Thu Apr 22 11:06am EDT
Even with the Philadelphia Flyers' injury woes at forward, the New Jersey Devils are in deep trouble. Again. Emperor Lou Lamoriello has watched this franchise transform from a Stanley Cup finals favorite (2000-2004) to a first-round casualty in three of the last five seasons.
He's getting older. His Hall of Fame goaltender is getting older. The time to win is now, and the Devils aren't.
So Lou let his frustrations be known to the Devils coaching staff after their Game 4 loss in Philly, a game in which the players "quit" after falling behind in the third period.
And what better way to express those feelings than by smashing a jar of jelly on the dressing room wall?
This would probably serve as the most outlandish moment of motivation for the Devils entering tonight's Game 5 do-or-die battle with the Flyers in Newark, were it not for Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) getting all Mark Messier in the local media.
From Steve Politi, Star-Ledger columnist, comes the tale of how Lamoriello intended to get the Devils out of a jam with ... er, jam:
The jelly jar hit the wall in the visiting dressing room at the Wachovia Center hard, smashing into bits and leaving chunks of goo on the designer suits belonging to the Devils players. The incident itself was not a surprise. Given the poor effort late in Game 4 and the 3-1 deficit to a Flyers team that barely made the postseason, a few of the players probably wanted to trash the place themselves.
But the source of the flying jam was not in a uniform. It was a furious Lou Lamoriello who punctuated a tirade at the coaches by grabbing the jar off the postgame spread and hurling it to its sticky end.
The mess was cleaned up before most of the players got out of the nearby locker room, according to several people around the team who did not want to incur the team general manager's wrath by talking about it.
This immediately brought back memories of Coach Larry Robinson's famous moment of exasperation during the 2000 Cup run for New Jersey, in which he raised his voice (a rarity) and kicked the hell out of a trash can in the locker room. It happened in the Eastern Conference finals, during a Devils' rally from 3-1 down ... to the Flyers.
In both cases, let's be thankful that the moments remained in the bowels of the arena and didn't become some sort of a weird fan tradition like the dead rat in Florida. Because if you thought octopus goo was a bitch to clean off the ice, try a jar of Smucker's ...
Meanwhile, Ilya Kovalchuk -- who, despite having chemistry within this system like a filet mignon dropped into a bowl of corn flakes, has had a strong first round -- is guaranteeing victory in Game 5, via the Star Ledger:
When I asked him today, Kovalchuk said he isn't thinking about the fact that this could be his last game in a Devils sweater.
"No. Because we're going to win tomorrow," he said.
There you go. If the Devils win Game 5 and Kovalchuk's Shirt was Blue, he'd be heralded as a prophet in the New York media.
So Lou is throwing fruit spreads, Kovalchuck is vowing victories, Brodeur has shaved his unsightly playoff beard and players are recalling the 2000 rally from 3-1 down against Philly. All of this indicates the team might have a heartbeat in Game 5; none of it fixes a power play flopping at 16.7 percent, Brodeur's occasional lapses that shift momentum, their inability to get quality chances on Brian Boucher(notes) and the team's sputtering offense in the face of solid Philly defense.
Which is why this is still the Flyers' series to lose.