Anyone Who Dares To Question Mackenzie Blackwood's Athletic Ability Should Be Prepared To Get Dunked On... Literally
Oh? So, it's like that?
I don't think anyone who has witnessed almost any one of Mackenzie Blackwood's starts during his stints in New Jersey this year needed to be reminded that his best attributes are his size and athleticism. The kid has quite literally stretched the parameters of what can be expected from young and unproven mid-season call-ups, especially considering he plays a position as pressure packed as goaltender for a team as fundamentally flawed and as physically beaten up as the New Jersey Devils. Still, I feel as though I just watched him take about six less gather steps than James Harden before jumping flat off two feet for a two-hand throw down on an NBA hoop through a monocle, as it really put in perfect perspective his physical capabilities.
Perhaps my brain isn't programmed to translate lateral explosiveness to vertical explosiveness, but I did not see foresee him turning an ability to shoot quickly from post-to-post from across the ice into an ability to casually dominate the post from above the rim. For the sake of the Devils' foreseeable future in between the pipes, it's a good thing he grew up in Ontario. After all, had he seen asphalt and picked up a rudimentary understanding of how to dribble a basketball on it during his childhood there's no telling which 12-man bench his athletic career might have taken his white, puck-magnetized ass to the end of.
Assistant Coach Rick Kowalsky Forgot To Take His Skate Guards Off Before Practice, As The Devils Continue To Find New Ways To Risk Injury
Well, other than the fact that Rick Kowalsky's entirely avoidable spill was met with jeers and cheers as opposed to a 911 call and a vague timetable for recovery, everything about this scene sounds fairly fitting of the Devils' season. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, especially when you don't do the most fundamental of things right.
Honestly, the most shocking part about this is that it ended up being worthy of laughs, for if one of the few NHL mainstays left in the lineup had forgotten to uncover their blades you can rest assured they would have been leaving the ice immobilized with a day-to-day "lower-body injury". Go figure, the only person in the locker room that can take a fall and get right back up is the assistant coach that can't even remember to take his skate guards off prior to hopping on the ice. Perhaps that's what he should have spent the first drill teaching them since practice most certainly doesn't make perfect a powerplay that features Drew Stafford.
Anyway, in reading the tone of the team's reaction, it sort of sounds like this Benny Hill moment could crack the Top 10 of the Devils' most galvanizing moments on the road this season. I say that not because I think John Hynes' locker room is as figuratively fractured as it is literally fractured, but rather because they have only won 9 nine games away from home this season. Let's hope that blooper rounds out the list, for with the way things are trending they are better equipped to rally together for a fluke funeral than a third period comeback in an unfamiliar building.
A Night After Getting Embarrassed In Calgary, The Binghamton Devils Put The Flames To The Edmonton Oilers' Playoff Hopes
While I would gleefully give back the coinciding two points in the proverbial one-legged race for increased odds in the draft lottery, I can't help but feel like last night's convincing win was just as important as making another small but steady contribution to the tank. It definitely didn't seem like things could get much worse than being on the ass end of a 6-goal third period while Johnny Gaudreau beat a shit that probably clocked in at 3x his body weight out of the Devils' defense. Needless to say, the tape certainly didn't do anything to wipe clean the feeling that they'd thoroughly soiled themselves...
That's why it felt good to spoil another underwhelming season for an organization that ultimately serves as the rest of the NHL's constant reminder that someone always has it worse than you. A group that rosters potentially the most dynamic player in league history got the brakes blown off playoff hopes that had already hit the skids by a glorified AHL team that was playing their second night of a back-to-back on the forever unforgiving Western Canadian road trip. The Devils realistically have no business beating anyone with a lineup that makes that of the first preseason game seem strong, never mind handily beating a desperate team with fresher legs in their own building.
Need a little optimism during a dreadful year? Look at the contracts attached to the clown shows that put forth an undeniable awesome effort in a 60+ second scrap. The Edmonton Oilers are paying a premium for every single one of those punches for the next four years whereas the Devils are just going down swinging because they (and, more specifically, he) have so little to lose...
It has absolutely sucked being a Devils' fan that silently roots for a good effort and a bad result as they play out an otherwise meaningless stretch, but let last night be your evidence that it's a hell of a lot better than being an Oilers' fan. A team that had scored 7 goals in the 6 games prior to their current road trip nearly matched that total in having a stat night that shot out the bulb on Edmonton's last glimmer of hope. With the amount of injuries they've suffered, New Jersey has seemed destined to be a dumpster fire. However, with all due respect to the following players, I can't possibly conjure up a worse fate than having another 100+ point season for Connor McDavid pumped out to pasture by Kenny Agostino, Kevin Rooney, and John Quenneville.
