Thursday, April 22, 2010 Updated: April 23, 10:49 AM ET
Devils are one-and-done once again
By Ian Begley Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils used to be the standard for hockey excellence around here, winning three Stanley Cups from 1995 to 2003.
After Thursday night's no-show in Newark, that era is ancient history.
The Devils went out with a whimper in a 3-0 season-ending loss to the Flyers, falling 4-1 in their best-of-seven first-round series.
New Jersey has now failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs for three straight years. They haven't made it out of the second round since they last won the Stanley Cup in 2003.
"This is three years in a row that we have accomplished nothing," a frustrated Martin Brodeur said after the game. "We thought it was real disappointing losing Game 7 [against Carolina in 2009]. Losing in five games is just as tough."
Ilya Kovalchuk failed to get the Devils over their first-round hump. New Jersey wasn't even close.
The Devils took plenty of wrong turns in the Turnpike Series. Their power play was punchless, they weren't much better at even strength, and they didn't do enough to challenge Flyers third-string goalie Brian Boucher.
Maybe coach Jacques Lemaire said it best when he said the Devils didn't play "playoff" hockey.
"There's not 10 ways to play in the playoffs. There's one way to play, and we didn't play that way," the Devils coach said. "Philly did a better job in that department."
The seventh-seeded Flyers certainly did, holding the anemic Devils power-play scoreless in eight opportunities Thursday night and to just four goals in 32 chances (12.5 percent).
New Jersey allowed Philadelphia to convert on 28.5 percent of its opportunities with the extra man, including 2-for-6 in Game 5.
"We said before the series that you've got to have good special teams to win in the playoffs," said Zach Parise, who finished with just one goal in the series. "We didn't."
The Devils didn't fare well at even strength, either, with just three goals in five games against the Flyers, who beat Jersey in nine of 11 meetings this season. Couple that with the fact that the second-seeded Devils made Boucher (1.39 GAA in the series) look like an All-Star, and you have all the ingredients for another first-round flop.
"I just can't believe it, it's tough to digest," Brodeur said. "We had a hell of a team here, but for whatever reason we could never play to the level we needed to play in the playoffs.
"Just real disappointed, that's for sure," he said. "[I had] bigger expectations for this club here than to fold in five games."
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Those expectations were raised Feb. 4 when Lou Lamoriello pulled the trigger on a five-player trade to send Atlanta sniper Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey.
The impact of the Kovalchuk trade was almost negligible: The Devils were 35-18-2 before the deal to bring the Thrashers star to Newark. They went just 13-9-5 in the regular season after his arrival and then were dismantled by a Flyers team that had to win a shootout on the last day of the regular season just to make the playoffs.
So, in the end, it was more of the same for Brodeur. Different teammates, different opponent, but the same result.
"We felt like we had a good team, a team that would go far in the playoffs," the three-time Stanley Cup winner said. "Every year it's the same."
Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.