Even though the Devils’ 2013 season is over, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.
On April 30…
1988- Kirk Muller scores 14 seconds into the game, and John MacLean’s third-period redirection serves as the game-winning goal in New Jersey’s 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals in game 7 of the Patrick Division finals at the Cap Center.
New Jersey’s win clinches the franchise’s first trip to the Prince of Wales Finals against the Boston Bruins.
1998- Brian Rolston, Doug Gilmour and Lyle Odelein each pot goals, as New Jersey staves off elimination with a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Continental Airlines Arena.
2003- Scott Gomez records a goal and an assist, and Scott Stevens scores a goal just two days after being hit in the head with a slap shot, as the Devils pull within one game of the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Down six points with just six games left, it’s time for the Devils to start helping themselves.
We can go over the scenarios every day, but without New Jersey wins it doesn’t matter. The Devils are 0-6-4 in their last 10 yet are still mathematically alive.
New Jersey has a game in hand on both the Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets– and two in hand on the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils also will meet the eighth-placed New York Rangers twice in their final six games, leaving a slim chance of postseason still alive.
But the Devils have to start winning games.
They can do that tonight in Philadelphia. If New Jersey beats the Flyers, it’ll hop them for 11th.
The Devils then must root for the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. The Canes will play in Winnipeg tonight and the, the Panthers trek to Madison Square Garden to meet the Rangers.
Should all that go New Jersey’s way, it’ll trail Winnipeg and New York by four points with a game in hand on the Jets and a crucial meeting with the Rangers Sunday.
That’s about all you can hope for as a Devils fan these days.
Should Winnipeg win, it’ll be rooting for its division-rival Florida, as well as the Ottawa Senators. The Senators will host the Washington Capitals tonight. Washington leads Winnipeg by four points for the Southeast Division lead, and the teams have both played 43 games.
The Senators still can catch the fifth-placed Toronto Maple Leafs, but they can still also be caught by the seventh-placed New York Islanders. The Isles and Leafs will meet tonight in Toronto.
A Toronto win, coupled with a Montreal Canadiens loss to Tampa Bay, will leave the Leafs two back of their divisional rival with just four games left.
The 10th-placed Sabres helped their cause last night with an enormous shootout win over the Boston Bruins. Buffalo is idle tonight but will root for Florida and Carolina.
The full slate of Eastern Conference games with playoff implications. As always, all times are eastern and p.m.
N.Y. Islanders at Toronto, 7
Florida at N.Y. Rangers, 7
Tampa Bay at Montreal, 7
Washington at Ottawa, 7:30
DEVILS at Philadelphia, 7:30
Carolina at Winnipeg, 8
It’s going to take an awful lot to get the Devils into the playoffs.
New Jersey clearly can’t get into the tournament without winning some games. It also hasn’t gotten much help lately.
Still, as it is mathematically possible for the Devils to get in, we keep it up.
After their 10th straight loss– a 2-0 defeat in Toronto– the Devils trail the eighth-placed Rangers by six points with six games left. Two of those games are against the Rangers, but New York undoubtedly will hold the tiebreaker, having won four more regulation and overtime games.
So the Devils need the Rangers to lose. Still, if New York does lose tonight in Philadelphia, the Flyers will hop the Devils and drop New Jersey into 12th.
See why this is dire?
Whatever the case, the Islanders, Rangers, Senators, Capitals and Jets are in action tonight. If the Isles fall to the Panthers, that would put the Devils seven back of seventh place with a game in hand.
With the Southeast Division still up for grabs, the Jets will host the Lightning while the Caps will entertain Toronto. Washington leads Winnipeg by four points, but the teams will meet Tuesday in Washington.
Toronto, meanwhile, only trails the Bruins by three points and the Canadiens by four. The Leafs are 7-1-2 in their last 10 and have built a five-point lead on sixth-placed Ottawa.
Here is the full slate of Eastern Conference games with playoff implications. As always, all times are p.m. and eastern.
Florida at N.Y. Islanders, 7
Toronto at Washington, 7
Carolina at Ottawa, 7:30
N.Y. Rangers at Philadelphia, 7:30
Tampa Bay at Winnipeg, 8
Yesterday, we talked about the Devils had to stop worrying about what other teams were doing and just win a game. Well, that didn’t happen. They didn’t even get an overtime point and now likely have to go 6-1 the rest of the way to make the playoffs, which includes a two-game sweep of the Rangers in the final week.