It wasn't just nice to see that the Devils hadn't completely quit on themselves. It was also nice to see that, even while woefully undermanned, they are still capable of making other teams completely quit on themselves. Again, I'm not happy about picking up two points in the standings, but I am happy about denying them from a team that makes everyone feel better about themselves at a time when the Devils needed to do just that. Therefore, I'll consider that completely imbalanced...ahem...one for one trade-off to be an indisputable overall victory.
From The Lips Of Ray Shero, The Chances Of Him Trading Taylor Hall At The Deadline Were "Less Than Fucking Zero"
TheAthletic- At the trade deadline, we saw the trend of teams moving players with term on their contracts continue to be an effective strategy. There seems to be a higher appetite among GMs to use assets on players who will contribute beyond just the one playoff run while shopping at the deadline. So with that in mind, was there any consideration in the Devils front office about shopping Hall at the deadline?
“Less than fucking zero,” Shero said. “Zero percent. Someone (in the media) asked me that two weeks before the deadline. Zero chance. Zero. Just to make it clear.”
So, one percent?
“Zero. Zero,” Shero said. “It was zero.”
Put it on a damn t-shirt. Time will tell whether that t-shirt will grow saturated with the tears of Devils' fans after another star player decides against committing the remainder of his prime to New Jersey, or if it will instead grow faded while being worn with pride throughout Taylor Hall's extended stay in Newark. Whatever the case may be, "less than fucking zero" is the type of defiant answer that either goes down in lore or laughs.
Of course, it's mostly just an obvious statement of fact, as the only way Ray Shero would have explored trading the reigning Hart Trophy winner so prematurely is if said MVP had grabbed him by both cheeks in making it clearer than clear that an unceremonious exit was inevitable. Especially since he was still nursing an undisclosed injury at the time. Still, sounding so sure of himself ahead of the start of a negotiation period that will speak volumes about Taylor Hall's trust in the direction of a team that's currently tanking is risky business for Ray Shero. That percentage could realistically jump to 50% as soon as July 2nd, so for it to be subzero at the end of February sets up for "less than fucking zero" to become the new "trade is one for one", for better or a hell of a lot worse.
Jesper Bratt Is Now Week-To-Week With A Lower Body Injury, As The Hockey Gods Continue To Stab Their Devils' Voodoo Doll
And the tank ruthlessly rolls on, though I'm starting to think they are under it as opposed to aboard with it the amount of injuries the Devils have begun to obtain on a game-by-game basis. The upcoming schedule might as well be that of the medical staff, because each and every line-up is low-key just a lottery for who will be the sacrificial lamb of the night. If the alarming opening of roster spots is a blessing in disguise by giving some premature prospects a chance to prove themselves in otherwise meaningless games then that disguise is basically a body cast, because the trainer's table looks like a quest for some good karma. With each nick, bang, scratch, and break it has become a constant, idiotically optimistic flow of speaking too soon...
Nathan Bastian has really come alo...
Great to see Miles Wood back on the ic...
Glad Sami Vatanen finally feeling bett...
At least Nico looks awes...
I can't believe Jesper Bratt is still on fi...
Travis Zajac's reputation is rocky amongst Devils' fans that have little to no idea what they are watching half the time, and he's a Blake Coleman brush with fate away from them being forced to reach a consensus that he's the primary offensive catalyst. I honestly don't even know what to openly root for anymore, because I feel like I've been bugged by the hockey gods as they look to break my will to watch a team that's about as recognizable as anything else you might find imported from Binghamton. I really hope there's some super enlightening lesson to be learned at the end of this surgical dissection of any and all positivity, preferably with Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko serving as the teacher's assistant.
Sidenote: I'm a John Hynes apologist, but finding a more depressing way to describe Jesper Bratt's timetable than "he's done for the year" was very insensitive to a fragile fanbase...
The Devils Lost The Game But Won Some Goodwill In Putting Together A Tribute Video For Keith Kinkaid In His Return To New Jersey
There are undoubtedly some self-loathing people that think you should have to either win a Stanley Cup or save a baby from a burning building to earn a tribute video, and thus find a flash in the pan backup goaltender to be undeserving. I'll never understand those people, since the regularly scheduled programming of an animated cookie falling face first in allowing a stupid-looking water ice to win the race to get through a routine ice-cleaning without being bored to tears isn't exactly what I would consider sacred, but you can bet your ass that they do exist.
