Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Devils Look for Answers

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Devils Look for Answers

Article excerpt

NEWARK - The idea of missing the playoffs less than a year after making it to the Stanley Cup Finals still was sinking in for the Devils on Monday.

They begin playing out the string tonight when they host the Montreal Canadiens after being eliminated with a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday afternoon.

The Devils have three regular-season games left, but the search for answers for how this happened, how they ended up out of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons - after qualifying 13 years in a row - has begun.

"Both teams, in my opinion and in all our opinions, could have been in it, but we look at reasons, not excuses," general manager Lou Lamoriello said Monday. "Right now, we have to relook at everything. I have to look at what I did and what I didn't do. This is not about anything other than that at this point, and then we'll go from there."

What stands out most now is the way the team struggled when goaltender Martin Brodeur and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk were injured. The Devils went 3-8-2, including 0-5-1 in the first six games, when Brodeur sat out 13 in a row with a pinched nerve in his upper back/neck. They then went 1-6-4 in the 11 games Kovalchuk missed with his right shoulder injury, including losses in the first 10 (0-6-4).

The Devils are 11-3-3 with both Brodeur and Kovalchuk in the lineup and 6-15-7 with at least one of them sitting out. They scored only 19 goals and were shut out three times in the 11 games Kovalchuk missed.

Although backup goaltender Johan Hedberg struggled at times when Brodeur was out, goal scoring was an issue then as well -- even with a healthy Kovalchuk in the lineup. They scored two goals or fewer in 10 of the 13 games Brodeur missed.

"I think what we didn't do at a time we had injuries is, usually people rise to the occasion and pick up the slack. And in this case it didn't happen, not through anybody's fault," Lamoriello said. …

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