Ryan Reaves Signed Pictures Of The Aftermath Of His Concussion-Causing Hit On Tom Wilson To Be Put Up For Sale, Which Makes The Incident Feel A Hell Of A Lot More Ugly
And here's me, reflecting on why it was stupid for the NHL not to temporarily force into the shadows (i.e. suspend, even if only for a game) the anti-hero who delivered a blindside hit that, while to the shoulder, was pretty obviously premeditated and indirectly caused injury to a head, whether it be empty or not...
In this analogy, Gotham would be the NHL, the Joker would Tom Wilson, and Batman would be Ryan Reaves. However, and you can correct me if I'm wrong here, I'm quite certain that Batman left all the pandering and public appearances to Bruce Wayne and let his inconspicuous actions as a caped crusader speak for themselves.
I promise you I fret not over Tom Wilson's bell being rung or his feelings being hurt. The image that Ryan Reaves presumably signed for profit is one that we, as hockey fans, have come to deserve at this point. It's just not the type of comeuppance the NHL needs to see proudly and publicly put up for auction while they are waging war on the unnecessary and dangerous hits that cause both concussions and all the awful, awful complications that come along with them.
Much like the Joker did to Gotham, the NHL's resident reckless asshole who repeatedly plays with zero regard for the short and/or long term health of his peers merely gave a stupid face to a much larger problem. So while seeing that face get counterpunched felt long overdue, him being on the opposite end of a hit that was literally signed off on as "predatory" when the person who delivered it referred to himself as a "lion in the jungle" on multiple occasions is more of a fitting fate than any sort of quick fix. If you truly hate all that Tom Wilson stands for then you shouldn't be openly applauding the result of the type of play that could potentially cause him to die early, even if you are rooting for him to die alone.
I think we can all appreciate the occasional act of vigilante justice, especially when it's levied on such an irredeemable idiot, but there's a reason why those that typically administer it do so in a mask. It's inherently a thankless job that's done anonymously, so - even though the kibosh was put on this with the quickness - the fact that Ryan Reaves spent even a few minutes autographing his dirty work like bruising someone's brain is some sort of sadistic art is proof that he did it for all the wrong reasons. Not so coincidentally, those wrong reasons characterize a mindset that the NHL is supposed to be discipling out of its sport.
The Flyers' New Defensive Coach Either Uses His Eyes For Analytics Or Needs To Work On His Comedic Timing
As someone who couldn't possibly have less interest in the Philadelphia Flyers finding their way upon any sort of proficiency in defending a net that's still - after all these years - minded by a suspect goaltender, I must say that this is great news. Take one step forward, and then two steps back, and that's how you do the electric slide of organizational ineptitude! I did the math that Rick Wilson apparently refuses do, and - as it turns out - his hiring is actually addition by subtraction. I'm going to keep that on the DL, as I don't want to be the one to question the results of the extremely intricate "see it, believe it" strategy that he's spent so much carefully constructing. Still, someone who actually cares might want to slip a calculator in his desk, just in case he stumbles upon any obvious flaws in living in the 70's while coaching in 2018.
I'm probably giving someone who basically poured fuel on the fire in trying to comfort the most flammable of fanbase too much credit, but I think Rick Wilson was just trying to make a funny. Personally, I'd leave the jokey jokes to Gritty, because admitting to an inexperience in using the plethora of tools at your disposal is pretty much the coaching equivalent of what Kramer committed at the 'Laugh Factory' all those years ago (aka career suicide). Long story short, NOT...FUNNY. People are just as sensitive to an apathy towards analytics as they are too an over-reliance on them, as they clearly serve a practical purpose without being the end-all, be-all of the practice in purpose.
As evidenced by how long they clung to the Broad Street Bullies pseudonym, I know the Flyers aren't the most progressive of franchise. Still, their fanbase isn't made up entirely 85 year old technophobes (or rational room readers, for that matter), so - even in jest - it's probably not the best idea to go fanning their flames by talking about qualifying your coaching entirely through your cornea on your first day.
