And so the Devils take their self-proclaimed “best dressing room EVER” to New York this evening (what’s with the 5:00 starts?) to face the Rangers and their “most Gomezy room EVER” for Part 4 of their season series. We suffer through the MSG pregame show so we get to enjoy Stan’s proclamation that he has a “great feeling” about the Rangers’ chances tonight. That’s okay, Stan – we have a great feeling that you’re an increasingly irrelevant boob.
The big news for the Devils is that Sutter’s going with a lineup change: Rupp’s in, Oduya and Vish-Dog are out. Wait, what? Vish-Dog, coming off one of his best games of the season, is sitting tonight? Huh? Well, maybe Sutter just wants to distract criticism away from Renney, who bizarrely chose to ship Nigel Dawes – proven Marty Killer – to Hartford, ne’er to return. It’s fair to say that we’re not convinced both teams are dressing their best possible lineups, but we’re the bloggers and they’re the coaches, so what do we know?
19:48 We don’t pay a huge amount of attention to the Rangers when they’re not playing us (what with our natural inclination toward preserving our own sanity), but we were under the impression Hank’s been kind of shitty lately. We are not pleased to see him make a big stop on Zach on a tic-tac-toe set-up off some spunky Gio/Patty forechecking. We are pleased, however, that the ensuing close-up of Zach shows him saying, “My bad. Fuck!” Hee!
17:50 Playing the role of Oduya tonight is Brookbank, who clears the puck into the Rangers bench and gets called for delay of game, despite the Devils arguing that the puck deflected off several people on the bench.
17:42 Dubinsky gets called for interference almost immediately off the faceoff. We fail to even notice what the infraction was.
16:37 The Devils look overwhelmed by the concept of playing hockey right now, and let the Rangers collapse in tight around Marty. Girardi rings a great chance hugely off the pipe, though.
15:45 Zach zig-zags around Mara and then works the puck for a few moments at the boards. As we watch him motor along, Schnookie can’t help but say it: “Why can’t the Rangers get players like Zach Parise?” It never fails to crack us up.
14:37 Rupp gets the puck at the blueline thanks to a weird little Rozsival turnover, and failing to realize he has plenty of time, he panics and ices the puck. Sigh.
13:51 The Rangers once again gain possession in the hapless Devils’ zone, but Straka’s chance all alone in front of a sprawling Marty just ends up firing straight into the prone goalie (okay, to be fair, Mottau hampered his chance, but still). Pookie, her eyes watering with allergies: “It’s making me cry!”
11:45 Perhaps the Devils have brought their Boston/Dallas strategy this evening? That they want to get down early and then come back? Zach ices the puck on what was supposed to be a deliberate breakout in the face of a Rangers change.
11:06 Patty finally gets some possession deep in the Rangers zone and whips a backhand pass to a streaking Gio, but they don’t quite connect on the play. Doc tells us the Rangers are outshooting the Devils 7-1. It doesn’t even feel that close.
9:56 The Devils continue to look lost in their own zone. Pookie, her eyes still tearing, comments that she can’t really see what’s going on. “That’s good,” Schnookie and Boomer say in unison, “You missed seeing Brookbank pass the puck directly to a Ranger.”
8:14 Travis, Langer and Zubie put on the best stretch of forecheck since the Devils’ first shift of the game, and when Zubie makes a power move out of the corner to walk in front of the net, he draws a hooking penalty to Rozsival, but also a diving one to himself.
7:33 An incredible sequence of broken plays that go from one end to the other and back again results in a breakaway for Madden. The fans end up chanting whatever it is they do for Hank when he makes a sprawling save, but really, Ranger fans, that was John Madden. Some perspective, people.
6:02 Chico tries to tell us that the Devils are winning a psychological battle right now for the way the Rangers are having their way with them but haven’t scored yet. We’re not buying it, Chicster.
4:01 We try on some Chico-style optimism and decide to consider it a moral victory when a missed outlet pass from Sarge to Madden connects instead to Clarkson, and the Devils manage to gain the red line before giving the puck back to the Rangers.
2:15 The Devils are clearly performing a public service in this period for the new fan, as this has been a brilliant demonstration of what, exactly, constitutes an icing in NHL hockey.
2:03 Pookie, looking for the silver lining: “It is impossible now for the Devils to come out of this period down 10-0 – maybe it’ll be 9-0, but I can’t imagine they’ll be losing by double digits.”
1:44 Madden and Clarkson get a fairly long-range two-on-one, but Rozsival defends it well, and Madden has to settle for a weak shot.
