Well, here was the Devils in a role that not only became familiar but accustomed to as they prepare to face the Rangers in Newark on Tuesday.
And it would be in the form of a bottom-dweller attempting to spoil a playoff-bound team’s season. It has ranked 20th or lower in nine out of 10 seasons for the franchise since moving to the Cup Final in 2012.
The Devils finished 29th overall after finishing 29th last season, 26th two years ago and 29th in 2018-19. In fact, they were only five points away from having the best odds to enter the draft lottery, from which they came with the first overall picks in 2019 (Jack Hughes) and 2017 (Nico Hisier).
And it’s not necessarily getting better for the Devils as the year continues. Hughes, who has played only 49 of the club’s 69 appearances, was ruled out again with a lower body injury during an Oliver Wahlstrom check on Sunday. It was a day the club entered the third round against Florida to lead 6–2 and lost 7–6 in overtime.
Indeed, the Devils have won only two (2-7-1) of their last 10 matches, while allowing 50 goals during that period. Only one victory came in regulation. Of course, two weeks earlier on March 22, the Blueshirts took a 2-0 lead after the first period with a 7-4 score in a game against Rangers.
And it’s here that we note that while the Devils have settled into their familiar role, the Rangers are decidedly unrecognizable while on their first playoff berth since 2017. And he has been avoiding letdowns against clubs out of the race, winning only two of his last six (2-3-1) runs against clubs in such a situation.
It became part of the conversation after a stretch in which the Blueshirts played their best two games in a win over the Penguins team, battling for second place in the Metro division while losing twice to the Islanders and the Devils once more in regulation. Flyers in a shootout on Sunday. He also struggled to win overtime against the Sabers and Red Wings.
And it becomes relevant with this match in New Jersey, perhaps a trap-door game before another performance against Pittsburgh at the Garden on Thursday.
“At the beginning of the year a lot was being said that we can’t beat good teams,” head coach Gerard Gallant said before the game. “Now we’re beating good teams but we’re losing against supposedly bad teams, and they’re not bad teams, don’t get me wrong, they’re all playing for jobs and they’re all working hard. and are competing hard.
“They don’t have a lot to play in the standings, some of these teams, but they’re going to work hard and they’ll play loose and force you to make mistakes like in Philadelphia the other night. They worked hard, they worked hard. Worked hard and they made some mistakes from us.
“But we have to play just one game at a time, no matter who your opponent is,” he said. You have to play your best game and prepare yourself in the best possible way.”
Rangers players have started talking about the playoffs, while the club’s magic figure remains on eight points. Justin Braun, who has experience in 100 tournament games and went to the cup finals with the Sharks in 2016, talks about the importance of a team and feels good about entering his post-game season. . Alexis Lafrenier accepts the challenge to focus on the task at hand while the playoffs are four weeks away.
“We’re all definitely excited for the playoffs,” Lafrenier said. “But we have a [few] There are games left, and there are some big games, so we have to stay in the moment and try to win every game.”
It is also a challenge for Gallant to balance the preparation work and line-combination chemistry against giving his players the rest they need for the tournament. It could be advantageous for Adam Fox to miss a game or two when the long season winds down.
“Yes and no,” said the coach. “We want to play well. That’s the bottom line. We’re going to have 27 guys here soon.” [when Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney come off Injured Reserve]Very damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
“You want to win the hockey game. You want to play well and you want to lead everyone, but when you want to give some people a little break, you guys are very hard on us when we lose. Have to get the best out of them.”