And then there was one: Devils’ sweet run goes bitter


Do you know a New Jersey Devils fan? If so, you should probably give him or her a hug right now. (Yes, even if you root for the New York Rangers.)

The bitter taste of the Devils’ 6-1 Game 6 loss to the Los Angeles Kings probably won’t subside for some time – few endings like these dissolve quickly – yet the big picture ended up looking a lot sweeter than most people expected.

Sure, New Jersey was about as good as a sixth seed could be, all things considered. They finished with 102 points this season, which would have placed them right behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (103) and Boston Bruins (102, with more regulation/OT wins) as the fifth seed if it wasn’t based on division titles. Still, they sported plenty of question marks going into the postseason and just about everything worked out.

Until they met the Kings, of course.

What happened?

Whether you attribute it to injuries (Ilya Kovalchuk seemed banged up, for one), the Devils’ shortcomings or the Kings’ dominance, New Jersey just couldn’t score consistently against Los Angeles. A power play that scored 12 goals through the first three rounds was downright befuddled by an outstanding Kings’ PK. Zach Parise struggled just as much as Kovalchuk to put points on the board while Martin Brodeur was surprisingly strong – but not strong enough – to top the Kings.

The Devils scored just eight goals in six games in the series.

Who takes the blame?

As unfair as it might be, many will fit Steve Bernier with the goat horns. His controversial hit earned an ejection and resulted in three Kings power play goals, essentially ending Game 6 – and the series – before the first period was even over.

Of course, that’s an overly simplistic approach. As many pointed out, a five-minute major doesn’t necessarily justify such a porous PK showing. (Overall, the Devils’ penalty kill was strong, but that might make it hurt a little bit more.)

If anything, Bernier takes the heat off of larger concerns. The Devils lost their cool and also lost their offensive touch. Bernier’s the easy scapegoat and most will see it that way, yet an ineffective offense and a dominant Kings team did the Devils in.

What will they do about it?

In case you haven’t noticed the deluge of “Where will Parise go?” articles, the Devils’ biggest off-season question isn’t entirely in “their hands.” That being said, making a deep postseason run had to at least improve New Jersey’s chances of retaining its captain and most important player. GM Lou Lamoriello’s off-season report card likely hinges on Parise’s decision.

That’s far from Lamoriello’s only summer chore, however. He has other noteworthy free agent calls to make, with the most prominent one being Brodeur. This post goes into painstaking detail to cover the many decisions the Devils face in this off-season, as the vast majority of New Jersey’s most valuable players (not named Kovalchuk) either need a new deal this summer or in 2013.

Lamoriello faces a tough bigger picture question among many individual conundrums, then: does this group have more deep runs in them or was this just a (mostly) happy accident?


And then there were 15: Is Detroit’s dynasty on its last legs?

And then there were 14: Sharks come out flat in playoffs

And then there were 13: Powerhouse Pens fall flat

And then there were 12: Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks bounced in Round 1

And then there were 11: Another first-round exit for Blackhawks

And then there were 10: Bruins run out of Game 7 magic

And then there were nine: Senators out, but future’s bright

And then there were eight: Panthers go out swinging

And then there were seven: Blues swept out of Western Conference semifinal

And then there were six: So much for Nashville’s mid-season reload

And then there were five: New-look Flyers produce familiar results

And then there were four: Capitals fall just short in Game 7

And then there were three: Coyotes’ run falls short

And then there were two: Rangers’ gas tank hits empty

They ‘don’t have superstars,’ but the Wild are off to a hot start

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 25:  Jonas Brodin #25 of the Minnesota Wild, Jason Zucker #16 and Joel Eriksson Ek #14 congratulate Chris Stewart #7 after he scored against Boston Bruins during the second period at TD Garden on October 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Eight games into the season, nobody on the Minnesota Wild has more than three goals, but nine players have scored at least twice, and seven more have done it once.

Indeed, it’s been a very balanced attack that’s helped the Wild to a 5-2-1 start. They smoked the Sabres, 4-0, last night in Buffalo. Four different players got goals, including defenseman Ryan Suter.

“That’s how we have to win,” Suter told reporters. “We don’t have the superstars. We need everybody on the team participating.”

It’s interesting that Suter would mention the lack of superstars, because that’s the exact same message head coach Bruce Boudreau was pushing when he took the job in May.

“As much as I like Ovechkin and Getzlaf and Perry, you don’t need those guys to win,” Boudreau said. “You can do it the old-fashioned way. You do it as a team.”

