For a Devils' fan to have walked into Tuesday's game against the Boston with even a single ounce of confidence would honestly require a half decade of dementia. Patrice Bergeron...no Patrice Bergeron, it makes no difference. I've spent far too many years watching the B's relentlessly swarm Prudential Center's finest, unconditional of either team's lineup, that I'm half convinced that their Providence affiliate could show up and pin the Devils in their own end with the ease of a father wrestling his prepubescent son with a strong pour of whiskey in hand.
For that reason, I have hard time taking too much away from a sloppy game that was far closer in theory than it was in execution, until - of course - it wasn't close in anything but a mutual desire for a merciful conclusion. As they pertain to the Devils, the Boston Bruins are more of a beating stick than they are a measuring stick, so that one could have safely gotten crossed off on the calendar during its production. With this team appearing allergic to improvement and treating forward momentum like it is a myth of modern science, the game was realistically put on ice before a single player stepped foot on it. Simply put, the Boston Bruins were just about the last team to let the Devils kick their sick habit of undoing "all" the good will created during two-game win "streaks" in uncompetitive fashion.
That said, there are some small things I do take issue with, such as their "best players" looking about as close to engaged as 40-year-old virgins, regardless of whether they were playing against an opponent that has a very particular way of making them look prude and unpracticed.
P.K. Subban hasn't been anywhere near as bad as his odd pattern of having a majority of his mistakes be of the "is that guy drunk?" variety makes him seem. However, getting walked to the cross from which he appeared to be nailed by Matt f'n Grzelcyk, of all people, is a blasphemous level of indefensible defense...
I try to steer clear of being a box score auditor when it comes to analysis, so it's not my concern regarding Taylor Hall's inability to find the back of the net with the help of a GPS and his own personal search party that is growing at a rate as alarming as my hope the Devils don't offer him anything remotely close to his inevitably insane contract demand. Rather, it's him looking like a player who can't dismiss of distractions...while - unintentional as it may be - being a never-ending source of distraction. It's him appearing to feel the pressure of playing out a contract year...while said contract year serves as an awfully up-and-down audition that undercuts his value as the asset that he allegedly aspires to be.
I honestly don't even know how to explain what I saw out of Taylor Hall against the Bruins. Falling down unforced. Flubbing 5-foot passes that hit him directly on the tape. Turning the puck over like there was a ticking time bomb attached to it. I would say that he looked like he got body-snatched by Miles Wood, but - depressingly enough - Miles Wood has actually been more consistent in successfully filling his role, albeit a much less demanding one, than Taylor Hall has this season.
I completely understand the latter wanting to explore free agency, especially when you consider how unforgiving his career has been outside an anomaly of an award-winning campaign. What I can't seem to understand is how someone so supremely talented can have moments where he looks so, sooo lost while somehow leading the team in both points and advanc...sorry, force of what was Taylor Hall's habit...I meant regressed analytics...
I am not about to speak ill of the mindset or character of the savior that reminded demoralized and downtrodden Devils' fans what it's like to be happy while watching hockey in wearing his Hart on his sleeve during every single shift of his MVP season. However, if he's not already mentally checked out and blueprinting the packing of his bags then his bi-polar performance definitely could have fooled me. Goals (or lack thereof) aside, whatever cloth he currently looks to be cut from is tearable with two fingers and sensitive to each and every unsatisfied sound his dog ears might pick up from the stands. That's just a painful reality until the product he puts forth has a steady leg to stand on in arguing otherwise.
The truth is, Travis Zajac and Andy Greene are too long in the tooth to lead by prime example in chomping at the bit. This young team needs its most accomplished combinations of talent and experience, such as Taylor Hall and P.K. Subban, to carry the torch in guiding them from the darkness they've dug their way into and stumbling upon at least a glimmer of the brighter days that are hopefully ahead. Whether they plan on being here when the sun eventually shines on this franchise with more frequently than it does a dog's ass or not, the "stars" need to play like the stars. Too often they've been playing like they are entirely overwhelmed by both expectations and a shitty situation that was made possible at best and unavoidable at worst by an impending free agent whose game has manically (and largely scorelessly) dipped between floating on Cloud #9 and being caught with its head stuck in it...
I suppose there is a certain amount of comfort that comes with him knowing full-well that he simply has to be far better on a more unconditional basis. That comfort might compare favorably to being offered a wind-breaker while finding yourself stark naked in a snowstorm when you take into account where the Devils sit in the standings. Still, admitting you've been a (part of the) problem is the first step...especially if you want to viewed as something a bit more reverent than someone else's (extremely expensive) problem when July 1st hits...