— First and foremost, let’s talk about the ice situation tonight, shall we?
“In warmups, we didn’t know if we were going to play, to be honest,” said Chris Poli.
“As you could see, there was some dirt impacted. We got home early Sunday morning, and there was still dirt from the monster trucks, and we were thinking ‘how the hell are we going to have a game?’ But they did a good job. It was a little soft, but to be honest, it played pretty true. The reality is, it was the same for both teams.”
It was an embarrassing situation all across the board. And it couldn’t have happened on much worse of a night. Quite a few of the Devils higher-ups were in attendance, and according to some people I spoke to at the arena, there were quite a few people extremely unhappy with the situation.
Not only was the safety of the players an issue — Rick Kowalsky commented after the game that many players were simply falling for no reason in the first period — but the fans were literally left in the cold for as much as 20 minutes while the arena crew was cleaning the dirty seats. The ice surface itself was dirty looking and was an embarrassment to the fans who paid to see a game played on it. In walking around the concourse, one angry fan expressed his displeasure and his intention to write both Lou Lamoriello and Jeff Vanderbeek. I’m sure he’s not alone, and it’s hard to blame him.
— Secondly, Chris Zarb should be suspended for his role in the post-goal brawl in the third period. As soon as things started to escalate when Trevor Kell and John Murray got into it, Zarb opened the door to the penalty box and came charging into the fray. I highly doubt that’s allowed. And if is, it shouldn’t be.
— Moving on…outside of a mindbendingly horrendous first period for both clubs, that was a good win for the Trenton Devils. Granted, it was against the worst team in the league, but two points are two points. The power play was still atrocious, and that’s something that Kowalsky addressed after the game.
“At times, with our puck management, we just seem to be fighting it,” Kowalsky said.
“A lot of guys…Tim Kunes mishandled the puck a lot tonight, Tomko made some bad decisions. We actually took some guys off tonight. It’s going to come down to who’s working and who’s getting it done. Guys have trouble understanding that when it’s not going your way, you just have to keep it simple…move it around the perimeter and shoot, get it to the net. Even the one we scored, Trevor Kell attacked from the goal line with not much of a play. Tony Zancanaro crashes and knocks it out of the air. There’s no pictures on the box score. It’s a power play goal. It’s simple.”
That’s a great line by Kowalsky, by the way: “There’s no pictures on the box score.”
— Neil Smith’s coaching debut was a story right up until 4 o’clock, when the focus shifted to the ice surface issues.
“I think Jason Spence had a lot to do there,” Kowalsky said.
“It’s tough, I think, to come in as a coach and all of a sudden change everything. I saw him patting a lot of guys on the back and talking to a lot of guys over there. So I’m sure he was more trying to instill some confidence in guys. They worked hard tonight, they really did. But we didn’t really see too many adjustments systems-wise as a coaching staff.”
Poli had similar thoughts.
“I just listen to what Rick says, he’s supposed to pick up on that stuff,” said Poli with a smile.
“They had the same players, it seemed to me. Systems wise? No, I didn’t really pick up on anything.”
— There were some Devils front office members in the locker room after the game, including Grant Marshall.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com