So tonight, the Devils have no choice but to sit back and root for the other teams. The Senators are off tonight, but they’re completely out of reach. The Islanders are not “untouchable” but they’re a pretty difficult team to catch.
That leaves the Rangers and Jets as the two teams the Devils need to keep both eyes on. Well, no Jets hockey tonight, which means there’s only one game Devils fans should be focused on tonight — Rangers-Islanders. The Devils NEED the Isles to win that game in regulation. Yes, if the Rangers win the Devils would be closer (ideally speaking) to catching the Islanders, but as we said above — it ain’t happening. The Rangers are the target. So, for tonight only, Devils fans need to pull on their orange and blue and hope Evgeni Nabokov continues taking whatever “supplements” he’s currently cycling.
The full slate of games today/tonight that affect the Devils’ playoff picture:
- Flyers at Sabres, 3 p.m. ET
- Rangers at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
- Lightning at Capitals, 7 p.m. ET
The Devils are down to nine games to make a postseason run.
New Jersey trails the eighth-placed Rangers by just two points with 17 days left. The Devils are four points behind the two-way tie for sixth between Ottawa and the Islanders.
The Isles and Senators seem to be going in opposite directions. Ottawa’s lost five straight– including a 3-2 loss in Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Islanders are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and knocked off Philadelphia 4-1 on Tuesday in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Flyers, still clinging to life, are five points back of the Rangers. Right there with Philadelphia are the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo lost 4-1 Tuesday in Winnipeg and has played one more game than the Devils, Rangers and Flyers, leaving it in more dire straits.
Meanwhile, the Jets are still in contention for the Southeast Division crown– assuming Washington ever loses again. The Capitals have won five straight and are 8-1-1 in their last 10. Washington leads Winnipeg by four points and have played one fewer game than Winnipeg.
The Rangers, still holding that No. 8 seed, will try to hold that spot when they close a home-and-home series with the Maple Leafs Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Toronto beat New York 4-3 on Monday at Air Canada Centre.
Across the Hudson River in Newark, the Devils will try to snap their seven-game losing streak against the Boston Bruins when they meet at Prudential Center. With a Maple Leafs win and a Rangers loss, the Devils and Rangers will share the eighth-playoff spot with eight games left.
The Rangers will have the tiebreaker, having won three more regulation and overtime games than the New Jersey. The Devils can improve on that with a Rangers loss and by beating Boston in 60 or 65 minutes.
The rest of the East will watch those two games closely, as they’re the only two conference games on tonight’s docket. A Toronto win, coupled with a Boston loss, will leave the Leafs just four points behind Boston for the east’s No. 4 seed.
Here’s a simpler view of tonight’s schedule:
Toronto at N.Y. Rangers, 7
Boston at DEVILS, 7:30
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who seemingly doomed the Devils’ playoff hopes just three days ago, have renewed life into New Jersey’s postseason chances.
The Leafs’ 4-3 regulation win over the Rangers at Air Canada Centre kept New Jersey within two points of both seventh and eighth in the East with only 18 regular-season days remaining.
With New Jersey idle again tonight, the team and fans can root for the Flyers and Lightning. Philadelphia, still clinging to faint-playoff life, will be on Long Island for a date with the Isles. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, will try to deal the reeling Senators their fifth-straight loss.
Washington, not pictured, leads Winnipeg by only two points for the Southeast Division lead. Both are in action tonight, with the Capitals in Montreal. The Jets will host the Sabres tonight at 8 p.m. in a key affair for both teams.
A Montreal win, coupled with a Pittsburgh loss in Carolina, will leave Les Habitantes just one point back of the Pens for the East’s No. 1 seed.
Here are tonight’s Eastern Conference games. All times are p.m. and eastern:
Philadelphia at N.Y. Islanders, 7
Pittsburgh at Carolina, 7
Washington at Montreal, 7:30
Ottawa at Tampa Bay, 7:30
Buffalo at Winnipeg, 8
The Devils are struggling, there are no two ways about it.
A six-game losing streak at this time of year would doom most teams. But New Jersey’s gotten points in three of those affairs, softening the blow slightly.
Still, Saturday night’s results were tough to swallow if you’re a fan of the horns and tail.