Luckily, however, they aren't currently in charge of the Devils' gameday operations, because showing appreciation to a player whose heroics are largely responsible for the only real success in the recent history of a struggling franchise felt like the proper way to go about his return. Maybe not entirely necessary, as the only way you'll find yourself reverently repeating the name Keith Kinkaid to your grandkids is if this rebuild takes longer than the construction of the Xanadu, but a cool thing to do for someone that made his mark on the organization in helping will them back to the playoffs nonetheless.
Lou Lamoriello did a hell of a lot right in running the ship into the 21st century, but creating a personality-friendly culture in which the customer could view the player as...::audible gasp::...an actual person was most certainly not on that list, as he'd rather that ship be lost at sea than be wired for WiFi. Keith Kinkaid ran with the opportunity to endear himself to fans, and - considering how often they sucked something serious during the five years he spent in New Jersey - the fact that the team was no longer suppressed was about the only thing going for it. His resume isn't exactly putting him in the Ring Of Honor, but let his answer to the idea of a tribute video serve as an addition to the short but sweet on-ice argument for why he deserved one...
Beelzebub Marchand Scored The Only Goal In A 1-0 Win Over The Devils, To Finish His 666th Game With 666 Penalty Minutes
I'm not saying that Brad Marchand bursting into flames would have been a possibility or a pleasure, but I am saying a huge opportunity to spritz him with holy water as a precaution was missed on Saturday night. With the Department of Player Safety looking out for the well-being of players more than ever, it required negligence of the highest order for them not to send a representative to Boston to sit rink-side armed with a Bible and a crucifix. At the very least, it could have potentially saved them a hell of a lot of headaches in the future if, however unlikely, the Devil's cover as a rat-nosed prick of a really good hockey player was finally blown.
I'm not even particularly religious, but seeing as those that are tend to obsessed with signs, I find it a bit odd that the hockey world just laughed off the most satanic of symbolism like it was nothing more than a mere coincidence. Even if the mark of the beast making multiple appearances wasn't enough to spark your suspicion, the way Brad Marchand's 666th game diabolically played out certainly should. Scoring the only goal mere minutes in. Starting and finishing said game with 666 penalty minutes despite injuring someone with a blindside crosscheck directly in front of a referee...
If Lucifer himself wasn't responsible for maintaining such inherently evil statistics then the on-ice officials sure need an optometrist. I was already skeptical of the unholiness that was Marcus Johansson swallowing his pride and selling his soul in teaming up with someone who cost him millions of dollars in free agency with an elbow from hell, never mind the least inconspicuous scumbag in hockey getting away with another cheap shot in ending up the hate-fueled hero in a win over the Devils. I don't know that Brad Marchand is the actual Prince Of Darkness, but I do know that letting him leave the building without even attempting an exorcism was about as safe as his style of play, with just about every aspect of the night pointing to him as the antichrist arisen.
Secret's Out: After Being Sidelined For Two Months, Taylor Hall Underwent Successful Knee Surgery Earlier This Week
First and foremost, I would be remiss not to say that I'm very happy to hear that Taylor Hall is still alive, never mind recovering from a successful knee surgery. Considering the suspiciously vague way in which the organization has spoken about the status of the league's reigning MVP (or, more accurately, been shameless in their refusal to) the last few months, I was half expecting to next see him starring as the dearly departed host in a Weekend At Bernie's-inspired intermission skit. In that sense, I was absolutely ecstatic upon finding out that that all he needed was to go under the knife after two full months out of the lineup. Talk about managing expectations!
In all seriousness, if I had to diagnose how the Devils have handled the previously inexplicable absence of their best player, I think I'd suggest an organizational lobotomy. Admittedly, I'm short a medical degree, so I'll leave the well-being of the franchise's most important joint in the hands of the professional practitioners. If they thought the smartest course of action was to rehab around surgery until doing so presumably became unrealistic earlier this week then far be it for me to tell them otherwise. However, mum continuing to be the word regarding the whereabouts of a transformational player while a flushed season circled round-and-round the toilet is a step back for an organization that was thought to be decidedly less secretive since being relinquished from the vice grip of the eternally tight lips of Lou Lamoriello.
I'm not even that annoyed by the fact that only now is Taylor Hall actually healing from what ailed him since late December, as - well before this point - I assumed he was going to be done for the remainder of a season that's long been lost regardless. I am annoyed that a franchise that, albeit understandably, has done very little to improve the team over the last year thought the smart play was to treat their frustrated fans like they're stupid.
