Sometimes it’s hard to title a recap and it only adds one more pratfall to writer’s block, that’s why I hadn’t been doing it this year. Days like today, the title writes itself though. Of course while most of the country was running all over each other for post-Thanksgiving discounts (maybe I’ll try to Wikipedia when Black Friday first became a thing out of curiosity), today’s retail nickname took on another meaning for the Devils and their fans after a predictable yet gutting loss to the rival Islanders in an unusual weekday afternoon game. My only salvation was that the timing was too tight for me to consider going from work and foregoing leftover turkey dinner. I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing the Islanders kick us in the teeth yet again.
I couldn’t even bring myself to watch – usually I don’t like to watch home games I can’t go to anyway – so it was back to the radio again for this game. From the way it sounded I would have been better off not even bothering to listen on the radio for the first period and a half. With the Isles coming off two blowout losses you knew they would come out ready to play, but once again our own effort level was…inconsistent at best. Really the Devils were lucky to only be down 1-0 halfway through the game, especially when the Islanders scored again in the second period but for once a goal review went our way when the play was judged to have been offside, overturning the on-ice goal call.
Despite catching that break, you could tell right away this wasn’t going to be our afternoon when the Devils’ powerless play botched a whole minute and fifty-one seconds with a two-man advantage. Over the last few weeks the power play in general has been useless (when the refs have actually deigned to give us power plays) and this one actually turned momentum the wrong way when Jordan Eberle took advantage of a Sami Vatanen turnover and scored a couple minutes after our failure with the two-man advantage. Ironically the goal review that went our way proved to be the spark to turn momentum back the other way and Taylor Hall put home his own rebound from just outside the crease to tie the game midway through the second period.
Yet even after getting that spark from the reigning MVP, it didn’t stick since less than three minutes later the Isles got their lead back, after Anders Lee outfoxed Travis Zajac to get position in front of the net for one of his typical dirty goals. Even that wasn’t as annoying as what was to come later on, though. At least the team finally found its compete level from the middle of the game on, and once again the Devils tied the game early in the third, this time through Brian Boyle who (like Vatanen) returned to the lineup this afternoon. Boyle’s goal was a nice redirection in front, and since this was our home Hockey Fights Cancer game, of course Boyle had to score again. You would think something like that might spark the Devils to the finish.
Last year it would have, not so much this year. There’s nothing quite as scary as the Devils trying to hold a third period lead or tie. In fact this year the team’s 0-4-3 when tied up in the third period with under ten minutes left. That’s just frightening incompetence, crystalized by how the Devils blew this tie in the third when we somehow made the immortal Nick Leddy look like Scott Niedermayer circa the 1995 SCF on a coast-to-coast rush past our forwards and right between hapless defensemen Andy Greene and Damon Severson. It’s one thing when guys like Egor Yakovlev are the ones making critical mistakes but when it’s vets like Greene, Vatanen, Zajac and Kyle Palmieri that’s just indiciative of larger problems. Palmieri? I’ll get to him in a minute.
As if blowing yet another game to the Isles wouldn’t have been bad enough we got teased with a dramatic finish to a regulation that for a brief moment made me think maybe we do have some of last year’s mojo back, or rather a MoJo we haven’t seen much of yet as a Devil. Indeed it was a suddenly revived Marcus Johansson who tied the game after taking a shanked shot from Hall, and putting home his own rebound past Thomas Greiss with just ten seconds remaining. You would have thought that would have sparked the Devils over the finish line. Of course that would have entailed actually playing well in the 3-on-3 OT, which this team has not done this season (among their many ills so far). Maybe it’s missing John Moore that’s been the difference. I wish I was kidding but Moore did excel in the 3-on-3.
This year? We’ve been outshot 14-4 in the 3-on-3 and lost our third straight OT game when it was the guy who is arguably the team MVP this season (Palmieri) that turned the puck over, giving Matt Barzal a full head of steam to turbo-boost his way past Severson and to the net for a breakaway OT winner past poor Keith Kinkaid, who really deserved a better fate this afternoon. Sure Kinkaid did get the team a point yippidee doo dah, we still went -1 for the afternoon against one of the 53432 teams we’re going to have to pass to make the playoffs this season. Some loser points truly feel like loser points, this was one of them. As usual things don’t get any easier this weekend with a trip to Florida which is generally a barrel of laughs – if you’re a masochist.