Tom Wilson Got Tom Wilson'd By One Of The Only Players Capable Of Force Feeding Him His Own Medicine
I want to feel bad for Tom Wilson, I really do. After all, there aren't many feelings worse than having insult added to both figurative and then literal injury by way being mocked and manhandled all over the ice. Unfortunately, as much as it sucks that he was left seeing stars after having his head targeted maliciously on a hit that sent his ass ice bound for the third time on the evening, the collisions that collectively ended his night early all looked like "hockey plays" to me. The first rule of the road is to always be aware of drivers in your blindspot so maybe next time he won't spend so much time "admiring his pass" so that he doesn't end up getting wrecked by a rear-ending.
If we break down the film, frame-by-frame, it sure looks the collision between Tom Wilson as a one-time-only innocent bystander and Ryan Reaves as an ill-intended freight train was technically shoulder-on-shoulder. Therefore, regardless of serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever, it couldn't possibly cause a concussion! Seems pretty cut-and-dry to me, so it would be much appreciated if someone could ever-so-kindly notify the NHL's Department of Player Safety that there's nothing to see here.
In case you didn't catch my drift (which would be concerning, as it was basically a tidal wave of sarcasm), I've never wanted anything less than to feel bad for Tom Wilson. Obviously Ryan Reaves was guilty of malpractice in force-feeding him a dose of his own medicine, but when he comes to, I'd hope the patient in question would be self-aware enough to take some inventory of how goddamn stupid all of his go-to excuses for being a reckless asshole sound.
Whatever supplementary discipline comes the way of the Ryan Reaves - who is a goon in his own right - is well-deserved, but a proverbial nailing to the cross would be very fitting of him doing the Lord's work. Neither suspensions nor fines, of even the most insane length or cost, were enough to get through the thick skull of Tom Wilson, so someone his own size rattling it in ironic fashion was really the dirty work required if he's ever going to clean up his act. "Two" wrongs don't make a right, but the league had pretty much run out of acts of recourse other than retribution, so forcing him to shield his eyes from bright lights when walking into a room might have been the only remaining way to make sure many others don't have to do so in the future.
If the "do unto others" philosophy would be lost on anyone then it would be the NHL's resident runaway train, so I have my doubts as to whether last night's last resort will help him learn his lesson. However, even if it doesn't, it was still quite rich to see him get laughed at for overreacting to a perfectly legal hit before getting buckled by the exact same type of cheap shot that he's spent so much time delusionally defending.
UPDATE: Perfect, just what I was hoping for, ammunition for idiotic Capitals' fans that we're already locked, loaded, and ready to play the victim. What a dumb league...
In retrospect, the only thing that could, should, or would have gotten in the way of seeing what was easily the Devils' most incredibly inept performance of the season coming was blind hope. After emptying the tank to tie things up late against Winnipeg on Saturday, just about every epidemic that has plagued this team was on full display in overtime. Hesitancy with the puck that led to inexcusable turnovers. The ability to make basic defensive principles look like they were only more of an inconvenience than taking out the trash in wasting their own golden scoring opportunities. The Prudential Center might as well have been popped like a balloon when the Jets' tapped home the game winner, because managing to pull one point out of their ass only made the entire building's deflation that much more palpable after they actively found ways not to get two. Considering an opponent that has built off a dominant playoff series in making the Devils look like they are playing an entirely different sport (and doing so in weighted equipment) this season was en route to 'The Rock', a 60 minute pity party probably wasn't all that unpredictable.
That said, the fact that those in attendance last night were initially as optimistic as a mortician with seasonal affective disorder didn't make the unrelenting pessimism playing out on the ice any easier to bear. Long story short, the Devils were pathetic. Overmatched would typically be a good way to put...if they had even bothered to show up to the match. What took place last night wasn't even an ass-kicking, because they barely got off the mat long enough to expose their butt-cheeks. The Lightning got them down and kept them down, but in an extremely casual way that highlighted the depressing disparity between the two teams. I suppose it could be best described as a bullying, because they were ready to play the victim in handing over their lunch money before one single fist even got raised.
