As has been the case so often with the 2018-19 Devils, looking backwards has been more fun than looking at the present. That was the case again last night when the Devils had ’90’s night at the Prudential Center, which was similar to last month’s ’80’s night in that they had the CAA-style scoreboard, the CAA goal horn with throwback music and references sprinkled throughout from a cover band playing ’90’s hits during intermission to the commemorative David Puddy bobblehead fans got walking into the arena, complete with facepaint.
If you’re a Seinfeld fan, a Devils fan or both you know who David Puddy is – a character that was one of Elaine’s boyfriends who had to ‘support the team’ by dressing in facepaint and lettering his chest, among other things. Funny how one half-hour episode twenty-five years ago can still have such resonance and actor Patrick Warburton (who played the one-off role on the show) is a cult hero with fans even today, making frequent appearances including during the team’s first Stanley Cup banner raising at the old CAA.
Even though I was not a big Seinfeld fan I’ve seen the episode multiple times and I couldn’t help but smile at those particular references, the bobblehead or even the actor himself faceplanting by the Devils bench, perhaps intentionally (after all the dude is an actor). Yet my favorite part of last night was the well-done five-minute intro video before Puddy’s on-ice appearance dropping the puck, which really hit on a lot of what I knew growing up.
I won’t spoil it – I’d rather everyone just take a look at the video first after reading the blog, but suffice it to say it was very creative and will appeal especially to computer and video game users, which entails a vast majority of us who grew up in the ’90’s. And it also had a nice musical score at the end, which is a fitting callback for all hockey fans.
Of course as was the case on ’80’s night and the throwback jersey games this year, the ancilary stuff was terrific and the game wasn’t. Suffice it to say, we’ve lost all the throwback jersey games this year as well as on ’90’s night and ’80’s night. Perhaps we were due to lose to a Penguins team that we’d pretty well owned this season (3-0 before last night), a rare bright spot in a dissapointing year. Early on, I was hoping for a you can’t beat us chant by the end of the game as we took the lead twice in the first period – only to give it up twice, and things didn’t improve after that.
Pittsburgh dominated the second period, scored a soft goal on Keith Kinkaid to get a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and while the Devils put sixteen shots on Matt Murray in the Penguin net during the third I demand to see video evidence of half of them. Really, the last two periods were a snorefest until Murray allowed his own ridiculously soft goal to Miles Wood with five minutes left to pull the Devils back to within 4-3, but Blake Coleman’s costly late penalty eschewed just about any shot of a comeback.
So much for putting together a sustained winning streak. At least Marcus Johansson helped his increasing value at the deadline with a spectacular strip of Phil Kessel and quick goal in front to give the Devils their second goal of the night in the first period. With only two games left before Monday’s deadline time is getting short for GM Ray Shero to solicit offers on Johansson and defenseman Ben Lovejoy – our two most high-profile UFA’s remaining now that Brian Boyle’s already been dealt to Nashville.
There is the chance Shero could sign Johansson to an extension before the deadline as well but any kind of long-term deal would be a risk given Johansson’s injury issues the last couple of years. It’s more likely he’d be dealt for a solid return and just take the chance you could either re-sign him if need be or get another depth winger elsewhere before next season. Pretty much everything will be on Shero’s offseason shopping list at this point – defensive help, forward depth, possibly a goalie although Cory Schneider’s recent streak provides a glimmer of hope maybe, just maybe he’ll be a viable option next season along with promising Mackenzie Blackwood.
Whatever happens, I doubt it’ll be as wild as the 2003 deadline where then-GM Lou Lamoriello dealt for depth guys like Pascal Rheaume, Grant Marshall and Richard Smehlik while rumors were flying over a potential Scott Gomez for Teemu Selanne deal that got nixed. Even hours after the deadline when Gomez and defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky were mysteriously scrached there was speculation it was part of a late-announced deal or at least precautionary in case both players did get dealt. As is the case with a lot of Lou stuff, we’ll never know the full truth. Just like we’ll never know what the ending of the Sopranos really meant.
Typically fans were up in arms over Lou acquiring nothing but plugs – and losing 4-2 to a terrible Thrashers team that night only added to the fan angst – but typically Lou knew best then and now, as those plugs helped the team to their third Cup in nine years while Selanne had to wait another several years before finally winning one of his own in Anaheim, ironically due to some help from ex-Devil Scott Niedermayer (who recently got his number retired in Anaheim). It’s hard to see anything Shero doing in the next few days leading to a Cup anytime soon but you have to start somewhere I suppose.