With a road-heavy schedule in November and early December, it was imperative for the Devils to take full advantage of this four-game homestand. Despite tough opposition and tight games the Devils did just that this week, following up a 2-1 OT win over the Wild last week with two more wins against the Coyotes and Lightning sandwiching a tough OT loss to the Blackhawks this week. Getting seven of eight points on the homestand pushed the Devils’ record to 4-2-2 and gave them some needed confidence before the tough games ahead – in all, seventeen of their next twenty three are on the road including another Florida trip next weekend with a stopover at Carolina afterward, and a full West Coast trip that includes Dallas as well as the three California teams the week before Thanksgiving.
If there’s one thing you can say about this Devils team so far on the young season it’s that they’ve handled pressure well, with six one-goal games and another couple of two-goal ones ensuring a lot of close and late situations. That’s not to say they’ve handled having leads particularly well though, blowing a two-goal lead against the Coyotes in the third period on Tuesday before Travis Zajac won the game in the final minutes with a seeing-eye goal through the legs of Justin Peters, the nameless substitute goalie for Arizona who was just the tonic the team needed to break out offensively with five goals. Tuesday was the first time this offense had even scored more than two in a game this season. And for the third straight home game to start the season Taylor Hall was amazing, with another two goals pushing his total to five – all in the first three home games of the season.
Finally this week the Devils have started to get scoring from sources other than Hall though. Against the Blackhawks on Friday P. A. Parenteau and John Moore each scored to give the Devils a lead, but their penalty kill failed them as the Hawks tied the game both times with power play goals, before winning in overtime on a goal by one of Derek’s old faves Artem Anisimov. Despite the Hawks’ shaky start, we probably were due to lose to them after a surprising sweep last year. On the other hand, against the Lightning the Devils had lost five straight before last night’s game including a hideous 4-0 loss last February at the Rock. Much like the game in Tampa earlier in the season, the Devils jumped out to an early lead with goals by Adam Henrique and Damon Severson. This time however, the Devils added onto the two-goal lead with another by Devante Smith-Pelly in the second period, and held on despite some furious rushes (and a couple of questionable penalty calls) to beat Tampa 3-1. Severson got a well-deserved first star with a strong game and praise from coach John Hynes in the postgame for improving his approach this season compared to last.
I could put in some more analysis of the team’s start and individual players, maybe I’ll do that before the road trip starts next Thursday with a few days in between games now. With three home games this week – though I only went to the ones against Arizona and Tampa – and five overall this season now might be a good time to comment and/or vent about some of the changes this season regarding arena and ticket policy. One change that doesn’t usually affect me is opening the doors a half hour later. In past seasons doors opened ninety minutes before games, but now they only open an hour before games. I got to the arena early last night and was going to walk around a little outside but saw the lines to get in at 6 PM and figured I’d better get in, since they actually had a giveaway I wanted – flashing Devil horns. While they do have seperate season ticket holder lines it still took me ten minutes to get in the building. If the weather wasn’t nice I’d have been a little ticked off and there has been some complaining about that, especially considering how they told nobody about the new policy until just before the third home game of the season. Personally I get why you’d only open the building an hour before games on a weeknight since it’s usually a ghost town then but on a weekend it’s just stupid to wait till then, it’s a half hour less of people buying concessions and making trips to the Devils Den.
My biggest pet peeve though is the ticket situation. It certainly is possible that all teams are going to go to digital ticketing in the near future, especially as more and more try to gain control of the secondary market. Our sales team by their own admission got ahead of the curve and without warning before people paid for their season tickets went completely digital this year, with the option to ask for stock paper tickets (though I suspect that option is only going to be for this year) or PDF’s during the ‘transition’. However, the PDF’s are locked, further complicating a resale on the secondary market while initially the team was going to charge an extra $25 for paper tickets before quickly relenting on that and just giving them out on request. This team’s obsession with controlling the secondary market is coming at a cost, more and more people are going to decide they don’t want season tickets especially if they’re made to sell only on TicketExchange with an unrealistic floor sale price, and there’s still the onerous option in Terms and Conditions that the team can revoke season tickets if you sell too many although it’d be a suicidal nuclear option – especially considering you still have actual brokers doing business.
