Devils 4 – 5 Steelers
Prior to the game the Devils aired a video for the You Can Play project (the first European team to join the campaign against homophobia I believe). This was great to see, and credit to the team and management for joining.
On to the game and You Can Play could have been a motto the Devils would do well to remember, as they seem like a team that no longer believes this of themselves. They started with pace and ferocity, and were getting in early shots, unlike some of the over articulation of passing that has characterised their games recently. Bowns was also required to make a couple of important saves from Steelers, who were fast on the break. After the Devils again failed to utilise a PP, Mosienko waltzed past the Devils defence, and set up Fitzgerald, who showed deft hands to scoop past Bowns. This saw much of that early speed evaporate from the Devils play, and it wasn’t until a PP at the end of the period that a long shot from Hotham led to a scramble in front of net and Ulmer managed to slot home the loose puck. This was pretty much a rerun of the first period last week, but at least it was all square. I mean the Devils were bound to put in a big second period, right?
Wrong. A soft shot for Armstrong out by the point went past Bowns too easily. These long shots are becoming an issues, partly for Bowns but also for D-men who are not closing them down efficiently. It took until the midway point for the Devils then to regain some of the intensity they had shown at the start of the game. This was derailed when Fournier took a penalty and the Steelers scored almost immediately after a simple turnover coming out of defence. Worse was to come when the Devils had a PP, but didn’t manage one completed pass. It was like watching a Donald Trump interview – rambling, incoherent and easily destroyed. Sure enough the Steelers broke again and scored short-handed. During this collapse the absence of any checking, physicality or presence on the ice made you wonder why we had signed Bordeleau. A few weeks ago he put in two shifts that changed a game, here he seemed largely anonymous. Whether this is a function of coaching or his own desire isn’t clear, but when things are getting away from you, an intervention in the form of a solid hit can bounce it back on track.
Murdy started the third period in net, Bowns apparently carrying an injury. The Devils gained some physicality in this period, initiated by that well known enforcer, erm, Jake Morissette. A well placed strike from Culligan from distance got a goal back, but this was soon cancelled out by another blue line shot (Hotham again MIA) from Schultz. The Devils went on to get late goals in the last two minutes from Hotham and Asselin (the only forward with any form), but the scoreline flattered the Devils.
A team that is soft in defence and stuttering in attack is not in a good place. If it isn’t quite a catastrophe yet, the blip has turned into a mini-crisis. And everyone (fans and coaching staff) seem perplexed. This shouldn’t be happening with these players. They seemed like everyone had been dosed up with Slo-Mo last night, and although the Steelers were impressive (a much better team than last year), the Devils never really gave them enough to be concerned about. During a season all teams go through a loss of confidence, a shake in the narrative they have set themselves. This happened catastrophically for the Devils at the end of last season. My hope is that this is this year’s version, and the narrative they envisioned at the start of the season is recovered. A wobble at the start of the season is easier to recover from than one at the end. So, remember Devils, you can play too.