We peeked ahead at the schedule for this summer’s tour of Devils games we’d rather, for the most part, forget, and Gentle Reader, there are four Rangers games included in this retrospective. Because 16 regular-season and four playoff games against them over the last two years isn’t bad enough. So here we go, with the second of four, and first of three in a row: Devils vs. Rangers. Whee.
Aw man! The intro for this involves highlights of the Devils-Sabres game with the phantom Crunchy “save” on Patty, and the ensuing retributive Madden goal and third-period comeback win that pulled Jersey to within four points of the conference lead… FSN, that was a game to remember. Why, Hockey Gods, why????
As if to throw us a tiny sop, we get a nice slurpy closeup of Pando at the outset. Jagr must be on the ice. Heh.
19:31 Jagsie starts the game off by being typically distracted by Pando to the point of being a detriment to his team; circling behind his net and facing only the mildest forechecking pressure, he dumps the puck blindly to Madden instead of a teammate. Maddog finds Pando all alone in front, but Pando’s just not really that good offensively.
19:06 Chico has been blathering since the outset about how tonight’s game is “a learning experience” for Hank. Apparently he’d given up a bunch of goals in the game they played the previous night, and this was supposed to be the “let’s see how this kid can bounce back” game. Huh. Who knew he was still a bit of a question mark this deep into the season?
18:09 PandoNation can find just this one thing to like about Ranger games: Pando gets to skate every single time Jagr takes the ice. When Renney double-shifts Jagr, Pando gets double-shifted too. Sadly, Renney doesn’t often try to catch the EGG line napping or anything, and Pando just finds all his extra time is with the fourth-liners. But we take what we can get.
15:55 After a zippy shift by the Poppers, Chico wonders, “If you were a coach and you had a checking line, which line would you put them up against? The Gomez line or the Zajac line?” Seriously, Chico? The Poppers vs. the EGG line? There is no question on that one. (Pookie: “Zach’s like, ‘I say, what’s this “Zajac” line he’s talking about?’”)
15:24 As Avery throws a hit into Paulie on the near boards (and Paulie looks thoroughly underwhelmed), Chico declares it Avery’s “first hit as a Ranger”. Oh dear God. Of course we’d be commemorating Avery’s first game with the Rangers, because what Devils fan wasn’t thrilled that the most wretched team in hockey redeemed their entire season by acquiring the most venal player in the league?
14:02 When Schnookie comments that Paulie’s legs look really long in this game, Pookie suggests, “That’s because he had them lengthened; with every minus in his +/- rating his legs grew an inch. There was a time in January that he couldn’t walk for how long they were.”
13:12 Renney is now just as distracted by Pando as Jagr is — he’s slapped Jagsie onto three different lines so far, and with each one Pando just obediently and dutifully hops over the boards and glues himself into Jagr’s passing lanes.
11:48 Gomez and Jagr meet up in the corner, and both skate out with their shoulders intact. We should have known here that Gomer had lost his power over Jagsie and it was time for him to move on.
11:35 Because the EGG line is out there intact against the Jagrs, the Rangers get a glorious scoring opportunity. We find ourselves wondering why, if he’d just unlocked the secret to getting Jagr to create scoring chances against the Devils (namely: get him out on the ice against Gomez), Sather would then go and take that advantage away from himself.
9:15 After audibly calling for a puck (isn’t that always weird when you can hear players’ voices during games?), Rachunek gets a wide-open shot from the point and cranks it wide. Yup — he’s clearly ready to be a Devils blueliner.
6:50 After some decent cycling and forecheck, Gio finds himself behind Lundqvist on all fours inside the net. Gio curls up to cover his face out of concern a shot might be coming, then looks out to see the puck loose in the crease… and decides the smart thing to do in this situation is to wave his stick wildly at about the height a skating defender’s nose would be. After Girardi skates into Gio’s stick, the Rangers go on a double-minor power play. Brilliant play, Gio.
6:22 Madden gets a shorthanded breakaway, and shoots, predictably, high and wide. Pookie: “Why is it John Madden is the only one on this team — not Langer, not Gio, not Patty, not Zajac, not Zach — who ever gets breakaways?” It would be nice, come to think of it, if someone whose hands weren’t made of lead got a crack at a few of those. (Roszival didn’t pay attention to the scouting reports for the Debbies, and felt compelled to hook Madden during the play, leading us to what Chico very unconvincingly says will be “some exciting four-on-four.”)
5:30 No way! Chico was right! That was very exciting, at least for PaulieMartinNation! Gomer and Patty swirl into the offensive zone and Paulie jumps into the play just as the Rangers all part from in front of their net. Gomer drops a nice pass to Paulie and he launches a floating shot that must have terrified Hank, because Hank lets it drift right next to his ear and into the net. Paulie’s goal celebration looks like his soul is dying by inches. But we’re sure he loves being a Devil and can’t wait to sign a long-term contract.
4:15 For some reason Marty decides that he doesn’t want to be good at lateral movement (could that reason be that he wanted to make Rachunek feel welcome?) and lets Rachunek’s long shot from the point beat him five-hole.
