Perhaps the only good thing about tonight’s latest disgrace in Detroit is that I wasn’t in front of the TV to watch it whistle to whistle. I missed most of the first period but from what I read it seemed like the team laid yet another turdburger, as they fell behind 1-0 with a typically desultory start. Sure, they tied the game in the second and eventually took the lead in the third period after I did get to start watching. Of course that just put us right where the Red Wings wanted us – in front in the third as the Devils would blow yet another third-period lead, giving up all four of their goals on special teams with the coup de grace coming when Will Butcher set fire to a power play by giving up a two-on-one and playing it very suspect, which wasn’t helped with ill-fated Cory Schneder giving up a bad rebound goal.
Enough is enough now…we’re just ten games into the season and I’ve officially had it with this team. We’re at DEFCON 1 now, in near-record time given how bad this team’s played for a couple weeks with what’s looming ahead on this road trip. There’s just flat out no excuse for game after game of this kind of crap effort, particularly after you just had your doors blown off you two nights ago in Tampa. To go to Detroit and that dopey new arena they have, and lose in regulation against a team that’s 3-7-2 and playing like they were expected to be – one of the worst teams in hockey – is just flat out inexcusable. And not only lose in regulation, but do the same stupid things you’ve been doing for weeks now. There are times where the process are good but the results are bad, and vice-versa. Well now both are bad, with the team dropping to 1-4-1 after the what now seems like an illsuory 4-0 start.
There’s no one single person to blame for this fiasco, but when effort and intelligence are both major issues, you clearly have to start with the head coach. For whatever reason John Hynes’ message only seems to resonate in odd-numbered years with overachieving 2015 and 2017 teams sandwiching a poor year in 2016, and now it looks like 2018 is fast heading for the dissapointing route. Sure, there was always going to be the possibility that this team just didn’t have enough to make the playoffs again in a tough Metro division but the fact this team is playing like they’re satisfied after making the playoffs (and getting bounced almost as fast as you could blink, I might add) is just mind-boggling.
I’m not saying there aren’t problems with talent or that the players don’t need to take their own responsibility, god knows with the former the issues that went unanswered for this team in the offseason are all coming back to haunt them now – lack of a second-line center, lack of a real top four LHD aside from the aging Andy Greene, and the question marks in net. You want to blame Ray Shero, go ahead. At some point patience needs to give way to urgency, especially when you need to have your league MVP believing in the future path of this team before approaching him on an extension this offseason. You want to blame ownership for not spending on a team that’s $20 million under the cap, go ahead. It’s still just speculation whether they’ve put the cuffs on Shero or not so it’s pointless to even go there right now.
Even with what the team doesn’t have, that’s still no reason for the constant killer penalties, mental mistakes and suspect effort that’s plagued the players we do have all season long, or at least since the 4-0 start. Did this team really believe their crap didn’t stink at that point after two weeks of the season? When you lose in Tampa Bay that’s one thing, even with how ugly the loss was. But tonight…oy vey.
Of course it would be nice to HAVE a second line in the first place (cough Pavel Zacha cough Marcus Johansson), but the fact you can’t even beat a team who was supposed to be bad and is bad to begin with, when they don’t have an entire second line is just mind-bogglingly awful. In theory we at least have a second line…in theory. In reality? Zacha is still at ten games and counting not even having a point this season, and this was the bust that was supposed to be our second-line center going into the season. Yes he’s only 21 and it’s his third NHL season but he’s played nearly 160 games in the league, at what point is the player off scholarship now? In some ways Johansson’s been even worse given he was expected to be the leader on that line but he’s done absolutely nothing as a Devil. Sure, injuries played a factor in last season but even when he was on the ice he just flat out didn’t get it done. It’s of course laughable that Johansson picked the most meaningless time ever for his second goal of the season, with four seconds left down 4-2. I mean are you kidding me? He might as well have not scored at all, he hardly deserved to get off the schneid.
Defensively things started out promising but like the rest of the team has spiraled downhill, particularly in the last handful of games. Even the game we won against Florida the defense gave up way too many quality chances and in particular Butcher seems to have regressed this year, particularly since his supposedly minor shoulder injury. Not to mention the injuries to Steven Santini and Ben Lovejoy have made the third pairing a turnstile of rotating defenders. Granted, all the penalties don’t help to that end either, but still you gotta kill something off at some point. Special teams was utterly atrocious tonight giving up two PP goals, then two short-handed goals (albeit the latter was a seeing-eye empty-netter).
And in goal…well let’s just say it took one game for me to remember why Cory has exacerbated me over the last two years. Enough with the darn excuses, I don’t want to hear about the surgically repaired hip which is supposed to be better now, I don’t want to hear about him being rusty when he had three rehab games, that horrible rebound on the decisive third period goal just can’t be rationalized. It’s always the same crap though, he plays well until allowing the killer goal in crunchtime then here comes another loss. Maybe if it wasn’t for the last two seasons I’d be more willing to go the ‘but it’s his first game back route’ but he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt at this point. It just feels like he embodies loserdom at this point, like the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox.
It’s bad enough this team has lost five of its last six games, but what looms ahead is Halloween horror-movie type scary – division matchups at Brooklyn against a fired-up Isles team playing well for new coach Barry Trotz (certainly much better than our group at the moment) followed by a trek to Pittsburgh. Oh, and by the way three more road games after that. Yes we did well against the Penguins last year, but as the last few games have shown us…that was last year. Maybe this year’s megatrip is going to do to us what we feared the one in March was going to do to us last year. Clearly bag skates, coach rants and pleading haven’t worked to this point. It’s probably time for something more drastic now like a well-earned benching or three. I have my candidates of who should get the axe for a game or more to send a message, but really at this point just about anyone outside of the first line and Blake Coleman will do to that end. I’m not sure who else I’d exempt but it wouldn’t be too many more people than those four.
This team needs to start winning games, but more important they need to take their heads out of their rear ends first before they can even hope to win games again. Perhaps this quote from Hynes sums it up when asked whether it concerned him that Johansson said they’re losing confidence in the locker room:
In other words, baby steps.