Californiaaa Lovvvvvve! It's a good thing I am not a betting man. For I would easily be without a left nut and the entirety of my bank account had I bet on my predictions for the last three games. The Devils took to the left coast and somehow, some way, stole two out of three on possibly the most difficult of road trip that currently exists in the NHL. Not only did they win, they did it in impressive fashion. Three goals in a minute against Los Angeles? Two goals in 30 seconds against San Jose? How many suicides do you think those teams had to do in the dark after those performances? Daryl Sutter probably had them skating until they spit up blood. Can't give up three goals to the Devils in a little over 60 seconds and not face drastic consequences. Hell, after watching the Devils practice live on Thanksgiving I would be surprised if they have scored 3 goals in one minute of a 2-on-1 drill all season. Probably started using the smelling salts on the bench to see if they had to be woken up from a dream.
Credit to Adam Oates and Scott Stevens. This team has clearly played better hockey under their watchful eye. Is it the system? Maybe. It probably has a lot to do with the change in culture behind the bench. Can't just gleefully coast around while the man responsible for your NHL livelihood looks on directly over your shoulder. Either way, it has been a positive change offensively and defensively. Cory Schneider, a man that has taken far too much blame for this team's struggles, has remained as steady as ever in leading this team to two wins out on the west coast. As good as Kinkaid has been, the difference was notable when Schneider was forced out of the Anaheim game after taking a shot to the head. If successful teams are built from the goaltender out then this team could be in worse shape. The long term nature of Cory's contract, the rising promise of Keith Kinkaid, and the wealth of potential on the blue line all bode all for a stellar team on the back end for years to come.
If there is one thing that Pete Deboer can be criticized for it is doing all he could to castrate Adam Larsson. The kid, who is still shy of 23 years of age, is quickly shedding the 'bust' label so many were quick to tag him with. He began his transformation solidifying, the once atrocious, penalty kill for Deboer and has only flourished more under the thumb of Scott Stevens. I don't know if Adam fucked Pete's daughter or made a pass at his wife, but one thing is for sure. It would be difficult to argue that the player we are watching today wasn't capable of maintaining a top 6 role in terms of defenseman either this year or last year.
Well, I guess we can call the tank off. Not to say that this team has enough talent to come anywhere within 6 miles of a playoff spot, but they also have too much heart to lie down and die for a draft pick. While that may not be the best thing for the future of the franchise, it certainly makes watching them more enjoyable. At the very least they aren't giving away leads on a bi-nightly basis. In fact, under the new coaches you can pretty much tell when the Devils have it and when they don't. They have reached some level of bi-polarity where they either lose by 3-5 and only manage 10 shots on goal or they pull out a win. I guess i can accept those results over losing two thirds of the games in a shootout. Hopefully they can keep up the mediocrity through April and end the season on a high note. I would hate for two hard fought victories over the likes of Los Angeles and San Jose to just be an anomaly that worsens our draft position.
Bi-Annual Michael Ryder Rant: How is this guy not waived yet? How has Lou not given him the Salvador "IR forever" treatment? Honestly. He should be at the bottom of the Hudson with bricks tied around his ankles. Yet, somehow, I'm positive he would still find a way to float aimlessly around all three zones. I legit think he wouldn't stand out if you had him play open hockey with a bunch of drunk 20-something's on a Saturday afternoon. he is basically the hock version of Charles Barkley in 'Space Jam'. Just eyes glazed, ambiguously gliding around the ice with no distance destination. Only the Devils could sign a guy as a 'scorer' that would get to New Jersey and swear off shooting. It's a miracle this guy has turned his mediocrity (if were being nice) into nearly a decade long NHL career. I guess I have to give him credit for that. Although he basically the Grim Reaper of line combinations. Just killing the production of anyone and anything he comes in contact with. It is truly baffling how amongst a team of slow forwards, Ryder so easily stands out at the slowest. I have never made anything look as hard as Ryder makes clearing the puck past the blue line look.