If those who weren't in attendance asked me what they missed last night with about 5 minutes remaining in what was potentially a candidate for the most nauseatingly "preseason" game of all time, I probably would stared back at them blankly until they walked away. Sure, Will Butcher looked the part. Stefan Noesen and Joseph Blandisi teamed up for a give-and-go goal that could have passed for chemistry on a team that's been biologically inferior as of late. Kyle Palmieri flexed what appeared to be a little added offseason muscle, but was probably just the result of him being closer to mid-season form than the rest of his peers.
However, all of those observations were made during what was basically the intermission entertainment for what turned out to be a night class in obnoxiously overbearing officiating. I get that the NHL is trying to increase scoring by adding more stupid, nonsensical penalties, but - boy, oh boy - did calling a bunch of face-off violations against players that apparently had no idea what the fuck a face-off violation is make last night's contest largely unwatchable. It wasn't so much a hockey game as it was a whistle blowing competition...until one person took it upon himself to remind everyone why they were watching it in the first place...
That's it. That's all I needed. Just a proverbial key bump of the good stuff from the end of an 18 year old 'Swiss Army Knife'. I don't think anyone should have expected Nico Hischier to step on the ice and dominate from the first drop of the puck, and - due in part to the choppiness of what could more accurately be described as a scrimmage - he was mostly held in check. Except for that time late in the game where he surgically stripped the puck while splitting the defense only to swoop in on net and casually slide the puck 5-hole like he's been doing it all his life. Throw in the fact that there was a '13' on his back and I would have been liable to think the Devils collected Datsyuk as Kovalchuk collateral if I was squinting from the cheap seats after about a dozen $10 beers.
Yeah, it was just one meaningless goal in one meaningless game, but it was meaningless goal in a meaningless game that required more talent than about 95% of the Devils' "meaningful" goals in "meaningful" games. If nothing else, Nico Hischier flashed the skill-set that got Nolan Patrick pushed down the draft board and regulated to the professional purgatory that is Philadelphia, and you honestly couldn't have asked for much more from his first preseason game. The kid came as advertised, so I think - at the very least - the Devils' organization can take a deep breathe and forget about having buyer's remorse anytime soon.