The truth is that Murphy's Law slammed it's unforgiving gavel down on the Devils, and they've responded by gripping their sticks as tightly as they've clenched their assholes as the season has devolved into one long bout of constipation. It's just as much, if not more so, due to trying too hard as it is not trying at all, and it you needed proof of that then look no further than Taylor Hall.
The reigning MVP of the entire league was benched during the second period for letting a routine outlet pass that he could have caught in his sleep last year glide helplessly under his stick only to deposited in the back of his net in a way that made all 73 seconds of positivity provided by Egor Yakovlev's first career NHL goal seem patronizing. There's not a doubt in mind he wants better for this team, but even someone who successfully carried them last year has looked like he knowingly took on two too many bags of groceries in mishandling pucks all over the place as of late. I genuinely can't believe I'm saying this, but his prolonged seat on the bench was well deserved, if only because all ten participants on a perfect penalty kill of a putrid powerplay couldn't all fit into it.
Speaking of the powerplay, there might not be an area of the game in which there lack of confidence proved more laughable. Passes to vacated points. Uncontested cross ice feeds that were closer to being caught by their intended target's mouth, hibachi-style, than landing on their tape. While Brayden Point was comfortably nuzzling his way into an abandoned slot to end up on the receiving end of a play that everyone, except the Devils apparently, knew was coming, New Jersey used their time with the extra man as nothing more than an opportunity to get the game two minutes closer to completion. Hell, they may have failed in doing that, as they were so uninspiring that it felt like even time stood still.
Because it made for a fitting ending to the same ole' story, I considered the conclusion of the game reached when Steven Stamkos was left alone in his sweet spot to fire an extremely stoppable shot past everyone's favorite scapegoat, Cory Schneider, all of twenty seconds into his relief appearance. I may have gone comatose after that, because I hear they aimlessly whacked the puck around for another 19 minutes and 40 seconds, but almost everything that came prior was the picture perfect outline for a painting entitled 'The Lost Season'. As inevitable as it's starting to look, I personally think they'd live to regret it if shit-canned John Hynes as an attempted quick fix at a foundational problem. However, they better find some sort of footing fast because they are about 40-some-odd long strokes of stupid away from putting it on sale.
Tom Wilson Took Some Time Out Of His Career-Best Scoring Streak To Get Back To Blindsiding People For No Apparent Reason
In the interest of objectivity, I will say that I don't have all that much of a problem with Tom Wilson facing no discipline, other than the match penalty he received, for his wildly unnecessary and entirely avoidable hit on Brett Seney...
That's mostly because it's neither my brain nor my commitment to making the game safer that's potentially compromised every single time him he takes an apparently inalterable stride on an NHL playing surface. However, it's also because it's admittedly tough to give him a 10-20 game unpaid vacation for something that would land almost anyone else no more than two minutes in the sin bin for interference. The truth is, if you remove the nameplate from the jersey on the back of a person who looked to have the lateral awareness of a locomotive then we wouldn't spend more than six seconds talking about his blindsided collision with a much smaller player.
Of course, the man who leaves bodies laying lifelessly in his wake at a rate that was only precedented during a period in which the root cause of concussions was celebrated as much as a much more figurative sudden death is not just anyone else. He's Tom Wilson and the only thing that's even comparable to how much benefit of the doubt he's lost is the amount of wages he's lost while refusing to take any real responsibility for his repeatedly reckless actions.
Again, I understand that the NHL's Department of Player Safety was basically stuck between a rock and a place that's as hard as one very specific player's skull when determining whether contact that was mostly to the shoulder of a player who returned to the game soon after was deserving of supplementary discipline. However, while they were jammed up in there, I hope they finally came to the conclusion that Tom Wilson is woefully incapable of changing.
