Much like most of the tri-state area I was unexpectedly snowed in tonight so for once I was glad to have a Thursday night game. As always division games are nervewracking, especially going to Philly with all the shenanigans that tend to happen as their players and fans eternally try to live up to the Broad Street Bullies moniker. Not to mention our meltdown in Philly a few weeks back started our spiral from the penthouse to the outhouse and is a part of the reason we were just 1-7 on the road going into tonight’s game. Oh, and top center Nico Hischier missed his second straight game due to injury while top defenseman Sami Vatanen missed the final two periods after a reportedly ugly ankle injury in the first period. I say reportedly because I opted to listen to the radio again so I didn’t actually see the injury or most of the highlights.
Yet, due to a ridiculous amount of puckluck (the Flyers somehow failed to score off of five post shots), a goal actually being disallowed by the refs against another team with the subsequent review both going our way for once plus strong goaltending by Keith Kinkaid all propelled the Devils to a – ahem – gritty 3-0 win, finally giving the Devils a winning streak for the first time since the 4-0 start early last month. So far, the team is now 2-0 on the road when I listen to Matt and Chico, 0-7 when I watch or don’t watch other road games. Just saying.
From Matt and Chico’s description it sounded like an unusually subdued crowd in Philly, no doubt due to #storm2018 that evidently stunned the East Coast. Even leaving for home at 2:30 just a couple of hours after the storm started you could see things were going to be bad, in part because the salt machines weren’t on the roads before or during the storm until it was too late since most forecasts around here had called for 1-2 inches and slush, maybe freezing rain at night. So far it looks more like 6-8 inches and despite having a couple of slippery moments on the road I was a lot more fortunate than some of my friends, judging off of Facebook it seems as if three hours was a normal commute in North Jersey today.
Superstition aside maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t watch the game, it seemed like a hair-raising affair that belied the final score given the ridiculous amount of posts the Flyers hit while we continually botched our own chances including Kyle Palmieri missing an open net and Pavel Zacha of course inventing ways not to score. Fortunately some of the other kids stepped up in the first period on a play started by a ridiculously good hip check from Vatanen to cause a turnover, leading to a bang-bang play with Brett Seney feeding Joey Anderson in the slot for a one-timer goal, the first of Anderson’s career. Despite the best efforts of both teams that 1-0 score remained through the third period. Although an apparent Flyers goal was waved off in the first period due to James van Riemsdyk committing a shrewd goalie interference. For all the crap I give the refs (and it’s deserved) it sounded like it was a subtle play that thankfully this crew saw in real time.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity the Devils managed to get an insurance goal in the third on a Palmieri wraparound where he and the ref somehow collided after the play but actually it was Flyer goaltender Brian Elliott who gimped off the ice due to injury, evidently he pulled something during the play. Despite some puckhandling shenanigans from Kinkaid late he overcame them with his terrific puckstopping to preserve his third shutout of the season. For once, the Devils managed to hold a third-period lead without blowing it which may actually be a first, at least of our third-period leads that were under three goals. Also shockingly Blake Coleman scored an empty-netter to seal it, since usually our empty-net offense stinks. Not so shockingly, Wayne Simmonds tried to start up crap with Damon Severson with the game out of reach late but thankfully for us the refs precluded a fight and sent both players off with matching misconducts.
Of course there was no update on Vatanen postgame, leaving a cloud over this latest win. With Steven Santini also on the shelf, pickings are thin among our RD options. Heck, pickings are thin among our D options period. As the saying goes though, there’s nothing to worry about until there’s something to worry about.