I admit, looking at the schedule I never expected to win tonight's game against Carolina anyway. Six games in nine days (with of course Martin Brodeur playing every last one of them), going from New Jersey to Raleigh the next night. And lately Carolina's actually played like the team that knocked us out of the playoffs last year, although they're still too far buried that nobody but the most delusional fans believe they can make the playoffs - especially with Cam Ward's star-crossed season in jeopardy thanks to a back issue. Even Jim Rutherford started waving the white flag by trading Matt Cullen just before the roster freeze. With no Ward and the Canes wearing their less-intimidating black third jerseys, it just didn't seem like a Devils-Canes game.
That is until their kid goaltender Justin Peters started making some Ward-esque saves, we botched 943 power plays in the first period and then Anssi Salmela, who rushed back to play this game looked like his body was in mud on a crucial first-period turnover that led to Zach Boychuk's first-ever NHL goal. While our power play continued its startling downfall (21.9% in the first half of the season and 4th in the league at that point, 8.9% and last in the league since then) Carolina managed to score three power play goals before the game was half over. Thanks to a quick whistle that stopped play just before the first, only two of them actually got posted on the scoreboard though.
Most embarassingly though, after an early Danius Zubrus penalty in the second period, the Devils took another quick penalty. Instead of Carolina giving up the puck and starting the five-on-three they possessed the puck with enough time to get the goaltender off the ice, having a six-on-four, and then getting several scoring chances before Rob Niedermayer finally touched the puck an entire minute later! When the Canes finally got the five-on-three chance, Eric Staal and Ray Whitney showed us (2-15 on the season last I checked in these situations) how it was done, with Staal's pass finding Whitney for a quick one-timer that basically ended any interest I had of watching this game.
So I turned on the Olympics and literally the first time I turned back to the game, Carolina had a 3-0 lead and were on the power play again. I didn't even look to see who scored until just now - apprarently it was Whitney one more time (does he have more power play goals one period than our entire team since January?). If the Devils are going to punt this game, fine - so will I. See you guys in March, hopefully when you decide to show up for more than one game in a row and don't need me in the stands to actually win a game at all. Amazingly enough the Devils' last two game winning streak was over a month ago, when we beat the Wild and Stars on the 2nd and 5th of January. And yet we're in first place going into the Olympic break.
All I have left to say is, everyone like Scott over at 2ManAdvantage who wants to claim that this team has so many injuries, they're tired (despite everyone else playing the same compressed schedule and really the Devils had less games played than most teams until this recent stretch), whatever excuse you want to use for this recent malaise - and that's what it is, it went beyond a slump weeks ago - the Devils better and I mean better come out like a machine in March. If all it takes for us to you know, actually go on a winning streak, is everyone but our best few players having a few days off then the Devils will return to their pre-January form like nothing ever happened. And if not I don't ever want to hear about the schedule, our IR list and all that crap again.
At least it'll be nice to watch hockey for a couple weeks to just enjoy it. No recaps, no team bumbling on the power play, just talent at work. And Doc Emrick actually broadcasting games again (he missed the final three for the Devils getting some well-deserved rest before his own hectic Vancouver schedule).