While in the midst of a career-best scoring streak that, against the type of odds that even Vegas considers stealing, had some people wondering whether the laughable contract he signed in the offseason was as stupid as it seemed on the surface, Tim Wilson STILL couldn't go ever-so-slightly out of his way to avoid clipping the head area of someone who didn't have the puck from behind. During a moment in which the average player would instinctually shift their route to the puck by 7-8 degrees, someone who had nothing to gain, and is well aware of how hot the interrogation light is on him, didn't hesitate to risk his sustained professional success by plowing right on through the back of an oblivious opponent.
What other context do you even need to come to the conclusion that he just can't, or willfully won't, help himself? This particular play wasn't as bad as it looked, but the forewarning it provided that - sooner rather than later - the next one (or the next next one) will be is much harder to deny than it is to discipline.
After Having An OT Goal Against Him Upheld, David Rittich Summed Up How We've All Felt About Goaltender Interference Challenges In One Fell Swoop
First and foremost, I'm not sure the NHL's judgement in upholding Tyler Seguin's overtime goal was "give me something to break!" bad. I understand why David Rittich disagrees, as it sort of feels like his reward for having a cat-like recovery after being treated as a speed bump in Jamie Benn's reckless road to a loose puck was immediately facing a point blank shot from one of the best snipers in the sport with the game on the line. However, as far as the extremely loose letter of a polarizing law is concerned, he technically did have a chance to make the save. Contrary to what his regained form might have you believe, it was comparable to the chance one might have at catching a ball that's thrown at their face as the lights in a dark room are being turned back on. Still, taking into consideration the vast amount of times in which the league displays inexplicably dumbass decision making, you have to pick your battles. Ipso facto, I see both sides of the coin so I personally wouldn't freak out over the results of its flipping.
That's not really the point here though. The point is that David Rittich's reaction to a debatable ruling is entirely relatable. They've gotten more consistent as of late, but had the fans in attendance been armed with hockey sticks while the NHL was tripping over the tail they tucked between their legs in trying to define goaltender interference last season then arenas very well may have looked like the following scene out of 300...
The NHL might have a little something to say about hurling a splintered projectile in the general direction of an official (that didn't even make the final call, mind you), but - as far as I am concerned - the steam David Rittich let off in getting heated on the ice is entirely understandable. That poor stick might not have had it coming, but a punch-drunk process that only now is starting to show signs of sobering up sure did.
Oakland University Has Trained Their Students And Faculty To Deal With Active Shooters By Arming Them With...Hockey Pucks?
DetroitNews- The Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills university began equipping its faculty and some students with hockey pucks this month as a "last resort" precaution to throw at any active shooters on campus, officials say.
Oakland University Police Chief Mark Gordon said the idea emerged during a training session he was giving earlier this year on surviving an active shooter situation.
Gordon, a former youth hockey coach, said since the university has an ordinance against weapons, one attendee asked what staff and students could bring to prepare themselves for a fight. He recalled once being struck in the head with a puck and said it "caused a fair amount of damage to me."
Oakland University began equipping its faculty and some students with hockey pucks this month as a "last resort" precaution in the event of an active shooter situation on campus, officials say.
The university faculty union's executive committee took part in one of the training sessions that included the concept in June and soon after, decided to begin purchasing and supplying the pucks, said Tom Discenna, president of the American Association of University Professors.
So far, the union has spent $2,500 on an initial batch of pucks. Each costs 94 cents to make and they are printed with the union's logo, Discenna said. They are being distributed for free.
The union began passing out the pucks on Nov. 9. So far, 800 faculty members have them, and another 1,700 are expected to go to students. The university's student congress has ordered an additional 1,000, he said.
Garry J. Gilbert, director of the journalism program at Oakland University, said when he first heard the idea, he was skeptical. But he signed up two weeks ago for the training held in a classroom on the university's campus.
"I have been carrying it (puck) around since I got it. It's on my desk right now," he said. "We got it the same week as the training."
Gilbert said his wife, Holly Shreve Gilbert, who is also on the OU faculty as an adjunct journalism instructor, has a puck with her.
“We both said, 'Let’s hope we never have to do this. If we fight back, this idea makes as much sense as anything else,'" he said.
