As if it wasn't enough that New Jersey Devils fans got their first look at three prospects that could prove to be the future of the franchise. As if it wasn't enough that Pavel Zacha - the centerpiece of that youth movement - notched the first two points of his infantile career while fitting seamlessly into an NHL lineup. As it wasn't enough that the young cornerstones of their offense - Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri - both were rewarded for their prolonged success this year by hitting the 30 goal milestone on the same damn night. As if it wasn't enough that Patrik Elias was going to reign victorious while adding two more assists to an already borderline Hall of Fame resume. As if all of those moral victories weren't enough, something special happened to punctuate them with the most unlikely of exclamation points. Patrik Elias found himself open at the top of the crease with 15 seconds left in a game that was well in doubt, but more importantly the last 15 seconds of what could prove to be his time as a New Jersey Devil, and he did what he has so often done before. He scored a goal that the true Devils fans will never, ever forget. I don't want to say there was magic at work in the 82nd game of an average, non-playoff season, but all you have to do is look at Tuomo Ruutu's season long stat line prior to last night to realize that there may have been a little tarot in the cards.
You can say it was a meaningless game if you so choose, but I wouldn't go saying that to any member of the winning team. For a group that literally NOTHING was expected of, last night's result was the perfect way to cap off a season that can only be described as a raving success. It may have been a blowout victory over a bad Toronto club, but in a way it was a microcosm of the Devils entire season. A season in which almost everything went right that felt like more of a victory than the standings would lead you to believe. This was really just the 5th goal in a non-competitive hockey game, but I'll be damned if it didn't seem like so, so much more...
If you want to know whether or not Patrik Elias is returning to the Devils you can watch his postgame interview below...and learn absolutely nothing. The fact of the matter is that it's a decision that will be up to management, and it's a decision that is undoubtedly more difficult after watching him play some pretty inspired puck the last three games. A separation that was once imminent has had it's inevitable conclusion clouded. Especially considering the fact that he looked like he had immediate chemistry with his teenage countrymen that the Devils have invested their immediate future in. If I have seen the last of Patrik Elias in a New Jersey Devils uniform then he certainly saved his best for it, but I can happily say I wouldn't mind if that case wasn't yet dismissed.
P.S. In case I didn't do a good enough job of describing how cool last night was, here's a crap load of pictures that should speak thousands of words for me...