3:49 Avery assisted on Rachunek’s goal, and Chico’s breakdown of the play marks the beginning of what became a months-long monologue from the New York-area hockey media about how fucking amazing Sean Avery is and how he invented hockey. Our ears are vomiting blood into their own mouths.
2:23 Matt “Bitchface” Cullen takes a phantom holding penalty against Paulie. Apparently Paulie’s dying soul makes him so delicate no one’s allowed to even think about touching him.
0:41 Rachunek has a great clear on the PK — we’re super-excited about picking him up! (And we’re super-ignoring how it looks like the Devils spent their previous game getting power play tips from the Sabres.)
18:12 Johnny Oduya spares us all another Avery point after Marty loses control of a shot from Lieutenant Meth Mouth and Oduya is forced to make a heads-up clear past Marty’s prone body. Raffie takes a holding penalty on the sequence, and Avery yells at him as if Raffie had been eye-gouging or something.
17:14 Marty is having a butterfingers kind of period. No, not that he’s blatantly eating Butterfingers bars (although we wouldn’t be surprised if he was), but that he’s juggling rebounds. He barely manages to find and cover the puck on a frenzied sequence in front that includes a demonstration of Whitey’s approach to when Marty is playing this way (namely: to park himself in the crease behind his netminder. That is actually a really good plan, Whitey).
15:26 This period has been dominated by discussion between Doc and Chico about how legit Avery is as a player. We will spare you the details, Gentle Reader.
14:48 After 5+ minutes spent in the defensive zone, the Devils finally get the puck moving up ice with some speed. Patty flies into the zone and drops the puck to Gomer while clearing out the defenders in front… and Gomer decides to pull up to make an impossible pass to Gio on the other side of the ice. Surprise, surprise: he fails to connect on the pass. In fact, he fails to release the pass as a Ranger anticipates Gomer’s decision-making process and pokes the puck away from him. (Pookie: “Seven million dollars.”)
13:21 Jagr swaggers in on a semi-break, and thinking he’s got all day to put together his move, starts in on what he probably imagines will be a huge, power-deke. All of a sudden Raffie barrels in from behind the play, tries to tie Jagsie up but kind of misses, and Jagr, in his surprise, loses the puck right outside the crease. Butterfingers Brodeur makes no mistake in covering that one up as Raffie stands next to the net looking utterly bewildered about what just happened. Us too, Raffie. Us too.
12:27 Whitey takes a tripping penalty; we weren’t paying attention during play, and it seems the truck can’t find the actual play he’s getting called for, so we all settle in to watch a Rangers power play we don’t honestly believe was earned. (Oh, who are we kidding? If it’s something ticky-tacky being called against Colin White, it’s probably a fair call.)
11:47 Chico is assessing the Avery deal, and declares, “This is a much better trade than I originally thought.” “Yeah,” says Pookie, “Look at how it brought them the Cup.” Although we have to grudgingly admit that it was, in fact, a good pick-up for the Rangers. And also the beginning of the end for what had been until that transaction the funnest season in NHL history. (Seriously, Gentle Reader, look no further than that. As soon as Avery went to New York the enjoyability started seeping out of the season, culminating in the most dreadfully dull post-season ever. Thanks, Avery. You and the Rangers ruin everything.)
4:17 Hm. It seems FSN is sparing us 6+ minutes of discussion of Sean Avery’s incomprehensibly FANTASTIC skillz. Thanks, FSN. We appreciate that.
Today’s trivia quiz is “Who is the active leader in career goals against Marty Brodeur?” Pookie guesses, “It’s a 400-way tie.” (Actual answer: Lindros. Yes, you can insert your own Chico-esque “Huh” here.)
2:22 Pookie: “I feel like our forwards haven’t been playing at all in this game.” Perhaps it’s because the Devils haven’t been in the offensive zone at all so far in this period.
1:43 Oduya takes pity on us and rockets up the wing as if to say, “FINE! If you forwards won’t take the puck into the offensive zone, I guess I’ll just have to do it!” He drops the puck to Langer, who makes a sweet backhand pass across the slot to Zach, who punches the puck past Hank. Now, we’d normally be really happy for this goal, but here’s the thing: this game ends in a shootout. What on earth would make FSN think we want to revisit a come-from-ahead tie that gave the Rangers an extra point in the standings? We realize we keep belaboring this point, but come on. The Devils won 49 games this past season — aren’t there any that didn’t involve handing cheap points to our division rivals?
0:00 Wait, we went into the third period with a lead? And still needed a shootout? For fuck’s sake! Boomer takes the break in the action as an opportunity to murmur dryly from the depths of her chair, “I really could have lived without sitting through Avery’s first game as a Ranger one more time.” (We would really love to be able to write a Game Diary To Remember that doesn’t involve constant harping about how there simply have to be better Devils wins from this past season, but seriously. This is starting to seem like MSG/FSN decided the Rangers’ own “[blank] To Remember” series wasn’t robust enough and decided to seep into the Devils’ programming.)
We distastefully un-pause the TiVo to embark on the always-delightful experience of watching the Devils snatch a regulation tie from the jaws of victory against the Rangers.