It’s only been eight games, so the Wild still have a lot to prove. They were outshot, 38-22, last night, and their possession stats propose the possibility that an unsustainably high shooting percentage and great goaltending from Devan Dubnyk (4-1-1, .944) have been the real keys to their winning start.

“He’s carrying us right now,” d-man Matt Dumba said of Dubnyk, “so we’ll ride that wave.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting great goaltending, and the Wild shouldn’t have to apologize for burying their scoring chances either. Puck possession isn’t everything in hockey, and at any rate, possession stats don’t have the greatest predictive power so early in the season.

For now, Boudreau’s superstar-less group gets the benefit of the doubt.

The Wild host Dallas Saturday and Buffalo Tuesday before hitting the road for games in Denver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Ottawa.

‘It’s outstanding to be at home’ — ‘Canes to play their opener, finally

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 22:  Fans welcome the players to the ice before a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes during play at PNC Arena on January 22, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes will get to do what every other NHL team has already done this season — play a game at home.

And they’re pretty stoked about it.

“Outstanding,” head coach Bill Peters said about finally getting to their home opener, per the Raleigh News & Obsever. “It’s outstanding to be at home.”

The ‘Canes opened the year with a six-game road trip, in which they went 1-3-2 (culminating with Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Detroit.) At first glance, that might seem like a disappointment — securing just four of a possible 12 points — but there were some positives.

For one, Carolina knows it could’ve, and should’ve, snagged a few more points. The club had 3-0 leads on Winnipeg and Vancouver to start the trip but blew both, and ended up losing in overtime.

In Philly on Saturday, the ‘Canes had a 2-0 lead early in the second period before the Flyers scored four unanswered goals, and went on to a 6-3 win.

Offensively, the club has looked good, paced by the trio of Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner and Lee Stempniak. Those three often played on the club’s top line during the trip, and Rask emerged as the club’s leader with seven points through the first six games.

Of course, the club does have its issues. The ‘Canes currently sit 29th in the NHL in goals against, with neither netminder — Cam Ward or Eddie Lack — having shown consistent form early in the year.

The hope for Peters and company is that the return to PNC Arena will change the negatives around. Tonight’s game against the Rangers is the first in a stretch where Carolina will play eight of 11 at home.

After Vancouver release, Tuomo Ruutu signs in Switzerland

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 21:  Tuomo Ruutu #15 of the New Jersey Devils prepares to play against the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center on January 21, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Tuomo Ruutu has found work.

After spending training camp and the exhibition campaign in Vancouver on a professional tryout, the veteran Finn has agreed to join Swiss National League A side HC Davos, the team announced on Friday.

Ruutu, 33, caught on with the Canucks after a 13-year career in which he played 735 games for three different teams — Chicago, Carolina and New Jersey. Injuries limited him to just 33 games for the Devils last season and, to be fair, several seasons prior as well.

Ruutu had only appeared in 186  of a possible 246 games over the last three years.

In his prime, Ruutu was an energetic winger that could bang and crash, as well as score goals. He netted a career-high 26 with the ‘Canes in ’08-09, and scored 15 or more five times in his career.

Though he lasted nearly the entire preseason with the Canucks, Ruutu was dropped just prior to the start of the regular season. Another veteran forward that attended camp on a PTO — Jack Skille — did manage to score a one-way deal from the Canucks, however.


Jets put Little on IR, recall Dano

CALGARY, AB - MARCH 16: Marko Dano #56 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 16, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, we passed along news out of Winnipeg that veteran center Bryan Little would be out another month with a lower-body injury.

Today, the Jets have made a roster move to fill the void.

Marko Dano, the 27th overall pick in 2013, has been recalled from AHL Manitoba, the club announced on Friday. In a corresponding move, the Jets put Little on injured reserve.

Dano, 21, has been an interesting figure the last couple of years. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in Columbus in ’14-15, scoring 21 points in 35 games while looking like a promising young talent.

As such, he was one of the key pieces the Jackets had to part with in the Brandon Saad trade with Chicago — but Dano struggled to find similar form in the Windy City. He played just 13 games under head coach Joel Quenneville, scoring two points, and was shuttled off to Winnipeg at the deadline as part of the Andrew Ladd deal.

Dano appeared in 21 games for Winnipeg last year, scoring eight points. But he failed to crack the team out of training camp this year and was dispatched to the minors, where he’s racked up a pair of assists in six games.

Dano could be in line for some immediate action. The Jets, 4-1 winners over Dallas last night, are back in action this evening as they take on the Avs in Colorado. On Sunday, Winnipeg is back in action again as it hosts Buffalo at the MTS Centre.