Welp if the Devils want me to pay more attention the last two months of the season, that hideous last twenty minutes tonight wasn’t exactly the best way to sell your product. To be fair, they had two whole decent periods before the collapse this time, usually the meltdowns happen before the third period these days. Still, after a spirited first forty minutes what happened in the last twenty was a letdown, yet fitting for the gutless, spineless 2018-19 Devils. Thankfully, the game went to crap so quickly in the third period I at least peeled out of there before the coup de grace of Ilya Kovalchuk’s salt in the wound late third period goal in his return to the Rock after he snuck out of dodge during the 2013 offseason.
Funny thing is to a degree I actually needed to go to a game at this point. Things have been stressful lately, not life and death stress but super aggravating personal nonsense that’s weighed on me the last few weeks. Honestly being back at a game for the first time in a couple weeks was at least a touch of normalcy for me, even a meaningless game between two bad teams going nowhere. And what helped tonight was seeing my arena buddy Kristi, I wound up sitting and talking with her for two periods so neither of us watched the game alone before she moved down to the lower bowl to sit with the rest of her family in the third period when seats opened up by them. Might as well take little pleasures where you can get them, especially if you have to watch this team at the same time.
Maybe I should have stayed in 126 rather than moved back to 120 before the start of the third. Then again this organization probably deserves to have its faces rubbed in it anyway. Especially given how quickly 1-1 going into the third turned into 4-1. In…under…two…minutes! Tonight went downhill so fast it gave me PTSD reminders of Steve Bernier’s momentum-changing major penalty in Game 6 of 2012, where a scoreless game turned into a 3-0 rout in the making. That game turned out to be the end of nearly two decades of Devils excellence. Unlike Game 6, tonight only saw one power play goal against – at the beginning of the downhill slide, but seemingly it broke this fragile team’s spirit as two more goals quickly went past Keith Kinkaid.
Guess having the organization’s best goalie in Binghamton isn’t such a good idea if you’re still trying to win. Not that I’d blame the Devils for a soft tank at this point, but if you’re going to stop caring about results then why not just play Cory Schneider today? Not that I have any faith in him but he just came off a shootout win in the AHL during his final rehab start, feeling good and instead of playing him against a bad offense they just go with Keith because of his previous record against the Kings going into tonight. Are we playing to win or not here? Instead of giving Cory a (in theory) potential soft landing today they’re either gonna wind up playing him against the Isles on Thursday or in the back-to-back this weekend after sitting out a week.
Then again, with the way the third period turned out it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. As bad as our non-Mackenzie Blackwood goaltending has been, the problems go beyond the goalies. It’s just not even worth getting into. I’d rather just pretend the third period didn’t exist and call it a tie after two periods. Although sure I’ll take the loss in terms of the lotto odds, especially to a team that’s not really a rival – extracurriculars tonight aside.
And yes I will get to the KHL merc – the funny thing is even though I probably loathe him as much as most of the guys who were booing today, I was personally a spectator to the booing. It just doesn’t seem worth investing into at this point, yeah I know it was his first trip back here since skipping town but what’s the point with how bad we all are right now? We suck, the Kings suck, and Kovalsuck is being stuck playing third-line minutes on a rebuilding team. Plus some of the booing was…oddly timed to put it mildly. He touched the puck so little early the crowd took to booing him stepping on and off the ice, even during stoppages which led to a couple of odd moments where they’d flash innocuous fans on the jumbotron and the crowd would boo. At one point the crowd even chanted ‘Kovalsucks’ after the infamous Doc Emrick faux pas one time on a telecast.
Hearing and reading some player quotes about the KHL merc (such as Travis Zajac laughing that you don’t get booed if you suck) really brought into focus the fact that players and fans look at the same thing with a vastly different perspective. Even guys who played with the merc like Zajac and Andy Greene seemingly don’t take his departure anywhere near the emotional way fans do. Which is to be expected on the one hand, but on the other, you’d figure there would at least be some angst over his leaving the way he did skipping out on a twelve year contract, with the hard times that have followed the twin departures of him and Zach Parise – who incidentally is also touring the Rock again this weekend with the Wild.
In the end, the Kovalchuk-Devils marriage and subsequent messy divorce didn’t work for anyone except for a brief, shining moment in 2012. Our contract got us penalized to the tune of a first-round pick drop, he cost himself any shot at the Hall of Fame by leaving and instead cemented his legacy as a selfish flake, and his return to the NHL hasn’t exactly gone as planned joining a Kings team he wanted badly to sign with in 2010 – but they wouldn’t come up with nearly the money we did – and now after finally running his course of collecting KHL money and titles, being stuck in a rebuild on a three-year contract.
Since I did wind up leaving the game before the merc scored, I was a bit bemused at that point. I’m sure the 2000 people left in the building booed as if they were 15000. It did actually look like a decent sized crowd for Tuesday despite it being the first game in a four home game week, and despite the fact I couldn’t sell either a single ticket or a pair for tonight. As loose as I was during the first two periods, momentarily forgetting about both my own struggles and the team’s, the first two minutes of the third reminded me of how dreadful the outlook for the last thirty games is. There may only be thirty games left, but my number countdown is much lower than that, since there’s only about seven or eight games I actually have to pay attention to (the ones I’m currently going to).