1:33 Madden spins a snappy pass across the crease from the side of the net to Clarkson, and Hank makes a huge blocker save. Pookie: “I fucking hate that they have a competent goaltender.”
0:00 This period sucked. Pure and simple.
Steve interviews Patty, who sounds a bit disappointed at how crappy his team came out for that period. We approve of his frankness, but disapprove of his slightly tinted visor. And seriously, what’s up with the scruffy facial hair? We wonder if Lou is still out at Pebble Beach, since his boys are clearly not shaving up to his usual exacting standards.
Dano is a crazy, crazy person. He tells Steve, with a straight face, that he liked how the Devils played in the first, and he feels like they have the Rangers right where they want them.
18:58 Doc’s final assessment of the sucktitude of the first is that the Rangers outshot the Devils 12-4.
18:41 Skating out of the corner, Zach falls down when Gomer holds a stick near him, and Gomer gets called for hooking. In Zach’s defense (just in general, not on this play), we’ll point out that he has been skating a billion times harder than his teammates today.
17:56 Chico is now hoping the Devils will just start throwing more junk at the net, because Hank’s been crappy lately. Chico, stop making us think something good might come of this game. The Devils aren’t going to put more shots on net, and Hank isn’t going to start giving up bad rebounds. Please. We’ve seen these two teams play each other before.
17:27 Paulie makes a dreadful pinch and the Rangers get a two-on-one all the way from inside their own blueline. Staal’s shot rips way wide, though, and going the other direction Paulie suddenly finds himself on a mini-break. His chance is stymied, though, by a good hook by the defender trailing him.
16:59 The Rangers fans erupt into full, appreciative roar when Straka goes down to block two consecutive slapshots from Rachunek. Pookie: “Yeah, if I was a Rangers fan that’s so what I’d want Straka to be doing.”
13:41 Gio channels his inner Travis and perpetrates a cold-blooded steal against the Rangers right outside their blueline. He and Zach wheel in on the attack, but don’t even put together much of a scoring chance. Pookie, sadly: “The Devils don’t like acorns.”
12:40 We go to commercial with the Rangers about to go on the power play, and we have no idea why. All we noticed on the play prior was a Ranger jostling Marty, so we wait with bated (and annoyed) breath to see the replay. It turns out it’s on Mottau for hooking the Ranger right before the Marty-jostling.
12:13 Madden yoinks the puck from Jagr right above the faceoff dots, and skates all the way down the rink with Jagr hooking and tugging at him. He picks up Langer on a two-on-one, and Hank stops Madden’s initial shot, then holds fast while Langer pounds away at the puck in his pads. We – and Chico – wonder why no call on Jagr.
11:35 Shanny gets between Whitey and Paulie as a pass threads between them, and Whitey brilliantly lifts Shanny’s stick with his own and whacks Shanny in the face with it. There is, inexplicably, a stoppage of play, apparently to allow Shanny time to stand there in the corner complaining about the lack of a high-sticking penalty. Boomer’s head explodes that he doesn’t get a penalty for whining so vehemently.
9:37 Gio puts on his Rochester Rocket skates and motors hard up the wing, cranking what we hope for a moment will be a Langer-esque “Fuck This Shit” goal. It is not. Zach, however, sprints down the center of the rink after the play, and leaps to try to catch the high rebound, misses the puck, and instead catapults into the net.
8:19 Langer hits Girardi gently at the boards, and Girardi goes down like he was shot. The official with a close view of the interaction lets play continue, but the official on the other side of the rink buys Girardi’s dive and Langer goes to the box.
5:23 Rupp makes us grudgingly concede he’s done something good tonight, by drawing a holding penalty on Mara in the corner to Hank’s right.
3:23 After a well-skated power play with lots of almost exclusive Devils puck possession and a ton of good saves by Hank, Boomer sighs wistfully, “Let’s see Valiquette.”
1:46 Callahan and Prucha combine on a crazy, bouncing, broken play that ends up with a wheeling, pretty, loopy shot by Prucha. Marty, in the same wheeling, pretty, loopy stride, makes a gorgeous glove save on it.
0:00 Okay, that period was better than its predecessor, but it’s still a scoreless Devils-Rangers game, and we hate, hate, hate any Devils-Rangers game that isn’t a blowout for the good guys.
