Now these losses are starting to run together, figuratively and literally. Back-to-back days in the sunshine state, back-to-back brutal losses, which granted even in our good years is par for the course with this team. This latest loss was particularly diasteriffic though, playing a struggling Panther team without goalie Roberto Luongo, who also recently lost talented pivot Vincent Trocheck to a long-term injury. If yesterday was a typical Cory 2018 special, today illustrated all the other reasons this team is going to crash and burn out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, a severe step back for this organization.
Yeah I know we’re still late in November, I know the East is mediocre yadda yadda yadda but when you as a team blow five two-goal leads in twenty-three games, when you blow countless late third-period leads or ties and can’t buy a win in the 3-on-3 OT then you just don’t have what it takes to hang with the better teams in the conference – or really with any team at the moment. What game is an easy win for this team right now? They couldn’t beat an Ottawa team in disarray after Ubergate, they can’t beat a mediocre Panthers team that lost three in a row since the Trocheck injury, playing their backup goalie, they’ve lost to a supposedly hideous Wings team twice and probably saved Jeff Blashill’s job for the time being. Things aren’t getting any easier this weekend when we have the Capitals (road), Jets and Lightning all in a four-day span which are three more likely losses to add to the pile of suck that’s building.
As far as tonight goes, while I didn’t watch the first period, the real action started with the second period anyway when Miles Wood (tipping a Sami Vatanen shot home) and Blake Coleman (with his usual short-handed brilliance) scored to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. Would this finally be a time the Devils could put a two-goal lead in the bank? Eh no…Coleman’s shorthanded goal only provided a temporary band-aid which flew off after Travis Zajac took a second penalty giving Florida an extended 5-on-3. Unlike us, they actually know how to convert a 5-on-3 goal, and did just that with mere seconds remaining on the first penalty to add insult to injury. A Jared McCann goal minutes later completed our latest multi-goal lead meltdown, which also seems to be par for the course for our trips to Sunrise. Maybe Adam Henrique’s double-OT goal in the playoffs used up all our good juju there for a generation, we haven’t even won a game there in the last few years since.
Of course it looked like we may actually break that spell in the third period when Jesper Bratt scored off another tip of a Vatanen shot, but there’s nothing quite as scary as the Devils in a tight third-period game – and once again our glass jaw showed itself with an assist from John Hynes’ idiotic lineup decisions, specifically scratching Mirco Mueller again in favor of Egor Yakovlev. It was Yakovlev who not only played the tying goal badly when Johnathan Huberdeau scored 6-on-5 but then compounded it with another screwup, allowing a breakaway that nearly lost it for us in regulation. Are we really jumping the shark looking for puckmoving from every member of the defense at the expense of actually, you know playing defense? Not that Mueller’s great but he’s certainly a better option than Yakovlev at this point in the area where it matters most for a defenseman. Are we a developmental team or a team trying to win? Do we even have a system?
It sure doesn’t seem like we have a system for the 3-on-3 OT which is always a harbinger of doom for this year’s team. For good measure, we actually lost tonight’s game twice, first when an apparent goal went past Keith Kinkaid but it turned out was only like the seventeenth post shot he was saved by in the last two weeks (including that end-of-regulation breakaway). Clearly the magic chipotles are doing their trick. But even the magic chipotles were no match for this team’s defensive inepititude and a subtle pick play on Bratt that Hynes bitterly complained about in the postgame. For his part, Zajac took the responsibility for not stopping the pass on that decisive goal but really that was just the end of a lot of disasters.
One thing I’m starting to wonder is if we have a living, breathing GM right now? It would be nice to hear from Ray Shero at some point – granted I don’t expect a state of the union off every losing streak but we’re past a quarter of the season. It would be nice to if not hear the GM, at least see some evidence from him that this kind of braindead hockey won’t be tolerated around here forever. I might be among the masses calling for Hynes’ dismissal if I had a viable alternative at the moment. If you look to the outside obviously the pipedream is Joel Quenneville, but that’s all it is – a pipedream. He’d have his pick of better jobs where he’ll likely get more say in personnel than he would here. Do we really want Disco Dan: The Sequel after Dan Bylsma arguably cost Shero his job in Pittsburgh and flamed out in Buffalo too?
Just promote an assistant is the common answer you might hear, but what assistant are we promoting? Rick Kowalsky and Mike Grier are literally in their first season as assistant coaches in the NHL, that’s not ideal for an in-season takeover. Defensive ‘coach’ Alain Nasreddine is the only guy with experience on the staff but since the D’s been a huge part of the problem I’d rather stick with the Devil I know over the one I don’t. Promoting the AHL coach is another in-season option that usually gets bantied about but our coach in Binghamton is Mark Dennehy, who’s in his first season at his current level of hockey. Clearly the staff wasn’t exactly put together with a mind we would need a coaching change this year, especially after Hynes did a good job last year but something’s clearly missing now or a lot of somethings.
I do still like Hynes regardless, but something’s gotta change around here and soon unless Shero and ownership are content to let the season go completely off the rails by New Year’s.