Legion if they're not? Right now it would seem hard to be able to get emotionally involved in a fifth game. Before the fans get into it emotionally, the players are going to need to get it going.
This may be a different season, with a somewhat different team, but it's still the same story. And Devils fans are getting tired of seeing this rerun.