20The New Jersey Devils have started this season with a huge question mark on it.  No one knows what to expect of the club after their fearless leader of 28 years, Lou Lamoriello, decided to head north to the Toronto Maple Leafs, leaving the club in the hands of Ray Shero.  Not long afterward, the Devils not only hired a first-time NHL coach, but they also hired the youngest coach in the league when they hired John Hynes.

With all of this uncertainty, it was easier for many hockey writers and fans to just dismiss the Devils as a team going through a rebuild year.  They were not even worth looking at or considering as a Stanley Cup contender when predictions were announced at the beginning of the season.  No one can explain just what exactly the new Devils are yet.  A team in transition?  Yes.  A team with uncertainty?  Yes.  A team you can bank on?  That remains to be seen.

The Devils have simply become the underdog, a team every major hockey publication has ranked at the very bottom the league.  The good news about no one expecting them to amount to much is that they only have to prove the disbelievers that they were wrong to dismiss them just because of uncertainty.  At least, they don’t have to worry about letting anyone down.  They only have to concentrate on proving to everyone that they are still one of the scariest teams in the league to play against, because they are still winners.

It is in knowing that they are the underdog, and everyone always likes the underdog stories, that the team is starting to come together slowly, but surely.  With each game, you see the team becoming stronger together.  You start to see how a young rookie coach is building his team into a winning team one step at a time.

In Tuesday night’s game, the Devils fell 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues.  Former New Jersey Devils Martin Havlat scored at 4:57 in the second period, with Scott Gomez assisting (along with Troy Brouwer).  The Havlat/Gomez goal was a double-whammy for the Devils.  Devils fans booed when they announced the goal from the two former Devils.

By the third period, the Devils started to look exhausted out on the ice as the Blues continued to outplay them during the last 40 minutes of the game.  Magnus Paajarvi scored the final goal just 3:28 into the third period (his first goal of the season).

“I think you have to give a lot of credit to St. Louis,” coach Hynes said after the game.  “St. Louis turned up the temperature in that second period.  They played real strong.  We never got back to the level we were at in the first period.  I think it was a combination of credit to them, and we didn’t have enough push-back to raise our level to really make us have a strong impact in the game.

Could this loss be considered the beginning of a setback for the Devils?  Coming into this contest, they had won eight out of their last 10 games.  Considering the Devils are still building themselves up (like most teams in this first month of the season), could this be two steps back for them?

“This was just a game that as the game wore on, we just got out of play,” Hynes said.  “We’ve got to do a better job of that.  It was a tight game.  We just didn’t play to the level we needed to play to in the last 40 minutes of the game.  Therefore, we didn’t get a chance to win.”

“The team that won the game played better for longer.”

Where does the team go from here?  Do they make lineup changes for the Chicago game on Thursday night?  It appears that just may happen.

The Devils next home game is on Saturday, November 14th at 7 p.m.  This is also the Devils annual food drive with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.  Goya Foods will match the donation pound for pound.  The items most needed are non-perishable goods such as canned meats, boxed cereals, pasta, potatoes, rice, canned soups, peanut butter (in plastic jars), and canned fruit.  [Note: no glass, cellophane, bottled water, soda or baby food.]

Donate 10 or more items and the Devils will give you a voucher good for two complimentary tickets to an upcoming Devils home game.

About The Author

Michelle Kenneth has been with Inside Hockey since 2007 as the beat reporter for the New Jersey Devils. She is also part of the IH team covering the New York Rangers. Since 2007, she's covered the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL All-Stars, NHL Awards, Winter Classic, Stadium Series and the NHL in Europe. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @MichelleKenneth and on her blog: michellekennethhockey.wordpress.com.

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