The Devils Filled Another Glaring Hole in Their Suddenly Respectable Resume by Gutting Out a Shootout Win
I'm not going to lie, it feels good. Not just this sudden feeling of respectability, but rather coming away from an overtime game with something to harp on other than how moronic the NHL is for continuing to roll out an overdone gimmick that is 100x less exciting and 1,000x less in line with the sanctity of the sport than the extra session that precedes it.
That's not just my bias as a Devils' fan (that's watched too many uber-talented players deke the goalie out of position and the puck harmlessly into the corner) talking. After all, the only time this team's eyes are collectively made wider with confusion and panic than they are during a breakaway contest is, ironically enough, when the ice is their oyster. The Devils look as overwhelmed as a bunch of stoned teenagers scouring a 12-chapter novel of a diner menu when granted the gift of autonomy and options of 3-on-3 hockey, and just about every opponent has been quick to fill the role of pissed-off night manager as opposed to overly patient waitress. If not for MacKenzie Blackwood, that would be the prevailing storyline from last night, so credit to the goaltending for providing what's been their rare primary assist in achieving the goal of gutting out a tightly contested game.
The truth is that the feeling of dread that's been accompanying each and every third period lead could only be overtaken by the feeling of dread accompanying the clock striking zero with the score tied. Exorcising both demons that haunted their nightmarish start to the season, in back-to-back games, dumped a generous amount of holy water on the burning, "oh god, not this shit again" sensation that had the fans feeling as fatalistic as the team looked. I hardly think that finding a way for the Goose to make a contribution that was positive in nature, as opposed to fecal in nature, is going to be the catalyst for them turning a 180 after regulation. Still, it simply has to add to the confidence they've largely lacked after otherwise impressive 60-minute efforts.
Speaking of 60-minute efforts, last night wasn't their most awe-inspiring, but it was the type that is often necessary to pick up two points on the road. Aside from Blake Coleman throwing a behind-the-back pass from right outside his blue line, as if he just arrived to a season that appeared sunk by such stupidity, and Matt Tennyson filling the annual role of third-pairing punching bag a little too perfectly, the self-sabotage continued to be greatly diminished. The comfort provided by chemistry now consistently has the team...well...actually appearing to be one. It's no coincidence that that has allowed for everyone's favorite unproven to adapt to something other than complete chaos while maintaining the active roster's delicate balance of at least one token Jesper at all times...
That win over Winnipeg is obviously far cry from the type to be replayed on MSG during the offseason, but it is the type that good teams typically win and bad teams typically don't. That's not to say that the Devils are one or the other right now, but they've started what easily could have been a confidence-crushing road trip by exhibiting more far more positive signs than negative. If they can continue to get competent goaltending behind them then there are hardly any recent reasons to believe there aren't still better things in front of them.
With Taylor Hall getting into a groove, Nico Hischier looking seven million dollars worth of dynamic, Miles Wood having Wayne Simmonds help pen the prologue to his redemption story, and the defense looking entirely unfamiliar in its downright decisiveness, the Devils are starting to fill the gapping holes in a resume that was short quite a few qualifiers and requirements as of less than a week ago. Whether they can continue to find ways to get the job done on the road remains to be seen, but they have - at the very least - proven themselves capable of consideration while making their head coach's job security a topic for only the idiotic.