Thank goodness me and my friend had the club seats for last night’s home game, since nothing else about ‘Fan Appreciation’ night quite measured up. From the game itself – the worst possible result that satisfies neither the Lose for Hughes contingent or the screw the lottery odds contingent – to the utter lack of giveaways or general fan perks, it was the second worst Fan Appreciation game I’ve been to surpassed only by the Rangers clowning us during Lou Lamoriello’s final days and getting that dopey team picture of an empty locker, perfectly symbolizing the Devils as a franchise at that time. Not that things are much better now…oh sure the team has a direction, but whether that direction is going to lead forward or just to spinning our wheels eternally like other perennial loser franchises will be determined in the next season or two.
Before I go off further, I might as well start with the positive first – the club seats were as usual terrific. Somehow I didn’t remember actually being in them late last season but last night me and my friend were there again. Other than our odd seating location right behind the Blues bench just a handful of rows back which was too close to the ice for me but my friend loved it, overall that part of the game was spectacular – we sampled tons of good and delicious food from pizza burgers to steak slices with mac and cheese flavored mashed potatoes to carrot cake dessert and a ton of other things that were a good aggregate dinner. So at least the Devils’ season ticket holder rewards program did something for me and my friend on Fan Appreciation Night.
There’s not really much else to say about the game or the team, it was at least a more entertaining game than I figured with us playing the superior Blues coming off a bleh game at the Garden on Friday night. Drew Stafford continued his late-season contract drive with a second-period power play goal and Joey Anderson scored on a masterful deflection, also in the second period. However, in this game the Devils never held a lead and only went to OT after a strange late-game power play by the Blues could have ended it with a more lottery-friendly zero point game, it almost looked as if they were running out the clock to ensure their own point with a ton of cautious overpassing. I doubt they were literally doing that since they had clinched a playoff spot already, but as it turned out it only set up a fitting coda for our season at the tail end of OT when defenseman Vince Dunn turned on the jets and blew past Nico Hischier and Will Butcher to power home a goal past the star-crossed Cory Schneider for yet another useless defeat.
Cory may not want to hear this but I still haven’t seen a home victory from him since 2017, other than the playoff game last year which looks like a minor miracle now. Not that last night was his fault, it was an even game and his worst mistake (a horrible puckhandling gaffe) he skirted away from without any damage. Not that I’ve seen many home victories period since December – a mere one to be exact. I was still conflicted last night whether I even wanted to see another one, most of the time I was silently just rooting for the loss but did stand up and clap in a rote way for the goals and had brief periods where I was like ‘screw it, let’s just win and go out on a good note’. At least nobody can accuse us, or any of the other teams in the lotto for tanking.
Detroit’s domination over us since, and the Kings’ mildly surprising win last night were just the latest examples of how teams out of it are still playing hard in spite of the lotto odds, or perhaps in part because there isn’t enough of a tangible difference in them to care. That’s where I vacilate too. Is the 13.5% chance of winning the top pick from the 2-hole really all that much different from the 9.5% chance from the 4-hole? Still you’d rather have better odds than not, and even our improved results lately don’t augur much hope for next season other than in the play of the goalies. I mean really, Stafford scoring three goals down the stretch helps us how? So we sign him as opposed to some other old, slow fourth-line plug? Like former NBA player (and New Jersey Net) Derrick Coleman once famously cracked, ‘whoopdie damn doo’.
My real source of annoyance last night even above the lousy loser point was the utter lack of pomp around the supposed Fan Appreciation Night. A team poster giveaway? Hah, we got purple Pepsi sugarless soda cans with a Devils logo on it. Prize giveaways during play stoppages? Not yesterday. The only real indicator of it being ‘Fan Appreciation’ night was the 40% discount at an overly crowded Devils Den which would be more meaningful to me if prices weren’t marked up by 40-50% in the first place. Maybe they’ll have the actual giveaways during Monday’s home finale which would be utterly stupid. Last night you had 17000 fans in the building willing to be there and chant for the team, Monday you’ll be lucky to get half that many Devil fans and most will be largely apathetic and looking to peel out early from a weeknight game.
To wit, literally a ton of our friends were also at the Saturday game – a lot more people I know than were at maybe the last ten games combined I’ve been to – but since we had the club seats we didn’t want to venture out to see any of them, particularly since we were in the lower bowl and they were all in the upper deck. Most of them we’d already seen the previous week anyway. Fortunately the game itself was at least a quick execution, even with the OT we got out of there and home by 10:15.
For the first time maybe ever (or other than the aformentioned 2015 game against the Rangers), I had no feeling of too bad I don’t get to come back here again till October. I was just glad to get it all over with.