If Last Night's Win Over The Penguins Is Any Indication, The Devils Aren't As Dead As They've Looked Of Late
First, let's start with an unfriendly reminder. The Devils were coming off a seven game road trip in which they went 1-6 and were outscored by no more than 17 goals in such a lopsided fashion that it seemed like no less than 170 goals. One single win, no matter the context or the competition, can undo all that went disastrously wrong during their tumultuous travels. Winning in the welcoming confines of their own building hasn't been the issue, so all the Devils really accomplished last night was not bringing their problems home with them like a hostile husband who hit 'Happy Hour' so hard that it became extremely sad.
All that being said, after falling far too close to rock bottom for comfort, they had to start somewhere in getting back on their feet and last night was a stand-up victory. I tend to think that Thursday in Philadelphia will say more about this team than last night did, but overcoming multiple suspect calls that directly and negatively effected the scoreboard is something that even last year's Devils struggled in doing.
Phil Kessel erased an insurance goal off the stick of Jesper Bratt after inviting All-Beef as an infantile reaction to the protein deficiency he procured by going without his pregame hot dog...
...and, according to a league that still has a problem defining goaltender interference through the lens of their own anus, a love-tap is all it takes to allow for one of world's strongest and most technically sound skaters to kick an opposing keeper into the corner...
As a team whose confidence appeared shaken by the insult that had been getting added to their own injured play by bad breaks, either one of those proverbial kicks in the groin could have had them taking their balls and going home. The excuses were Hot-N-Ready to be made, but instead a lineup who was without its number one center and has been nothing short of marshmallow soft finally decided to be harder on the puck in not only gutting out a much-needed win, but gutting out a much needed character win.
Keith Kinkaid helped to make up for a performance that wasn't always pretty, though putting an end to the sloppiest of slumps rarely is, and they needed Taylor Hall to expend every beat of his Hart in dragging their ass to the finish line. However, there was a familiar resilience amongst a group that was assumed to have misplaced it somewhere during their terrible, awful, no good, very bad two week tumbling trek to the bottom of the standings. If nothing else, it was an encouraging step in the right direction, though they'll need to piece a few of those together before this one is considered anything other than the step a baby might make before stumbling ass-first back to cold, hard linoleum.
Metaphorically Speaking, The Devils Are Being Towed Back From Their Road Trip With Four Flats And A Faulty Transmission
"Fun" fact: Somehow, someway, that -17 stat includes a lone 5-1 win. In essence, make that outscored by 21 in their last 6 losses.
Welp, road trips don't go any worse than that. Seriously, there is a cult classic called Road Trip with the entire plot revolving around unforeseen, if not seemingly impossible, ways in which an extensive period of travel can go comically wrong, and even those half-witted, down-on-their-luck college kids wouldn't trade places with the New Jersey Devils as they embarrassed themselves up, down, and all around multiple countries.
Now, I can sit here and say that I don't think a young roster that, after last season, no longer has the benefit of taking teams by surprise isn't anywhere as bad as they've looked outside of their own building, but with each passing uncompetitive effort even their confidence has to be shaken by questioning whether or not that's true. To be clear, it's not the 1-6 record that is the most discouraging, as no one should have expected such an unforgiving stretch to go smoothly. Rather, it's the type of lopsided scores that leave all the room for overreactions while making any and all optimism sleep outside in the cold.
It's typically unfair to compare teams from year-to-year considering the average amount of roster volatility. However, with the lack of offseason moves made and, in turn, the abundance of trust shown by Ray Shero, the only thing that's changed considerably between the end of last season and the start of this one is the color of the leaves on all 6.5 trees that stand within Newark's city limits. Therefore, I'm not sure how you go about judging this team's woes without wondering what kept them from being, well, so goddamn woeful during a season that, even at its worst, was objectively encouraging.
Ruts of bad penalties, bad calls, bad breaks, bad bounces, bad decisions, bad positioning, bad depth, and bad goaltending made for sizable losing streaks just 8-12 months ago, but none of them appeared anywhere near as hopeless as the Devils did in dragging ass all over North America the last two weeks. Luck certainly hasn't been on their side, but - as much as I hate cliches - there's definitely something to be said about creating your own luck and that something probably isn't "eh, just keep trying the same crap and odds are it'll start working in a way that keeps things close past the second period".
From Cory Schneider to Keith Kinkaid and then back again, the goaltending has been absolutely brutal. There's no way around that, and yet a team defense that's fallen apart at the seams in leaving open all the ways through it just might make the play directly in front of the net worse than the play in the net. The Devils cumulative GAA (which, given the overall product at this point, is as much a team stat as it is an indictment of the two guys who have failed in covering for its mistakes) is trending dangerously close to looking like the price of an in-arena hot dog, and yet I'd rather pay double to deal with the indigestion caused by soggy, low quality pork products than watch third periods that have become nothing more than formalities as of late.
The Devils, for all intents and purposes, have been pathetic away from Prudential Center. If that doesn't change soon in a big, big way then they'll have both a Head Coach and a General Manager that were rightfully beyond reproach just weeks ago answering to both a stark change in play, a lack of change in personnel, and - most disappointingly - not only a half-assed halt in progress but the hapless reeling of a regression.
