Having completely suppressed all memories of the Devils’ last game, tonight we head out to Edmonton. We’re feeling warm-hearted toward this fine Canadian city after all the nice things Lowetide pointed about our home state today. Our broadcast opens with a promise from Steve that the Oilers’ building is packed with Sutters this evening, and then he threatens us with a two-part interview with Brent Sutter during the intermissions. *Shudder*
Doc and Chico report to us that the ex-Devil of note on the other team’s roster tonight is, of course, Sheldon Souray. The give us the delightful news that Sheldon specifically asked them to wish a happy holiday to the people “back east”, and then add the totally unsurprising news that Oilers fans were super-excited when they found out Shellie had signed with their team, but have been disappointed by the fact that he brought his injury problems to Edmonton with him.
Wait, were we at all hopeful that something good might come of this game? We aren’t anymore, after Steve tells us the lines Sutter invented for tonight are Zubrus-Elias-Clarkson, Parise-Zajac-Gionta, Brylin-Madden-Langenbrunner, and Pelley and Asham as the loose parts. Steve conjectures the dreadfully slumping Patty and Gio might figure their shit out this way; we conjecture that they might figure their shit out if they get put back on the really effective line of them and Zach again. This is like the rookie player spazzing out and trying to do too much on the ice while playing for the first time in front of friends and family, except the head coaching version. On D, Brookbank’s out, Oduya and Greener are in. We adjust our expectations accordingly.
19:35 We hate that the cameras are on the same side of the ice as the benches in Edmonton. But we’ll at least be big enough to say that the picture, normally wretched, is not as bad as anticipated.
18:09 Patty tries to make the most of his terrible lot in life and leaps on a puck that kicked out into the slot after some Clarkson/Zubrus forecheck, but shoots as if he’s using the Devils’ book on Luongo. As in, his shot goes well over the net and bounces lamely off the glass.
16:59 Boomer: “Is it really dark in there?” Pookie, drawing on her training in technical theater: “When you have those four-sided shadows like that it’s a sign of really poor lighting design.” Take that, Rexall Place!
14:44 It takes a week for the Devils to finally clear the puck after some sustained, moderately hard-driving pressure by the Oilers. This is a marked improvement over the Canucks game, since in Vancouver the Devils immediately gave up goals every time the puck came into their zone.
12:37 Watching the Devils sitting ineffectually at their own blue line, sort of controlling play enough that the Oilers aren’t gaining much possession, but discombobulated enough that they’re hardly progressing up the ice with any kind of purpose, Schnookie says, “I think it’s fair to say Sutter’s new lines aren’t working.”
12:19 Asham fights Stortini, after it looks like Stortini is trying to get a piece of Patty. The fight happens directly in front of the Devils bench, and we’d be lying if we said we see any of it (it seemed to be a pretty good one), because we’re too thrilled to be watching the reactions of the players on the bench. We love the way they look so adorably enthused shouting to Asham, and Madden ducking his head around as if to mime taking punches. They’re like a bunch of little kids, those guys who get paid to play sports for a living.
9:28 The Travis/Zach/Gio line has what seems like a 45-minute shift that involves lots of forecheck, then a bit of scrambling defense, then lots more forecheck. They do not, however get very many shots, but that doesn’t stop Zach from waving his stick as if he’s tipping imaginary pucks. Schnookie: “I think Zach’s lost his marbles.” Pookie: “He’s a Parise. He was born marble-less.”
8:50 Marty faces a frenzy of shots from the Oilers, first shrugging off a zippy shot from the point, then holding fast on a bad-angle shot along the goal line, then gets shoved into the net along with the puck. The officials immediately call no-goal, and on this occasion, we’d kind of like to see a goaltender interference penalty to go with it.
6:54 As Doc and Chico ramble on about Grace Sutter and the 120 buns she baked in order to host the FSN crew for dinner, the teams sort of back-and-forth between the blue lines, with lots of passes just missing their recipients. Pookie: “The positive I’m taking out of this game is that I didn’t drive 16 hours to see it. And we’re not down 5-0.” Pause. “Of course, that all might change, and I’ll just be happy I didn’t drive 16 hours to see this.”