I just don't understand what was to be gained from leaving everyone lying in wait and wonder about the availability of a superstar who could, if a nightmare were to be realized, have played his last game as a Devil with nothing else to distract them but a whole hell of a lot of piss poor hockey. Disclosure can be a hell of a drug when trust is what you're looking to attain. Ipso facto, leaving those that are already starved for any sort of success also in desperate need of a fix is both a surefire and entirely unnecessary way to make them manic. I still believe in the light at the end of the tunnel, but much less so when the conductors are leaving the paying passengers in the dark for no apparent reason.
All Positive Vibes Go Out To Mirco Mueller, Who Has Feeling In His Extremities After Being Left Lifeless By A Scary Crash Into The End Boards
It's probably a bit premature to say crisis entirely averted, as we should learn the full scope of the damage done to Mirco Mueller by the awkwardly incidental collision that sent him sprawling head first into the end boards before speaking so cavalierly of it.
That being said, with how temporarily terrifying it was to see him laying face first on the ice without a sign of life in sight, the thought of him being able to move, speak, think, and respond even prior to being taken to the hospital of which he's since been released is endlessly encouraging. Any time the stretcher makes that quick of an appearance it's a very bad sign, so - especially relative to the alternative - all the news that's come out since he was wheeled off the ice with his thumb held high has been very good. The diagnoses following incidents that remind everyone of the undeniable and potentially life-altering dangers of sports as fast and physical as hockey typically aren't as forgiving, so I'll gladly accept that apologetic outcome from real life for interrupting the insignificance of sport with its damn ramifications.
Never mind Mirco Mueller the player, because Mirco Mueller the person is alive and apparently well enough to return to his own home, which is by far the most impactful win of the Devils' season. Hopefully they can rack up another one by returning him to ice in a much more flattering fashion, but that's a much less important battle to be fought another day.
Random tangent: I'm aware that I am only speaking to the few, the loud, the morons that probably seemed to be attending in higher numbers than they actually were due to the silence of the rest of the building, but the time to berate officials is not when they are looking helplessly down at a potentially paralyzed player. I know it's a craaaaazy concept that accidents happen when professional athletes fly around on skates banging bodies with one another, but not every fall is the result of penalty. Hell, even if that were the case, being worried about the game (especially one as meaningless as...well...the rest of the Devils season) while one of your team's players looks like he's about to be lined in chalk is borderline sociopathic behavior. I know the thing that stupid fans in every city lack the most is self awareness, but if everyone around you is completely silent then do right by your poor parents by taking a hint and shutting the fuck up.
An Almost Entirely Unrecognizable Group Of Players Wearing Devils' Jerseys Are Set To Take On The Calgary Flames Tonight
Being that almost the entirety of the season to date has been governed by Murphy's Law, I should really only be surprised in how little I'm surprised by looking at a woefully underwhelming lineup. Still, I found myself genuinely taken aback by the shocking results of the New Jersey Devils' forwards falling victim to a bizarro world plot of 'Final Destination' in which their inevitable and eventual resting place is with the dregs of the draft lottery. In between short stints of rooting for Cory Schneider to have some long overdue success, I have been a loud and less-than-proud member of Team Tank for awhile now, but having their odds increased by the whole damn team taking a group trip to the emergency room sort of feels like a sick joke.
For example, let's take the curious case of Egor Yakovlev. I spending the last month or so merely wanting nothing more than for a mildly promising Russian defenseman with an impending incentive to defect to scratch an NHL ice surface ahead of the lame-duck likes of Eric Gryba, Mirco Mueller, and - to a much lesser extent - Ben Lovejoy. Hoping to see more of someone who'd shown flashes that could light the night sky relative to those of his competition at a depleted position felt like a reasonable request. Yet, here I am - having watched him go from inexplicably playing in Binghamton to bringing so much of Binghamton with him out of necessity that he's been forced into playing forward - realizing that no wish is a careful wish during such an apocalyptically anti-climactic year.
I wanted to see the young players in the system be given a shot to make an impression at the end of an otherwise lost season. So, in that sense, it's refreshing to see Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, and Connor Carrick being given a sizable opportunity to do just that. I just didn't think the means to that potentially encouraging end would be the injured list looking nearly indistinguishable from the list of high scorers.
Neither the players, the coaches, or the front office would ever say and/or think so, but each loss is a bit of a win at this point. For that reason, it doesn't really matter that they are rolling out four lines that couldn't even intrigue a desperate junkie going through withdrawals. Still, the harsh reality that their goaltending has somehow gone from their achilles heel to their main source of excitement in the blink of an eye is...well...the type of painfully ironic yet entirely unexpected plot twist that would make M. Night Shyalamalan hit the pause button and take a deep breath...
