SCF Game 6 Recap: Five minutes put an end to the Devils’ comeback
This isn’t the way I was hoping to prepare my final recap of the season. I was hoping that we’d be celebrating something incredible on Wednesday night, but clearly, it was not meant to be this season. After a pair of hard-fought victories by the Devils in Games 4 and 5, their season and the NHL season came to an abrupt halt on Monday night, as the Kings won their first Stanley Cup championship in their nearly half-century of existence. Here’s how it all went down on Monday.
The Kings re-established themselves offensively early in Game 6. They put the pressure on the Devils in the opening minutes, but the Devils, led by some strong goaltending by Martin Brodeur, weathered the storm and after outshooting the Kings, 2-1 on their own power play, the Devils seemed to have settled into the game and looked to get their forecheck going. That’s when the most unfortunate sequence of the season unfolded.
Just past the ten minute mark of the first period, Stephen Gionta got drilled from behind by Jarret Stoll, a play that was simply a bad missed call by the officials. Seconds later, Steve Bernier finished a hard check on Rob Scuderi, but unfortunately for both players, Scuderi had turned his back to Bernier at the last second, so the hit was much worse than it should have been. Bernier was ejected from the game and the Kings were awarded a five minute power play. The officials also apparently missed a sucker-punch by Dustin Penner on Anton Volchenkov following the play, leaving Pete DeBoer and the Devils coaching staff furious. Bernier’s major penalty and game misconduct was just the third such incident involving Devils players all season (Ryan Carter and Kurtis Foster also each had that penalty).
The Devils had the NHL’s best penalty killing unit in league history during the regular season, but it went streaky early in the playoffs. It had been good since Game 3 against the Rangers, but it unraveled in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Kings scored three times on the major, and to make matters worse, Ilya Kovalchuk appeared to be interfered with on L.A.’s third goal, but the Devils didn’t get any calls going their way.
To their credit, the Devils responded following the demoralizing five minutes of play with some strong offensive shifts. Petr Sykora missed a re-direction chance, as the puck bounced over his stick on one play, and Patrik Elias saw his shot hit the crossbar late in the first period. Nothing was going right for them, and they trailed 3-0 after one period.
Before the Devils could get anything going in the second period, the officials vilified themselves further. As Dustin Brown came skating down the left wing, an official couldn’t get out of Anton Volchenkov’s way, and the two collided, giving Brown room to create a scoring chance that directly resulted in Jeff Carter’s second goal of the game and a 4-0 Kings lead. If there was ever a time for the refs to have a terrible night, Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals was the worst time to do it.
Adam Henrique scored late in the second period to get the Devils on the board, but after a late power play failed, the Kings simply ran out the clock in the third period. They added an empty net goal to make it 5-1 and then Matt Greene made it 6-1 Kings. The Devils season ended in Los Angeles, unfortunately with plenty of controversy.
Bernier handled himself well in the locker room. He answered every question thrown at him. His hit was definitely worth a penalty, although calling it a major, especially after not calling anything on Stoll seconds earlier, was unfortunate for the Devils. DeBoer kept his composure in his press conference. Nobody wanted to speak out and act like a sore loser, but that call on Bernier clearly shaped the game and the result. Ultimately, the best penalty kill in the NHL failed three times in five minutes.
The result is a an extremely disappointing end to a terrific season for the Devils. When we look back on this season later in the summer, hopefully we can appreciate what the team accomplished. They reached the Stanley Cup Finals in Peter DeBoer’s first season as the head coach of the Devils. The players adjusted to a new system this season, and battled through a tremendous amount of adversity and injuries. They eliminated DeBoer’s former team in a thrilling first round series with the Panthers, then bounced the previously dynamic offensive powerhouse Flyers in round two and then knocked out the top seed in the East and longtime rival Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Individually, we witnessed a tremendous season from Bryce Salvador. His performance in the playoffs was incredible. We got to see Ilya Kovalchuk lead a team deep into the playoffs offensively. Unfortunately for Kovalchuk, his back injury was too much for even the warrior that he is to handle. David Clarkson had a career season, Adam Henrique emerged as a star on the team, Patrik Elias quietly had another tremendous season, and he shared it with his longtime friend and teammate, Petr Sykora. We got to see Zach Parise rebound from an injury-plagued 2010-11 season and in the playoffs, he was re-united with Travis Zajac, who missed most of the regular season with injuries. We also got to see a future star in Adam Larsson. He’ll be a rock on the Devils’ blue line for years to come. Finally, we got to witness a group of three forwards become regulars in the lineup. From a guy who was a healthy scratch in the AHL earlier in the season to a career minor leaguer to a waiver pickup, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter became one of the best fourth lines we’ve ever seen in New Jersey.
These are just some of the many great individual stories we got to witness throughout the 2011-12 Devils season. Personally, I wish we could bring every single player back for next season.
The season ends two wins short of hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. Hopefully the feeling of defeat will motivate guys like Kovalchuk, Parise, Henrique and other young players to get back to the Finals as soon as possible. Hopefully the Devils will have a positive summer, re-sign the players they need to re-sign and look forward to next season.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you for reading along this season, whether this is the first post of mine that you’ve read or the 50th. I was lucky enough to join the Devils Generals program last summer, and it’s been a fun ride this season. This recap has not been the most enjoyable to write, but there were many others that were quite memorable.
So now it’s time to step back, look back at what has happened, maybe make an appointment with our cardiologists and then get ready for next season. Have a great summer and thanks for being part of the journey.
Posted on June 12, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils, NHL, NHL Playoffs and tagged Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Championship. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.