5:26 We come back from commercial to see Steve sitting in an empty seat next to a middle-aged couple that looks surprisingly North Jersey, with the gum-chomping and the brassy-colored hair and all. He is merely reminding us to stick around for his scintillating interview with Sutter during intermission, and he finishes his pitch and says nothing about the people sitting next to us, thereby disappointing us to no end. Pookie: “I was really hoping those were the Zajacs.”
4:59 Despite a pile of players, including Garon, lying flat on their stomachs in the Edmonton crease, the Devils are not able to put the puck into the net. On the replay, Chico says the Devils were crashing the net on the play, prompting Pookie to say, “There’s ‘crashing the net’ and there’s ‘just falling over in front of the net’. They’re two different things.”
4:50 Play darts up the other end, and Marty stops Hemsky’s drive, but Pitkanen punches the rebound home following up with speed. 1-0 Oilers.
3:20 Patty and Zubrus amble in on a two-on-one that turns into Patty looking over at the guy on the rush with him, seeing it’s Zubrus, deciding to pull up to let the D catch up, then firing a meaningless shot/pass/whatever that isn’t close enough to the net to really be considered a missed shot but isn’t aimed near enough to a spot Zubrus could be in to be considered a pass. We just don’t know what to say anymore. Could Sutter give him the C again just to motivate him anew by taking it away from him?
0:24 The period comes to an end with one last “chance” for the Devils, a three-on-two led by Travis that yields more of a shot than the previous odd-man rush, but not enough to bother getting excited about.
0:00 Chico sends us to intermission telling us that the Western Canadian spin on the Devils sucking when they go out West is that east-coast teams just can’t handle the travel. Doc shuts that down by saying pertly, “It didn’t seem to bother the Penguins.” Burn!
This period? Pooptastic.
Steve’s interview with Sutter surprises us by being interesting (sort of), thanks to an abundance of family pictures from the Sutter kids’ childhood.
19:03 The Devils get hemmed in when Gio flubs an attempt at handling the puck at the blue line, and finally Paulie decides that clearly nothing is going to get done in the Devils’ favor tonight unless he does it himself, and ends up leading a rush up the ice. Eventually Gio gets a shot that Garon easily handles. While Chico tells us how much better that rush was than anything that happened in the first, we get a long look at Paulie skating to the bench and blinking as if his eyes are drying out.
17:12 Pelley very nearly gets a scoring chance when he aimlessly glides toward the net and suddenly finds himself the recipient of an inadvertent lobbed pass. He tries a tornado, spinarama shot that gets no puck. Oh well.
15:26 We’d like to point out that the clock is totally spazzing tonight. The numbers are not blinking down in the correct order.
14:17 Chico points out that the Oilers are very good at “puck possession” in that they’re not giving the puck up at all once they get a hold of it. It’s probably pretty easy to do that when you’re facing as passive a group of opponents as the Devils have been.
13:56 When Doc asks for Chico’s assessment of the way things are playing out, Chico praises the Devils for not “getting frustrated and taking high risk chances.” Pookie: “That would require the Devils care enough to get frustrated.”
11:52 Langer finds himself on a bit of a semi-break that unfolds into a quasi-two-on-one thanks to a fantastic stop by Oduya at the blueline of an Edmonton one-on-one rush. The pass to Langer, though, is just a hair too far in front of him to handle, and the whole affair results in nary a shot when the defender slides to block Langer’s pass.
10:52 Zach gets a step on Smid and almost gets around him to skate in alone on Garon. Smid hauls Zach down, then deliberately knocks the net off the moorings when Zach tries to throw a shot from the goal line after going down. We would have called two penalties on the play, but we’re probably a bit biased on this one. (Smid only gets one. Not surprisingly.)