I think any rational fan, of which there are very, very few this time of year, was hoping for a 1st round pick and expecting a 2nd round pick in return for someone who did his damnedest to inflate his trade value throughout the month leading up to the deadline.
In that sense, getting the latter plus a future 4th round pick for Marcus Johansson following the better part of two underwhelming, injury-plagued seasons after trading a 2nd and 3rd round pick for him isn't at all disappointing. Especially since it sets the Devils up pretty nicely to use their brand spankin' new abundance of assets to make a move similar to the one that brought him over from Washington.
On the other hand, in the sense that the team that gets to benefit from his appropriately priced services is the same one that rosters the walking, talking, licking bag of douche whose elbow intentionally derailed his tenure in New Jersey, this trade is somewhat disappointing. Especially since it's well within the realm of possibility that MoJo's worth could potentially be a lot higher, both personally in free agency or to the Devils at the deadline, if not for dealing with the difficulties from the following inexplicable cheap shot that kept him out of the lineup nursing a head injury for the second half of last season...
At the end of the day, the Devils didn't do right by Marcus Johansson. When he was actually healthy, one of the best passers/playmakers on the team wasn't often flanked by the pieces necessary to maximize his production. If that wasn't evident early in the season when he kept putting the puck on a pin but still couldn't buy a point then it was evident throughout the last few weeks during which his chemistry with Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt was as palpable as it was statistically proven.
That said, the Boston Bruins somehow did even worse by him, as their resident rodent very well could have caused irreparable damage to his brain, never mind his career. Again, I don't think the trade is at all bad, but the taste it leaves in my mouth certainly is, as there is something about Brad Marchand now benefitting from said brain and said career that feels as dirty as his sliver of a snake-like conscience.
I have no doubt that Ray Shero got as much as he possibly could in making a more than fair deal, which is obviously all that really matters when flipping an asset. Unfortunately, I also have no doubt that Marcus Johansson will act with the upmost professionalism in letting bygones be bygones, which is obnoxiously annoying since the person that couldn't help but concuss him for no conceivable reason doesn't deserve the fucking courtesy.
Never forget. Just, never forget.
I can't possibly pretend I am excited about the prospects of a fifth round pick in the NHL equivalent of an eternity, just like I can't - in good conscience - act like Keith Kinkaid was worth anything more at this point in what's become as humbling a season for him personally as it has been for his now former team. For that reason, this trade is entirely unmemorable in a way that doesn't feel fair to a guy whose performance was anything but in willing a young Devils' team into the playoffs for the first time in six years.
This move became inevitable as soon Mackenzie Blackwood burst on the scene and Cory Schneider (and his contract) finally proved himself more capable than a corpse. However, I refuse to let the god awful goaltending behind a dumpster fire of a defense that "helped" stamp New Jersey as eventual sellers by the time people were last-minute Christmas buying tarnish the memory of Keith Kinkaid shouldering the load during an unexpected postseason push. That extended flash of brilliance, be it in a pan or not, was absolutely awesome to watch throughout a month in which he went entirely unafflicted by playing every game as they were each packed with the pressure of playoff hockey.
As somebody who, like basically everybody, finds Keith Kinkaid to be an endearing personality, I hope that last season doesn't end up being the highlight of his career. Realistically, with neither age nor the odds of a larger sample size working in his favor, we've probably seen his best. Therefore, the least we could do is replay it from time to time in doing justice and giving thanks to a player who, through the fleeting ups and extended downs, looked to love being a part of an organization for which he was once undeniably a savior. To put it in his language, don't be ? that it's over, be ? that it happened.
Contrary to the belief of far too much of the fanbase, that headline was a little harsh considering its subject's job responsibility would have been optimistic at the start of his career, never mind its twilight. Therefore, I want to focus on the positives of what Ben Lovejoy brought to the Devils. Some will undoubtedly think this paragraph should end right...about...here, but the truth is that he was well-respected veteran leader off the ice and a great penalty killer on the ice while unquestionably easing Will Butcher's transition into the NHL.
