Life is like sports in a lot of ways. Sometimes life just sucks. Sometimes sports just suck. This last month has been the latter as a Devil fan (and really most of the last year adding in the Mets and Jets). Everything about this month has sucked, between the mounting injuries, the unprofessionalism of the refs and the league against us, overrated goaltending, horrible defense and the return of the 2014-ish Devils that could do everything BUT put the puck in the net. Guess longtime readers can tell from the YT clip that now this is a time to panic as a Devil fan. Loved WARGAMES the movie and this is DEFCON 1 territory right here. Everything that can go wrong has as the team’s in full collapse mode and now back on the bubble of a playoff spot.
I don’t even really want to write anything, I’m that disillusioned over the last three games in particular, although this bad streak of the Devils goes back before that. Ironically enough, with the first hideous out of nowhere goal reversal against the Devils against the Sabres way back in late December that helped torpedo our five-game winning streak and started this 2-6-3 cycle of death. I don’t want to continually harp on the refs and the league cause god knows this team’s done enough to shoot itself in the foot during this stretch too. Our no-shows against the Flyers and Wings haven’t helped matters at all and I was ticked off leaving the Rock last night for the first time in weeks since the aformentioned Sabres game which started this all. But let’s be honest, leaving sore loserdom out of it, this eleven game stretch should be a mediocre slump that’s been artificially turned into a death spiral.
I don’t want to re-adjudicate the offside calls early in this streak, the missed too many men on the ice against the Caps or anything else before tonight cause tonight threw more than enough material to send me to the loony bin. Going to Boston who’s only the hottest team in the NHL at 12-0-4 in its last sixteen games was gonna be a tall order under the best of circumstances, but with the team fighting a horrible slump and Taylor Hall being out for the second straight game with a hand injury? It would almost have been a bonus to get anything out of tonight’s game, except for the fact the team already blew up what little momentum it got from winning two in a row against the Isles and Caps with less than stellar efforts against the Flyers and Wings. Yet, it was the Devils who came out strong in this one – buoyed by an impromptu team meeting after the hideous 3-0 loss against Petr Mrazek and his goalposts. Even after dominating the first period though, they still couldn’t dent the impentrable wall that is the scoreboard.
Until finally in the second period, Miles Wood struck and seemingly relieved a ton of pressure on the team. Despite a laughingly fluky deflection from Riley Nash that took an evil swerve and tied the game, the Devils still kept coming and took the lead a couple minutes later with a Damon Severson one-timer. At 2-1 and playing well things looked pretty decent for once. Then…IT happened, a double-barreled ref punch of missing an obvious boarding that could have injured Nico Hischier, and to make a bad situation worse dinged Miles Wood for retaliating and also giving him a SECOND penalty on the same play, making it a phantom double minor. It almost made it worse that the refs actually admitted their mistake to Wood later on.
Yeah you guys can take your apology and shove it. That double minor (and a subsequent penalty on Marcus Johansson) completely changed the game, giving the Bruins an extended 5-on-3 where they not only scored but also caused goaltender Cory Schnieder to get injured stretching out to try to make a desperation stop. Things went from maddening to comical when there was an extended delay after the tying goal, both because the supposed best refs in the world couldn’t figure out what penalty to take off the board after the goal, and because the clock at TD Garden somehow kept going up on the penalty clock instead of down. A mechanical mistake is one thing but NHL refs should know how to allocate penalty time. It shouldn’t be too much to expect a competent, fairly officiated game but this is par for the course in the NHL.
Cory’s injury had far reaching effects, for even after the Devils somehow stabilized the game and looked like they were going into the locker room tied, stupidity took over in the final minute of the second with a Sami Vatanen shot that went fifty feet wide, a horrendous Ben Lovejoy pinch leading to a two-on-one, and Cory getting abused by Brad Marchand who deked our great goalie out of his skates despite only having the near part of the net to work with. Finally after that goal Cory was taken out, seemingly a shot too late as it turned out. I was so disillusioned by this point I barely paid attention in the third period, knowing what was going to happen once we went behind, with everything else going on.
Once again Ken Appelby did a fine job in relief and kept the team in the game (what a novel concept, goalies keeping the team in the game as opposed to costing them the game), but you just knew the Devils weren’t scoring. Not when Severson of all people got a breakaway chance and took a pathetically weak wrist shot from far out. Not when the refs finally deigned to give the Devils a power play late in the third period and they failed to convert. Not when the ghost of Kyle Palmieri got stoned one last time with under twenty seconds left by Tuukka Rask. And certainly not when the refs conveniently missed a post-whistle elbow from Marchand on Johansson directly in front of them during the aformentioned power play that not only injured the Devils forward but should have been a late 5-on-3.
But that’s okay cause the refs were sorry they called a phantom penalty on Wood. Yeah they sure looked sorry conveniently missing that one and completely changing yet another hockey game. It’s one thing to be incompetent but this continual one-sided reffing is smelling unprofessional and I’ve flat had it with everything – with the team, the refs, the hockey gods. A once great season is now threatening to disintegrate, and once again the Devils look like pretenders – just like 2013 and 2015 when they had unexpected strong starts and died down the stretch. Even last year they got off 9-3-3 and died. With one more game before the All-Star break I’m now in a faux Jim Mora type mood. Only instead of hoping for one lousy win I’m hoping for one lousy game where our key players can avoid the injury bug, and one lousy game where I’m not cursing out the unprofessionalism of this clown show of a league.