I got to be honest here, I didn't feel good heading into last night. Obviously it's pretty hard to be optimistic riding a 7 game losing streak in which the team has looked like garbage so hot that a raccoon would probably treat it as his sauna instead of a source of food. However, the circumstances heading into the arena certainly didn't help matters either. First, they ran out of Andy Greene bobbleheads when I was third in line to get in. It should be noted that I really have no use for an Andy Greene bobblehead, but Christmas is about being given things that are probably more of an inconvenience than anything else so seeing that empty box lying in front of me really dampened the old holiday spirit. Then I went to get on the first escalator and it was at a dead stop as if Jesus took time out of his precious birthday week to give me one last opportunity to heed his warning that I was heading towards impending disappointment. Shit, by the time I saw that the first beer line was 18 people long I had already resigned myself to a continuation of the seasonal affective disorder that this team has given me over the last month.
Man, am I happy I was wrong. Not only was a win as satisfying as waking up to some Irish coffee on a white Christmas, but watching the Devils show some goddamn fight for the first time since their season hit the skids into the shitter actually makes me think they are just as tired of lifeless, demoralizing performances as I am. Now granted, a lot of that has to do with the Flyers being scumbags and embracing some 30 year old mentality that was effective when guys were still carving their sticks out of fallen trees in the forest, but it still warmed my heart to see them attempt to punch back for once...or twice...or 677 times....before the first period was even over...
Do I expect this 4-0 lambasting of a rival - that couldn't even muster 20 shots against a defense that gives away chances like a firehouse Santa gives away candy canes - to lead to bigger and better things? No, not particularly. This team is fundamentally flawed and is currently playing a style that - while necessary going forward - currently exploits those flaws. That said, they finally gave their All-World goaltender an opportunity to get back into groove with a goose egg that only required one "how did he even stop?" save instead of the seventeen (per period) that it usually requires. They potentially gained some confidence by putting forth an effort in their own zone that didn't resemble a bunch of soccer moms doing 'Black Friday' shopping. They got goals from the players they need to get goals from, and some of them even came when they had one whole extra man on the ice! There were still moments that made me want to dive from the upper deck faster than the Devils dove in the standings (See: taking a 'Too Many Men' penalty while breaking out of their own zone on THEIR powerplay), but this game was a sign that maybe the Devils aren't as bad as they have been the last few weeks and - in keeping my Christmas list reasonable - that's all I could really ask for.
I'm already clenching my cheeks thinking about tonight's game against a player who could lead the division in goals if you only counted the ones he's batted out of mid-air, but - if only for one night - the Devils weren't too bad. They may not be anywhere close to being "back", but let's hope they are done being...