Before this weekend I thought if the Devils lost both games in this home-and-home to the Brooklyn Isles their season would effectively be over, but after last night’s OOT results (including road wins for the Sabres at St. Louis and the Panthers at LA, sweeping their California trip) I changed my mind – they really needed to sweep the home-and-home this weekend to stay alive for all intents and purposes. Instead of treating the game like a must-win and putting Cory Schneider back into the lineup after an outstanding 42-save performance last night, he was rested for backup goalie Keith Kinkaid. And instead of putting Mike Cammalleri back into the lineup after he’d already been shamed with a one-game benching , coach John Hynes kept the same lineup including non-entities like Beau Bennett. As much as I detest Cammalleri turning into later-career Brian Rolston or Jamie Langenbrunner, you might as well have given him a shot tonight to see if his benching got a message through.
Clearly the coaching staff wasn’t treating tonight’s game at Brooklyn as a must-win. These are things you do in December when you still have time left, not in mid-February with the trade deadline looming and the Devils behind four other teams for the last playoff spot, when you’re playing one of your main competitors and can deal them an emotional blow with three straight losses to in-state rivals. Predictably the change in goalie and non-change in the lineup – particularly the former – both backfired in a 6-4 loss where Kinkaid had the worst game by any goalie this year and that’s saying something with some of the beauties Cory put up earlier this season. After a decent first period, Keith gave a complete non-effort in the last forty minutes, starting with a horrid wraparound goal allowed five-hole early in the second period that started the roof caving in. That bad goal was followed by another, and another in a spectactular goalie meltdown I haven’t seen since Marty wanted no part of the Stadium Series game a few years ago.
You would think at some point the staff would have shown some urgency and gave a clearly ineffective Keith the hook to try to salvage a crucial four-point game. I would have pulled him at 3-1, not only was it obvious he didn’t have it at that point but going down 4-1 would have basically ended the game with our popgun offense. At least I would have put it at a 2% chance we even scored the three goals we did to tie the game, but even with that coming back would have required actual good goaltending to hold it at 4-1, which Keith came up woefully short in tonight. Honestly the only reason the Devils had a chance is because the Isles’ no-name backup goalie didn’t play all that great either, in particular his last goal allowed to Taylor Hall which looked like a Cory special circa last week against the Sabres. You could have even argued once the Devils came back to make a 4-1 game 4-3 at the end of the second period Keith should have been pulled at that point. It’s a logical argument but I won’t go there cause coaches don’t usually pull goalies once the game appears stabilized.
Too bad the game only remained stabilized until Baby Tavares scored another softy like fifteen seconds into the third period, and another quick Isle goal after that basically ended the game again. And memo to the Isles’ GREAT player, if you’re going to be a d*ck and cheapshot guys and dive like Sidney Crosby has, at least win a Stanley Cup or two like Crosby first. A guy who’s won exactly one round in the playoffs doesn’t deserve the star treatment he gets from refs in this league. Of course last night and some of those brilliant calls Tavares sold couldn’t be helped since Chris Rooney – Mr. I can’t wait to screw the Devils anyway possible – was going to do his best to screw up that game from soup to nuts. Not as if the Devils even played well in last night’s 3-2 win, certainly the last forty minutes was one-way traffic but at least they had good goaltending that game.
Maybe another day I’ll complain about the coaches’ obsession with the horrible John Moore and how he’s teflon but I’ve pretty much given up thinking the staff is going to come around on that one. It’s amazing considering how much this team’s supposedly studying analytics now how they keep continuing to run out anti-analytic players like Moore, or Sergey Kalinin before Ray Shero finally took that toy away from Hynes this weekend, but whatever – the tankers have their wish and now this season’s all about what we can sell our junk for next week at the trade deadline. Any fan that’s excited about March 1 is just being stupid though. What are the Devils really going to sell at the deadline? P.A.Parenteau and Kyle Quincey who signed cheap contracts just before the season (and Parenteau couldn’t even get traded last year at the deadline)? At best you’ll get mid-rounders for them in a weak draft, whoopdie darn doo. Shero’s going to be selling out of the Sanford and Son junkyard next week, you’re not getting anything that’s going to appreciably help the team.
Of course there is the Cammalleri situation which got a little more interesting with being scratched for the second straight game but I’m not holding my breath there…he’s signed for two more years after this one, with a no-trade clause. Good luck finding a market for him in the midst of a career-worst drought. Are we really in a rush to get a second-rounder for him in a weak draft when it’s not like people are beating down the door to take his spot in the lineup anyway? I mean, Beau Bennett? A spirited but flawed Miles Wood? Or getting him to waive his no-trade unless he has some assurance he won’t be left unprotected in the expansion draft by whoever takes him. If he gets moved at all in the near future it’ll be after the expansion draft this offseason when you can also quietly broach that subject.
Once again this team’s season ended just after Valentine’s Day although last year it didn’t so much end as it was just the start of the downfall. This was pretty much the last stand for this season although it doesn’t seem that this staff either knew or cared that it was. The former would worry me, the latter would annoy me to no end. If you want to lose fine, at least start giving kids like John Quenneville, Nick Lappin, etc a legit look in the top nine. If we’re going to lose I’d rather it not be with ineffective plugs like Bennett, Devante Smith-Pelly, whoever. It seems the only playoff run we care about this year is the Albany playoff run.