His struggles were exactly the type you'd expect a limited, defensive defenseman in his mid-30's to have while playing too many minutes out of necessity, which is to say they were more visible than his successes. Still, it would be foolish to ignore those successes, since the Devils would be a brand of dogshit so moist and messy that it would make Artemi Panarin's soiled pants feel better about themselves if not for maintaining a cohesive locker room and a penalty kill that's oft more exciting than their power play. To put it simply, Dallas traded for Ben Lovejoy for reasons other than complete desperation, so save the slander for the next whipping boy that's put in a position to fail on a defense that doesn't currently have the foundational pieces necessary to compete...
All that being said, another round of applause is owed to Ray Shero. Intangibles aside, he has now recouped both the 2nd and 3rd round pick he dealt at last year's trade deadline by moving a veteran 4th liner and an aging bottom pairing defenseman. Presumably due to alliteration, the name Connor Carrick stuck out to me as more memorable than his young career has been to date, as he's fallen out of favor with multiple franchises. However, even if he's a $5 scratch-off of a prospect, I would have been more than happy with Ben Lovejoy netting a 3rd round pick with nothing more than an actual $5 scratch-off as a sweetener.
As someone who views this disaster of a year as nothing more than a stumble, I find it intriguing that the Devils have turned it into five picks in the first three rounds of the draft with far and away their best asset still awaiting his fate on the trading block. So yeah, I love the move and it brought me more joy than it should have during an otherwise depressing season, but don't just think that New Jersey's top-notch PK tanked for draft position when its efficiency inevitably dips. Ben Lovejoy's return is proof of how well he can fill a role, even if that return was surprisingly good for a team on which his role was troublingly big.
Somewhat Begrudgingly, All The Credit And Congratulations Go To Kurtis Gabriel For Netting His First NHL Goal
Full disclosure, from the first fight he unsuccessfully tried to pick in the preseason to the last unwilling combatant he bare-knuckle bopped in the face during the regular season, I haven't been all that fond of Kurtis Gabriel. That's partially by design, since his outdated game is predicated on leaving shame in the locker room and doing just about anything to coax opposing players out of their gloves. Still, I much prefer the Blake Coleman/Miles Wood-style of relentless pestering. I just find face punching for the sake of face punching to be a bit cringeworthy at this stage of the sport, so there may have been a time or ten in which I claimed that Kurtis Gabriel's presence in the lineup was a black eye on the entire organization.
That stance had softened significantly as his hits had hardened and he started making more of an impact as an intimidating forechecker than as a complete sideshow, but his teary-eyed response to scoring his first NHL goal as a member of the New Jersey Devils has left it damn near mushy. I'm still not anything close to what you would consider a fan of him as a player, but I'll be damned if I can't respect Kurtis Gabriel the person for the resilience he's shown in chasing his dream and finally putting up stats more significant than wildly unnecessary instigator penalties.
Therefore, differences aside, all the credit and congratulations are in order for a guy who has persevered through a bruising and humbling career path that looks like a stroll through the damn park in comparison to his rough childhood. Pretty cool to see how much he appreciates being a part of the Devils' organization, so - though I'd prefer it were at a lower level - I appreciate him being a part of it too. Though I'm not even sure he considers it as prized a possession as the real estate he owns in Zach Bogosian's brain, it's awesome that he now has the seeing eyes of a meaningful milestone puck to show for it.
With His First Shutout In 15 Months, Cory Schneider Is Starting To Answer Some Difficult Questions For The Devils
Cory Schneider is a grown ass man. A professional's professional. A proud guy who understands the obvious, which is that it's going to take more than a solid 2.5 game (really 3.5, if you include the Islanders' shootout loss in which the Devils' offense was offensive) stretch to silence the uncertainty regarding the potential resurrection of a career that's become riddled by injuries and crushed by a lack of confidence.
For those reasons, I'm not going to patronize him by overpraising his initial efforts in helping to clean up what was a complete mess in the Devils' crease like he's a child that sloppily threw the sports' section over the full gallon of milk that he spilled. He deserves no shortage of credit for taking an absolute beating in stride and coming out the other side of the gauntlet of gut punches that was a sickly twisted losing streak capable of breaking the will of even a slightly lesser man. However, considering a shutout over a Senators' team that was hosting a live auction for 80% of its talent while the game was going on to be proof that he's "back" could only lead to a lot of disappointment moving forward. I hate to be the one to measure the approach here, but this cautiously optimistic feeling probably just seems a lot more promising than it is due to the hapless hopelessness from which it rose like a phoenix.