The Mothers Of A Youth Team In Ukraine Did A Sexy Photoshoot In Hockey Gear, Thus Ensuring Their Children Grow Up To Have Trust Issues
Oh no. Oh no, no, no. Unless this was just an elaborate scheme in which to save money on hockey sticks by getting their children to take up sports that can be played alone behind the sanctity of bedroom doors that will now remain dark and forever locked, this was a terrible idea. Like, might as well throw those pictures together in a magazine and title it Mommy Issues, because there is no unsubscribing from that lifetime subscription.
To be clear, I'm all for women with children continuing to embrace their femininity, but...goddamn...invest in a spa day or something. Hit up a nude beach and plant your freak flag right next to your umbrella. I know Europe is a hell of a lot less repressed sexually, but I have my doubts about it being so progressive that barely pubescent hockey players are mature enough to accept, understand, and embrace their mothers' desire to express themselves by way of showing the bodies in which they were produced.
I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of this photoshoot was, but if it was to fundraise then I think I speak for the entire team in saying they'd much rather stand outside a grocery store with a tin can and puppy dog eyes. Hell, they'd probably rather raffle off their own organs on the black market if the alternative was to give their friends and foes a visual aide to refer to in half-joking about fucking their mom. At that age, seeing the chick from Varsity Blues in a whipped cream bikini was life changing for all the right reasons, so I'd imagine seeing your mom in a glove and blocker bikini on a public platform is equally as impactful for all the wrong reasons. I feel bad for these kids now, but not nearly as bad as I'll feel for them when they are undergoing bi-weekly therapy sessions as adults that can no longer watch a hockey game without having a manic episode.
They say that winning cures all, and with the Devils not doing much of that these days each hiccup has grown louder and more pronounced. None the least of which being a devastating shock to the immune system from the hands of the Senators, of all opponents, that exasperated each and every vulnerability within a team that looked like it turned the lights off, cuddled up in bed, and decided to just sweat out a vomit-inducing defeat instead of actually doing a single thing to combat it. Simply put, playing the right way and getting back on the right side of the scoreboard with some consistency is the only thing that will truly nurse New Jersey out of their state of nausea.
That being said, the return of a player whose absence has been felt through both sickness (this miserable 2-6-1 stretch) and health (their 4-0 start) isn't the worst prescription I could think of. Now, I'm not putting the entire hose on the slender shoulders of Jesper Bratt and asking him to extinguish the raging dumpster fire that the Devils were on Tuesday night. However, if you ask Marcus Johansson during a moment of weakness what it's been like trying to coax goals out of the cluster of mediocrity that's joined him on the second line then he'd almost certainly tell you he's been longing for the season debut of the second year Swede. Other than Cory Schneider, who apparently only starts on nights in which his team experiments with pregame Ambien, no one on the roster has had their performance more stifled by their surroundings than MoJo. Conservatively speaking, he should probably have about 3x as many assists as he does, and if he were flanked with just a little bit of finesse then it's a distinct possibility that the Devils wouldn't be leaning on their first line more shamelessly than Jesper Bratt leaned over his toilet while "eating" during his liquid diet...
Of course, it will probably take him a little while to get acclimated to the game speed having not yet participated in a contest with actual consequences this year, and the line of him, Seney, and Johansson is probably better in theory until they work in some more practice. Still, the puck skill, creativity, and ability to go for an extensive skate on a frozen puddle that Jesper Bratt brings to the lineup is sorely needed on both the second line and the second power play unit. Despite his struggles to end last season, that much has been made blatantly obvious this season. His absence has made the heart grow fonder, if only because it's cooled everyone on the Devils' offensive depth.
“Ya know what? I’m a pussy. You’re right. I wouldn’t fight ya, but you’re a terrible hockey player. No. It’s painful for me to watch. Fuck you’re horrible”- P.K. Subban
And here we have the inherent dangers of punching up unknowingly being put on full display for a nationwide audience. Given the relative irrelevance of the source, P.K. Subban probably didn't have to justify a chirp as uninventive as "you're a pussy" with a response, but he really dropped the mic that he had no idea he was being picked up by in launching a truth bomb directly at the gut of Nikita Zadorov. Not for nothing, but - hyperbolically speaking - I might rather have a labia for lips than be that disrespected by my own peers. What "oh yeah, well you're a terrible hockey player" lacks in wittiness, it more than makes up for in effectiveness, as that message rang loud and clear enough to...well...come through the television of literally everyone watching.
Punching down is considered unbecoming in most scenarios because it's simply too easy, but the shitshow of sight and sounds that is a professional hockey rink is unlike most scenarios in that the ability to verbally eviscerate a lesser opponent is something to be proud of. You don't have to look too deep into the shallow stats of a fairly big failure of a first round pick to see clear that an opposing coach's nightmare of a Norris Trophy winner, be he overly dramatic on the ice or not, did just that...
If T.J. Oshie Didn't Draw A Game-Changing Headshot From Evgeni Malkin Then He Sure As Hell Stenciled Around It
I tend to err on the side of caution with these collisions, so I'm not about to be up in arms over a 5 minute major and a game misconduct that followed the letter of the law as it pertains to hits to the head. Evgeni Malkin tried to run a little routine interference and, though all he really did was lift his arm in preparation for impending contact without so much as veering off course, he caught an opposing player in a vulnerable position in the form and fashion that the NHL is trying to shun out of it's game. Hockey is as hard and fast a sport as sober sex so determining the acceptability of what's happened in the moment is as much of a results-oriented business as ass play. Simply put, the result of the above run-in appeared ugly enough to warrant an ejection.
