In retrospect, the only thing that could, should, or would have gotten in the way of seeing what was easily the Devils' most incredibly inept performance of the season coming was blind hope. After emptying the tank to tie things up late against Winnipeg on Saturday, just about every epidemic that has plagued this team was on full display in overtime. Hesitancy with the puck that led to inexcusable turnovers. The ability to make basic defensive principles look like they were only more of an inconvenience than taking out the trash in wasting their own golden scoring opportunities. The Prudential Center might as well have been popped like a balloon when the Jets' tapped home the game winner, because managing to pull one point out of their ass only made the entire building's deflation that much more palpable after they actively found ways not to get two. Considering an opponent that has built off a dominant playoff series in making the Devils look like they are playing an entirely different sport (and doing so in weighted equipment) this season was en route to 'The Rock', a 60 minute pity party probably wasn't all that unpredictable.
That said, the fact that those in attendance last night were initially as optimistic as a mortician with seasonal affective disorder didn't make the unrelenting pessimism playing out on the ice any easier to bear. Long story short, the Devils were pathetic. Overmatched would typically be a good way to put...if they had even bothered to show up to the match. What took place last night wasn't even an ass-kicking, because they barely got off the mat long enough to expose their butt-cheeks. The Lightning got them down and kept them down, but in an extremely casual way that highlighted the depressing disparity between the two teams. I suppose it could be best described as a bullying, because they were ready to play the victim in handing over their lunch money before one single fist even got raised.
The truth is that Murphy's Law slammed it's unforgiving gavel down on the Devils, and they've responded by gripping their sticks as tightly as they've clenched their assholes as the season has devolved into one long bout of constipation. It's just as much, if not more so, due to trying too hard as it is not trying at all, and it you needed proof of that then look no further than Taylor Hall.
The reigning MVP of the entire league was benched during the second period for letting a routine outlet pass that he could have caught in his sleep last year glide helplessly under his stick only to deposited in the back of his net in a way that made all 73 seconds of positivity provided by Egor Yakovlev's first career NHL goal seem patronizing. There's not a doubt in mind he wants better for this team, but even someone who successfully carried them last year has looked like he knowingly took on two too many bags of groceries in mishandling pucks all over the place as of late. I genuinely can't believe I'm saying this, but his prolonged seat on the bench was well deserved, if only because all ten participants on a perfect penalty kill of a putrid powerplay couldn't all fit into it.
Speaking of the powerplay, there might not be an area of the game in which there lack of confidence proved more laughable. Passes to vacated points. Uncontested cross ice feeds that were closer to being caught by their intended target's mouth, hibachi-style, than landing on their tape. While Brayden Point was comfortably nuzzling his way into an abandoned slot to end up on the receiving end of a play that everyone, except the Devils apparently, knew was coming, New Jersey used their time with the extra man as nothing more than an opportunity to get the game two minutes closer to completion. Hell, they may have failed in doing that, as they were so uninspiring that it felt like even time stood still.
Because it made for a fitting ending to the same ole' story, I considered the conclusion of the game reached when Steven Stamkos was left alone in his sweet spot to fire an extremely stoppable shot past everyone's favorite scapegoat, Cory Schneider, all of twenty seconds into his relief appearance. I may have gone comatose after that, because I hear they aimlessly whacked the puck around for another 19 minutes and 40 seconds, but almost everything that came prior was the picture perfect outline for a painting entitled 'The Lost Season'. As inevitable as it's starting to look, I personally think they'd live to regret it if shit-canned John Hynes as an attempted quick fix at a foundational problem. However, they better find some sort of footing fast because they are about 40-some-odd long strokes of stupid away from putting it on sale.