That being said, if the bad news is that Cory Schneider's recent success has continued his awkward trend of winning when his team would be better served not to then the good news is that his fluidity, positioning, and athleticism while doing so follow a much more promising trend of goaltenders slowly returning to form after hip surgery. The truth is that we've probably already seen the best of #35, but we've certainly already seen the worst of #35. If he's managed to find the higher end of that middle ground, and the audition out of desperation that was Mackenzie Blackwood's shockingly successful stint in New Jersey is a sign of what he'll eventual bring to the show, then the Devils have at least found some answers at the tail end of an otherwise lost season.
Cory Schneider's days as the most formidable of franchise goaltender are more than likely over, but if he can relied upon for nights like last then the...::gulp::...three years and 18 million dollars left on his contract are somewhat easier to swallow. Not sure I've gone from thinking inevitable buy-out to fully buying in quite yet, but - at risk of being swayed by a couple impressive starts and a big shiny goose egg - I can pretty easily be sold on him taking the occasional page out of his past in splitting time with someone who looked a hell of a lot like the future. Even as a longtime Cory Schneider apologist, that's a hell of a lot better than any outcome I would have felt comfortable putting my money on a couple weeks ago.
Much Like The Devils Have This Season, David Puddy Came, He Saw, And He Co...rashed Flat On His Face
And there it is, just about every one of the 2018-2019 New Jersey Devils' 60 games to date summed up in one classic Seinfeld character's team-spirited sprint into a full-on face plant. Came out the gates hot looking inspired with the best of intentions and then - much like awful goaltending, discouraging defense, and a rash of impactful injuries - that damn step came out of nowhere to make its painful presence felt.
Props to Patrick Warburton for playing the role of David Puddy to perfection in quickly peeling himself off the ground in shamelessly undeterred support of the team. Especially since that fall was only like 50% his fault. Let the (entirely understandable) demotion of Mackenzie Blackwood serve as proof that this iteration of the Devils simply can't have nice things, including flawless guest appearances from famous fans. Cory Schneider probably offered more compassionate words than "been there, man", but he was probably thinking just that as he watched effort quickly turn to embarrassment with what's become far too familiar a plot twist in the Prudential Center this year.
That perfectly painted face and that bare barrel chest will always be a welcomed sight regardless of how much the Devils suck, but them ending up embedded in the floor of the bench is fitting of how unwelcoming that entrance to the ice has been to the boys this season.
Firm but fair, baby. Firm but fair. For the multitude of ways in which some Devils' fans have chosen to start picking apart a head coach who hasn't exactly had the greatest run of things on a lame hamstring of a lineup since signing his contract extension, it's important to remember why his players appreciate him so much. For better or worse, he's a guy who pulls no punches in calling it like he sees it. Considering Keith Kinkaid's extremely forgiving self-evaluation, I can't think of someone who was more in need of being dialed back from their own self-deception, and you can't hit the 'fuck you' button on the firmness of a one word answer combined with the fairness of a more objective opinion.
That's not to put last night's loss entirely on a goaltender who has taken what little trade value he might have had at the turn of the calendar and cleared it blindly to the tape of opposing players in and around his own departed crease. After all, the Devils damn near skated their defensive zone dry in chasing around the Penguins during a second period that proved to be the difference. It is, however, to scoff at the idea of "bad bounces" belaboring another below average performance. In a game that ended in a one goal defeat, one goal against was brutal and another was stoppable. That doesn't mean the game was lost by Keith Kinkaid, of course, but his contribution certainly wasn't of the positive variety...
Personally, I find it refreshing that, even in a lost season, John Hynes is hunting the most harmless ducking of responsibilities. In my uneducated opinion, accountability is what has kept close a locker room that's endured far too much losing for anyone, none the least of which an underperforming goaltender, to be blaming it on bad bounces. Therefore, as harsh as it may read, that blunt disagreement was nothing more than a head coach doing some cultural maintenance for a team whose future doesn't stand to be made any brighter by any player adopting the "well, I could have been worse" perspective. Especially one who shares a crease with a guy who has held himself completely culpable despite having to bear the brunt of much less fortuitous circumstances this season.
All Congrats Go To Cory For Earning Himself The Deepest of Breaths, As Schneids Is Finally Off The Schneid
So lucky. The New Jersey Devils are so lucky, and I don't just mean that in the sense that you need a couple fortuitous bounces to go your way to come back from a three goal deficit on the road with a depleted lineup and a long-suffering goaltender entering in relief. The luck I'm referring to is somehow, against all odds, timing the morale boost of Cory Schneider's first regular season win in the flipping of multiple calendars at the end of a road trip during which they predominantly played the infuriating role of snoring passenger across multiple state lines...
