The Devils Cracked Down in Carolina and Finally Offered an Opportunity to Praise Their Improved Process
Lord willing, this will be the very last time I have to say so much as a boo about anyone saying boo. The Devils' fanbase collectively feeling an alleviation of anxiety that'd make you think Xanax bars were Friday's postgame giveaway after a torturously tormented team finally held tightly to a third period lead on Saturday is proof positive that bringing conclusive cheers was always the only way to put an end to jeers. I'm somewhat shocked that Taylor Hall didn't already know that fans are overly emotional and largely fickle brats, but hopefully this sudden wave of positivity starts to wash away both the negative energy of their own building as well as the stink of a storyline that makes just about everyone in it look bad.
Now, before I continue, you can go ahead and knock on Miles of Wood, because the very same New Jersey team that felt like they were set to fully source their supporters seasonal affective disorder in losing both a late lead and a shootout on Friday night was playing at a 109-point pace over the last six games by Saturday night. That's quite obviously a cherry-picked sample, but it's the exact same size of the one that got John Hynes' face photoshopped into clown makeup and pinned over every dart board currently residing in a Devils' themed man cave.
The undeniable truth of the matter is that the Devils are playing far, far more cohesive hockey as of late. All it took was an impressive road win over one of most well-structured opponents in the NHL to be able to look past the cruel and unusual circumstances of leads lost and focus on what's been a significantly more sufferable style of play...
The goaltending is still a massive concern, as recently (and desperately) acquired Louis Domingue would have to sprout about six more legs to be considered the savior to a problematic position group, but there's more going right than there is going wrong at the moment. Considering a season-opening stretch during which they looked doomed to be a doormat, that's a trend that everyone whose semi-unrealistic expectations were immediately humbled will gladly take.
Once a head coach gets labeled a know-nothing nincompoop by the fanbase it becomes a scarlet letter that not even a 10-game winning streak could completely scrub free, so I hardly think we're merely a couple thousand pacifiers and/or free nipples away from silencing the cries for John Hynes' job. That said, outside of some questionable line-up decisions and dumbfounding deployment, he's been better at it (with the help of Tom Fitzgerald) as he's gotten increasingly acquainted with a revamped roster. Much like the improved performances of his players, it's just far easier to both notice and appreciate when a winning formula actually produces a victorious bottomline...
Now, despite Nico Hischier starting to look like the type of developing talent that can make a $50+ million dollar contract seem like a steal before it even starts (as evidenced by him calling Jacob Slavin's jockstrap an UberX and sending it straight across state lines)...
...and Jack Hughes looking more and more like a man (the operative word) on a mission since being tasked with top line duties...
...the Devils still have a lot of work to do to crawl out of the hole of their own digging.
That said, we're starting to see a consistency to their cardio as they've managed to maintain the lead in their run of play regardless of whether or not they've failed to do so on the scoreboard. It was just one game, but it's one that highlighted what they are capable as opposed to undercutting any optimism by rendering what they are capable of a footnote to a seemingly fatalistic final score. We'll see if their road woes and third period problems resurface in Western Canada, but - in the building of a team that gave them fits before it was a contender - the Devils gave us an untainted look at what they could be going forward...without the deafening distraction of defeat.