Well that was impressive. With the New Jersey Devils needing all 82 games to secure home ice for the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the New York Islanders looked as though they were playing an 80 game AHL schedule, because they sure as heck didn't show up for their 81st bout of the season.
Hence the Devils systematically decimated the Isles 7-1, clinching their second consecutive Atlantic Division title, 9th in 13 years and their 12th 100-point season in franchise history as well with 101.
Jersey racked up three goals in the first, with Dainius Zubrus breaking through on a goal that would be reviewed and eventually counted for the 1-0 score. Then Zach Parise, sprawling out in front of the net was able to slide one past Martin Biron for a 2-0 lead and his 38th of the season. Not too long after, Dean McAmmond was able to fit one by, giving the Devils a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Things got a little chippy in the second with Rod Pelley taking a hit from and then dropping the gloves with Micheal Haley early in the period.
Later in the second the Devils put their power play to good use, scoring on two blasts from the point by Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston. For Rolston the goal gave him his seventh 20-goal campaign and a 5-0 advantage for the Devils.
The third period played much like the second, this time with two heavyweights in Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Trevor Gillies going toe to toe.
From there on out the Devils sandwiched two more goals by Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias around an Islanders Matt Moulson power play goal, to give New Jersey its largest single game goal total and winning margin all season at 7-1.
In addition to Kovalchuk and Parise, Travis Zajac had a three point night. Paul Martin and Andy Greene each chipped in two assists as well in the rout.
So here's what we know about the Devils heading into the final Sunday of the NHL regular season. New Jersey can't finish any lower than third. With a win or overtime point against the Buffalo Sabres at home, the Devils would secure the second spot and home ice in the first two rounds by virtue of a having more wins as a tie-breaker. If the Devils lose in regulation to the Sabres, Buffalo jumps ahead of them by a point and the Devils are the three seed.
Looking at the rest of the East: Washington is the top seed. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will face off for the third time in four seasons, as the number's four and five seeds. The Boston Bruins with 89 points are locked into the 6th seed regardless of what they do against the Caps in their finale. The Montreal Canadiens currently occupy the seventh spot with 88 points. However that could change if the Philadelphia Flyers defeat the New York Rangers. Although the Flyers and Habs would both end up with 88 points, the Flyers would get the tie-breaker by virtue of having 41 wins to Montreal's 39. If the Rangers win, they would send the Flyers golfing. But since the Canadiens won the season series, the Rangers despite having the same record and point total would finish eighth and take on the Capitals in a re-match of last year's first round series which saw the Rangers blow a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history.
Looking out West: At the moment San Jose has the most points at 113. But if Chicago defeats Detroit, they'll get the top seed out west by virtue of having more wins. A Blackhawks win over the Red Wings would also be important for the Devils no matter what New Jersey does against Buffalo Sunday, because it would ensure the Devils would have more points than Detroit if the two should meet up in the Finals. Vancouver has locked up the three seed and Phoenix the four. Seeds five through seven are a juggling act. If Detroit wins they're fifth and take on Phoenix. If the LA Kings lose in regulation they're seventh and will play either Chicago or San Jose. However if the Kings defeat Colorado and the Red Wings lose, the Kings jump to fifth and play Phoenix. A Kings win could also vault them by Nashville and into 6th with a match-up against the Canucks. If both Detroit and Los Angeles lose in regulation, Nashville will jump up to fifth to play the Coyotes, while the Red Wings would slip to sixth and play the Canucks, and the Kings would play the Sharks, but if the Red Wings win and the Kings lose the Kings will play the Blackhawks. The Avalanche will finish eighth and right now they would play the Sharks, unless the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings.
Down on the farm: For the first time since the 1999-00 season a Devils AHL affiliate will participate in the Calder Cup playoffs. That season the Devils then affiliate Albany River Rats lost in the first round to the Rochester Americans 3-2. The now Lowell Devils clinched a spot by knocking off the Portland Pirates 5-2 in Maine. If the playoffs ended at the time this article was published, Lowell would play the Albany River Rats oddly enough, starting with the first two games Wednesday and Friday in Albany. The Devils of course were the River Rats for 13 seasons in Albany before moving to Lowell and are rumored to be moving back to Albany next season.
However a win or OT loss coupled with a Bridgeport regulation loss against Hartford would put Lowell fourth in the Atlantic and they would face Worcester in the first round. Or if Lowell loses and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton wins or loses in OT, the Devils would have the gargantuan task of taking on the Hershey Bears in the first round.
Basically it works like this, if you're the fourth best team in the Atlantic you play the first best in the Atlantic. If you're the fifth best in the Atlantic and have more points than the third best in the East, you play the second best team in the East as a crossover. And if you're the fifth best in the Atlantic and you have a better record than the fourth best team in the East, you crossover and play the best team in the East. Got that?
Some book keeping for the New Jersey Devils Sunday: Zach Parise needs just two more goals to reach 40. Jamie Langenbrunner with two and Patrik Elias with one, would each reach the 20 goal plateau. A shutout by Martin Brodeur would give him ten on the year, it would also be the fifth time in Marty's career that he will have blanked the opposition in double digits in a season. Travis Zajac is four points away from 70, Ilya Kovalchuk is six away from 90. Andy Greene is three away from 40 points. David Clarkson is 15 penalty minutes away from 100 and Andrew Peters is just seven away from the century mark.
New Jersey takes on Buffalo in Newark at 5:00PM.