It’s been a long time since I cared so little about a Devils blowout win over the Penguins. Nine days without a game has made hockey angst dissapear but also widened our insurmountable deficit on a playoff spot. Even with last night’s 6-3 win in Pittsburgh which wasn’t even that close, the Devils are still a whopping thirteen points behind the second wild card. With barely a month before the trade deadline it’s just a matter of when and how many, not if some key names go out the door.
In a way it almost makes this season worse that this Devils team is still capable of dominating a quality foe like Pittsburgh. Even though I know full well that bad teams can still have good teams’ number. I remember a ton of wins like teams from the Islanders and Thrashers over us when they had bad seasons and we were having good ones back in the good ol’ days. Still, you get caught up in wondering why can’t this team put together more performances like last night?
Predictable and meaningless as it was, there’s always something good to take out of a win, starting with the injured Miles Wood’s return to the lineup and to a line with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman that was playing well before Wood’s injury. They dominated yesterday and Zajac led the way with a four point night, putting up a goal and three assists and getting a well-deserved first star out of it. Of our six goals, they were all scored by six different players including the embattled Pavel Zacha, who actually put up both a goal and an assist – both rarities for the 2015 first-rounder who’s yet to find consistent production here.
Also after a lot of rest and bench time in recent weeks, Keith Kinkaid came out of the break with one of his best performances of the season making 37 stops. Granted, many of them came in the third period when the Pens were already way behind playing catchup but still you’d like to see the number of shots allowed eventually come down. Especially if they are going to bring back young Mackenzie Blackwood sooner or later for more playing time. Blackwood spent the Devils’ break down in the AHL. He only got in one game as the Devils are also trying to rehab Cory Schneider mentally and physically (without much success so far given Cory’s given up 11 goals in his last two games!), but at least got to partake in the AHL All-Star festivities.
Blackwood might be back after the AHL All-Star game, but then again Cory’s clock on rehab games runs out this weekend, rendering it high noon for some decisions to be made on the immediate and long-term future of Devils’ goaltending. Will Cory get games at the NHL level or be immediately waived? Despite his contract which has three years still after this season, it doesn’t seem as if there’s a lot of organizational patience left for Cory to even be a functional goaltender. There’s also a slight but not realistic chance Kinkaid gets traded which would clear spots for both Cory and Blackwood.
Our next game is amazingly enough our first against the rival Rangers this season. And suddenly there’s even excitement in the Ranger camp after their pre-break winning streak. Shameful really that they seem much further along after one year of their rebuilding than we do in year four. Of course we did have a similar season in coach John Hynes’ first year here as well, somehow scratching out an above NHL .500 finish with a team that had dubious talent on it. My view of Hynes has gone up and down a roller coaster from a bullish one after that season and last year to a bearish one after our multiple steps back in his second season and this year. He’s not going anywhere in the immediate future as evidenced by his recent contract extension but next year’s gonna have to be another bear or the perceived hot seat might finally scald the head coach.
I won’t be at Thursday’s game or even watching for the most part but there is still a certain amount of pride on the line given the rivalry and the fact one team seems ascendant while the other is stuck in quicksand.