You can't blame the Devils

MIKE KEENAN

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

I find it a little bit absurd that people would question the New Jersey Devils' decision to sit Martin Brodeur yesterday.

I understand the emotions of Maple Leaf fans who were pulling for the Devils to beat the New York Islanders in order for Toronto to make the playoffs.

But, as Brodeur said in yesterday's Toronto Sun, why would he risk getting hurt when the Devils had nothing to play for? After all, they already had clinched the Atlantic Division and you certainly don't want your franchise goalie being bowled over, especially with the post-season just around the corner.

People may have focused on Brodeur not playing but what got missed is the fact that Scott Clemmensen is a bonafide NHL goaltender.

Sure, he's no MartinBrodeur, but no one is.

Besides, he kept his team in the game and got them into a shootout.

As the season has winded down, another point that has been overlooked is that the Islanders have been relying on their own backup goaltender for a couple of weeks now.

Everyone has been concentrating on Clemmensen, but what about the job Wade Dubielewicz has turned in? Many people thought the Islanders were in deep trouble when RickDiPietro went down, but this guy stepped in and proved to be a great story.

As for the Maple Leafs, here is the bottom line: This team was in control of its own fate when they went into Long Island Thursday night to meet the Islanders.

A Toronto victory over Dubielewicz and his teammates would have ensured the Leafs didn't have to rely on the Devils to defeat the Islanders yesterday.

Instead, the Leafs suffered a 5-2 loss to the Islanders.

Toronto had the opportunity to control its own destiny. The Leafs simply didn't take advantage of it.

Say what you want about the final standings, but the race for the playoffs has provided riveting drama the past few weeks.

Historically, those races have always come right down to crunch time. In my opinion, what has made them even tighter are the three-point games. They have made it more difficult for teams to separate themselves from the pack.

This season, for example, there was a large number of teams still scratching and clawing for post-season berths with just two weeks remaining in the schedule.

I know what it's like to come down to crunch time with your team still trying to make it in. Years of coaching in the NHL teaches you that you'll see almost anything standing behind the bench.

As the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, we faced elimination in the final game of the 1988-89 season. We beat the Leafs in overtime that night to make the playoffs and went on to get to the Final Four before being defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames.

Ironically, on that final night of the season, New Jersey would have made the playoffs had the Leafs defeated us. It was the Devils who were forced to watch the game and cheer for the Leafs.

Yesterday, it was the other way around. This time, it was the Leafs backing the Devils.


Videos

Photos