Let's go back to October 27th. The Devils were riding a 4 game winning streak with a bad Columbus team coming to town. The game started off about as good as a scoreless game could start out. The Devils ran the Blue Jackets up and down the ice seemingly at will. But a funny thing happened in that game. It was halfway through the third period and the game was still knotted at zero. It was only then that Columbus potted three goals in what seemed like 12 seconds, thus putting an end to the unlikeliest of streaks. I'm not going to lie. That loss hurt. Not just because it was a loss to a bad team. After all, the Devils are supposed to be a bad team too. It hurt because it brought the fans back to dark, dark place. It brought us back to the last few years of Pete Deboer. It brought us back to a time when the Devils would come out dominant, fail to score, and inevitable lose in heartbreaking fashion. What we have learned since then it that this is not the same team. Sure, they lost a game they should have won, but that can happen to anyone, and if you need evidence of that then look no further than last night's game against the Stanley Cup Champions. The Devils might lose a game or two that they shouldn't, but this isn't a team that's going to make a habit of that. This is a team that is going to win just as many that they should lose.
I don't even know how to describe this team. They are certainly resilient. Untimely goals and bad penalties would have broken the back of Devils teams of years past. This team has proven that there is no situation that is too overwhelming for them. Undeserved 5 minute majors? No sweat. Giving up a late game tying goal against a vastly superior team? Brush it right off the shoulder. When the Blackhawks tied it up last and immediately went on the powerplay there weren't too many fans thinking they were going to pull out a victory, never mind a regulation victory. An opportunistic Devils team is not something we are accustomed to seeing. Two goals on five shots in the second? A late powerplay goal to ice the game in the third? Sure, Corey Crawford wasn't exactly at the top of his game, but yet again this team proved us wrong, and I hope to God they don't stop now.
It is almost criminal how little I have written about Cory Schneider this year, and there is a reason for that. He's too consistent. He never stands out as THE reason the Devils won a game, because he's the SOLE reason that they have a chance at winning every game. He makes the tough saves look easy, and the easy saves look borderline snooze worthy. Last night was one of those games where the Devils didn't stand a goddamn chance unless that beautiful, unshakeable ginger was between the pipes. You see him across from someone like Corey Crawford, a two time Stanley Cup winner, and you really get an appreciation for how consistently great Cory Schneider has been. He's one of the few goalies in this league that can give up the rare bad goal, and not have it effect his confidence in the least. I can't say I have seen him play a single bad game this year, and that's why his truly remarkable efforts tend to go unnoticed. Last night they did not, because if anyone else was in net for Devils they probably lose by at least 3 goals. So Cory, I apologize. Just know that your continued excellence is the only reason that you don't get mentioned enough.
I think the most exciting part about this team is that we really don't know what this team is yet. It feels like every night there is a new player making a significant contribution. Last night that player was Sergei Kalinin, a guy that has played only 16 games on North American ice, but has been looking better shift by shift. In a way his progression says a lot about this team, because while they have been pulling wins directly out of their ass as of late, they are only going to get better the more the play with one another.