First and foremost, the fact that we, as a country, are - by design - so powerless against terroristic wackjobs with deadly weapons that the American Association of University Professors, theoretically the creme de la creme of academia, sat down to discuss potential life saving solutions and agreed on a police chief's anecdotal assessment of the painfulness of pucks is about the furthest thing from funny.
On the other hand, the fact that a former youth hockey coach who once took a wayward clear to the face from the stick of a prepubescent boy thought the best way to combat gun violence lied within the confines of the rink is, in an extremely depressing sort of way, pretty hilarious. As a hockey fan, I can definitively say that only a hockey fan could think that hockey held the answer to society's biggest head scratcher. There's no chance Mark Gordon even considered baseballs, and a mere mention that, logistically speaking, they are easier to throw with accuracy probably would have made him lose what's left of his mind.
In theory, I'd say that the type of person who shoots up a classroom full of innocent peers is the type to run when there's vulcanized rubber to be blocked, as self-acting psychos typically aren't team players. In execution, I'd say it's extremely unwise to use a projectile to draw the direct ire of someone with their finger on the trigger of a loaded firearm. In reality, well, I just can't believe that talking about the campus-wide dissemination of a sporting good as the "last resort" precaution to keeping students safe from mass shootings is the actual reality. Such is life (as we continue to treat it like it doesn't really matter), I suppose.
Look, I love that quote. It's almost impossible not to. Professional athletes that wholeheartedly appreciate getting paid handsomely to pursue their passion at the most prestigious level have always and will always strike a chord with those that weren't blessed with the god-given (and oft-forgotten, time-intensive) talent required to play a sport for a living. The humility David Pastrnak displayed in, more or less, admitting he's cool with getting comparatively hosed on his contract so long as it allows him to pay his bills by playing hockey is undeniably awesome.
It's just not at all what we should require from those whose earning windows, atop a field that's as physically and mentally demanding as it is objectively fun, close far quicker than those of the people crapping on them for being selfish and/or greedy by doing the inherently human act of looking out for their own wallet. I don't know that William Nylander is doing the right thing for his career by holding out, nor do I know that he deserves the dollar amount he's looking for, but I do know that he owes a team that knew his contract was up when they invested $77 million in an outside source of offense absolutely fucking nothing.
Putting the onus on a 22 year old kid to save your salary cap, as opposed to someone who has already been crowned as a prodigy of team building for one of the most distinguished organizations in all of sports, is absolutely laughable at best and willfully hypocritical at worst. William Nylander should milk the Maple Leafs for all they are worth, as they've basically abused his utters in pumping every ounce of protein out of a rookie contract that might as well have been paid in peanuts. To see it any differently just because one of his most prominent peers is still made giddy by the thought of playing his way above the poverty line is to view the situation through either royal blue lenses or the scope of a jealous jackass. Blame the talent all you want, but those that aren't one awkward hit away from having secured their last bag are getting paid a hell of a lot too, and it's their responsibility to figure out how to balance the checkbooks in best assembling it.
I guess if you wanted the short story of what's been going on with a Devils' team that would be desperately pounding the panic button like it were a Piñata full of points if not for a 4-game win streak to open the season, the following 37 seconds is about as succinct as symbolism gets...
Of course, Sami Vatanen adding insult to another absolutely awful outing by a goaltender whose team has given him nothing in the way of comfort since returning from injury was just the cherry on top of what was a shit Sunday. Still, what served as the punchline also served as a fitting #FAIL during yet another game that was lost in either the first or the last five minutes.
During a lengthy 82 game season, it's silly to point out one instance in which a team let what could easily prove to be a precious point in the playoff race slip through their grasp. Luckily for premature prognosticators (and unluckily for those invested in the success of a team who, at it's most resilient, snuck into the postseason by the skin of their teeth), the Devils don't have one of those instances. They have about eight...merely 23 games into a season that went from a solid reassurance to a complete shitshow in about as long as it takes for them to leave someone wide open in the slot when Cory Schneider happens to be starting. As evidenced by what was yet another comically tenuous 2-0 score last night, the only multiple goal leads that have been any sort of safe have belonged to the opposition during a time of the year in which padding your point total is at a premium.
