In In A Sunburned Country Bill Bryson describes the sting of a box jellyfish; he speaks of how the pain is so excruciating that one unfortunate victim was reported to have been incessantly screaming from the pain while in a coma. That, Gentle Reader, was what a lot of this game was like.
But we’re still in monkey-hugging-a-bird mode, so we’ll try to consider the positives (while ignoring the negatives). Like that the Devils won (against a team that has no points in the standings so far, and has the look of “we’re going to have a new coach before Thanksgiving”). Or that the Devils scored 3 power play goals (against a penalty kill that gave up 3 goals against Buffalo’s lackluster power play, too). Or that the Devils came back from being down two goals in the closing minutes of the second (after seeming to have the game well in hand after the first period and then letting the game all but slip away to the godawful Thrashers). Or that a handful of Devils got their first goals of the season (while a handful of Thrashers also scored). Huh. This is sounding an awful lot like a list of negatives, isn’t it? Well, we can’t help it; some wins just feel like losses.
Oh, but we’re not just being negative nellies here. The Devils managed to not take 400 penalties tonight. That was good. And we are delighted to have seen so much offensive spark tonight. Patty played what might have been his best game in over a year; he was all over the place, with that swaggering stride we miss so much, peppering shots on net, racking up points and scoring the most important goal of the game. We also saw a rejuvenated Travis scoring his first acorn of the year, Sarge potted a key goal, and Paulie showed a little flash of why some people whispered Niedermayer comparisons about him when he first came into the league on that “well I don’t care if the rest of you losers have given up on this game, but dammit I still care” play to set up Pando’s goal at the end of the second. Somehow, amazingly, in a game that saw them give up 5 goals, the D didn’t seem quite as wretched as they have recently — they didn’t have as many of those shifts-long, catastrophic, scrambling, what-the-hell-are-we-supposed-to-be-doing-here??? breakdowns. Of course, Marty was pooptacular, so maybe they were fully prepared to be that bad, but Marty was just nipping it in the bud by letting in goals before the scrambling could start.
Which brings us to Marty. We are hopeful this is just a stretch like all those years when he would get all tight as he crept toward the possibility of getting the single-season wins record, and once he gets to 500 he’ll normalize. You could argue that he was interfered with on one of the Thrasher goals (we will concede he was jostled, but he was a mile out of the crease and looked clueless), and you could blame some bumbling D on a couple of the others, but that Kovalchuk goal at the start of the second was dispiritingly similar to the craptastic goals that characterized his pathetic playoff effort last spring. With the defense looking as shaky as they have, there is no room for Marty to not be the best player on the ice. Frankly, there aren’t going to be many nights the Devils can expect to have the game gift-wrapped by the kind of stupid penalties and lousy penalty killing the Thrashers demonstrated tonight.
But while we might not be able to count on the Devils’ opponents being this bad in the future, like the bird-hugging monkeys we’re trying to be, we’ll take a few days here to celebrate that at least on this night, they were.