As I walked out of Prudential Center following a game where the Devils inarguably outplayed the Bruins in a losing effort - for the second straight time this season, mind you - I couldn't help but keep telling myself that it's impossible to win in a league as competitive as the NHL when you give up two shorthanded goals. I'm not sure what the stats are on that, but - when you consider the fashion in which three of Boston's four non-empty netters ended up behind Eddie Lack - it's tough to consider last night's loss anything other than self sabotage. Between stopping one step short of picking up two pucks and throwing them in their own goddamn net as well as their backup goaltender's carelessness around said net, the Devils, themselves, made sure that a dominant performance against one of the league's most complete teams went all for naught.
I say that to say this, if you absolutely need to point to one thing that's cost the Devils' throughout this losing streak then this team isn't for you, because there's been no shortage of situational issues that could be used to fill in the following blank as of late "you don't win games when you ___________". That mind-blowing concept might not appease the narrow-minded fans that think all it takes is one reliable scapegoat to start betting the farm against them, but it doesn't make it any less true.
Whether it be the goaltending coming up lame when the Devils need a big save (Ottawa, Calgary), the scoring being less opportunistic than a gastric bypass patient at a buffet when it's needed the most (Calgary, Boston), an inability to do even a mediocre job paying close attention to the most prolific members of the opposition in their own end (Ottawa, Calgary), the power play and/or penalty kill being about as timely as a rumbling stomach during a road trip (Ottawa, Calgary, Boston), or the migraine-inducing combination of all the above (Columbus). A Devils team that honestly isn't playing anywhere near as bad as coming up empty in four straight games would lead you to believe is doing that annoying thing that most young, inexperienced teams have to do before they achieve the consistency necessary to compete down the stretch. They are learning just how much the little things matter, and - as is the case with most difficult lessons - that education comes with the type of frustration that Devils fans had become desensitized to over the last couple of hopeless seasons.
So I could tell you that the Devils need Cory Schneider in net, can't rely on Taylor Hall for all of their offense, and have a talent deficiency on the blue line, but - seeing as they've remained the case all year - you already know those things. What has yet to be seen is if this team can eliminate the mistakes that turn promising performances into disappointing ones, because the difference between making and missing the playoffs is likely to come down to avoiding something as stupid and self inflicted as we saw last night.
As a Devils fan, I've been beaten down by so many bullshit calls as of late that I found it difficult to work myself into a frenzy over what appeared to be anything but a conclusive goal, but I will say that you'd need a pretty high prescription on your yellow and black x-ray glasses to tell me this puck is for sure in the net...
Also, someone get Brad Marchand a tight black dress and a corsage, because Taylor Hall took him for a spin like he was his date to prom...
...before Damon Severson exacted what little revenge could be appreciated in defeat...