I'll be the first one to say it, the New Jersey Devils - as currently constructed - are not a good hockey team. Now, the truth is I'm only the first person to say it because literally everyone else who has been watching as two different backup goaltenders were unquestionably their best players in back-to-back games didn't think it was necessary to waste the words. Still, the fact that I am admitting they are flawed should not be overlooked while I try to argue they aren't as flawed as they've looked at times.
Make no mistake, the talent on defense is a terrible way to start a sentence because it implies that there's not such an eye-opening scarcity of it that it makes Mexico's clean water supply look fruitful. That doesn't mean I don't think that borderline NHL defenseman aren't capable of playing more focused hockey than they did in the following clips...
I don't mean to give the benefit of the doubt to a couple of guys who proved less than 24 hours ago that they don't deserve it. That said, I have no choice but to believe that a veteran like Kyle Quincey didn't stay in the league this long by rocketing passes into the shinguard of the most dangerous player in the entire NHL when he had literally the entire rink at his disposal. I know Jon Merrill's education at Michigan was cut short but something tells me a coach or two notified him that passing the puck to a covered teammate in front of his own net on the penalty kill is not conducive to winning.
The Devils aren't losing because they don't have enough skill to walk on water, they are losing because they look like they need the help of fucking swimmies to stay afloat in the shallow end. We're talking about turning the most elementary of basics into easily avoidable chances against. Mistakes that would make the balding coach of a Pee-Wee team rip a clump of his rapidly thinning hair out. Complete failures to uphold the principles of Day 1, "daddy still ties my skates for me" lessons. The first two goals against last night were so unforgivably stupid that they made the defense that stared at Lars Eller from afar like they just found out he was 'Patient Zero' while he potted the third goal look fundamentally sound by comparison, and - in a completely masochistic way - that's just flat out impressive.
The fact of the matter is that the Devils played a fairly good brand of hockey throughout the first period. Hell, going by their meager standards they likely had an entire game's worth of scoring opportunities through the first 20 minutes. It just didn't make a damn difference because of two inexcusable gaffs that are simply suicidal against a team that's markedly more skilled.
I repeat, I don't think the Devils are good by any metric. I just think it's literally impossible for a professional hockey team to be as bad as the decision making that led to the two goal hole they stood an ankle biter's chance of climbing out of. I truly believe that with the way the two guys below are playing they don't even have to be all that much better to appear average, but they do have to be a hell of a lot smarter...