Welp clearly I went to the wrong weekend game, at least judging by the end result. Of course judging by shots on goal, particuarly in the second period where the Canes dominated play it really wasn’t that much better of a game than yesterday’s snooze-fest other than the actual result. Clearly the goaltending was better, as at least Keith Kinkaid sometimes can make the big saves to hold a lead. Certainly the offense was better, not only given that three goals > two but the two early markers in the first period gave the team a cushion they almost, but couldn’t quite blow.
I actually watched more of this game than I thought, which is to say more than zero. I tuned in long enough late in the first period to see Marcus Johansson’s first goal that made the score 2-0, then next really started watching the last 10-15 minutes of the third long enough to see Johansson’s second goal of the night off a spectacular feed from Jesper Bratt, then a 6-on-4 Canes goal late that gave me some PTSD flashbacks to playoffs past with a frantic finish as the team held onto a one goal lead and their lone win of a four-game homestand.
I’m not even sure why I was as invested in the team winning as I was today. Maybe I was just tired of seeing bad hockey and worse results. Not as if the game meant anything to us though it certainly matters to Carolina being in the thick of the playoff chase. Perhaps that had something to do with it, playing spoiler to a rival. Much like Derek still feels animosity to the Kings for 2014, I and many Devil fans still have a little extra loathing for the Canes who ended our seasons in 2002, 2006 and 2009 – each playoff defeat more excruciating than the last. Even if ghosts of playoffs past like Cam Ward and Eric Staal are long gone, the uniform is still enough to annoy me. Plus Rod Brind’Amour is behind the bench so there’s that too, along with their stupid over the top victory celebration that’s gone from being fun to being contrived.
At least we prevented them from doing their victory celebration at the Rock, beating them in both their games here so far. Even playing spoiler isn’t as important as how the team wins games. Super soph Nico Hischier got the first star without scoring a goal, although he did put up three apples (assists). Pavel Zacha scored the first goal on the power play early in the first period, Bratt’s assist I already documented so the younger guys played well for the most part. Even recent Wild castoff Ryan Murphy played well in his first game as a Devil, getting an assist on the Zacha PP goal. It also doesn’t hurt when guys play up their trade value like Johansson. Some might say Kinkaid as well but I’m dubious of just about any goalie’s trade value at this point, especially one with the ugly splits he has.
Ironically my last home win in attendance was Mackenzie Blackwood’s shutout of the Canes just before the new year. Still waiting for my first live win in 2019, likely I’ll be waiting till March unless they beat the Penguins on ’90’s throwback night. By then, there’ll probably be another few new players on the roster as guys get dealt by the late February deadline. Before then comes a tough three-game roadtrip through St. Louis, Chicago and Minnesota in a four-day span before rolling back into the tri-state area for the rest of the month.
I’ll probably follow from even more of a distance on the trip than I do the home games. After all it’s tough to get motivated for games that mean little. I could say the same thing about the players and the coaches, but hey this is why you get paid the big bucks. Not to mention it’s their jobs and reputations on the line out there, not ours. And I’m not motivated by anti-winning yet either, maybe in the last few games I’ll care about the damn lottery (a la Jets-Packers late in the season where I passed up a chance to go to that game with friends in part cause I was too ambivalent about the actual result by then), but until then there’s still too much time left in the season for that and too many guys need to show they’re worth something either for next year or deadline dealings.