Ahem, that being said, if a corresponding suspension were to come then it would be more than fair to question whether T.J. Oshie suckered Evgeni Malkin into a luxury suite. I'm not definitively saying that the Capitals' forward intentionally drew a head shot, but I am also not saying that he has too much integrity to do so...
Let's put it this way, if Captain America wasn't basically begging a rival to take the bait then the only other alternative was that he was playing the game so recklessly you'd think he was actually wearing a suit of armor.
Some scorned Capitals' fans are undoubtedly going to need to schedule a visit to an orthopedic surgeon after popping their arms out of their sockets by reaching so far as to compare this hit to the dozen or so times that Tom Wilson has bruised the brain of an unsuspecting opponent. Ironically, what they don't realize is that the argument they've already made in defending their own is made laughable by acting as if T.J. Oshie was some sort of innocent victim.
It's one thing to have your head down looking at the puck as you cut into the danger area of the ice, but it's a whole 'nother level of carelessness to be hunched over with your head up as you skate face-first into the shoulder space of a bigger, stronger player. Given his very recent history (below), the lack of effort that T.J. Oshie put into fighting his way around the NHL equivalent of a moving pick was almost comical, even if him being flung to the ice grabbing his face was not.
Again, Evgeni Malkin threw himself at the mercy of the court when a head, not surprisingly one that's attached to a bit of an agitator, that actively put itself an inch and a half from his arm became too much to resist. However, if players are going to be held at all responsible for their own safety then a suspension for a potential sell job that got an opposing superstar tossed from a game in which the aggrieved party was able to pretty easily shake off the cobwebs and score the game-winning goal would be a bit much, in my opinion.
UPDATE: Holy crap, both he and they actually agreed with me...
As someone who sees Milan Lucic's preposterously premeditated act of interference as only slightly more egregious than responding to any clean, hard bodycheck by dropping the gloves with an unwilling participant, I still think the NHL's Department of Player Safety should have made him sit a couple out in a luxury suite.
The hit, in and of itself, wasn't all that bad relative to the one that it was in retaliation to...
However, as a matter of principle, I can't help but think that a league that's trying to discipline big dumb animalistic violence out of their game does itself a disservice by not coming down harder on a player that's built like a rhinoceros who lurked in the shadows of his eventual prey like a goddamn great white shark before mounting and pounding it like an enraged gorilla.
Mathieu Joseph probably deserved to have his ass meet ice, and - since "developing" the scoring touch of a T-Rex - Milan Lucic basically only gets paid $6 million a year to make sure that it does. Still, I'm not sure how, in good conscience, I'm supposed to apply the "predatory" label to any hit if stalking someone the length of the rink with the laser-like focus of a wild feline is worthy of no more than the smallest of five-figure fines.
I would say that it's a "no harm, no foul"-type situation, but at least a little bit of damage has been done to how the NHL designates and defines their most punishable acts of aggression, since a beast-like bullying apparently doesn't count as a predatory act. Probably would have been best for them to stay on-brand semantically, as Milan Lucic's absence from it only stood to enhance their product anyway.
The Only Uber Disjointed Team That Looked Like They Were Along For The Ride In Ottawa Last Night Was The New Jersey Devils
To be honest, the phrase "compete level" is already growing pretty old. There's only one thing I hate more than cliches, and it's overused cliches. I hardly see him as the problem, but John Hynes has been so aggressive in going to the well of effort-based adages that he doesn't even have to be the one to bring them up in trying to explain his team's otherwise inexplicable struggles anymore...
Unfortunately, I'm just not sure there was anything more apt to criticism than their effort last night. The Devils spent the first half of the first period creating the type of contrast that has drunkards covering their eyes and squinting away from the sun when they walk out of dive bars mid-day, as the lopsided beatdown that followed was only made all the more painful to watch by what preceded it. Never mind the flipping of a switch, it was honestly as if someone cut the power lines to their pulse the second the first line continued their torrid tear in jumping out to a two goal lead. There are ebbs and flows to every game, but there are also drug addicts that would have a hard time comprehending how rapidly the Devils went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in having a withdrawal from working hard.
It's John Hynes' job to play exterminator in coaxing out whatever crawled up the Devils' ass twelve minutes into a game they had already proved winnable, but I too might be at a loss for an original answer if my team randomly decided to toss a working arrangement directly in the trash. Against an opponent that was still saying its our father's and hail mary's after going full Taxicab Confessions in roasting its coaching, New Jersey turned into the team that looked like it had gone comatose during the last three weeks of film study. Whether it was following the puck like a pack of first graders or getting bent over backwards in just about every board battle, the Devils were somehow left more desperate for a reliable Lyft than the Senators were a week ago. After putting forth a masterpiece against the Penguins a night earlier, a young team whose only success has come when they've out-worked opponents didn't even have the decency to conjure up a cough before clocking out early.
Of course, there were some obvious flaws at fault. The first line was creating just about all of the offense. The team defense was about as brutal as the actual defense was expected to be this season. Drew Stafford literally stinks on ice. Miles Wood finds the confines of the penalty box far too friendly. Damon Severson has been a stud as of late, but - as evidenced by the game-tying goal - his wires still get crossed whenever he steps foot in the blue paint and the glitch results in him momentarily forgetting that goals are scored with sticks. That said, as has been the case far too often, no one thing sabotaged the Devils' hot start more so than their own collective lack of competitiveness. The following opinion is definitely influenced by recency bias, but it already seems as though the Devils have completely lost focus and checked out of more games this year than they did all of last year, and the embarrassing amount of blown leads turned blowouts reflects just that.
