Am I surprised that the Devils, who nearly bored me to tears and an untimely sober slumber in the second period of Friday night's game, proverbially castrated the Philadelphia Flyers just 24 short hours later? A little. As far as shock level, I am far more surprised that I am even mildly surprised at all. I fell for the bait. I got caught in the trap. I was lulled into a false sense of suckery.
The truth is, the Devils are better than the Flyers. The standings show them currently tied to the ineptitude of 35 points each. Forget games played. Forget upcoming schedule. I'm going gut on this one. It's as simple as the eye test. The Devils came into this season with the same expectations that Andy Dalton has when he starts a playoff game. Winning would be nice, but try not to get killed in the process. Their best player, other than Mike Cammalleri, is a 43 years old. The average age of their only competent defenseman is approximately 17.5. Meanwhile, the Flyers boast a roster of two of the highest scoring players in the league. They are coming off a a year in which they made the playoffs, and had similar expectations for this year. The fact that we can even have a legitimate debate about who the better team is shows how bad the Flyers are. Give me the crappy team that was supposed to be crappy over the team that's drastically underachieving 11 times out of 10.
Men lie. women lie, numbers don't. The Devils are now 2-1 on the year against Philly's finest and they are averaging 4 goals a game in those contests. Based on a rough estimate I would say that 25% of the Devils goals have come against the Flyers. If the Devils played the Flyers every single game they would be the highest scoring team in the league and would be sitting comfortably atop the standings. Two wins every three games would give the Devils 56 wins (you always round up with Philly, better to assume failure). Playoff bound? Ha! Let's talk President's Trophy contention.
That's why a tip of the cap is necessary to the Philadelphia Flyers. They make the phrase "Impossible Is Nothing" ring true. Jagr buried a hat trick last night for the first time in a decade. Gomez not only took, but scored, on a slapshot. Without doing Jaworski levels of film study I can say confidently that the last time Jagr had a hat trick was about the same time Gomez took, never mind scored, on a slapshot. Jagr may as well grow back the mullet for games against the Flyers. Gomez better get some hair plugs. The only thing that stopped last night from looking like 2004 was their hairstyles, or lack thereof. The Flyers are so good at achieving miracles that they were even able to awake Elias from his season long drunken stupor to get on the scoresheet. Just unGodly levels of incompetence. Only a Flyer could kick a mask-less goaltender in the face and achieve nothing more than a quick whistle. Only a team engulfed in an aura of failure could make Mark Fraser look like he belongs in the NHL.
And of course, a toss of the hat for ye' ole Jaromir Jagr. Jag-Tits, if you will. A pleasure to watch amidst a season of monotony. Sure, he turns the puck over more than you'd like, but he's also about 20 years older than the Devils organization would like. He still, despite his age, has the ability to turn back the clock every so often. It seems the entire team is able to when they skate against that orange clad disgrace of an organization. Plus, you can never discount the entertainment value of a classic Jagr soundbite, like what he said when he was asked about his first goal…
“Tough angle, huh?” Jagr said. “Just talent. Pure talent. That's all I've got to say. I don't want to sound overconfident, but … just kidding.”
Let's be honest. The rest of the season doesn't hold too much to look forward to. Anything short of a 30 game winning streak probably leaves the Devils on the outside looking in. At this stage of the game, I wouldn't trust the Devils to outclass the Albany Devils 30 games in a row. However, as long as they can reel us back in from that ledge every so often with a win of that magnitude I can believe in the 'process', whatever that may be. Give me a couple more lashings of the Flyers and a record that reflects the Devils finishes one point lower in the standings. It's time for a rebuild and if it takes an extra loss or two to get there, I am all hands on deck. Watching these two teams play, we know which one actually reigns superior, regardless of what the final standings say.