Game #19 – Hurricanes 2, Devils 1

After yesterday’s hideous loss, part of me didn’t even want to bother with the aggravation I could sense was coming in Carolina today.  We never seem to do well in that building (and also seem to play a disproportionate share of our games there on the back end of back-to-backs), had Cory Schneider starting and once again Nico Hischier’s day-to-day injury was ‘not today’ in terms of a return after being teased for the last few days that his return was imminent.  Are we pulling a New York Mets with injury disinformation here?  With all that I predicted 6-3 yesterday afternoon.

After thirty seconds that prediction looked pretty good, unfortunately.

In many ways I didn’t recover emotionally from the hideous first thirty seconds of the game where we gave up not one, but two goals largely on defensive breakdowns with an assist to Cory allowing a weak five-hole goal on the first one, granted it was a partial breakaway but still a butterfly goalie’s gotta stop that.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a hideous start in the first minute of the game and it nearly earned me an instant click off the TV.  As it was I turned the radio on and muted the TV instead, which I should have done from the start.  Why I didn’t, I have no idea…much like I have no idea why the Devils decided to start the first thirty seconds of the game so loosely.

Amazingly enough that was the last goal Cory allowed today.  Although it’s typical in a way since he does tend to make saves when we’re trailing.  When we’re leading or tied is another story…be that as it may it’s hard to fault the goalie when you only give up two, and other than his playoff win last April he hasn’t given up fewer than three in any other game during 2018.  Baby steps.  It’s just a shame this team can never take Cory off the hook when he at least plays halfway decent

While the record itself is only slightly misleading since Cory did win a playoff game after all, it would be nice to put those dreadful splits in the past.  Too bad it won’t be today because the offense pulled a complete no-show against yet another mediocre (at best) team.  And it would have been nice if the coach wasn’t a big dummy today either.  To wit: 

  • Why is talentless Stefan Noesen – who’s been playing poorly this year – getting power play and late empty-net offense minutes?  When you have other big bodies with more talent that can ‘screen’ the goalie too.  This idea that you need a talentless oaf to screen on the PP saps half the advantage of having an extra skater and rewarding a suddenly hot Pavel Zacha (goals in two straight games!) with PP time would have been nice too.
  • Why was Ben Lovejoy getting an offensive zone faceoff shift with two minutes to go down a goal?  I get no Sami Vatanen in the lineup but you should just roll Greene-Severson and Butcher-Mueller as your two goal-to-get pairings rather than going with a total zero offensively in an offensive situation.  Heck, with an o-zone faceoff you should drop the hammer and put both Butcher and Severson on the ice.
  • Why did Jesper Bratt, who’s been pretty much the only player creating offense the last two games only get just a hair above eleven minutes of icetime this afternoon?  Sure, it’s his fourth game back from injury but come on we aren’t talking about a baseball starting pitcher on a pitch count here!
  • Why are we STILL using that stupid backpass zone entry on the PP that every team in the league knows and is just lying in wait for?  Yes in certain situations there’s a virtue to a back pass to keep the D honest but not when it’s your ONLY zone entry of choice.  This isn’t the 1960’s with the Lombardi power sweep, there’s no virtue to being too predictable when teams have detailed video and film on you.

Yes the injuries don’t help our recent predicament but memo to John Hynes and Rick Kowalsky (who I assume is in charge of PP personnel), when you’re missing talent, that’s when you need to use the talent you have more!  Losing stings but losing when there are correctable issues is twice as frustrating and now that we’re under .500 and in last place in the Eastern Conference the climb doesn’t get any easier.  While both the Rangers and Islanders have overachieved their way to hot starts, the Devils have underachieved their way on the wrong side of the playoff bubble and we’re just one game away from Lou Lamoriello’s typical twenty-game marker for grading a team.  At best I’d give this team a C- right now, and that isn’t going to cut it going forward.

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