And look, I get it. It's inherently a gimmick, so the results of 3-on-3 overtime are bound to be fluky. Unfortunately, if not for a forgiving post, the Devils could have just as easily let the 3-2 3rd period advantage become a 4-3 regulation disaster last night. If not for the reigning MVP of the entire NHL whiffing on a one-timer, Marcus Johansson wouldn't even have gotten the chance to beat the clock in batting the boys into an extra session against the Islanders. Simply put, they drew about even in the "shit happens" department in finding two points that just as easily could have been lost, and that still left two points to be desired in games that sandwiched an unwatchable shellacking.
It's not that there haven't been some positives. Aside from the occasional hiccup (more accurately, coughing fit), Keith Kinkaid has played to the level of an NHL starter that they otherwise don't have right now. For those that aren't still crying over spilled milk that has molded into a rotten testament to retrospect, Pavel Zacha is starting show himself on the scoresheet after providing a palpable boost defensively when called back up. Even in comparison to the 6th round shocker that successfully filled in as first-liner to start his rookie year, Jesper Bratt has been nothing short of a revelation since his return. Damon Severson has been everything asked of him and more in making those that lazily criticize him look increasingly stupid. The whipping boy that is Travis Zajac has been productive in a way that leaves you looking around corners and in closets to see where he's hiding Zach Parise. Blake Coleman has continued an upward trajectory that's matched only by his pickle juice sales. Kyle Palmieri has gotten quieter in remaining on pace for a career year. Nico Hischier has largely avoided a sophomore slump, and Taylor Hall is statistically right on track with a season in which his dominance proved award-worthy.
The undeniably negative, however, can be summed up in the following example: Damon Severson and Andy Greene have played their way into occasional first pairing minutes, which has only been a painful reminder that the latter belongs nowhere near a first pairing. In essence, the roster's select successes have only sustained success in showing its fatal flaws.
Analytically, the Devils are probably due for some positive regression, but the fact of the matter is that the things that have kept those percentages from evening themselves out in the standings are the type of stupid and untimely mental mistakes that can't be solved by any amount of math. I don't think they are bad as their record, especially recently, indicates. However, in a league with so much parity, there's not all that much difference between the bad teams and the reliably unreliable teams, and New Jersey couldn't possibly better fit the description of the latter right now.
Joel Quenneville Appears To Be Enjoying The Time Off, As He Was Seen Ripping Shots With Fans At The Bears' Tailgate
I wouldn't have said this before I saw it in action, but - by complete happenstance - I think Joel Quenneville just partook in the one activity that could bring him even more support in the city Chicago. The vast majority of Blackhawks' loyalists were already firmly in the corner of the mustachioed man with which they celebrated three Stanley Cups, as opposed to the corner of the management team that needed a scapegoat for their stupid mistakes following said Stanley Cups. However, getting caught on candid camera slugging some soul warmer with the most devoted of diehards is enough to get the attention of even the casual hockey fans in the Windy City. That's just a "man of the people" move amongst the people that would be most appreciative of that sort of thing. The only thing that makes the heart grow more fonder than absence is alcohol, and Joel Quenneville currently has both those things working in favor of a resume that doesn't need reinforcement.
So suck on that Stan Bowman, and by "that" I don't mean some bargain basement barrel aged whiskey from a repurposed piece of winter sports equipment. Instead, by "that" I mean yet another...ahem...shot to the credibility of a front office that was already deemed foolish following the firing of the 2nd winningest coach in NHL history, even before said coach became family with a grateful fanbase through a shared indulgence in firewater.
If there is anything that the Devils and their fanbase should have learned during the most deflating of road trips, it's that the rigors of an 82 game schedule are far too unforgiving for any apologies to be necessary when things do happen to be bouncing your way. Anyone that watched that game can attest that 3-0 probably doesn't do justice to the run of play. However, while the sights weren't always pretty either, it was one unmistakable sound that served as the perfect score to holding the Flyers' scoreless. The ping of the post was just about as friendly to the Devils as it's ever been, and it afforded a team that's found ways to lose on the road a chance to start flipping that script.