18:54 FSN deploys an extravagantly awkward edit, chopping artlessly away from Doc mid-sentence, and splicing us in mid-sentence and mid-play about 50 seconds later. Was there some downtime they could have cut instead?
18:28 Downtime like, say, the minute of stoppage we just spent looking at Avery and listening to Chico discuss his greatness?
18:21 Jagr banks a rebound off Marty from behind the goal line to tie the game. We’d describe the play in more detail but we’re still too incensed that FSN cut actual play from this edit so they could leave in all the Avery slurpage. We have literally seen more footage of Avery on the bench than we have of Devils on the bench. This doesn’t feel even remotely like a Devils feed, for how little Doc and Chico are talking about the home team.
16:32 Patty shows off his mad Captain stylings by taking a high-sticking penalty from a slightly-too-vigorous cross check he attempts on Betts in front of the bench.
14:32 The Rangers show off their killer instinct by failing to score on Patty’s penalty.
13:42 After spending the first two periods of this game crashing the net hard (and getting praised by Chico for his spunk and pluck), Avery finally goes too far and gets called for goaltender interference. This is just setting the stage for the next two Games To Remember, Gentle Reader. Stay tuned. It’s going to be, um, fun. (This is only the Devils’ second power play. They’re really skating like champs in this game.)
12:30 Chico chipperly declares, “Well, not a good power play for the Devils”. We beg to differ — they’ve done a marvelous job of circling aimlessly in the neutral zone!
11:45 Travis gets a loose puck in front of the crease, and as he turns to skate around a fallen Hank to tap the puck into an open net, his stick breaks. Sigh. (Looking for the silver lining on that play, it does give FSN a reason to show the Devils on the bench, and Travis and Zach both look adorable as they laugh about it. We are endlessly relieved the director opted not to give us Avery’s reaction shot, although we don’t doubt he wanted to.)
9:59 Zach attempts to barrel at full speed up through the neutral zone, skates smack-dab into an unsuspecting Ranger, and stumbles ass-over-teakettle across a vast stretch of ice. “Boxworthy! I need a medicinal brandy!” he seems to be gasping as he limps back to the bench. Pookie decides he looked like Moleman’s Gremlin exploding in whichever Simpsons episode that was.
5:31 We come back from commercial to see a replay of Nylander taking a penalty against Brylin that we’ve not seen in real time. Again, thanks FSN, for removing game action so we could hear every loving word about Avery. (Not, though, that it’s seemed at all like the Devils were doing anything we’d necessarily want to see, but still.)
4:21 The EGGs act like a bunch of crazy little wrecking balls in the zone on this PP, but can’t even really get a shot off.
0:49 We are discussing the relative merits of this game (the agreement is that it was actually a decent enough match, but hardly a “Game To Remember”) when Choco decides this is boring as hell and lays a Stevens-esque smackdown on Prucha. We perk up for a moment, but because we know the outcome, not too perkily.
4:35 As the first wave of OTers takes to the bench and the next shift steps on, we see lingering closeups in progression of Avery looking assy, Gomez looking slag-faced, and then Patty looking disgusted that he’s on the ice with these losers.
3:28 Hank makes a fantastic save on Gio coming out of the corner to tip a nifty little Parise pass. Gio got so open because Shanny’s skate blade fell flat out of the bottom of his skate. FSN smartly cuts away from Chico endlessly discussing how he’s never seen that happen before to return us to this torrid OT action.
2:40 Marty matches Hank’s big save by sprawling to smother Jagr’s shot as he muscles out across the crease. Paulie gets to take his rapidly-deceasing soul to the penalty box for getting his stick up into Jagr’s armpit on the play; we don’t blame him for trying to take a little tug at that trick shoulder.
1:55 The Rangers could make this PK harder on the Devils if they weren’t so unwilling to make good decisions with the puck. The Devils’ three penalty killers are able to just stand still while Jagr, Shanny, Nylander and Rachunek overpass, shoot wide, and, more often than not, do that thing that makes Doc’s play-by-play stall as he says, “And he… keeps… holding…”
–Nylander leads off. He is so slow on his approach that FSN could probably have just cut this part of the shootout and left in those 6 minutes in the second period. Nylander puts himself to sleep, runs out of room, and ends up rolling the puck weakly into Marty’s pad.
–Gio, on an awkward cut of Chico’s analysis, steps up to score effortlessly on a backhand high to Hank’s blocker side.
–Shanny goes for a wrister from pretty far out and rips it high.
–Sarge shows his patented fruitless shootout move that made him the perfect choice for Lou to put him in against the Islanders on that last night of the season to guarantee the Leafs would miss the playoffs.
–Bitchface is next, and he does this stupid-assed shimmy that Marty very nearly visibly rolls his eyes at. Seriously? That’s the best move he could come up with? Marty’s not going to bite on that shit, Bitchface. And the Devils get a 3-2 “win” that was really a tie we shouldn’t have been happy with.
Wait. FSN is including the post-game interview with Marty? And they cut game action for this? What the fucking hell? (We’ll be honest, this was one of Marty’s most charmingly punky interviews; he literally laughs at Hank for how obsessively Hank practices shootouts, and mocks the egotistical pride Hank has in being a breakaway goalie.)