A EULOGY FOR THE 2011-12 NEW JERSEY DEVILS

By Jeremie Grabinsky

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. A bittersweet mixture of pride and
defeat. The Kings of Los Angeles defeat the Devils of New Jersey by a score of 6-1 to
close out the Stanley Cup Finals, in Game 6 at the Staples Center.

No one could have predicted this. For the past five or so years, the Devils have been
first round fodder to actual cup contenders. They seemed to have lost their mojo, Marty
Brodeur looks old, the defense is mediocre, the offense as stale as month old bread. As
they locked in their spot as the sixth seed, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was heading
down the same old road, the one where they choke in the first round to a beatable team.

This had been the same old song and dance since they won their third cup in 2003. It was
as if the organization, and players too, became complacent with the success of the past
and were going to milk the aura of three championships for as long as possible. However,
as the door closed on the 2010 Devils season, they did what they haven’t done in over a
decade, miss the playoffs. It looked all too obvious that this was the beginning of the end.

But with the signing of Peter DeBoer as new head coach, the winds seemed to favor
Jersey once again. Staying competitive all year long, a fourth place finish in their own
division earned them the sixth playoff seed, trailing behind the Flyers, Penguins and
Rangers, teams all favored to make, if not win the finals.

The Florida Panthers gave New Jersey a run for its money, and with the swing of rookie
Adam Henrique’s stick, he not only won the series in a dramatic overtime finish, he
broke the stigma surrounding the team and their first round misfortunes. Adam Henrique.
Remember that name, he will be important later.

Next up were the heavily favored Philadelphia Flyers, who knocked off the mighty
Pittsburgh Penguins in what was more of a boxing match than a playoff series. After
dropping the first game in an ugly overtime loss, the Devils remained resilient and
forechecked the Flyers into oblivion, taking the next four games and punching their ticket
to the Eastern Conference Finals.

When it was learned that it was going to be the Rangers against the Devils in the
Conference Finals, the hockey world took notice. This was the rematch to put the
memory of the 1994 heartbreaking loss to the Rangers to bed once and for all. And put it
to bed they did. After splitting the first four games, and two Henrik Lundqvist shutouts,
the Devils seemed to have met their match. A decisive third win in New York finally
gave Jersey its first series lead. As game six strolled into overtime, one could not help
but think that the Rangers were going to squeak out a win, and take the series back home
to close out in fashion in game seven. But Adam Henrique would turn out to be the
savior and drive home a loose puck sixty three seconds into overtime. (Told you he was

important!)

The stars seemed to be lining up for the New Jersey Devils, but a few bad bounces and a
blowout would put them in a 3-0 series hole against Los Angeles. While it was all but too
obvious that the hill was just too steep to climb, the team remained resilient and stormed
back to take the next two games, forcing a game six. That sixth game was simply too
much for the Devils to conquer, and were beaten up in a 6-1 loss, losing the series 4-2.

Now some could view losing in the Stanley Cup Final as a complete and total failure. But
for this New Jersey team, knocking out two of their biggest rivals consecutively, despite
being expected to lose, is a victory in itself. The theme of the 2011-12 New Jersey Devils
has been perseverance. Playing in the toughest division in the NHL, they thrived on
adversity, and rose to meet any and all challenges. They battled through the playoffs, and
went down swinging.

But the future looks good for the Devils. A new group of talent emerged this season, with
upstarts Adam Henrique, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier leading
the way with gritty play and determination. The staples of the franchise, Zach Parise, Ily
Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Travis Zajac all had great post season performances. One
would hope that Parise signs an extension and stays in NJ, as he is a valuable asset.

But the one that will stick out in my mind forever was the magical playoff run that
Martin Brodeur had. He turned back the clock fifteen years and played his heart out.
His highlights alone from the Rangers series are more impressive than most goalies will
ever be. He looked like he found his love for hockey again, and with a fanbase buzzing
with excitement and growing each year, there is no reason not to believe he will still be
manning the pipes for years to come.

I tip my hat to the Devils for proving me wrong game after game after game. I’ve been a
die-hard fan for as long as I can remember, but this year they turned me into a believer.
They showed me that no matter who predicts what, it will always come down to the men
on the ice and effort they put forward. They have strong leadership, a great coach, and
extra motivation for win it all next year and bring the cup back to where it belongs, in
New Jersey.

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