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Game #35 – Hawks vs. Devils: Q&A With Some Palooka On The Corner

We still don’t know where @HellBlazerVice came from. And we don’t want to know. Luckily he was once again able to string some sentences together about the Devils for us. And now we run. 

Last time we did this we asked you just what the hell the Devils are doing at the top of the standings. Well, they’re still there, it’s still supposed to be a rebuilding year, so what the fuck?

Outside of their star players playing like stars, they’ve continued to get contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup. Brian Boyle has been absolutely scorching of late with 7 points in his last 3 games and is on pace to shatter his career highs despite missing the first 10 games of the season and playing himself back into game shape. For Boyle’s sake I hope it lasts because if there’s one person who deserves that kind of luck it’s him. Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen have managed to chip in some offense as well and Brian Gibbons has continued to be an effective player. Cory Schneider having a bounceback season also helps seeing as if they were going to be good again, having great goaltending would help seeing as they’re not a great puck possession team. It also helps that everyone in the metro is flawed in some way- the Rangers are pretty similar to the Devils (good goaltending, lots of skill, get badly outshot), the Pens, Isles and Canes can’t get a save when they need it, the Caps are top heavy and the Flyers insist on giving Andrew MacDonald significant minutes. The Jackets are probably the best team in the division but they’re one John Tortorella meltdown away from pissing the division away. The Devils haven’t as good as they were at the start of the season but they’re still atop the metro because everyone else can’t seem to string together some solid play or they’re digging themselves out of a hole.
How has Sami Vatanen looked so far in the swamp?
He hasn’t been their best defenseman but he’s been a workhorse who can play in all situations and they need that with Andy Greene slowly declining. The only complaint so far with Vatanen has been his lack of offensive production (1 assist through 10 games) but it’s excusable to some extent. He was playing himself back into game shape with Anaheim and got traded from an old, slow, physical team to a young, fast team built around skill so there will be some adjustment. It also doesn’t help that the Devils don’t have the same quality of defenseman as the Ducks- going from playing with Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler to a declining Greene and John Moore is like trading in your Ferrari for Ricky’s shitmobile. Adding Vatanen has been nice but there’s still a lot of work to be done on the roster so he’s really just another piece of the puzzle as they try and move away from ultra-safe defenders to guys who can move the puck and dictate the pace of the game.
 
Will Butcher was the college free agent everyone wanted to wave their dowry at over the summer. The Devils got him. Impressions?
 
Every time I watch Butcher I come away impressed with his puck skills. He always seems to make the right decisions with the puck as opposed to trying to force things or wait too long and get in trouble. His defense isn’t great, but it has more to do with a lack of experience as opposed to being bad defensively. His production has dipped a bit since his hot start but that has had more to do with the Devils’ sticks cooling off than him struggling individually. The Devils haven’t really had a defenseman like Butcher since Brian Rafalski- which is honestly less of a compliment and more of a statement of how bad the Devils organization were at assessing defensemen in the twilight of Lou Lamoriello’s tenure. That being said, John Hynes has put a lot of effort into trying to keep Butcher away from defensive minutes, which has been good in that he’s been able to focus on offense as opposed to worrying about his defense. It has come at a cost seeing as Butcher doesn’t play a lot (averages around 16 and a half minutes) and they could use him more often considering how ineffective Moore is and how Greene brings minimal offense.
Is Pavel Zacha ever going to be a thing? Yes we know, only 20…
 
The toughest part about assessing Zacha is no matter what, there’s always going to be angst about passing on Barzal, Werenski and Provorov to take him. I think the toughest part about him is that he’s an incredibly frustrating player because he doesn’t look like he’s doing enough at times. Most of the good things he does aren’t things that show up on the scoresheet- gaining the zone, setting up passes and playing defense. He’s a very good skater so he can get by half assing it, which was a problem of his in juniors and something that Hynes hasn’t been too fond of (which lead to several healthy scratches). He could also be a bit more selfish at times too, considering he tends to be more of a pass first player as opposed to a shooter. The good news is that he seems to have turned a corner as of late and has looked much better in general, especially considering he’s been dragging around the lifeless corpse of Drew Stafford for the past couple of weeks. I’d have to imagine that if Travis Zajac continues to be a non-factor on offense he should get another shot at the top 6. If he does become a good player, his development path will be much closer to someone like Josh Bailey or Sean Couturier where they were solid players before having a huge breakout season. Which might be fine considering that the Devils aren’t built to win now, but will be painful as long as guys like Barzal and Werenski continue to put their teams on their backs and rack up individual accolades.
Miles Wood… that’s totally a name he took from a porn star, right? Or is he a porn star on off days?
 
His dad is former NHLer Randy Wood, who also happens to have a name that sounds like it’s been taken from a porn star. According to Eliteprospects, his grandpa was named R. Norman Wood, which kinda sounds like a porn star name from the 60s. He has a brother named Tyler Wood who I can only assume he changed his name from “Richard” because he didn’t want to be known as Dick Wood. It’s entirely possible that his entire family is full of people who have taken their names from porn stars… or they’re a family full of part time porn stars.

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