BREAKING NEWS: It's simply gotta get better than that.
It would be silly to overreact to one game, because there are multiple factors that point to this team coming out of the gate slow. A formidable early season schedule that has the Devils starting in a state that's provided them nothing but late season nightmares isn't exactly a dream scenario. Icing a roster that has been turned over more than last night's outlet passes isn't what I would call a key to having immediate chemistry. There is a lot of work to be done before this group is a finished product, but that was to be expected. After all, this team is drastically different than the one that overachieved last year.
I would say that's probably what has knee-jerks so quick to act like one game is foreshadowing more of the same. Despite replacing a bottom six - that had fans racing to the bottom of the bottle - with a mix of trusted veterans and young, talented kids, the Devils still looked every bit as anemic offensively. The franchise motto is 'fast, attacking, supportive'. While they are well on their way to accomplishing their first goal, it didn't result in an improvement in the latter two. They still got pinned in their own end so much that you'd think the Panthers were playing entire periods with a delayed penalty awaiting. They still relied far too heavily on a goaltender that appears to have picked up right where he left off last season. They still failed to create more than a few sporadic scoring chances, and - at times - somehow looked more clueless moving the puck up the ice than the handful of handicaps they ridded themselves of during the offseason. So while I didn't expect the season opener to be pretty, I didn't expect it to be THAT ugly either.
A lot of people will point to the above game winning goal that had Damon Severson getting thrown back like a Thursday, but it was the lazy turnover just prior that concerns me. If this team is going to reach it's peak - which would admittedly have them fighting for one of the final playoff spots - then they have to play a smarter brand of hockey. The rebuild has gone surprisingly well, but - simply put - they don't yet have the talent to cover up for the amount of egregious mistakes they made last night. Their best players have to be their best players, and their worst players are going to have to overachieve. If they want to make the postseason then their margin of error is almost infinitesimal.
Damon Severson - whether he likes it or not - is the absolute epitome of the type of player that's going to need to step his play up a level for this team to be successful. I happen to think he will, but last night was a painful reminder that there is still a long way to go - and that holds true for a majority of guys on the roster.
P.S. Playing in their house of horrors with supernatural forces working against them? They should be glad they stole a point, because they never stood a chance....
R.I.P. José Fernández