There are a lot of ways to lose a playoff series, but it would be hard to come up with many worse than the ones that befell the Devils and Rangers in the first round. The Rangers lost 2-1 at Washington on Tuesday night, the final nail in a coffin they'd been building ever since winning three of the first four games. They may have been the underdog, but losing like that still burns.
The Devils, on the other hand, were favored in their series with Carolina. They were heavily favored with 81 seconds to play in Game Seven, as a result of holding a 3-2 lead on home ice. But Jussi Jokinen, who made a habit of beating Martin Brodeur late in this series, and Eric Staal erased any big future plans with a pair of goals in 48 seconds to send the Jersey side home empty-handed.
Both are brutal,but which is worse?
It depends on what kind of agony turns you on. It was shocking to find the Rangers up 3-1, but there was a feeling that the other shoe was never far from dropping. Their Game Three loss was a return to the lethargic play that got Tom Renney fired near the end of the season, and you never knew which Rangers team would show up from night to night. When the bad one showed up, it was a frustrating and disappointing reminder that the team rarely played up to its potential.
What it wasn't, however, was surprising. The Devils went the surprising route, shocking might even be more appropriate, in losing their series. One second you're happy and comfortable, and the next moment you're disconsolate and bereft of answers about what went wrong.
In the end, that's what makes the Devils' loss worse. At some point, the Rangers can move forward by admitting that it was just their time. The freakish way that the Devils playoff run was cut short, especially when you toss in the game they lost with two-tenths of a second to play on Jokinen's goal, makes it harder to swallow. No matter how hard you try, there won't ever be a way to make sense of what happened which is an awful feeling to live with until next season begins.