Go for the division or rest and tempt the hockey gods?

While I admit I myself have been ambivalent about the Devils winning the division at times (hence our early exits as a top seed in the late ’90’s and ’00’s), I didn’t expect the team themselves to be this blase about potentially winning a division, especially with the guaranteed home-ice in the second round. With the playoffs set to start Monday or Tuesday – rumor is we’ll be starting Monday based on nothing but ushers telling people see you Monday after the Devils clinched home-ice in the first round on Fan Appreciation night – there should be at least four days of rest before the crucible begins.

It was puzzling enough when the Devils threw Mackenzie Blackwood out in Boston five nights ago against a stronger team rather than play him against the Blue Jackets at home two nights prior, but clearly we’re acting like a team prioritizing rest by sitting Vitek Vanecek for the second time in three games tonight with other guys allegedly being rotated out of the lineup as well. Which I don’t even have a big problem with, until it looks like you’re manipulating the situation a la sitting Vitek against Boston instead of Columbus.

If you wanted to be a cynic you’d say they wanted to play the Rangers – who they’ve taken seven of eight points from – over the Panthers, who they lost two of three to during the regular season and whose physical game has given us fits. It was fun to see Luke Hughes’ debut and it looks like he’ll play again tonight, which is nice as a fan but on the other hand if you’re icing your ‘best lineup’ it’s not likely including a guy who just got here five minutes ago, doesn’t know the system and has only played one NHL game.

Do I want the Devils to play guys who are hurt, no but that’s not what’s happening in most of these cases other than maybe Erik Haula who’s missed the last couple of games at least and Mike McLeod who’s clearly injured. Haula and McLeod both missing led to us playing 11-7 the other night, which should never be a first choice otherwise.

In spite of the fact the Devils have had better success against the Rangers than the Panthers in the regular season, I’d never count those chickens in a rivalry series – 1997 being a prime example of why. Manipulating a matchup by being blase about winning the division either because you think it’s an easier matchup, or more cynically because you want to make more profit on ticket sales just speaks of testing the hockey gods. What would be ironic is if the Devils with arguably their third best goalie and some backups in still beat a Caps team that’s clearly got one foot on the airplane home with two wins in their last twelve games, and the Canes lost. Then we’d get to have our cake and eat it too…unless you’re in ticket sales.

Whatever the organization’s wants, I’ll still be watching the results of both games and rooting for the division. If Carolina wins and we play the Rangers, then let’s get on with Armageddon. I’d hate for it to be decided if Carolina lost and we couldn’t get the result we needed based on getting cute with our lineup though. I also appreciate protecting guys due to injury, especially your starting goalie but it looks farcical when you have twenty guys on a hockey roster and can only sit three or four anyway, to sit specific guys based on rest while Jack Hughes and Dougie Hamilton will still be playing their regular shifts. I wouldn’t mind going with the B team if you could literally go with the entire B team but that isn’t the case here. Having three or four mid-level lineup changes just seems a bit cute for the sake of being cute.

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3 Responses to Go for the division or rest and tempt the hockey gods?

  1. Derek Felix says:

    It’s tricky. You don’t know who you’re playing. So, it can’t be easy to decide who should play. Obviously, protecting banged up players makes sense. I’d expect no Shesterkin or Lindgren tonight. The game has no meaning. The Rangers are so against the cap anyway that they can’t recall anyone. Lol they better hope no one gets hurt. But Toronto likely will again sit Matthews and Marner. Plus Woll gets the start.

    When you’re in that position as the Devils are, it’s pick your poison. I also feel like they’re also thinking about the Islanders. They can still be the first wildcard if the Panthers don’t get a point. The Isles are annoying. Florida to me is Defense Optional. But Lyon has played well. They are physical and can score with anyone.

    I guess we’ll see what happens.


  2. hasan4978 says:

    I knew this was going to happen, especially when I heard Graves, Marino and Palat would also be resting. Blackwood can eat a turdburger, should have been Schmid starting this game but NOOOOOOOO. Our organization with stuff to play for is approaching it like you guys should have, you guys are approaching your game the way we should have. Disgusting.

    There was no chance we could play the Isles since winning the division in any scenario would have required the Panthers to jump them. It was either the Panthers or the Rangers, looks like the Rangers now. I hope the Canes still lose to embarrass the front office further.


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