We fans can get a little superstitious from time to time. At times when the team’s slumping we try to change things up (or conversely when going well, we try to repeat our same routine) as if anything we do actually affects the team’s on-ice performance, just to avoid the dreaded jinx. Heck, players themselves can get pretty superstitious too, just ask most of them. Partly with that in mind, I decided to go straight radio for tonight’s game – no TV, no Twitter – just listening to Matt and Chico online. Actually my motivation wasn’t so much off of any kind of belief the team would play better but more that I needed the calming influence of Chico in case things went to crap.
I may have to do this for a few more games going forward judging off of tonight.
Other than the rout of the Capitals in the home opener, tonight’s demolition in Pittsburgh was the team’s most complete game of the season. Sure the Penguins haven’t been playing at their own usual high standards lately, losing four straight including a 5-0 whitewash at the hands of the Leafs a couple nights ago, but that’s just all the more reason to put the hammer on a team when they’re not going well. Of course, that’s easy for me to say with the Devils having come off of three straight losses to open their season-high seven-game road trip. In fact, tonight was the Devils’ first road win all season, in their fifth game away from the Prudential Center (not counting the ‘home’ game win in Sweden).
As much as I like the TV crew, Chico’s a treasure to listen to. He was in rare form tonight both with his early observation that the Penguins were off their game, and his usual complement of Chico-isms, saying the Devils defensemen were hitting snakes between the eyes after Will Butcher and Ben Lovejoy had apparently scored the initial two goals (Lovejoy’s was later changed to Brian Boyle). Not to mention his exaggerated John Sterling-esque call on the aformentioned Lovejoy/Boyle goal. You could tell how pained ex-goalie Chico was when Keith Kinkaid gave up a floater shortside for the tying goal in the first period, fortunately that wouldn’t matter in the end as the Devils turned a close game in the middle of the second period into a rout by the early third.
Of course listening on the radio you can only get so much of a sense of how the game goes, and don’t really get to watch individual players as much or see what’s happening now that we’re spoiled with HDTV to watch with – but perhaps we shouldn’t view games with such a critical eye all the time, especially in November. If the radio was good enough for fans before the ’50’s then why not go old-school? Not that I needed a TV to see that the first-star of the game was clearly Boyle, whose natural hat trick was a welcome surprise and the first of the big man’s long career. Ironically it was Hockey Fights Cancer night in Pittsburgh, and nobody’s a better example of that than Boyle himself, in fact he was just recently declared cancer-free.
Goals from Butcher and Travis Zajac sandwiched Boyle’s natural hatty and for once there was no real angst for the men in white and red, or us. After a poor few games, Butcher’s opener had to be a sigh of relief for him. Our previously nonexistent second line actually chipped in a goal with Marcus Johansson assisting on Zajac’s marker on the first shift of the third peroid. Ex-Penguin castoff Jean-Sebastian Dea assisted on both first-period goals as the fourth line contributed big-time although two of Boyle’s three goals actually came on the power play. Special teams had been a sore spot lately but going 3-3 on the PK and scoring twice with the man advantage changed that.
Perhaps the only bad thing about tonight’s game is the Devils don’t get a lot of time to savor this one with a trip to Ottawa tomorrow. Then again maybe that’s a good thing, don’t give the team time to get big heads again. After Kinkaid had a 35-save game will coach John Hynes go back to him tomorrow on a back-to-back? As important as I think the rest of this road trip is, and as down on Cory as I am I’m still not sure we’re quite at the point yet to go to the wall playing Keith in 90% of the games. It’d be nice to give Cory a shot against a bad team, of course if he flops then there’s a problem and Keith’s the clear starter till further notice, which he may well be anyway.
Programming note: Don’t expect an immediate recap for tomorrow’s game, as like most of America I’m going to be unhealthily immersed in the TV and online coverage of the midterm elections. I probably will wind up taping the Devils game and watch it either Wednesday or Thursday, assuming there’s anything worth watching on replay. Obviously I’m not going to push politics on anyone here, except to say elections have consequences and go vote if you’re physically able to. Don’t leave your ballot blank or protest vote for Gritty because you don’t like the major candidates. Vote, and make it count with an informed decision.