Today is time to hit the soapbox on another pet peeve topic – scheduling NHL games for the exact same time as when not one but BOTH local NFL teams are playing on a Sunday afternoon (and a holiday weekend no less). I just don’t really get the logic – the NFL is king in sporting America, you’re obviously not going to max out your attendance going directly across from the NFL games in the same market. You want to put a game up at 5 PM that’s another thing, but having the Devils play at 12:30 while the Jets and Giants both play at 1 is suicidal in terms of attendance and ratings – sure enough it was more or less a weekday-type crowd for a Sunday afternoon game at the Rock today. Yes, as it worked out the Jets and Giants were playing meaningless games in the standings since both are out of the playoff hunt but still, in a vaccum I’d rather watch Sam Darnold and Aaron Rodgers in a no-pressure game than watch this Devils team. Plus at this point these Devil games are veering into meaningless territory already double digits out of a playoff spot and sinking further by the minute.
Yet I decided to go to the Devils game and opt for that meaningless game over the Jet one, in part because I had missed the going to the previous two recovering from being sick, plus I figure at the rate it’s going the games will only be more unwatchable in a month or two anyway. Of course right when I was all set to go I got a last-minute offer to go with a few of my friends TO the Jet game. I demurred saying I was on my way to the Devils game, mostly because while I’d rather have watched the Jets and spent some time with a group of people I like, doing it while sitting outside for three and a half hours in a meaningless game is another story. In a sense, I was alternately relieved I had an excuse to avoid being in the cold and annoyed I had to make that choice in the first place.
Needless to say, watching the Devils for any amount of time was the wrong choice today.
Oh, they didn’t play that bad early in the first period except for the small matter of ‘defensive’ pairing Sami Vatanen and Steven Santini being burned not once but TWICE by cross-ice passes through the front of the net for goals early on. Which is the perfect example of how low-IQ the team and staff is. So now after Santini was sitting on IR and in the scratch box until…this week, now he’s suddenly good enough to play first defensive pairing and on his off side to boot? I just seldom understand coach John Hynes and assistant Alain Nasreddine’s usage (rather misuse) of their players. Perhaps showing just how on edge everyone is, the crowd bronx cheered Keith Kinkaid after finally making a save with a couple minutes left in the first – yes those two goals wound up being the only shots on net for a long time!
I rolled my eyes at the bronx cheers but perhaps it was a harbinger for a far worse goal against Kinkaid in the second period, coming after the Devils’ first sustained pressure of the afternoon – of course, coming up empty but at least leading to some positive crowd reinforcement – when Kinkaid allowed a soft shortside backhander that both ended his time in the crease and the game as a contest. For the coup de grace late in the second period the Devils somehow managed to botch a nearly two-minute five-on-three, really a 5-on-2.5 for a while after one of their defensemen had to play without a stick. I proclaimed to my friend via text that if they didn’t score here I was outta there at the end of the period. Sure enough, they didn’t and I was. What was the point of sticking with a game that was at least 99.9% chance of being a loser while the Jets were rolling early against the Packers?
Of course I could have just gone down to the new William Hill Sports Lounge (a.k.a new in-arena gambling room and mini sports bar) to watch the Jets game for a while but that’s hardly the kind of outing at a hockey game I have in mind. That might be great for the owners’ bottom line but it’s going to be hell on the in-arena atmosphere when other sporting events are going on. I can only imagine how many people went down there just to watch the small TV screens with both football teams playing and make a bet on the dopey app. I did want to get home in time for the second half, regardless. Sure enough, I missed the Jets’ domination in the first half but did at least get home for a classic finish, albeit as usual one marred by dumb NFL officiating.
Thankfully there’s a holiday break from the Devils at this point. If the fans need it then sure as shooting the players and staff need it too.