Let me preface this by saying that I had a sinking feeling. Unless you live in a cave, you can’t feel good about this team.
The uneven play. The inconsistency shift to shift. The bad penalties. The mystifying play of certain key players. It’s getting bad fast.
I wish I was kidding here with that tweet. If the Rangers cannot beat a shorthanded Devils team playing its first game since January 31, why should we be excited? They let a bitter rival skate circles around them in a lousy first period. If not for Igor Shestyorkin, they would’ve been down two or three goals.
Who was the team that didn’t play for over two weeks? I’m at the point where I can’t watch these games. I switched to the radio after a period. Credit Don LaGreca and Dave Maloney, who numerous times pulled no punches, for a more objective broadcast than the garbage on MSG. I don’t know how any fan can listen to the yuck fest between Sam Rosen and the annoying Joe Micheletti. It’s not a good telecast.
I’m not blaming Sam for this. He’s almost done. It just isn’t fluid. Kind of like the play of the team.You lose to what should’ve been a rusty Devils team 5-2 at home, and you don’t deserve any excuses. No more alibis.
It’s hideous. Sure. Some players continue to play well even if they’re not on the score sheet. I’m referencing the dramatic improvement of Kaapo Kakko, who must be wondering what he has to do to score more goals. Ditto for the consistent grinders that bring it every shift like Brendan Lemieux, Kevin Rooney and Julien Gauthier.
Colin Blackwell scored because he consistently works his butt off. He is an overachiever on a talented roster that has too many passengers. Even if Chris Kreider showed up by fighting Mike McLeod to defend Mika Zibanejad after a good clean hit 28 seconds in. He even recorded his first assist of the season on a game-tying goal from Pavel Buchnevich with under a minute left to tie the score in the second period.
A Buchnevich, who redeemed himself following a lackadaisical turnover that drew the ire of Micheletti when I did watch. The KZB Line stayed intact. They created more, but it was another empty for the struggling Zibanejad.
If you’re tied at two following two periods on home ice, you should feel good about your chances of winning. Not this team. Even if they finally awakened from the malaise that saw the Devils register 16 shots on a sharp Shestyorkin in a scoreless first, it was still not good enough. It hasn’t been for a while.
Who’s to blame? I think you have to start looking at the coach. He talks a good game. He’s a nice guy. But when push comes to shove, David Quinn falls short. He only disciplines guys he doesn’t like. Tony DeAngelo is understandable. But you have to wonder why Zibanejad and Kreider rarely get punished. I know they’re looked upon as leaders. But it’s okay to drop one of them or miss a shift. Maybe Zibanejad needs it.
The simple threat of Buchnevich being demoted to the third line resulted in something positive. Zibanejad took an ill advised penalty 180 feet away from his net in the second period. Pavel Zacha scored on the Devils’ power play. Zibanejad didn’t miss a shift. He plays a lot of minutes as does Buchnevich, who gets a shade over 20 minutes due to the expanded role of killing penalties which he’s been good at.
Sometimes, even a veteran can learn something from watching a shift. This is one of my biggest gripes with Quinn. He doesn’t follow through. He also can’t seem to get the offense going.
Artemi Panarin or no Panarin. Other teams have played without their best players. It has to be more than two goals in six periods without him. Just by accident, the puck has to start going in. It’s not always going to come from the bottom six. But there you had Brett Howden of one assist make a perfect drop for the hardworking Blackwell, who let it rip right by Mackenzie Blackwood to tie the score. No hesitation.
If they played more like that, it would be more successful. A shooter’s mentality helps. Ask Buchnevich about his fourth goal that evened it at two when Blackwood let it go underneath his arm. Buchnevich too often tries to skate around and pass the puck. If he shot it more, it gives him a better chance and keeps opponents honest.
North/South hockey is what wins in these games. You can use East/West when there’s more operating room. That’s fine. But simplifying the approach would help.
This team looks lost. Maybe not so much when it comes to the effort which for the most part is there. They usually defend well. The goaltending isn’t the issue either. I know Shestyorkin gave up four. But a couple of those shots that went in had some puck luck for the Devils.
That included a Will Butcher wrist shot that banked off Jacob Trouba, who can’t seem to get out of his own way. He did finally add an assist for only his third point on the Buchnevich tally. But he’s really been a disappointment. He didn’t return for the third due to some injury. So, we’ll update that when we know why.
Whether they were down a defenseman or minus Panarin and K’Andre Miller, they had enough players to win the game. Another weird bounce saw Yegor Sharangovich have a P.K. Subban shot deflect off him and past Shestyorkin for the game-winner. That’s the breaks.
Even Nick Merkley scored for the Devils a few minutes later to add an insurance marker. Merkley isn’t some offensive dynamo. But he was in for Lindy Ruff due to his normal roster still not entirely healthy. That included no Travis Zajac, Nico Hischier, Ryan Murray and Sami Vatanen.
It didn’t matter. They got it done while the Rangers couldn’t. Mikhail Maltsev, who I never heard of, scored into a vacated net. Of course he did. I said he would. You cannot make it up.
There really is nothing left to say. I’m tired of hearing that they didn’t match the intensity. Or that they’re snake bit. They simply aren’t generating enough offense to be successful.Four wins in 14 games. 4-7-3.
The Devils passed them in the standings by doing what it took to win despite a struggle in the second. They wanted it more. Maybe Ruff wasn’t the problem. Maybe it’s the coach.
I am speechless. This team makes you wish they didn’t play for a week or two. It would actually be beneficial for our fans and the devoted reporters who cover the team. Nobody likes losing. This was embarrassing.