In theory, that should be a more fixable problem than a lack of speed or skill, but it's also one that's hard to repeatedly answer to without sounding like a broken record of overplayed hits.
As it pertains to Cory Schneider, I don't want to hear it. It was always going to take him some time to get comfortable following hip surgery, and - by playing two of their worst games of the season in front of him - his teammates have afforded him absolutely none of it. I don't know that he'll ever get back to being the backbone we saw in the playoffs, but I do know that it'll be impossible to tell if five players continue to stand around mesmerized by the puck (much like below) while he's in net. For whatever reason, the Devils go braindead when backstopped by #35, but - while he hasn't been good - I have hard time blaming him for the type of mental block that teams who are worth a damn can bust through. I've accepted that Cory Schneider might, in fact, be done, but I decline him being anything close to the main reason they lost a game in which they appeared to misunderstand the meaning of the phrase "quit while you're ahead".
Stars' Goaltender Anton Khudobin Kept It Really Real In Relaying How he Planned To Rebound From A Tough OT Loss To His Former Team
Not that Anton Khudobin really gives a damn, as evidenced by the candidly relatable answer he gave in responding to last night's OT loss to his former team, but he's officially got a fan in me. You can take your cliches and shove 'em up your ass, because when the mood of the Stars' goaltender in shining a little less bright he's going to scream some shit and break some shit like every other irritably competitive S.O.B. that finds expressing their anger in healthy ways to be highly overrated.
Personally, I appreciate how open he is about it, as there is nothing a peeved fan wants to hear less than one of the many loose translations of "we'll get 'em next time". Sometimes the best way to let off some steam is to just get hot by way of bothered, cool down, and then do it all over again until you've pissed yourself all the off and are running on E. After all, the key to not going to sleep angry is taking all your frustrations out on other people, places, and things before laying your head to rest. Pretty sure I saw that on an episode of Dr. Phil...or maybe it was Jerry Springer.
For Whatever Reason, A Video Of Some Senators' Players Trashing Their Coaches While In An Uber Has Surfaced
OttawaCitizen- The video — since taken down — appears to have been shot in Phoenix on Oct. 29 or 30 during the team’s western road swing. It was recorded, presumably by the Uber driver, as seven Senators were transported in a van or SUV. It appears that none of the players were aware the conversation was being recorded.
Term of the hour:
Self-fulfilling prophecy- Any positive or negative expectation about circumstances, events, or people that may affect a person's behavior toward them in a manner that causes those expectations to be fulfilled.
An employer who, for example, expects the employees to be disloyal and shirkers, will likely treat them in a way that will elicit the very response he or she expects. (h/t BusinessDictionary)
Welp, pretty sure that's not why they call it a rideshare.
Now, I don't want to get too much into how much of a rat you have to be to publicly disseminate a video in which you unknowingly recorded people that rendered your services as they did what literally everyone does by roasting their bosses and co-workers behind their back. Seriously, if you've never talked shit about someone you work either with or for then two things are true. One being that you are undoubtedly the person everyone else is talking shit about, and two being that you've never operated under Eugene Melnyk. Therefore, this Uber driver isn't just a special kind of snake for abusing a safety precaution in the shameless search for supplementary income, but he's also more than likely a massively disingenuous hypocrite.
However, let's also make one thing clear, while this could technically happen to anyone, who it did actually happen to is about the furthest thing from a surprise. Maybe not directly, but the dysfunction and distrust that exists throughout the Ottawa Senators' organization definitely indirectly enabled some random Uber driver in the desert to introduce even more dissension into a lacerated NHL locker room from well across the border.
To put it simply, anyone that knows anything about hockey has, relatively recently, trashed the Senators as a franchise, so why would those whose professional careers are now anchored to its ineptitude be any different? This is obviously not a great look for the players involved, especially since most of them are new to the systematic stupidity. However, in my opinion, it's an even worse look for a front office/coaching staff whose "efforts" prompted a group of good-looking professional athletes in their 20's to waste time during a night out discussing a stagnated system and a pulverized penalty kill.
Honesty typically rears its ugly head when the camera stops, but if those it's aimed at never know it's rolling in the first place then you can be pretty certain that what you're getting is the truth. If you watched even one chapter of the Erik Karlsson drama play out then you shouldn't have even needed to take a look behind the proverbial curtain to know that it might hurt.
Brian Boyle Netted His First Career Hat Trick On 'Hockey Fights Cancer' Night, Because Of Course He Did
815. Prior to last night, that's the amount of times Brian Boyle had stepped on NHL ice for a meaningful game as the type of big man who is expected to create room for the scorers as opposed to doing a heck of a lot of it himself, before later leaving it having not tallied at least three goals on the afternoon or evening.
There was really no inclination that 816 was going to be much different, except for the fact that he was already living proof that sports have this weird way of making absolutely no sense by finding the perfect times to make all the sense in the world...
I don't want to imply that this is some sort of Angels On The Ice situation, as Brian Boyle was simply rewarded for doing the type of dirty work that's helped him find his niche in a younger, faster NHL the last few seasons. However, there's just something surreal and cinematic about that reward coming in the form of his first career hat trick on a night devoted to the ongoing battle against the deadly disease he recently sent packing into remission.