If you want people not to sell tickets on the secondary market, at least don’t also make it harder to transfer tickets at the same time now, since you generally have to do it phone by phone without PDF’s, and to get the Devils’ app you have to seperately install that and the NHL app because they’re inexplicably linked. Then you have to figure out how to access the season ticket account and log in there. Not only does everyone not have the apps or know how to use them, but not everyone who knows about the app has even been able to install them. I’ve heard of particular problems with Android phones though even my one friend with an iPhone hasn’t been able to install the new apps. In general it’s going to be an adjustment for the older season ticket holder, who isn’t as tech-savvy as so-called millenials.
Even for someone like me though, it’s been an adjustment. I didn’t want to wear the big cricket around my neck that served as a season ticket this year – and didn’t want to constantly have to give and take it from my friend who only went to some games – so I opted to ask for paper tickets, but when I have used digital (for the two games I redeemed because of the app promo) it’s been a pain, in large part because you also can’t stay logged into your account and have to constantly re-log in. That’s one thing that needs to be fixed if you are going to go all digital eventually, you can’t have people going through the metal detectors then spending two minutes re-logging in.
As far as inside the arena, there are really few changes – slightly increased price for most food and drink, a couple of new vendors…nothing particularly earth-shattering there. Management’s banned noisemakers now though, specifically the terrible horn that someone used to start the ‘You Suck!’ chant after goals (a leftover habit from the Rock and Roll Part 2 goal song, now like four goal songs ago) and other things like ‘Kill!’ on the PK. As if the angry young STH faction isn’t going to start the YS chant on their own anyway. But I don’t miss the horn if only cause it always sounded like it was dying and needed batteries. Most promotions are crap this year too, they haven’t given away the team calendar the last couple years and I don’t even notice the magnetic schedule among the giveaways this year. One of the few new giveaways I liked in theory was the blinking Devil horns before last night’s game, but as I feared they would be small, cheap and thus defective…mine were twisted and didn’t stay straight on my head while one of my friend’s horns didn’t even work at all. Also the team puts a cap – real or imaginary – on giveaways now, last night it was the first 9000 fans getting the horns. On Opening Night it was the first 10000 fans getting the t-shirts. Presumably as a way to get you to the building earlier. Where again it would be nice if you actually COULD get into the building earlier as opposed to having a quarter of the crowd arrive at 6 and jam up lines outside.
Oh and another annoying change this year while I’m thinking about it…now you’re restricted to going down for warmups in a couple of different sections, presumably to keep better track of people because they don’t want you sneaking down to the lower bowl and staying there the whole game. Well first of all if you have to worry about people en masse sitting in the lower bowl without tickets, then that’s a pretty bad sign that you’re not selling many tickets down there. If you sold more tickets you wouldn’t have to worry about people sneaking down there. Secondly it’s kind of hard to actually stay down there before the game when you don’t know what rows and sections are going to be filled up anyway. It’s also just plain annoying since most people want to watch warmups as close to the glass as possible and you have to cross over sections with scattered people in them at their seats early to get to the corner parts of the glass now, or in my case I have to cross over sections to visit friends in section 11 I like to see before games sometimes.
All of these changes – and crappier rewards for season tickets to redeem points for (with empty promises that you can earn points during the season without stating any way you actually do so) – all seem like little things and maybe seperately they are, and to be sure they still do have some nice season ticket functions like the offseason Q-A sessions with Hall and GM Ray Shero after the draft, and the early season player meet-and-greet though even that was a bit more regimented this year than it had been. However it’s annoyances like the ones above collectively that can make a difference in renewals when you constantly increase prices for sth’s while decreasing benefits, both anciliary and earned through tenure. Yeah I appreciate getting a new replica jersey per seat every few years but honestly I’m not the kind of person that likes to wear jerseys except in winter anyway. I’m more of a t-shirt with or without jacket person whenever possible though I’d prefer jerseys to most t-shirts since the t-shirts they give out are usually XL. And money isn’t the most important thing to me vis-a-vis season tickets, I just want to feel like I’m getting benefits that regular ticket buyers don’t get and I’m not getting ripped off by having season tickets when other people just pick a la carte on the secondary market and brag how they always get great prices while I get stuck with weeknight tickets that don’t sell. Even my extra tickets for last night were surprisingly hard to move on TicketExchange.
End rant for now, back to enjoying the actual hockey.