Now, that's not to say the Devils were entirely at the mercy of the iron. For almost each and every time they were saved by the proverbial bell, there was a time in which they managed to blow a glorious opportunity to extend the most precarious of leads. It's not like they were doing nothing more than standing in front of a shooting gallery and hoping not to get killed. Instead, it's more like they took a whole bunch of breaks to fire at their own foot (instead of a wide-open net) in between standing in front of a shooting gallery waiting to get killed.
All this sounds very pessimistic, but the truth is that I was impressed with the Devils' defensive play as they fought for another leg to stand on after Sami Vatanen limped off early. Admittedly, the road trip from hell has set the bar extremely low in giving me a new found affinity for basic in-zone accountability. For example, I'm already about ready to die on the hill that Pavel Zacha could set the NHL record for games held pointless and would still be a net plus to a team that desperately missed his size, strength, and positional play inside its own blue line. Still, they had no problems clearing that bar against Philly. Simply put, giving themselves even a chance to win was too much to ask as of a week ago, so they are slowly, surely, and structurally headed in the right direction.
I want it on record that the last time I said the following was probably two seasons ago when I was convinced that Taylor Hall was about as appreciative of being in New Jersey as the Statue Of Liberty, but he was probably the most turnover prone player on the ice last night. That's not me complaining, as the disproportional load he carries for this team (especially without Nico Hischier in the lineup) is bound to wear on him at times. Rather, it's meant as a credit to a roster that was able to get to the finish line first without riding his cape-tails or following his lead. Seeing the point-producing and penalty-slaughtering revelation that is Blake Coleman team up with two rookies in going tic-tac-toe for what eventually proved to be a game-winning goal was obviously awesome in giving Brett Seney and Joey Anderson some career firsts...
However, it was even more awesome in showing a flash of what lengthening out the lineup could do for a team that's been insanely top-heavy. With Jesper Bratt looking as shifty and strong on his skates as ever, you no longer need a magnifying glass to see where the offense might, and I emphasize the word "might", come from when the first line (who also helped...ahem...wrap-up a long overdue road win) isn't on the ice...
Last but quite obviously not least, when Keith Kinkaid wasn't showing tell-tale signs of watching too many highlights during Marty Brodeur's HHOF induction, he was absolutely awesome...
As was the case when the Devils were putting forth winning efforts earlier in the year, I would imagine it's his crease until further notice. The post certainly helped but, as he stopped everything else thrown at him, he's been granted the benefit of claiming it was the only thing he gave the Flyers to shoot at. Cutting down on the close calls would be nice, but - for whatever reason - consistency in net has come part and parcel with consistency in front of it, and the Devils are back to showing a little bit of both after showing a whole lot of nothing.
To be honest, my first instinct was to downplay the impressiveness of this feat. Even putting yourself in a position to pot the entirety of a natural hat trick into an empty net in 91 seconds of game time requires some skill, but all three of Brayden Point's goals coming on the powerplay (with the first two coming compliments of a two-man advantage during which they had an entire intermission to prepare) takes just a little sizzle off a historical heater for me. The Lightning are nothing short of surgical when it comes to dissecting a defense that's down a man, never mind one that's down two men, so - of their many quick-sticked assassins - the one that demands the least amount of attention was bound to get some beneficial looks.
That being said, with the first tally being the type of picturesque snipe that could break the top part of a half-full glass clean off without spilling it, I can't - in my heart of hearts - be pessimistic about something we haven't seen since the days in which goalies appeared to be manning the crease in futon cushions and blindfolds. It's a credit to the amount of top-end talent on Tampa's roster, but even someone as skilled as Brayden Point can quietly rain on your parade when you focus a little too hard on the type of storm brought by the combo of Kucherov and Stamkos. So, circumstances aside, a huge tip of the cap must go to one of the best second line centers in the entire league, even if he didn't leave anyone much of a choice while ever-so-quickly forcing the removal of hats.
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".