The Devil is quite obviously in a lot of depressing details when it comes to the issues that have turned New Jersey from everyone's favorite preseason "dark horse" to something more fit for the glue factory than a playoff race. That said, I'm all for the delightful distractions they have offered a fanbase that was one more multi-goal collapse from a crisis center in keeping its composure about as well as...well...
Simply put, sandwiching a ridiculously reasonable and relatively unexpected Nico Hischier extension (that will make a lot of devout box score believers sound stupid sooner rather than later) in between a win over the rival Rangers and a first-career-turned-game-winning goal from Jack Hughes in the 'Battle of the Brothers' is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to helping the Prudential Center collectively avoid a panic attack...
Time will tell whether it was a product of them slowly coming together as a team or if the timing was just right in them clicking on the safety and putting down the proverbial gun before shooting themselves in the foot for the umpteenth time, but a couple steps in the right direction is much better than chasing their tail without direction. The harsh truth is that this young and, to this point, dumb team is still hundreds of yards away from being out of the woods, but at least they are no longer surrounded by a forest fire of their own sparking. John Hynes' seat isn't nearly as cool as an unused toilet seat, especially with him appearing to harbor an inexplicable prejudice towards all things Jesper, but at least it's no longer singeing his ass hairs. The Devils play in their own zone is still trash, but at least that garbage is no longer piping hot from the blaze of the dumpster it was residing in.
The last/first two victories are made to look far better by the inexcusable losses that accompany them on the Devils' minimum wage-worthy resume. Still, finding a way to win was marked improvement, even if that "way" was holding onto their butts so as not crap themselves before being bailed out by a hot goaltender in MacKenzie Blackwood. Mix in a long term commitment from someone who has all the makings of a happy and humble franchise cornerstone and you have a bye week that feels almost as much like an early vacation as it does a late vaccination.
The general tone surrounding this franchise could easily change as soon as tomorrow night. A Coyotes' team that has been nothing short of excellent at even strength is sure to offer an unforgiving test to a group that's made 5-on-5 defense look like a passive penalty kill at best and a blind person trying to read a vision chart at worst.
Still, an extended weekend that predominantly provided this unfamiliar feeling that people apparently call pos...a...tivity(?) was a breathe of fresh air that was as desperately needed as a Devils' line change after their fifth straight failed clear. As of this moment, it's more wait-and-see than "FIRE AWAY!". However, with that provisional patience being challenged with each and every posted practice lineup, now would probably be the best time to show some more real improvement before a crowd that's waited a long time for the dawning of a new era is instead left rioting in the aftermath of a yet another implosion.
This is the closest thing they are going to get to a fresh start after the first one turned rotten faster than the banana they appeared to be repeatedly tripping over in looking like a 'Learn to Play' clinic, so they damn sure better come out looking like a cohesive hockey team. After all, there is only so many first goals to be scored and contract extensions to be signed before you're forced to turn your focus to where the real successes shows themselves. Ya know, like, in the standings.