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The Devils Have A Lot To Be Proud Of, But Must Be Wondering What Could've Been Had Timo Meier Not Missed A Wide-Open Net

Gotta be fair to Timo Meier and the rest of the New Jersey Devils. Nobody thought they had any business being anywhere near the playoffs before the season started. Not trying to take a cheap shot at ESPN, but they had New Jersey 24th in their preseason NHL power rankings.

Also, check out this insane feed by Meier to open the scoring in Thursday's Game 5. Just a ridiculous threading of the needle.

For New Jersey to overcome a 0-2 deficit against a Rangers club whose nucleus had just run to the Conference Finals the year before and to at least give the Carolina Hurricanes a few scares? Those are achievements unto themselves. With Jack Hughes and an incredible young core along with the veteran leadership of Dougie Hamilton, the Devils have many promising years ahead, especially if the 2022-23 campaign's shocking league-wide parity begins to course-correct.

Having said all that, DAMN. With a 2-1 advantage in the second period, Meier had more or less a tap-in to notch a key insurance goal. Nobody near him. Awesome job on the forecheck to set up that chance. Exceptional puck movement. Tic-tac-toe and...OOOF.

Cut to the Canes forcing overtime and a fateful (er, fatal for the Devils) power play opportunity in the extra period:

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Sucks that the Devils couldn't push the series back home to Newark for Game 6. What an atmosphere that would've been. At a certain point when you have a young club like this, it can be one of those naïveté type of situations where they don't know what they don't know. They rallied from 0-2 down in the last round. Why not come back from 3-1 this time? Could've at least forced a Game 7 and gone back to Raleigh.

Realistically, though, this had to be more or less the ceiling anyone could've fathomed for this iteration of the Devils. The Canes were the better team. They don't even have the services of their fourth-leading scorer from the regular season in Andrei Svechnikov. Goes to show the type of depth Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour has to work with.

Speaking of Brind'Amour, when his son came out to sound the siren before overtime, we should've known that it was more or less a wrap in favor of the home team.

Someone please go check on Frank. Give him a hug. It ain't an easy life rooting for some of these franchises he pledges allegiance to. For all the yelling this man does, he has a big heart and simply wants his guys to win. At least in the Devils' case, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic about their future.

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Mark down Game 3's 8-4 romp as a potential source of silver linings as New Jersey enters the offseason looking to build on what it has and add even more talent to this ascending group.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok