Are the Devils going to play with desperation on Tuesday night?
Of course. Their season is on the brink.
“If we lose, we go home,” captain Zach Parise said Tuesday. “If we lose, our season’s over.”
The Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96 last season, but turned it around with a 102-point effort in 2011-12.
But none of that matters now, not with the team trailing 3-2 in its best-of-seven series with the Panthers and needing two wins to advance into the next round.
“Everybody is judged on playoff success. That's obvious. I don't think there is any doubt about that,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “I don't think anyone is going to go home patting themselves on the back if our season ends [Tuesday night].”
DeBoer said his team is focused and a little angry right now.
“As a group we've kind of put ourselves in this spot and we've got to get ourselves out of it. That's kind of the feel,” DeBoer said. “I anticipate a strong effort from everybody. There is a lot of pride in that room and a lot of character. I expect this will be our best game.”
The Devils were hopeful that they’d be able to take command of the series in Game 5. It didn’t work out. In the last 22 playoff series that were tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 went on to win the series 20 times.
A reporter asked DeBoer what his team needs to do to win Game 6. Other than not trying to win two games at once, DeBoer said there weren’t any secrets.
The Devils need to score goals; they only have 12 in the first five games. They also need to stay out of the penalty box; the Panthers have already scored seven power play-goals in the series.
“That was the message this morning,” DeBoer said. “We're not going to win this series [Tuesday night]. We just have to win one game. Then we're both in the same position. That's the focus.”
The Devils would rather not have to answer questions about the uncertainty surrounding the futures of goaltender Martin Brodeur and Parise.
They can delay the inevitable by winning on Tuesday night and surviving another day.