It's only right for Brian Boyle to be on the front lines as Hockey Fights Cancer, but the odds of him fully flexing his muscles on the scoresheet while his strength as a person was on everyone's brain are only reasonable if you see them as slightly fixed by fate. On a night where the 4th line showed out in a desperately needed dominant win over a quality team, it's heart and soul put forth a performance to remember. Not that we'd ever forget what he and others like him has been through in trying to kick cancer's ass, but it's tough not to be inspired by someone delivering it a knockout punch by repeatedly lighting the goal light at the end of the tunnel.
As for the game itself, a lot to like. Just as the whispers regarding Will Butcher's scoring slump and possession struggles were starting to pick up some volume he almost instantly silenced them, and the Devils finally cruised to a comfortable victory in a building other than their own. I can't say that the 4th line putting up a bunch of points in the process was a direct result of Kurtis Gabriel not being on it, but I'll settle for it being a reason that he's never, ever on it again. Regardless, it was a solid team win ahead of a second half of a back-to-back that provides them plenty of opportunity to build on it, assuming they kick the nasty habit of playing down to their less intimidating competition.
I suppose it's par for what's become a bumpy course to start the season that reading through the list of moves made in response to it elicits a somewhat manic set of emotions. Therefore, let's cut through the crap and get down to the feeling that best encapsulates each players' demotion or promotion...
Disappointed, which is not be confused with angry. It may have been a half dozen or so games ago when he was playing a productive brand of puck despite being allergic to putting it in the net. The way in which Marcus Johansson and Pavel Zacha gelled in the early going was basically the best case scenario realizing itself, but - as is the case with a kid who wears his confidence both in his body language and on the tape of his stick - each passing night in which he didn't grace the scoresheet resulted in a more passive version of a player who struggles with the game being played in his head more so than the game being played on the ice. John Hynes made himself abundantly clear on Behind The Glass, you don't have to keep a running tally like Taylor Hall, but to stay in the lineup - especially as a 2nd line center - you need to have a handful of moments throughout each game in which you're creating your own offense. In a way that's become all-too-familiar, Pavel Zacha struggled in doing just that, so hopefully some time in Binghamton will do him good.
Ecstatic. No offense meant to Kevin Rooney, who is too "meh" of a move to deserve its own paragraph, but - in theory - Brett Seney is the type of prospect that fits this team and system perfectly. I don't know that the term 'piss-ant' can be considered a compliment, but - given his size, skill set, attitude - I think it fits and I mean that fondly. By all accounts, he's feisty, tenacious, and an absolutely prick to play against. We will see how that translates for a 6th round pick at the NHL level, but you don't need to squint too hard to see the combination of him and Blake Coleman agitating the hell out of the opposition.
Disgusted, and - if I'm also speaking for my intelligence - then insulted. I don't get it. I don't like it. And as much of a John Hynes apologist as I am, nothing he can say will make me change my mind. Consider this, a professional production team edited together scenes with the main goal of making Kurtis Gabriel look like a sympathetic figure, and all it made me do was finally think long and hard about cutting the cord...literally. For a team that can't stay out of the box and a 4th line that can't stay out of its own way, I don't see how he helps anything, at anytime or anywhere. His "best" "skill" is instigation, and - in case you forgot - there's a two minute timeout that comes attached to that.
I'm sure he's a nice, hard-working guy and all, but I can already taste the vomit in the back of my throat and we're still minutes away from seeing how he looks in a New Jersey Devils' jersey when it matters. Honestly, his insertion into a lineup that's struggled getting depth scoring as of late is a forehead slap waiting to happen, as I'd much rather he be sitting next to me on my couch punching me in the face then waiting to be deployed by John Hynes as the type of big dumb animal that I could have sworn went extinct due survival of the skill...est(?).
Motivation. If nothing else, it's the one thing a Devils' team that got embarrassed and emasculated in Tampa Bay absolutely, positively should have had going for them. Throw in the fact that they were supposedly "playing for" a goaltender who had finally overcome offseason tail reattachment surgery after working it off in relief throughout a playoff series that was as short as the statement he successfully made throughout it, and the well of excuses they have to go to for another uninspired performance becomes bone dry. John Hynes routinely preaches being a "self starter", but players that haven't put together a single win in an NHL building other than their own shouldn't exactly have had to rub two sticks together inside their stall to get a fire going under their ass last night.
Of course, there's always ebbs and flows throughout any 82 game schedule, but the Devils starting off their first extensive road trip of a season that's still young relatively to the rest of the league shouldn't have them looking like they've grown tired of putting in the effort necessary to make up for an average level of skill. It's not that the losses are piling up and erasing what was a bullish sprint out of the gates, but rather how and why those losses are piling up. Occasionally you're going to get humbled by some of the more complete rosters in the league, as was the case against the Lightning, but New Jersey got put on their heels like they were walking a plank by an inferior team in Detroit. The Red Wings outworked, out-skated, and...well...out-Devils'd the Devils. Assuming Little Ceasar himself isn't in charge of ice maintenance at the arena that's named after him, they looked like they were trying to manually juice goals out of their sticks while doing so. However, it's not them having "one of those nights" that's most concerning, but rather the lack of urgency in battling through it.
Whether they were winning or losses in bunches last season, the Devils were pretty consistent in being a pain in the ass to play against. Unfortunately, while the inclination to go streaking has apparently carried over into them looking nudely vulnerable for stretches, being non-circumstantially competitive has not.