My frustration had been building like that of a pissed off girlfriend suffering through a suspiciously quiet Valentine's Day ever since the Devils showed about as much of an interest in being in St. Louis as the Rams. Then, just when that hopelessness was about to manifest itself in hysteria, they basically busted down the door armed with a goddamn garden of good will and managed to find the only course of action for all to be forgiven. In no way, shape, or form should an otherwise uncompetitive team be all hugs & kisses coming off three games that were largely a sad excuse of an out-of-town effort. Yet, if only for one night, we were all Drew Stafford...
Of course, that luck of which I spoke earlier was long overdue with the Devils both accidentally and actively sabotaging the outcome of the few starts in which Cory Schneider played well enough to win. Still, for a fatalistic fourteen months to come to a head when his team had appeared to bury theirs in the sand prior to a nauseatingly necessary change in net was as entirely unexpected as it was absolutely awesome. Battling back to tie the game and using all 1.5 seconds of which they possessed the puck in overtime to slap a period on what felt like one man's run-on sentencing of solitary defeat was just the perfect punctuation. As the Devils are merely playing for pride and draft position at this point, there's not too many wins that are going to fully feel like such, but with the come-from-behind beating of the most malicious of monkey off the back of Cory Schneider came a thrill that's been unfortunately unfamiliar this season.
There's a joke to be about how not playing Cory Schneider for the first ten minutes of games could have ended his losing streak a long time ago. However, the fact of the matter is that this feels all the more uplifting due to the professionalism of the person who has had to swallow his pride in becoming a punchline. Say what you want about him aging poorly as a player, but - to a man - what he's had to go through as a competitor sucks six different ways to Sunday. The hope is that this a huge step in the same direction his confidence has been trending of late, but - realistically speaking - the future might hold a few more failures for Cory Schneider. That said, if he's proven anything since December 27th of 2017 it's that neither his effort or attitude will be responsible for a single one of them.
There's not a player, person, or teammate in the entire league that's been more deserving of an all-too-elusive victory, so a tip of the cap to Steve Cangialosi for having the wits about him to call it as we all saw it. Last night, relief - in every literal and figurative sense of the word - was spelled C-O-R-Y.
Devils' Prospect Jesper Boqvist Made A Social Construct Out Of Science With An Absurd Catch-And-Release Goal
I don't want to take too much umbrage with the caption focusing on the assist that allowed for Jesper Boqvist to create a hockey highlight that had the casualness of a game of catch. After all, Simon Bertilsson did everything in his power to avoid the forecheck and get the puck to his forward standing alone behind the defense. That said, in my opinion, if it were punctuated properly it would read "what, a pass?" in reference to the rink-long, waist-high wrist shot that the Devils' prospect knocked flat with an inexplicable ease unseen since the last time someone caught a fly in their hand on the first try. It definitely took two, but only one player in that clip turned in stride to laugh in the face of physics by making a tape-to-tape pass out a projectile before scoring in a way that was almost too nonchalant for it's own good.
While his future NHL team has made watching hockey far too effortful, Jesper Boqvist is in the SHL making the time-sensitive coordination of his hands and eyes look far too effortless. To consider that goal merely "good' would require you to be swayed heavily by the fact that the person who scored it looked like he may have done so while sleep-skating, and that - as well as the 2nd round pick's season to date - is great news for the New Jersey Devils and the market they've cornered on quality Jesper's...
Oooooh, the hometown angle. Seeing as the skies have otherwise been quite gray in and around the Prudential Center, I have no shame in soaking up the Vitamin D of this local spotlight. It probably seems a hell of a lot brighter than it actually is due to the deep, dark place the bottom of the Devils' lineup has beaten me into, but having a recognizable birth certificate gives Kenny Agostino more redeeming qualities than...well...just about every other career AHLer they've called up. Add in the fact that he was born into the biological dilemma of both loving to hate and hating to love New Jersey, and I'd be shocked if he didn't quickly develop a following within the fanbase.
Statistically speaking, odds are that his sixth stint with a new NHL team in five seasons isn't going to be the one that finally helps translate the talents he displayed in winning AHL MVP two seasons ago. However, without naming names, I can certainly think of worse players to give developmental/tank time to than a fast 26-year old that panders to the irritable regionalist inside every New Jerseyian.
Just from a hockey standpoint, Kenny Agostino has been decently productive in spurts at the pro level. For that reason, he better be careful, as actually contributing some promise to a lost season is what got Egor Yakovlev (and now Ryan Murphy) sent down to Binghamton to show skills that are apparently far too intriguing for the hometown hockey team between bus rides...