9:37 Patty is listless carrying the puck into the zone on the power play. We are long removed from the days of his OT hat trick in this building. Remember that, Gentle Reader? Yeah, we barely do too.
8:47 We go to commercial with Doc and Chico thoroughly confused as to which Oiler just took a penalty and for what. We come back from commercial just distracted enough that we don’t notice either.
6:50 The puck ping pongs around a bit, prompting Doc to chortle en homage to Steve Coates’ story from his early radio days, “We got it, now they got it, now we got again.”
6:15 Chico says, mildly, that this has not been a barn-burner, and gripes, “Lord knows the Devils will be blamed for it.” Of course, it’s the Oilers who have controlled play in this one, so there you go. Maybe the Edmonton media will blame the Devils by saying that the Oilers only play that way because they’re copying the Devils.
5:10 A broken play of turnovers and wonky passing almost turns into a point-blank shot for Zach, but the puck bounces off his stick. Pookie: “I wish Zach hadn’t packed his flubber sticks for this trip.” Schnookie: “I wish the Devils hadn’t gone on this trip.”
4:47 Whitey sits for a few seconds behind Marty’s goal, then steps out and fires the puck the length of the ice, but within reach of the Oilers, so it’s not called icing. The Oilers then calmly retrieve the puck and start their own rush. Schnookie, dumbfounded: “That’s our new breakout?” Pookie: “It’s like the five-man snooze-out, but more efficiently awful.”
4:04 Gio finally manages to make Garon give up a juicy rebound, but it’s Zubrus going to the net, so the Devils don’t even get to claim a second-chance shot on the play.
2:23 The Oilers engage in a very deliberate, relatively shotless bit of cycling. Clearly the Oilers are every bit as capable of being offensively passive as the next team. This is so not on us.
2:05 A bit of tentative passing through the neutral zone turns into a mini-break for Clarkson coming up the wing. He tries to drag the puck around the defender, but ends up settling for a weak little shot followed by falling over and sliding feet-first into the goalie.
1:47 The Poppers are reunited, and, amazingly, good things happen. Zach causes all manner of chaos in the crease, and draws a hooking penalty on Smid when he’s not quite able to find a rebound that squirts off Garon into his feet and then behind him.
0:54 PaulieMartinNation is taking one good thing out of this game, namely, the artful keep he makes at the blue line while under all kinds of pressure. Of course, the Oilers very quickly regain possession and clear the zone.
0:00 This period was marginally better than the first, but only thanks to the fact that the Devils were on the power play a lot of the time and weren’t able to suck quite as blatantly without making it obvious they’re tanking.
We get a “Better Know Your Devils Staff” feature again tonight, this time featuring our team masseuse, Tommy Plasko. Among the things we learn about him are that he worked a decade with the Pens, and is single. We feel like he’s our new best friend.
We get a Chuck the Duck montage during this intermission, including Chuck perched atop the Gretzky statue with a sign taped on it that says “Mickey Mouse?” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
19:12 Schnookie: “AAAARGH!” Pookie: “Jamie Langenbrunner, I hate you.” These responses are caused by Langer getting an opportunity all alone in front, with Garon doing his “signature” move of falling toward the attacker and defending his goal by lying on his stomach, and he shoots directly into Garon’s arm, then does the Elias head roll. Maybe Sutter should strip him of the C to jump-start him?
17:07 We discover that tripping Asham in the Devils zone when he’s trying to carry the puck out (after Marty makes a good save on a long shot) is not a penalty.
16:24 From the depths of her chair Boomer intones gravely, “I’m going to make a prediction here.” Dramatic pause. “The next goal is an important one.”
15:22 Clarkson is a one-man wrecking crew on this offensive shift, carrying in one-on-four, retrieving the puck, getting two scoring chances. Doc says delightedly, “There’s no quit in this kid!” Schnookie: “Fortunately there’s plenty of quit in his teammates to make up for it.”
15:05 The Oilers, bizarrely, call a timeout. Huh?