Henrik Lundqvist’s 48-save performance boosted the Rangers to their second win in three games. The Islanders pummeled the troubled Lightning. Winnipeg and Washington each won its game Saturday too.
And the Devils lost 2-1 to Toronto.
New Jersey will play Sunday in a veritable must-win game. The Devils have played one fewer game than the Isles, two fewer than Winnipeg, and can leap the Jets and move within one points of the Islanders with a win in Buffalo.
The suddenly-hot Sabres, 2-1-2 in their last five and winners of two straight, are within six points of eighth. They need points badly and can move within four points of the idle Isles.
The Washington Capitals, tied with Winnipeg for first in the Southeast, can break that tie with a home win over Tampa Bay.
The Ottawa Senators, presently sixth place in the East, can move into a tie with fifth-place Toronto with a win in Florida.
Here is the entire slate for Sunday’s games with playoff implications:
Ottawa at Florida, 6
Tampa Bay at Washington, 7
New Jersey at Buffalo, 7:30
There are a few new names in the standings today.
The Devils also find themselves in an unfamiliar position: outside the East’s top eight.
Five straight losses, two of which came in regulation, coupled with the Islanders’ sudden hot streak, have left New Jersey on the outside looking into the playoff party.
The Devils are hardly alone in their misery. The Winnipeg Jets, who have lost seven of 10 in regulation, have dropped out of the Southeast Division lead with only nine games left. The Jets and Washington Capitals are tied for first.
Meanwhile, the Flyers are lurking just two points behind the Devils and Rangers for eighth.
Friday may be a light night for games, but the Rangers will have an opportunity to break the tie with New Jersey with a point or jump the Islanders with a win. New York is in Pittsburgh to meet the suddenly-cold Penguins.
The Senators, not pictured but tied with the Maple Leafs for fifth, can break that tie with a win or overtime loss in Buffalo.
The full Eastern Conference schedule for Friday:
N.Y. Rangers at Pittsburgh, 7
Ottawa at Buffalo, 7
It’s not hyperbole to call Thursday the NHL’s biggest day to date.
The trade deadline is behind us, and with only 11-13 games left, there are seven teams within five points of the East’s Nos. 7 and 8 seeds.
When you consider that five of those seven are in action tonight– plus the Southeast Division-leading Jets– it makes for a huge night on the ice.
The Rangers’ dominant 6-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday created a three-way tie for seventh and eighth. The Devils and/or Islanders can break that tie, and bounce out the Rangers, with wins tonight. The Devils are in Boston, the Isles are in Washington to take on the Capitals.
Ah yes, the Caps. They can move into a tie for first in the Southeast with a win and a Winnipeg loss. Or with a regulation win and a Devils loss, Washington can creep to within a point of eighth.
The Flyers, fresh off their come-from-behind win over Montreal on Wednesday, will meet the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Philadelphia, with a win, a Devils loss and Islanders loss, can move to within two points of eighth. But the Flyers are in a catch-22 with Washington and New York meeting tonight.
The fading Hurricanes need a win tonight, at home against Tampa Bay, to stay within striking distance. The Lightning, not pictured, also need a win to remain semi-close.
Here’s the full slate:
DEVILS at Boston, 7
Philadelphia at Toronto, 7
N.Y. Islanders at Washington, 7
Tampa Bay at Carolina, 7
Winnipeg at Montreal, 7:30
Thanks to tiebreakers, the Devils are still in the No. 7 spot, but the Islanders and Rangers are catching up fast.
The Caps, keyed by Alexander Ovechkin’s three-point game, crept to within three points of the eighth spot, and are only two points back of No. 3 Winnipeg for the Southeast Division lead.
Carolina still has one game in hand on the Caps — two on the Jets — and are only four points behind Winnipeg.
Another huge night comes tonight, starting with the Rangers and Penguins. New York, with a win, would create a three-way tie for eighth.
The Penguins, who had their 15-game win streak snapped Tuesday, will inch closer to the postseason with a win.
The Flyers, not pictured but six points back of New Jersey and the Isles, will host Montreal in a game they need. Philadelphia has two games in hand on the eighth-placed Islanders.
The Canadiens, with a win and Pittsburgh loss, will move to within three points of the Pens for No. 1 in the East.
The full slate of Eastern Conference games:
Pittsburgh at N.Y. Rangers, 7
Montreal at Philadelphia, 7:30