Steve interviews Travis, who looks like a cranky little red forehead baby. As for the content of the interview, let’s just say this – he is not at all an insightful interview subject… but we go back to watch it a second time. (Travis looks like he doesn’t want to make eye contact with Steve, and we wonder if he thinks Steve looks too much like an acorn. Boomer: “Well, Steve is small.” Schnookie: “Yes, he is about the size of something a squirrel might bury.” Boomer: “Right. Is Steve wearing brown?”)
Steve is not, in fact, wearing brown. He’s got a gray suit on, but we agree that his hair kind of looks like an acorn cap. This intermission gives us the really cool statbit from Elias that the Devils, on their current winning streak, are the first NHL team in history to sweep a 4-or-more-game road trip, then sweep a 4-or-more-game homestand immediately after.
18:45 The Madden line pieces together a few moments of offensive-zone competence, but at the last moment Madden decides not to pay attention to where the puck is going and loses it in his feet on what could have been a great scoring chance.
17:05 After a flurry of deliberate Ranger chances that Marty calmly handles, Schnookie sighs, “We’re not winning this one.” We blame the 5:00 start.
16:20 Doc calls the cautiously-paced period thus far by saying, “So the probing continues.” Schnookie, groaning: “Ew! Gomez and Jagr are probing the Devils!”
13:58 Thanks to Marty being a lot more heads-up than we are, the game remains scoreless after some relentless waves of Ranger attack. We find ourselves, after Staal rips a big shot wide, wondering how Stan can balance thinking Sean Avery is the Rangers’ MVP with his recently-developed belief that Marc Staal is the greatest athlete in the history of sports.
13:10 For some crazy reason Madden wins a footrace against Staal down the length of the rink after Staal bobbles the puck at the Devils’ blueline. Madden then turns the corner and walks in on Hank, who holds fast. We wonder now how Stan can balance the fact that Staal was outraced by John Madden with his recently-developed belief that Marc Staal is the greatest athlete in the history of sports.
12:24 Gio is the recipient of a great breakout pass from Zach, but manages nothing but a soft shot from the faceoff dot. Pookie: “Gio, next time get some mustard on your shot. Asswipe.”
11:32 Asham surprisingly disappoints us by making a profoundly stupid-assed roughing penalty for trying to take a butt-end-of-the-stick swipe at Hollweg after getting pushed to the ice hard. Pookie: “I feel like this game just slipped away from the Devils.” It is the first dumb retaliatory penalty we can remember them taking in ages.
9:52 After three failed dump-in attempts, the Rangers are hearing some boos for their power play.
8:40 Travis makes a nifty, supremely confident move in the neutral zone to strip a Ranger of the puck with speed, but the whole affair peters out into nothing but a weak shot that gets mostly just the side of the net. Schnookie: “Travis is a million times more confident in the neutral zone than he is in the offensive zone.” Pookie: “Yeah. They need to just convince him the blue lines don’t exist.”
8:22 To give us more of that seasonal feeling from the first period of this game, the Devils ice the puck again.
5:43 After Zubrus finds Travis in the crease, but no goal is scored, Pookie grouses, “I’m beginning to understand why Travis never scores. His shots go backwards.”
4:15 Madden gets called for a hook on a really ticky-tacky bit of stickwork going into his own zone. Pookie: “Well that’s not going to help anybody.”
2:58 Pelley makes a fantastic play to stop Straka at the high boards and flips the puck down the length of the ice. Schnookie: “I. Love. Rod Pelley.” Pookie: “Seriously. He and Mottau are winning all my ‘Playah’s Playah’ points this season.”
2:48 The annoyed fans start a “Shoot the puck” chant at their power play.
0:36 After a series of cross-zone pass attempts by the Rangers get broken up by some smart defensive stickwork, Gio lobs the puck high to try to get a change… and ices the puck. Again.
0:20 Pookie, to the Devils: “Remember when you guys used to score with, like, twenty seconds left in a game?” The Devils, as one: “No.”
0:00 The period ends with one last, great save by Marty, and we’re going to overtime.
It should come as no surprise that Doc is waxing poetic about the famous scoreless tie between Marty and Hasek in 1996.
It should also come as no surprise that Chico tells us the Devils would like very much to win this in OT rather than taking their chances against the impenetrable Hank in a shootout. The point is really moot, though, considering how the Devils have played two thirds of this game.
4:30 Barf. Shanny scores when the Devils run around in their own zone, per usual, leaving him wide open for a one-timer off a Gomez feed. We’d like 2 ½ hours of our lives back now.
That game was wretched, but long winning streaks never end nicely. We’ll blame it on the 5:00 start time and on only having six defensemen in the lineup. And on the Devils never really bothering to skate.