Teams that are difficult to play against don't repeatedly give up third period leads. Teams that are difficult to play against don't repeatedly take untimely penalties. Teams that are difficult to play against may get beat, but they don't beat themselves. Teams that are difficult to play against don't look like a shell of themselves on the road. All those things happened last night. Whether it be sitting in the box immediately after giving up a PPG or sitting in the box immediately after scoring a go-ahead PPG in the third, the Devils are finally being scolded for a defeatist lack of discipline. The most careless pass of Will Butcher's career stands out because it led to the unofficial game-winning, shorthanded goal, but it's only the most egregious example of the self-destructive ways in which they've costing themselves points in arenas in which those points are harder to come by.
John Hynes, as per usual, is right. It's up to the players - who are professionals, mind you - to find whatever confidence they might have lost over the last week and a half, and playing the way they fully embraced in earning a playoff spot last year is the most tried and true way to do so. If you look up and down the roster, there are definitely some problem areas (2nd line uselessness, a thrown together 4th line), but a brighter light gets shown on those problem areas when you start deviating from a system that makes everyone look better.
Those first four games weren't anymore of an aberration than the last six have been, so it's both disingenuous and premature to say that they don't currently have the horses to place in the playoff race at this point. They just need to get back to running together in lockstep, because the Devils are exponentially better as a team than they are as talents. Thus, when they don't play like the former it becomes harder to see the latter.
We're talking in baby steps, because Cory Schneider should be somewhat nurtured in his return to NHL action, but I feel comfortable in saying he made it out of the crib last night. The start was predictably rough as, if not for a fortuitous whistle, the first relatively pedestrian puck he "stopped" probably should have resulted in the first bad goal he let up, and him being two inches off the goal line while slow to the one-timer that breezed right past him was nearly as discouraging. That said, he definitely appeared to find his footing as the game progressed. He didn't look like it was his first appearance of the season for the last 45 minutes or so, and that's about as much as you could have asked for from a guy that gave his team more than enough of a chance to get a win for him while still getting acclimated. They are the easiest things to blame in times of crisis, but - much like the coaching - goaltending has most certainly not been the problem as to late.
I'll be honest with you, regardless of the source, it's refreshing to read a nuanced and (pun intended) calculated take on advanced analytics and their usefulness in coaching professional sports. While I look at just about half of the graphs and charts that get disseminated with the hopeless intensity of a far-sighted third grader trying to stare his way into solving a magic eye poster, I understand that they can be very chatty in telling people smarter than myself what it is that they are actually watching. They aren't the end all, be all of relating or relaying a message to the inherently emotional beings that are professional athletes, but they can definitely help craft that message. Unfortunately, as is the case with just about everything nowadays, the numerical study of sports has largely become something that people either loathe or love, as opposed to facts that can/should be paired with feelings.
Now, the idea that said source happens to be the first time NHL head coach tasked with continuing what he started in turning around a proud franchise that finally fell on hard times should make that answer all the more exhilarating to each and every Devils' fan. Never mind the current state of a team that got both humbled and embarrassed in Tampa Bay, because - win or lose - they've undoubtedly got the right type of open-minded attitude behind their bench. John Hynes has already proved his worth (and then some) as a mentally in-tune motivator of young men, but him both understanding and appreciating math basically makes him the coaching equivalent of the type of miraculous mixed-breed that would make a dog-lover mortgage their house.
To the dismay of those that have dug their heels in on treating underlying statistics like gospel, you can't simply coach hockey with a calculator. On the other hand, to the dismay of those that treat their belly like a crystal ball, you can't simply coach hockey with your gut. That answer above was a rarely seen rational take that did the unthinkable by taking into account both the sums and subtleties of a sport as covertly complex as hockey. Personally, I couldn't be made any more comfortable by the quoted individual being the man with which my emotional investment has been made, as John Hynes isn't just doing his homework, but also putting its purpose into one hell of a practice.
The Devils Faced The Perfect Storm In Tampa Bay, And Skated Away With Their Tails Between Their Legs
Prior to the third period, I probably would have told you that the score at the time wasn't entirely indicative of the competitiveness of the game to that point. After the first 40 minutes, I may have argued that just about all the issues the Devils have largely gotten away with failing to correct, due in large part to both Keith Kinkaid and an excellent PK, got exposed by a better team playing within the friendly confines of their own building. That might seem like a stretch, considering their quick 2-0 lead got counterpunched with fistful of answered goals. However, between starting the second period in a mindless malaise (goal 3) and looking as though they were intentionally testing the depth of their own penalty kill by refusing to stay out of the box (goals 4 and 5), the Lightning were more opportunistic than they were discouragingly dominant.
Unfortunately, the third period happened, and from the first drop of the puck it looked like just about every player in the Devils' lineup was wishing it didn't have to. Credit to the top notch talent up and down Tampa's roster for capitalizing, but - as evidenced by the pass Damon Severson ripped so hard off Pavel Zacha's skate that you'd swear it was wearing a stick costume (goal 7) - New Jersey didn't even force them to approach the door before tossing away pucks like they were Halloween candy. Hell, they might as well have slapped a sign on their bench that said "Take One", because the bell was simply not something they were interested in answering throughout the final frame.
Unsurprisingly, one was not taken, as the same team that ended their season in unceremonious fashion put up three during a period for which the Devils appeared to prepare by going on a 'Trick or Tequila' run. Everyone, from Brian Boyle and Kevin Rooney (goal 6) to Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri (goal 8), was left falling all over themselves in a way that was all too fitting of what was essentially a 20 minute face-plant.
