Through the season’s first quarter there’s been very little to be thankful for as a Devils fan, at least in terms of overall results. A 4-0 start got buried with just four wins in their next fifteen games before last night’s pre-Thanksgiving showdown with the Habs. Our bad start has been compounded by our New York-area rivals both having surprisingly good starts to their season. Even Montreal, which was also supposed to be in full rebuild mode also came into the Prudential Center off to a hot start under former Devils coach Claude Julien. For a non-division game there used to be something pretty special about a Devils-Habs game with HOF goalie Martin Brodeur’s hometown connection and how he usually rose to the occasion against his boyhood team throughout his career.
With Marty back in the organzation now, perhaps the team channeled his spirit for one night, giving one of their most dominant performances of the season against Montreal and finally giving everyone – themselves and fans alike – a slight reprieve after a month of general angst. Of course there won’t be much of a chance to savor the turkey today before the Devils have to take on a hungry Islanders team tomorrow afternoon, coming off of two blowout losses of their own. That game will show whether last night was an outlier or hopefully the start of climbing out of a hole we’ve created through the last month plus.
Last night may well have been just one of those games where everything works. Or almost everything anyway. Kyle Palmieri’s masterful tip goal in the first period was followed almost immediately by an equalizer by Johnathan Drouin, who beat Keith Kinkaid with a knuckle-puck type shot shortside. It’s never good when the PA announcer can’t even read off the scoring on the Devils goal before the opposition takes the air out of the building tying it up. At least there would be a lot more highlights from the team in red to come, starting with a familiar combination giving the Devils back the lead late in the first when Taylor Hall spun around behind the net and found Nico Hischier on the doorstep for an easy goal. Hischier’s return clearly made a difference last night and seemed to revitalize the first line.
Even up 2-1 after the first period didn’t put me at ease all that much. With the way this season’s gone being up one feels like being tied since you know a late blown lead is likely. Clearly the only solution is to get a lead big enough even this team can’t blow. Which is exactly what happened last night. First, Hall extended the lead in the second period off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play started by Marcus Johansson and Egor Yakovlev. Then the mostly dormant second line continued its recent surge back to life with not one, but two Pavel Zacha goals. After only recently getting off the schneid scoringwise Zacha suddenly has four goals following his two-goal outburst in the second period last night. Even Johansson finally showed signs of life, while granted his two assists weren’t primary he could also have easily gotten assists on a couple of other plays. For one of the few times as a Devil, he was noticeable in a good way.
Now up 5-1 late in the second period, this game was actually going to be a laugher for a change. Last night’s near-sellout had fun in the stands sing-songing CAREY! for Carey Price in the Habs’ net. Sure he wasn’t really at fault on the goal barrage but who cares? Even with the Devils’ good home record it hasn’t been a lot of fun watching this team lately, might as well get our pre-holiday jollies in. My only moment of consternation last night came in the third period, shortly after Max Domi’s fluke goal made the game 5-2, Yakovlev gave up another breakaway that could have made it 5-3 but again the posts intervened for Keith. How much exactly is Keith bribing the posts with anyway? It was only dissapointing that Joey Anderson left last night’s game early with an undisclosed lower body injury, playing with eleven forwards last night made it important to have an easy third period and keep the game put away. Off ice, I was also slightly annoyed that the Devil oven mitts promo they were running wasn’t an actual giveaway but one you had to pay for in advance, not that I really wanted them for myself but it would have been nice to be able to give them away.
Part of me wishes I could be at the game tomorrow because it’ll be an electric atmosphere no doubt, likely a sellout since most of the world has the day off (not me, though I probably could have swung going from work to the game if I really wanted to). And part of me is dreading getting thumped by the Isles again the way we usually are when they actually want to play. We did manage to beat the clueless Doug Weight Isles a couple times down the stretch last year when they’d long since shut it off, but the new Barry Trotz Isles have been stellar for most of the season save the last two games, and they snuffed us out in a 3-0 shutout at Brooklyn during our road trip of doom. Payback’s in order and it would be nice to not roll over to Lou’s team at home, it’s almost been a sick joke how they’ve managed to thrive this season without John Tavares much the way the pre-2004 lockout Devil teams would excel when we lost a key FA.
Of course it’d be nice just to get back over NHL .500 again, irrespective of the opponent. We need wins no matter who they’re against, but getting one against a team we’re now likely competing with for a playoff spot would be doubly satisfying.