A crisp fall afternoon, Sunday at 1 PM is always a great day for…Devils hockey?! Don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances I’d have been there this afternoon – especially after missing Thursday’s game and with the team off to a nice start – but the NHL in its infinite wisdom after having no games at all on Friday scheduled a local game directly opposite the football Jets, not to mention across a 1 PM slate in the NFL. It’s almost as if the NHL’s deliberately trying to sabotage our attendance, though the home opener did ‘sell out’ Thursday despite being in conflict with the Giants-Eagles game. I gave passing thought to going today regardless once the outdoor red carpet arrival of the Devils players and staff got postponed from Thursday’s home opener due to the bad weather outside of Prudential Center but let’s face it, the third game out of 82 in a hockey season just isn’t going to compare in importance to any NFL game where your team’s still relevant.
Seeing as I couldn’t watch two games at the same time, I ultimately decided to record the Devils game and watch the Jets game live. Admittedly I was a little wary about our chances against the souped-up Sharks who’ve done well against us in recent years – and that was before their offseason trade for two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson, giving San Jose a dream 1-2 punch of Karlsson and Brent Burns on defense. In fact, our last home win against the Sharks came all the way back in 2011 – before current San Jose coach Pete DeBoer even had coached a game of his three-and-a-half year tenure with us. Another touch of irony involving DeBoer and current Devils coach John Hynes was noted by the Devils’ own Twitter in the pregame:
In many ways, Hynes has never been more popular with the Devils’ fanbase as the current HC of the NJD got one of the loudest ovations on Thursday night before the home opener. For sure, making the playoffs for the first time in six years has something to do with that, but also I believe the clips that have been shown of Hynes on various social media outlets including the Behind The Glass series on the NHL Network have given people more of an appreciation of the coach’s personality. While I admit, I was a skeptic during his second season when the team took a couple steps back, he’s certainly been able to get the players to respond once he and GM Ray Shero were able to bring in and integrate more players that fit the fast, attacking and supportive credo.
Someone else whose popularity is likely at an all-time high is Kyle Palmieri – who seemingly proved the adage that good things come in threes this afternoon, after he put together his third straight game with two goals to start the season. If acquiring Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson was Shero’s best move as a Devil, acquiring Palmieri for two draft picks wasn’t that far behind. After scoring eighty goals in his first three seasons as a Devil, is it possible K-Palm is actually stepping up a notch this year? Certainly playing with Hall and super soph Nico Hischier will give the local boy a great chance to match or surpass the thirty goals he had his first season with the red and white.
Not watching the game live, I missed this K-Palm outburst and was pleasantly surprised when I heard he scored the other two goals. I did tune in during a commercial break just after the Devils’ third and eventual winning goal from a far more unlikely source – waiver addition Jean-Sebastian Dea, who poked home a loose puck in the crease for his second goal of the season. A previously unheralded forward, who put up 50 points in 70 games while playing for the Penguins’ AHL affiliate last year, Dea’s only getting a chance to play with forward Jesper Bratt on the shelf to start the season, and he’s making the most of his opportunity so far despite a limited fourth-line role.
Fortunately the Jets were winning their own game, if not easily then at least somewhat undramatically in the fourth quarter, so I was able to tune in just in time for the frantic Devils finish late in the third period. Or at least the last part of the frantic finish, after blowing their own four-minute power play that could have sealed the game, the Devils had to kill off two late penalties in the final few minutes – including a nearly two-minute long 6-on-4 once the Sharks emptied their net while on the latter PP. As he did down the stretch last year, goalie Keith Kinkaid made a ton of high-pressure saves cool as a cucumber in a close game and overall had 37 saves on the night. Somehow that performance didn’t merit one of the three stars from the attending media, although once again clearly K-Palm was the man of the hour. Maybe he’s more inspired to score goals to get those on-ice postgame interviews with new host Erika Wachter…j/k.
In the end it was the perfect Sunday for us Devils/Jets fans. All that was missing was the obligatory Pete press conference where he goes into coach cliche mode about playing in a tough building and going against a hot goalie. Would have been nice to hear one of those about us, especially after his success against us since getting to San Jose. Just messing with ya Pete, I still like you buddy – even if the end was a little rough and there needed to be a change once losing started to be accepted. Fortunately both the team and its former coach are both in a better place now.