The wheels are coming off the bus for the New Jersey Devils.
Given their roster is a bunch of third- and fourth-liners pieced together by the pads and glove of goaltender Cory Schneider, this shouldn't come as a surprise. New Jersey wasn't supposed to compete at all this season, and if you asked those in the know before the start of the 2015-16 season, they were very much frontrunners for the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.
Then, a weak start for the Metropolitan Division happened and suddenly the Devils had a head full of steam and a goaltender making headlines that all but screamed Vezina Trophy contender. It seemed unthinkable, but the Devils were looking like they could put together a potential playoff team out of nothing but matchsticks and glue.
However, it might all come crumbling down thanks to a pair of big losses heading into the trade deadline.
Thursday, the Devils were downright embarrassed in a 6-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets -- a team currently in the running for the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.
Coming off their worst loss of the season, the Devils didn't have an easy task in taking on the reigning Eastern Conference Champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning. Still, a poor overall team performance with just 21 shots on goal and 24 combined penalty minutes resulted in a 4-0 loss for their fifth defeat in six games.
Devils have lost two in a row, five of six, and eight of 12 heading into the deadline. They'll be sellers, I would think.— Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell) February 27, 2016
It might be time for the Devils to abandon the playoff bandwagon. Even one point out of Wild Card contention, the slump has put them right within striking distance of the Hurricanes and Flyers while keeping them behind the Penguins, who have four games in hand on the Devils.
That last spot seems to be Pittsburgh's to lose, and the Devils could be on the outside looking in come May thanks to these back-to-back losses.
Washington Capitals 3, Minnesota Wild 2
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, New Jersey Devils 0
Boston Bruins 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Anaheim Ducks 2, Edmonton Oilers 1 (OT)
Buffalo Sabres 3, San Jose Sharks 1
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3 things we learned
1. The Blackhawks weren't even playing and they made the biggest splash of the night
It's really Stanley Cup or bust in Chicago, as the Blackhawks made their third trade in two days by acquiring Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann from the Canadiens. In exchange, Chicago gave Montreal Phillip Danault and their 2018 second-round pick while taking two pieces off the trade board for Monday. The Blackhawks may be mortgaging their future in the hopes of another championship, but will it matter in the end if Chicago is hoisting the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in seven seasons? Time will tell ...
#Blackhawks gave up two former first-rounders, a 2016 first-rounder, and two 2018 picks for Ladd, Weise and Fleischmann, all pending UFAs.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 27, 2016
2. Patrice Bergeron celebrated his 800th NHL game in style
Not only did Bergeron help the Bruins to a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes with a goal and an assist in a milestone game, Boston is now just three points behind the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
Patrice Bergeron strikes first for #NHLBruins in his 800th NHL game. WATCH:https://t.co/qNwHRAd9eg— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 27, 2016
3. Alex Ovechkin is a machine
Ovechkin hit 40 goals for the eighth time in his career on Friday. A big reason for that? His classic one-timer from the face-off circle that's become his bread and butter over his 11-year career.
#GottaSeeIt: Alex Ovechkin scores his 40th goal off a classic one-timer. His 8th NHL season w. 40 or more goals.https://t.co/jtPurmFAh6— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 27, 2016
You could make a highlight reel of your own of the amount of times Ovechkin's scored on that exact set up.
You have a lot to learn, young Padawan Jack Eichel, but Joe Thornton can teach you the ways of the Force.
Thornton picks Eichel's pocket pic.twitter.com/rcdj4UiMDO— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 27, 2016
Impact Moment II
The Ducks are now two points behind the Pacific Division-leading Kings thanks to this crazy OT tally from Rickard Rakell.
Stat of the Night
#Caps Alex Ovechkin becomes the 10th player in NHL history with 8 or more 40-goal seasons. pic.twitter.com/i6OGQlV7RA— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 27, 2016