15:00 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And Whaaaaaaaaaat???? The Oilers perfectly execute the play that timeout was called for, winning the draw, then giving the puck to Gio behind the net. Gio circles around the net, laces a perfect pass across the crease, and Patty is there to tap it home beautifully. 1-1 game, and Pookie says, as Patty, “I am not Patshit crazy! You take that back!”
14:25 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, what the hell did MacTavish tell his guys in that timeout? Patty slides a soft little pass from the wing to Zubrus out in front, Zubrus kind of flubs the shot, but Garon completely loses himself on the rebound, and Gio is there to pound it home. 2-1 Devils, and Chico declares, “I have never heard of a timeout backfiring so badly on a team.” Seriously, does that one go down in history alongside the Chris Webber Michigan one in the Pantheon of Worst Timeouts Ever?
12:29 After the Devils survive a bit of bounce-back pressure by the Oilers, Clarkson flies into the Edmonton zone and gets tripped while splitting the D. Time for the scorched-earth treatment again.
10:29 Why couldn’t the Oilers have been given another timeout to call during that power play? That would have been awesome.
9:42 After four straight penalties to the Oilers, we had to know this one was coming. Mottau gets called for high sticking when his stick is lifted by Brylin’s into Horcoff’s face.
7:36 The penalty kill is solid, but as soon as the penalty expires, the Oilers end up getting a great chance on a somewhat inadvertent odd-man rush. Marty is some kind of alert, stopping a hard shot from the trailing Oiler after the puck unexpectedly bounces back on the play.
6:05 For the thousandth time in rapid succession, the Oilers force turnovers by the Devils forwards at the Jersey blue line. This lead, we think it is not as insurmountable as maybe the Devils do.
5:49 With all the momentum in the world, the Oilers ever so wisely decide to high-stick Langer in front of the Devils bench instead of continuing with their relentless offensive-zone pressure. Tarnstrom is the perpetrator.
4:29 Doc and Chico take a moment to soak in the sun and fun of PaulieMartinNation, reveling in a sequence of deft keeps at the point by the Goldenest Gopher. We then get a close-up look at Paulie that makes us really concerned that his contact lenses have completely dried out.
3:49 Look, Devils, we’re going to stop calling your approach to playing with the man advantage “scorched earth” if you keep playing this way. That was not an impressive power play.
1:50 As Sarge, Clarkson and Madden do some work along the boards, Schnookie whimpers, “Another goal now would be really nice.” Pause. “And I mean a Devils goal.”
1:30 Sheldon takes Clarkson down hard in the corner twice, and we surmise it’s because Shellie’s mad that he’s no longer the hottest man to ever don the Engma.
1:02 Garon vacates the net.
0:40 After someone takes a monster Souray slapshot in front of the net, the puck almost bounces all the way down the ice into the empty net. But… it curls wide, and icing is called.
0:29 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Marty makes a huge save off a point shot, then Madden shovels the puck sky high when he digs it out of the corner, and it drops behind the point men, then continues down the length of the ice and into the net. 3-1 Devils, and we fall in love with Gracie Sutter when FSN shows her dancing down the row she’s sitting in to celebrate the win. She’s even wearing an ugly Christmas sweater! No wonder she’s a national treasure in Canada. Seriously, she could not be more adorable. Also cute as a button? Mrs. Coach Sutter, who has a kicky haircut, and leapt to her feet to cheer the empty-netter with the same enthusiasm a regular old fan would have. Well played, Madames Sutter!
0:00 That game was one of the craziest we have ever seen. Perhaps not from a standpoint of “it was frenzied and wild”, but certainly from the “reason’s got nothing to do with it” angle. Sure, the Devils played most of the final two periods by not letting the Oilers ever really do anything offensively, but the turning point of this game was the single worst timeout in NHL history. It was an honor to get to witness it, and a thrill for our team to come out the winner thanks to it. We give the first star to Craig MacTavish tonight.