Just as I feared last week, the bye week break wasn’t kind to the Devils as they came out of their second long layover flat with desultory home losses to the Sharks and Senators sandwiching a sloppy, uninspired win over a pitful Avs team. Of course it’s entirely possible the Devils would have lost those games anyway, but it is too bad our best run of play since early November ended so abruptly. As a result, the team’s tenuous grip on staying alive in the playoff hunt – and what happens at the looming trade deadline – may hinge on this weekend’s home-and-home against the local rival Islanders.
Although it’s Toronto with 63 points in 56 games who currently has the second wild card spot, it’s the Isles with 62 points in 56 games that could blow the Devils’ chances completely out of the water this week with a sweep. Currently the Devils are four points back of the Isles (and five of the Leafs) with one fewer game played, so the playoff lifeboat’s already springing leaks as it is. However an Isles sweep would end the question once and for all, since it could put the Devils as much as eight points out of a spot with multiple teams to climb over. Not that the Devils have much to do at the deadline even if they completely fall out of it – other than rentals P.A.Parenteau and Kyle Quincey who could fetch nominal returns at best, there probably won’t be a lot of action from GM Ray Shero at the deadline either way.
I wish I could get more excited about this weekend’s games but right now it just seems like an inevitable death march for a team that still hasn’t quite found the formula that worked early in the season (mostly good goaltending and a hot Taylor Hall, both of which have dissapeared since – though in Hall’s case he really can’t help it if our stonehands forwards can’t convert on some of his great feeds). Especially considering the Isles have taken it to us for the most part in recent years, although with the way things are going maybe now’s when we beat them when they’re actually hot after their recent coaching change, while we’re awful. In the past it was the other way around with the Isles frequently playing spoiler to good Devils teams, it’d be nice to return the favor a little at least.
Barring a sudden and dramatic revival, the next time we can get somewhat excited about the Devils is before the expansion draft when Shero may or may not be able to make a move with a couple of the seven picks in the first four rounds of next year’s draft to improve the roster’s current talentbase. And as a season ticket holder who’s probably going to around ten more games before the end of the season – including two MSG 2.0 games – that annoys me to think about. Oh sure it’ll be nice to watch some of the kids like Steve Santini and Pavel Zacha continue to improve down the stretch and others likely come up before the end of the season. Maybe I’ll even get around to listening to some of the last AHL Devils games in Albany on the radio during the Calder Cup playoffs before they move shop to Binghamton next season. To a degree it’s unfotunate personally given I’ve seen a handful of games there with a friend who used to go of games when they were still the River Rats, though it was probably an inevitable final disollution of the Albany-Devils relationship.
While it may not be the best thing to admit on a hockey blog, right now most of my attention is focused on baseball and the Mets, looking to make their third straight postseason and hopefully go farther than even the last two years. Even my fantasy hockey team which was in first place comfortably for about half the season has gotten blown by mostly thanks to spotty goaltending, and I’ll probably finish in second place again in my 14-team roto league, for the fifth straight year…take that Buffalo Bills! Of course I have won that league in the somewhat distant past and fantasy hockey’s still for fun, until it’s not. I’ve only played one fantasy league for money overall – a fantasy football league last year where I put in $20 for an entry fee, and wound up winning $50 after ripping off two straight playoff wins to get to the finals of that league, but I came up short of the additional $100 grand prize, oh well.
I’m getting way off point now, but in a way that’s indiciative of how I feel at games these days. I am looking forward to tomorrow if only cause I’m seeing a pair of friends who I haven’t seen in a few weeks, and another friend that’s going to the game. These days usually seeing and hanging with other people are the highlight of the night at these dopey games. As horrible as the Devils’ home record has been lately I have to admit, things CAN be worse:
Yep at least the Devils aren’t the Brooklyn Nets…yet.