The last thing I wanted to do after getting back from this game – mercifully early because of the utter trash effort this team put on the ice for the first two periods – is write about this game tonight. Honestly there’s not much real analysis needed. For the third straight game this team was a complete no-show for the first thirty or so minutes of the game, certain players have been no-shows even more often than that and this team got eviscerated by the second actual good team they played on this homestand, just like they got eviscerated by the first good team they played in the Caps.
Not that I really paid much attention to analyze anything. Calgary killed us off farcically quickly in the first period with four goals in an under seven-minute span starting with a breakaway goal from 400-year old, 500-pound Milan Lucic. Considering it went five hole that might have been the most stoppable goal given up in the first period, certainly the second goal was on the immortal Jonas Siegenthaler, who not only turned the puck over inside the blueline, but also allowed Andrew Mangiapane to muscle his way around him for an easy ‘garbage goal’. Before you could even pick your jaw up off the floor, a PK Subban penalty led to another predictably easy PP goal allowed within twenty-two seconds, a deflection by Elias Lindholm that mercifully ended Nico Daws’ night. Poor kid, went from hero to zero tonight though you can’t exactly blame him for this team’s complete dumpster fire. Not that the goalie change helped matters as a horrid turnover by Jesper Bratt (one of a few that got him benched for much of the second period) led to another breakaway goal, this time by Mangiapane who faked poor Scott Wedgewood out of his skates.
Honestly I should have walked out then for how interested the Devils were in the game. Has this franchise ever come back from four down to win a game? I can’t think of an instance. I can think of a three-goal comeback a few years ago against Vegas, but not four although they had ridiculous ‘missed it by that much’ junktime rallies late last season against the Pens (six goals down) and the Rangers (four goals down). Because I was already there and have no intention of going to the ridiculous Halloween evening start against Columbus I stuck it out through the second period, but the team’s play and effort level really didn’t improve all that much even though they got a lucky goal from Pavel Zacha in the second after a giveaway from the immortal Dan Vladar, who would have been better off just continuing to nap in his net for all the pressure we put on him. To be exact, we had thirteen mostly inconsequential shots in the first two periods and to reference the old Zach Parise line, with all due respect they might have as well had a pee-wee goalie in net.
Since this is gonna be a night of toss around the blame, I want to focus on three people in particular – starting with the head coach. Obviously when your team is just not ready to play multiple games in a row the coach has gotta take responsibility for that. Not only that but you also have to question Lindy Ruff’s decision to again scratch Marian Studenic – after he had a terrific game against the Sabres – in favor of grinder Mason Geertsen. It was particularly puzzling after the coach’s postgame comments on Saturday on how the Devils were missing Jack Hughes and Miles Wood so there was some speed lacking in the lineup and Studenic brought some of that element. So Studenic plays well, you admit the team could use the speed element and you go back to the goon that isn’t even that good of a goon? I like Lindy personally but he’s definitely showing his….old-school proclivity on that one. From what little I read about the third period Geertsen took a bad penalty that led to the fifth goal, shocker. Not to mention the fact that the coach tinkered around with all the lines and d-pairings instead of just leaving the same guys together that finished the Sabres game on fire.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment of this season has been Yegor Sharangovich so far, the fact he doesn’t have a goal is bad enough but his effort and commitment have been sketchy at best this season, and he earned another benching in the middle of this game. Shockingly he has three assists in the first five games, but one of them was a junktime point against the Caps. I kind of expect this kind of mercurial up and down play from Jesper Bratt at this point though. So do Matt and Chico, who reportedly eviscerated him on the radio after some of his poor play early. I don’t want to hear hey, he’s a sixth rounder, we’re way past that now. Bratt is what he is, a maddening, streaky player who can get 15 points in 20 games but inevitably follows that up with a 4 point in 20 game stretch where he’s sloppy, gets benched and need to get the spurs put up his rear end before he responds.
Not that the turnover twins were alone in their poor play early, you could pretty much count the number of guys on one hand who actually played well tonight. I’m not sure you’d need five fingers either. Zacha had a second goal in the third period so you have to say he played well, Dawson Mercer had a goal and an assist in the third period – albeit borderline junktime, but still the teen rookie is continuing his nice start. Dougie Hamilton had assists on both third-period goals, which turned a 5-1 game into a laughably faux close 5-3 finish. Ty Smith seemingly didn’t suck in his second game off IR, but that’s pretty much it for guys who played well.
You could take the glass half-full approach and say 3-2 is fine for the opening homestand but I don’t want to hear that. This is more of a glass empty 3-2 in my eyes, because you got eviscerated by the only two good teams you played on this homestand and were life and death to beat the other three bad teams at home with no back-to-backs and zero travel. You can’t even blame this on goalie play and missing Mackenzie Blackwood because Daws saved their bacon the other night while Jonathan Bernier (who seems to be in witness protection now) did well in his two starts.
Speaking of Blackwood, probably the only good news in the last couple days is twofold, both involving the presumptive starting goalie. He skated on the ice today, getting a step closer to a return and he got his first vaccination shot, so our long local nightmare of wondering if this guy was going to miss games on account of not being able to travel to Canada is over with. Maybe we’ll actually get Blackwood or Bernier back in time for the Devils’ next game in Pittsburgh on Saturday. It’s nice to have days off considering we still have multiple injuries we’re dealing with but obviously the days off haven’t helped the team this year after all the excuses given about NO PRACTICE TIME last year. Our special teams are still awful and this team’s still incredibly mercurial even with a far more spaced out schedule.
For now the Devils have to ask themselves why they continue to sleepwalk out of the gate in these games. If they don’t get a more consistent effort out of a young team that shouldn’t be taking nights off, not much else is going to matter.