NEWARK–For some of the Devils, Tuesdays breakup day was far too early. Especially when the postseason has become so regular.
That though was the case for Beau Bennett and Ben Lovejoy. Both former Penguins, capturing the Stanley Cup one year ago. But this summer won’t end in June or with hardware. It ends in April and though the forecast may have felt like mid-summer, the abbreviated season was apparent.
“I think through an 82-game schedule, we were a little too fragile,” said Beau Bennett. “Even when we played well, we found ways to lose.”
Losing isn’t something Bennett has known in his short career. At 25 he’s played in 21 NHL postseason games and has been part of Penguins teams that have gone deep into the playoffs.
“I was on a team for four years where we didn’t even talk about the playoffs, it was just ‘who are we playing in the first round’,” he said. “It’s different in that regard, but I think everyone here wants to be part of the solution…it just falls on each individual player to do the best they can to come back a better player.”
For Ben Lovejoy, who was an instrumental part of the Penguins’ cup run last postseason, he noted the disappointment the team feels on this day and after a season like this one.
“This is always the worst day,” said Lovejoy. “This is a day where you feel like you wasted an opportunity, this is very disappointing.”
Lovejoy, who signed with New Jersey last offseason as an unrestricted free agent, admitted he expected the team would be better than they were.
“I thought that this Devils team I played against last year was really hard to play against,” he said. “They outworked every team…that’s why they gave my Penguins’ team such fits. I didn’t think we did that nearly enough this year and that’s why we took a step back.
“Far too often we let it get down to the end of the game and at that point anything could happen and far too often, it went the other way.”
If there is one silver lining on a day in which both ex-Pens will play spectator to the opening of the Stanley Cup playoffs, featuring Pittsburgh, it might be the team’s direction and their own heading into the summer.
“With the character in the room, I don’t think we’re that far off in terms of the people we have and the kind of intangibles you need,” said Bennett, who is also going into his first offseason without any nagging injuries. “I haven’t been had an offseason not being injured in five years…It’s going to be a huge offseason. I need to work on the skill of my game and refine it.”
Lovejoy meanwhile enjoyed an injury-free season. He was one of just two Devils to play in all 82 games. Like Bennett, he wants to be part of the solution in New Jersey–the team that ends a now five-year playoff drought. He noted that despite the struggles, he was impressed with the fan base in his first season.
“I was very impressed with the amount of support we got in the building each night, even when we were struggling,” he said. “I think they certainly deserve better and we’ll try to rectify that.”