At times it wasn’t pretty, but the Devils did what they had to do this week in sweeping both home-and-home matchups with the Hurricanes and Sabres. After their easy 4-1 win in Raleigh last Sunday, the Devils rallied on Election Tuesday to send a 2-2 game to a shootout where for once the team actually looked competent enough in the skills competition to win it. On Friday, the Devils squeezed out a 2-1 OT win in Buffalo with an unlikely finish while last night they thumped the Sabres in a 4-2 game at the Rock that was seldom in doubt – continuing their home dominance early in the season. New Jersey’s 6-0-1 start at the Rock is their best home record at this point since 1990 when they started 7-0-1. Of course back then the third column was a tie, not an overtime loss…but be that as it may the team’s had a home ice advantage early on.
Part of the reason I’ve been doing weekly recaps – especially early – is the fact it’s hard to get into every early-season game while other things were going on, but now with the football Jets’ season nosediving, and an election that gripped the nation finally over with, at least I can pay more attention to the team going forward. Tuesday in particular I paid zero attention to the hockey, which is why I sold my tickets in advance. I figured whatever happened, I would be keeping my eye on the returns more than tape-to-tape passes. As it worked out, I would have been better off going to the game and just not paying attention to the results until the next morning. Especially since I stayed up late more or less out of shock over what happened, though I could have realistically went to sleep around midnight or 12:30, I only wound up with three hours of sleep that night and have been trying to catch up the rest of the week.
Among the things that chapped my hyde about Tuesday was just how wrong the pollsters were about what was supposed to happen and going to happen. These guys actually made sports prognosticators and weathermen look accurate. I guess I should bear this election in mind the next time I get on a talking head or media writer for a dopey prediction. What I did miss on Tuesday was a compelling game that included Nick Lappin scoring his first-ever NHL goal in the third period to tie the game at 2, while PA Parenteau scored the first goal of the game in the first period and the first goal of the shootout. I had been curious to see this new-look Devils team in the shootout with Parenteau and star winger Taylor Hall giving the team a couple better options in the skills competition than they’ve had recently…and neither dissapointed, with Hall scoring the clincher in the shootout.
After what felt like forever given what happened on Tuesday, the Devils returned to action Friday in Buffalo, and more or less dominated against the Sabres though they failed to break through against the immortal Devil-killer Anders Nilsson. Nilsson made forty saves and it took a seeing-eye Yohann Auvitu goal just to send a 1-1 game to overtime. To be fair to the Devils’ offense, they were without a key cog as Mike Cammalleri left the team due to undisclosed personal reasons, and right after he’d finally gotten going last Sunday with a hat trick at Raleigh. As I detailed in my video of the day Friday night, the game ended in unique fashion with a penalty shot goal, scored by captain Andy Greene who looked like he could be in the shootout rotation with a nice little deke to score through Nilsson’s legs.
Last night there was little drama in the game, watching it reminded me of how the Mets used to have ‘Taking Care of Business’ as the song they played after every win. Pretty much the only drama in the game was created by Marcus Foligno, who scored the tying goal early in the second as the Sabres came out of the locker room with their best five minutes of the night to begin the period. However Lappin continued to make an impact, wisely staying on the ice an extra few seconds when the Devils caught the Sabres on a line change and taking advantage of a beautiful Hall feed to beat Robin Lehner top-shelf to restore the team’s lead less than three minutes after Foligno’s goal.
From there, pretty much my only moment of consternation actually came with the next Devils goal, when Kyle Palmieri scored but the Sabres challenged it for offside. What annoyed me about the challenge is that coach Dan Bylsma was talking with the officials on the bench, I correctly figured they were looking to challenge for offside but the refs eventually went toward center ice to drop the puck…but only THEN Bylsma called them back over a second time to challenge the play after what seemed like three minutes after the goal. At a certain point you can’t be allowed to fillibuster to get an extra minute or two to decide to challenge – and on top of that the challenge wasn’t even successful so it was all an unneccesary waste of time.
There was little drama in the third period, with John Moore getting the Devils’ fourth goal – and their fifth by five different defensemen in the last two games. Matt Moulson did score midway through the third but the Sabres shot down their own chances to win with a couple of late penalties. Perhaps the best thing about the Buffalo games was the team kept the shot total below thirty in both games, and both goaltenders are still playing well, with Cory Schneider at his usual high level, while Keith Kinkaid‘s gotten off to a hot start and is back to the form he showed two years ago.
Now with the ‘easy’ part of the schedule out of the way, the Devils gained the cushion they needed and got to 8-3-3 before this next month where the team plays 17 out of 21 on the road starting with the West swing later this week with an appetizer in Dallas on Tuesday night before the California trip. Fortunately there are no back-to-backs on this trip, but it’ll still be a tough challenge. Usually I don’t stay up for the West Coast games but I imagine the 8:30 start in Dallas on Tuesday and the weekend 4 PM matinee in LA I’ll be fine for. Thursday against the Ducks I’ll probably see at least the start of the game. Monday’s 10:30 game in San Jose when I have to be up early the next day, that’s a punt. Hopefully the team can somehow get out of this trip with a split though that might be asking a lot.