In a season full of dissapointments, today’s 3-2 OT win in Montreal was a rare bright spot, mainly because it saw younger players play a starring role in a comeback win on the road. All three goals were scored by sophomores Will Butcher and Nico Hischier, with rookie Mackenzie Blackwood turning in another starling 37-save performance in net. This afternoon’s win was rather unlikely given the mounting injuries of the lineup. In addition to Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen and Ben Lovejoy all being on IR, crack center Travis Zajac also didn’t make the trip north with an undisclosed injury. With a season reduced to finding moral victories over meaningful ones, this win was at least momentarily satisfying.
By my count seven players in today’s lineup weren’t on the ice for Opening Day in October including Blackwood. Among the others only Steven Santini and Drew Stafford were even on the roster (or at least I think Stafford was on the roster then, he may have been formally signed a couple of games into the season). With some of our few better players out of the lineup guys like Nico took a step up today, wearing the A on his chest and responding with a two-goal game, first scoring late in the third to tie the game then in OT to win it.
Ironically enough Nico’s winner came after fellow draftmate Nolan Patrick scored his own OT winner for the Flyers against Edmonton. So much for the 2017 draft being underwhelming. Of course while Nico’s been better individually, Nolan’s team is much closer to the playoffs after their current seven-game winning streak. So it goes, likely we’ll have another top 5-10 pick this year, but who else other than Nico will still be here remains up in the air.
Of more immediate concern than even the deadline is the fact Cory Schneider’s rehab assignment concludes this weekend and the organization will have to decide which goalie goes. Will Cory get waived, or Keith Kinkaid traded (if that’s even possible)? Or would they even send Blackwood down? Though it seems unlikely given the way he’s played to this point especially with his return to the lineup today after playing one AHL game plus All-Star weekend during the Devils’ bye week and sitting while Kinkaid played the Devils’ first two post-break games.
Also of concern is the injury situation. Mystery surrounds the severity of Hall’s injury plus Vatanen having a second major concussion inside a year isn’t exactly ideal. As it is, Vat may not have fully recovered from the playoff concussion he sustained in April, given how his play has gone down a notch from last season. And who really knows what the deal is with Zajac at this point? Having guys like that out of the lineup would only make the lineup look more scary once guys presumably get traded closer to the deadline.
Of course the dissapearing lineup makes it easier for me to dissapear from watching games, although I will be at the Tuesday and Saturday home games this week – yay me. At least my only other game in attendance this month is a promo (’90’s night) with a friend, and it looks like there’ll be decent weather Tuesday so at least there’s that. I can get away with a t-shirt and jacket as opposed to wearing a sweater and a jersey for my second home game of 2019.
And making his return to the Prudential Center for the first time in six years on Tuesday is none other than Ilya Kovalchuk, who left the organization high and dry a season after the most recent lockout by trekking back to Russia. Sure they wound up saving a bit on the recapture cap hit but everyone knows that wasn’t his primary motivation for going back home. Simply amazing how much things have changed since his departure in April 2013. Then we were less than a season off of having met the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals, now both organizations have fallen on hard times with Kovalchuk not getting his accustomed icetime anymore.
At least the Kovalchuk return with what should be about 10-12,000 mostly booing souls should provide enough of a distraction to keep me interested in a game between two teams going nowhere. Assuming we don’t fall behind 3-0 in the first period at least.