Every regulation loss counts for the same amount of points, whether you lose by two or you lose by five, so this could easily be seen as a "scrap the tape"-type wake-up call for a team that really shouldn't need it this early in the season. Hopefully it is in theory but not in execution, as there are a lot of persistent problem areas that were finally picked apart. Every season has its stinkers, but how the Devils respond to this particular one will say a lot about a team that has yet to prove capable of putting forth a winning effort on the road. Kind of important to make that statement a positive one as, even after this road trip, they won't be spending too much time at home this month. Though, I guess the good news is that their next appearance can't possibly be more negative than one in which they looked like they forgot how to hockey during the final intermission.
John Tortorella Thinks That Hockey Has Become A "Hugfest", Which Is The Least Surprising Thing You'll Read Today
The truth of this particular matter is that John Tortorella has, time and time again, made it evident that his personality is best described as "emotionally constipated". Therefore, a stick appearing lodged up his ass in regards to the occasional smile making an appearance during the heat of a professional hockey game is nothing if not unsurprising. The only way that condemnation of competitive cordiality could have been more on-brand would be if he had delivered it in about 100x the decibel level with a "fuck" or two forced in, so I'm not going to overreact in response to John Tortorella's feelings about the state of a sport that's not nearly as repressed as it used to be.
What I will say is that his point, if you want to call it that, should be taken as any insult by the players whose on-ice personalities he's pissing and moaning about. To imply that professional athletes, that have beat the absolute shit out of the odds to make it to the highest level of hockey, can't simultaneously deliver a joke and maintain the singular focus of outmatching an opponent with which they might harbor an off-ice relationship is nothing short of ridiculous. To assume that one must literally flash his fangs for 2.5 straight hours to play with some snarl is stupidity at its most old-school. I understand that the NHL being as much of a community as it's ever been might frighten those that would rather watch a 5-on-5 sword fight than admit their favorite sport has anything even remotely in common with the NBA (the fastest growing league in the world, mind you), but that doesn't make that line of thinking any less asinine.
Having watched plenty of puck in the early going, the only way I can justify labeling hockey a "hugfest" is if headlocks, face-washes, and other acts of irritability are included in that definition. I imagine the type of affection that the Blue Jackets' Head Coach shows compares favorably to an awkward tug-a-war between his hyper-masculinity and his insecure vulnerability, so - when you consider the source - the take does make some sense. Still, from what I can tell, there's certainly been no lack of pushing, shoving, or exchange of other "pleasantries" post-whistle (which, by the way, seems entirely unnecessary at times).
To put it simply, if the "problem" is that the NHL is no longer employs 20 to 30-something year olds whose ill-humored mannerisms are that of people who desperately need to get laid then you won't find me looking for a solution to anything other than John Tortorella's emotional anal blockage. Hockey is still played with plenty of hate, it's just not exclusively (and archaically) expressed in physical face punches and conversational dick-measuring contests anymore.
Only One Team's Killer Instinct Prevailed, As The Devils Had Their Chances To Put Down The Predators
The truth is that a back-and-forth game that, from a Devils perspective, probably saw a bit too many chances going each way when considering the skill level of their opponent can't be dumbed down to a highlight or two. However, in the interest of keeping things succinct, I can say that the following saves tell the short-form version of last night's story...
In case you have a problem taking a hint and instead need it spoon-fed to you, the point is that the Devils had their chances to put away a team that became more and more bound to tie things up with each failed opportunity. Of course, by absolutely crushing one off the tee and into the top corner of the net, Filip Forsberg did just that...
It's tough to be too upset, as New Jersey went toe-to-toe and tit-for-tat with one of the most complete rosters in the NHL, but taking one on the chin after whiffing on multiple knockout punches was a reminder of how opportunistic they need to keep pace when they aren't the more talented team. Outside of an anomaly of a first goal, Keith Kinkaid continued to give the Devils more than enough margin for error. That was especially true during an early going in which the rest of the lineup was late to get going in turning over multiple pucks at their blue-line, but even as the game worn on he was visually swerving through to traffic to gobble up pucks. Unfortunately, Juuse Saros was equal to the task in doing the same to a Devils team whose effort was of the winning variety but whose execution fell short in the one aspect that literally counts the most.
Injuries are a bullshit thing to bitch about, as everybody has them, but they are definitely felt more sharply when you're playing a team with as many weapons as the Nashville Predators. Marcus Johansson would never say as much, but he began to miss his fellow countryman in Jesper Bratt more and more with each passing 2-on-1 in which Jean-Sebastien put forth a Dea-grade attempt to score. Eric Gryba, as much as it's his role to play things a 1976-style of safe, gave the Ben Lovejoy haters a good look at what a slow, plodding defenseman with limited puck skills really looks like in being a noticeable downgrade next to Will Butcher.
All in all, despite losing in a coin flip of an extra period, there were quite a few positives throughout a game in which they Devils played their way to a point with something much closer to the brand of hockey they displayed in jumping out to a 4-0 start.
Nico Hischier looking like a wide receiver in outwitting and outworking P.K. Subban to the front of the net for his second goal on a night in which he unsurprisingly looked every bit of a #1 center was definitely one of them...
...as was Damon Severson somewhat quietly continuing his growth into the trustworthy player the Devils have been praying on the potential of by padding his stats...
