Must have been a slow, sports-wise night, if I felt the need to talk about the New Jersey Devils. There is no more landscape and duller team than the Devils in the last 10 years. You didn’t think about them until they came up with a schedule against your favorite team. And even if that happens, it’s not an occasion you can remember. I’ve been a season ticket holder here in Chicago for 12 seasons, and I don’t remember a single visit from the Devils. I know they’ve been there for years because they have to, but other than that, can’t help you.
Turn on the Devils game on Center Ice and you’ll see an empty building filled with wayward spirits that just act out ritualistically and try not to think too much about what got them into a cold warehouse. in Newark. I suppose that’s what Newark is all about, and I don’t plan on finding out for sure, that’s how most people feel about Newark. It’s a place you’ve heard of and would never intentionally find yourself there. [Editor’s note: Newark has the Ironbound Section around the Devils’ home ice, which is worth checking out.] That’s how the Devil’s squad was built.
And… now… on a Tuesday night, there’s “The Rock” full and alive. Members were only too excited to sing along to “Take On Me” or “My Own Worst Enemy” (becoming something of an NHL tradition, to be fair) long after PA eliminated the act on tape . This place actively pops up after big hits and Devils goals and sounds chaotic after the two-goal home team was disqualified by the review videos.
And on the ice, the demons are fast. They were creative. Did they have fun? Is that what this says? That can’t be, right?
The demons won their eighth straight, second in a week against the Calgary Flames, by a score of 3-2. They came back after a goal to equalize, with Nico Hischier scoring the winning goal with eight minutes left. It was one of the rare games this season when the Devils had to battle a fierce onslaught to keep the lead, but they managed to do it. Only the Bruins have more points in the East.
Noise? Excited? It used to be the Devil who didn’t covet these things. After all, this is an organization that lives off of its reputation for being inactive, loud, and boisterous. Success is built on sucking up all that stuff, with their traps and their scoring ability and the idea that the best way to win hockey games is to make them play less. Hockey as much as possible and make it hard to get oxygen. That every inch of the rink had to be scrambled as if it were holy ground, and that the breakdown was random. Of course, the Reds haven’t played like this in a long time, but that’s still what most think of when they hear the name.
Perhaps no coach objected to that old Devils style more than Lindy Ruff, who let his team get off the leash as he liked in the end. The addition of John Marino in the season gave Ruff another option for changing dungeons and allowed Dougie Hamilton more freedom with her mission of pushing the Devil to the ends of the ice.
Hischier making the leap doesn’t matter either, as he ends up looking like the top center that a #1 overall pick should do. Hischier has seen a huge leap in the shots, chances and goals he and his line are creating, with Jesper Bratt on his flank as another weapon.
That meant Jack Hughes had to get a little sheltered in the second line. He’s only getting about one point per game with comfort.
There’s no drop anywhere on the list, as anyone who skates the critical movements carries stats above the water. Ruff in Dallas has a team run like anyone we’ve seen in recent years, and New Jersey is no different.
Sure, the scoring isn’t great, but they can really gain something if it improves when health returns for MacKenzie Blackwood. Or maybe Vitek Vanecek just takes the job full-time in his absence, as his .915 savings rate suggests he might be (albeit still below the level for the goals expected. ).
But the vibes with the demons were too strong. This is a fan base that has been waiting for not only a winner but for a version of Devil to shake off the shackles of the past. To redefine the whole thing. It’s not showtime yet, and the idea of showing time in upstate New Jersey is absolutely insane. But where there was once a void of intrigue or excitement, where the signs of life were the absence of color and vibration, there was now juice and pop from the crowd. There is a din. There is a feeling, this represents something even bigger and better.
The demons are no longer absences, voids, ellipses. Nothing is permanent.