I have done you all a disservice. Thinking back on everything I have wrote about this team since the beginning of the season, I can't seem to remember one post with an unquestionably negative disposition. Maybe that's because I expected the overall tone of the posts this year to be depression inducing, and thus I have avoided heading in that direction as long as possible. Maybe this team, in all it's averageness, has so far exceeded expectations that it's extremely difficult to let yourself get truly upset when they drop a couple close ones. Regardless, the Devils have had too many ups and downs to avoid acknowledging their flaws.
That's why I was all set to do so following their game against Detroit. I was ready to enter the holiday break on a 4 game losing streak and have no choice but to accept that the Devils were coming back down to Earth. An effort against the Panthers that could only be described as effortless (and not in a good way)? A close loss against the Ducks that was nearly as enthralling as whatever your senile Grandmother got you for Christmas? A shootout loss to Boston where the Devils played well at times, abysmal at others, and ultimately couldn't catch one break from the officials? Before tonight the Devils, no matter how much they have overachieved, deserved criticism. The offense had dried up and, not coincidentally, their energy level seemed lackluster. Tonight was SUPPOSED to be the night I finally took a step down a dark critical path that I expected to be all too familiar with by now...
...And wouldn't you know it, this fucking team did it again. It wasn't always pretty. It certainly wasn't well in doubt. However, the Devils came out and beat a more talented Red Wings on the road to keep spirits high for the holidays in and stay in a position that no one outside of their locker room expected them to be in at any point this year. Just when you are ready to count them out they turn around and make you look like an idiot for ever doubting them.
Nothing has really changed, nor should Devils fans expect it to. They are still extremely top heavy both offensively and defensively. They still can't afford any kind of significant injury to even one of their core players. They are still far too dependent on their All Star caliber goaltender. They still, at times, look completely overmatched. That's to be expected. The large majority of this team's bottom 6 probably doesn't belong in the NHL. It's a credit to them that they have done such a good job in looking the part and keeping the Devils in the playoff hunt. This team doesn't have to play perfect hockey to win games, but they have to play far better than most teams do to earn their victories. That's why their record at the break is so impressive, but it's also why they are prone to dropping a few games in a row. Maybe next time they do I'll actually get a chance to open my mouth before they shove my foot in it.
Goal Of The Game: I am not going to compare it to one of the greatest goals in franchise history like SOME people, but Kyle Palmieri's dump in that bounced right back to him for a tap in was 100% intentional, and just as unexpected and impressive as he has proven to be all year.
Underrated Play Of The Game: I am not saying this play saved the game, but at the very least it saved Devils fans from another minute of agonizing stress, and that's enough for me. Thanks Little G.
Stat Of The Game: The Devils are the only team in the NHL to have gotten at least a point in every single game they have had a lead in this year. That may seem like an underwhelming stat considering the existence of the "loser point", but the Devils ability to avoid turning comfortable leads into soul crushing defeats is a fucking godsend if you care to remind yourself of the last few years.