I can probably think of about a dozen or so, but that's already two more than the Devils put forth in Philadelphia, so the important thing is that they are once again headed in the right direction. Hopefully that direction leads to the win column tomorrow afternoon, as another season of streaks is not something my heart (or likely John Hynes' voice box) can handle.
Brian Boyle's Cancer Is Officially In Remission, Which Is Fantastic News That I Didn't Even Know I Needed
NHL- Brian Boyle said his cancer is in remission after receiving the results from his most recent blood test on Monday.
The 33-year old New Jersey Devils center, diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia on Sept. 19, 2017, was originally told by doctors that it could take up to 18 months before the disease went into full remission; it took 12 months and 33 days.
"A test (BCR-ABL1) looks for the leukemia cells in your blood and when I was first diagnosed, it was at 75 percent," Boyle said Wednesday. "At the end of last season, it was at .08 percent, and in July I was .04 percent. The results showed all zeros on Monday. It's full molecular remission, and I feel really good. It was kind of the way the progression was happening the last few tests. When I told my wife, she was excited and got emotional.
"The game plan has been working well, and now I'm just going to continue with it. It was good news, but it doesn't change a whole lot for me and I'll continue taking the medicine."
You're going to have to excuse my ignorance here, but I had absolutely no idea I was still waiting to hear that Brian Boyle's cancer was in remission. I probably should have known, as his form of the dreadful disease was rare in that it could be contained in a way that allowed him to play through it, but I'm pretty sure the medically uneducated moron in me just assumed that the cancer eventually took off running when he got back to skating. That's on me (and a credit to him), obviously, though I do think that even the most relentless of conditions probably should have been able to take the hint that it picked the wrong damn dude when he had already potted 10 goals against professional athletes just three months after receiving his diagnosis. In my personal opinion, cancer wasted a hell of a lot of time sitting around doing absolute dick if only now has it realized it was time to pack up its shit and got to steppin' from the blood cells of Brian Boyle.
In all seriousness, this is fantastic news for a guy whose been as good of a story off the ice as he has been an addition on the ice over the last year and change. You wouldn't know from his performance as a player or his persistence as a person, but I'm sure there was still quite a bit of anxiety lingering prior to him getting the conclusive report that he's cancer-free. It's no surprise that he basically busted the original timeline over his knee in kicking the crap out of every last percentage point, as it certainly seemed like he never wasted a second in working his way back into his routine. Much like the rest of the hockey community, I'm glad to see that determination paid off in giving him and his family some premature peace of mind.
Huh, so as it turns out, a wave of six scoreless games to start a season might not be all it takes to wash up the proud owner of one of the most complete careers in hockey history. Who knew?!?
Lost in all the 'Auston Matthews: Does playing in Toronto automatically make him better player, person, philanthropist, and future parent than Connor McDavid?' hysteria was the fact that they both have a hell of a long way to go before putting together the type of extensive highlight reel that has made talking about Sidney Crosby's continued greatness, well, pretty damn boring to be honest. Not having a tally in the goal column prior to last night made it easier to make him an afterthought in the best player in the league debate, but - other than #97 being the fastest kid alive - what's hurt his case the most is that we've simply grown tired of talking about how good he is. As an old dog, it's not like he's got any new tricks. That, of course, is because he's long known literally all of them, but that also means we've long discussed his prevalence in performing them. If only due to desensitization, I've just been made pretty numb to most of Sidney Crosby's superhuman skill set, and that includes the ability to create space for himself with a hairpin turn in the corner before proceeding to put an opponent on a leash and taking him for a walk to the ass end of social media circulation.
Now, the narrative that this particular dissection of a defense came right in front of the eyeballs of those that have been most diligent, and rightfully so, in pumping the tires of Connor McDavid is one that I can absolutely get behind. 'The Kid' holding a one-man dance party for grown folks at the expense of the Edmonton Oilers does add a cool little wrinkle to him doing something we've seen him pull off countless times in lifting the Penguins to victory on his backhand. I don't know that Connor McDavid himself needed a first-hand reminder of whose resume he's chasing, but a quick humbling for those in attendance couldn't hurt...
If the Behind The Glass series taught us anything, it's that there is quite a bit to like about John Hynes as a leader. That said, if you absolutely had to pick one single thing to appreciate the most about him then it's probably the fact that what you hear is what you get. The concept of "coach speak" is highly dependent on the use of lip service, but that is certainly not considered a native tongue in or around a Devils' locker room in which their commander and chief is the furthest thing from fluent.
There's just something refreshing about actions mirroring words, and any Devils' fan who's been paying attention was well aware they would do just that when John Hynes made this promise following the Devils' disheartening loss to the Flyers on Saturday...
As it predictably turned out, it didn't take too long for that reflection to come to fruition...
While knowing full well that bag-skating your team's testicles off is an approach that probably proves impotent amongst professional athletes if taken too often, I do love the idea of wasting no time in giving a young Devils' team a damn near traumatizing reminder that any complacency whatsoever is unacceptable. Consider that John Hynes normal practices are more merciless than most and "the most unforgiving" is anything but a liberal label for a team employee to throw around in reference to what sounds like a punishment that pushed them past their lung capacity.
It would be easy for the Devils to make some pretty compelling excuses for as to how the current state of their overall health has coincided with the cooling off of their hot start. However, John Hynes didn't do so after their last game so you could be damn certain he wasn't about to leave them any room to be at all self-satisfied in preparation for their next one.