If I felt the need to talk about the New Jersey Devils on a slow night, I had Sports Art. Over the past 10 years, no team has been more geographical than the Devils. You didn’t think about them until you were on the show with your favorite team. And even when that happened, it wasn’t an occasion you could remember. I was a ticket holder here in Chicago for 12 seasons, and I don’t remember a single Devils visit. I know they were there every year because they had to be but other than that they couldn’t help you.
Turn on a Devils game at Center Ice and you’ll see a half-empty building filled with the souls of villains performing rituals and trying not to think too hard about what they did in a cold warehouse in Newark. I guess all of Newark is like that, and I don’t think I know for sure, which is how everyone feels about Newark. It’s a place you’ve heard of and a place you’ll never find yourself on purpose. [Editor’s note: Newark has the Ironbound Section around the Devils’ home ice, which is worth checking out.] Which is kind of how the devil’s list is built.
Still…now…Tuesday night, “Rock” was full and alive. The faithful were more than happy to sing “Take It On Me” or “My Own Worst Enemy” (something of an NHL tradition, to be fair) long after PA had stepped on the ice. The place was buzzing after big goals and Devils goals and riots erupted after the hosts had two goals ruled out on video reviews.
And on the ice, the devil was fast. They were creative. Were they fun? Does this mean? That can’t be, right?
The Devils won their second game in a week, eight straight, with a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. They came back from a goal down and Nico Hischier netted the winner with eight minutes remaining. It was one of the rare games this season where the Devils had to battle the offense to hold onto a lead, but they did. Only Brenes have more points in the east.
noise? Happiness? In the past, the devil did not desire these things. After all, this organization is still living in inaction, noise, and excitement. Success depends on getting all of those things out of their trapping and scoring, and the best way to win hockey games is to have as little hockey as possible and make it difficult for them to get oxygen. Every inch of the pitch had to be claimed as sacred ground, and the puck was incidental. The Devils haven’t played like this in a long time, but that’s still what many think of when they hear the name.
There is no opposing coach who ultimately chose to take his team out of arbitration more than Lindy Ruff. The addition of John Marino on the blue line this season gave Ruff another option to take dungeon shifts and allowed Dougie Hamilton more freedom in his assignment to push the Devils up the ice.
It didn’t hurt that Hischier made the jump, either, as he looks like a top-line center who should eventually make the No. 1 overall pick. Hischier has seen a big jump in the balls, chances and goals he and his line produce, with Jesper Brat as another weapon on the wing.
This means that Jack Hughes got a little shelter on the second line. He’s comfortably at just one point a game.
Anyone who has made significant moves carries above-water parameters, so there’s no dumping anywhere on the roster. Ruff in Dallas had a run n ‘gun team like anyone we’ve seen in recent years, and New Jersey is no different.
Sure, the scoring isn’t great, but if Mackenzie Blackwood gets back healthy, they could be on to something. Or maybe Vitek Vanacek can take over the job full-time in his absence, as his .915 save percentage suggests he probably should (though still down the line in goals against).
But the vibration with the devil is very strong. Not only is this a winner, but a version of the devil has been waiting to rip off those past prisoners. To identify everything again. It’s not showtime yet, and the idea of a showtime in northern New Jersey is absolutely stupid. But where once there was no sense of thought or excitement, when the signs of life were color and absence of vigilance, now there is juice and pop from the crowd. Dean said. There is a sense of something bigger and better.
The devil is no longer an absence, a gap, ellipses. Nothing is permanent.