What could be better than watching the Devils play the Panthers on a TiVo delay, so we’re just getting started at 11:00? Nothing! That’s what! So let’s get this party started.
Doc’s intro seems to be trying to suggest that the presence of Lowell Devils Noah Clarke and Barry Tallackson is some sort of “New in 2008!” iteration of the Devils and not the actual “Aw, fuck. Injuries and the flu are decimating our lineup” move it is. And in further “Aw, fuck” news, Sutter is going with 12 forwards and 6 D. We suppose we can just zap to the end because there’s no way the Devils win this one.
Oh, and why do we love Doc and Chico? Because when Chico gives his predictions for this game, he talks up how the Panthers are low-scoring, too, so “the most important players of course will be Tomas Vokoun and Martin Brodeur”. And how does Doc respond? By rolling his eyes. Fantastic!
When Dano pops up on the screen in his loose-fitting brown suit, Pookie says, “This might just be because I just watched ‘Project Runway’, but I totally think Dano looks like a chocolate bar tonight.”
20:00 Before the drop of the puck we see Tallackson on the bench, obsessively sweeping invisible dust off the dashers in front of him. Pookie: “Tallackson is totally Monkishly cleaning the boards!” Schnookie: “He’s turning to Pelley there and saying, ‘You’ll thank me for it later.’” Yeah, we’re not above Monk jokes, because we love Monk and we’re not ashamed of being 30-ish-going-on-90.
19:13 This play-by-play moment is, simply, perfection: Chico says, “The Panthers are like…” Long, searching pause. “Panthers! At home, Doc, they’re like they’re in a zoo, in a cage. And on the road, they become, uh, wild.”
17:24 Schnookie notes that Tallackson, wearing 24 for this, his 75th call-up, looks sort of Turner Stevensonish in T’s old number. She then wonders aloud what number he had last year, and Pookie snots, “58.” Burn.
15:37 The Sarge/Clarkson/Clarke line has some “forecheck” on which they are almost imperceptibly moving their legs. Pookie: “They look like they’re saying to us, ‘Hey, you curmudgeons! Hockey can be played terribly slowly inside, too, and not just in OUTDOOR GAMES.’”
15:03 Rather than just telling us that Vokoun is leading goalies in assists, Chico decides to pose the stat as a “trivia question” for Doc. We can practically hear Doc rolling his eyes again. Chico then sadly reports that while Vokoun has five assists, Marty only has one. “He’s not having a great year scoring, Marty,” he laments. Schnookie: “None of the Devils are!”
13:35 We officially hate Colin White for taking away Paulie’s A. That’s right, Whitey – your A still has the stink of Paulie on it, and will never lose it.
10:52 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What is this strange thing we see? Is this a first period goal? We thought only other teams got those. Langer punches home a wee rebound on a Zubrus wraparound shot that was started off on some fantastic forechecking by a really strangely effective-looking Travis. We suspect Travis’ New Year’s Resolutions were three-fold this year: to stop sucking, to drink more alcohol, and to give more hugs. We appreciate the first one, at least. 1-0 Devils.
8:50 The Panthers get called for too many men. We are fully confident that while the first-period-scoring drought has ended tonight, the power play drought will live on forever.
6:50 We were right! The power play fades into the mists of memory with nary a whisper.
6:25 WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jokinen commits a grievous, wretched turnover to a rushing Clarkson/Clarke bit of lurking presence at the Panthers blue line, and Clarke makes a totally unexpected fancy-pantsy move to snap a blistering wristshot through Vokoun. 2-0 Devils, and we are delighted to hear from Chico that Clarke is another Shattuck Boy, and you know how we love Shattuck Boys. (We are actually momentarily concerned that this is going to be a huge Florida blowout, because the Devils always lose massively when guys get their first NHL goals in their lineup, but we are calmed with the news that this was not, in fact, Clarke’s first goal. Thank heavens.)
3:35 Zach desperately tries to score on some crazy deflecting of an airborne puck behind the net, but his effort at ridding himself of the mantle of “Second Best Shattuck Boy Playing For The Devils Tonight” comes to naught.
0:32 What the hell? Oduya tries to check a rushing Panther forward, and ends up hitting the attacker’s elbow with his own head, then helicopters to the ice. We have no idea how that happened.
0:19 Madden carries the puck in on a two-on-one with Zach, but his pass is caught by Vokoun on its way across the crease. We imagine Madden will spend the upcoming intermission feeling the flinty glare of Zach’s monocle burning holes in the back of his head as Zach resents him not giving him a better chance at surpassing Clarke’s accomplishments.
0:00 We go to intermission with a 2-0 lead and Oduya getting called for hooking.
It’s almost midnight. We zap over it.
Chico’s food review now has its own intro and the totally awesome title “Chico Eats!” He goes for the barbeque tonight, and we see him holding court with a whole bunch of fans at the food vendor, and he tells us he started out by sharing with the kids there, but liked the food so much that he ended up “being piggy” and finishing it himself.
18:00 Oduya’s penalty is killed in large part because the Panthers put on a clinic of going offsides.
17:04 No one has sticktoitiveness quite like Zach, and he shows it off to great effect on a sequence that involves three different moments of the puck stopping in the feet of another player only to be played by Zach after he dances around the other guy. The whole thing is just so very Zach, the way he doesn’t quit on anything, the way he’s so dogged in outworking everyone, and the way he looks like he’s beating himself up after not scoring on what was really an impossible shot.
14:24 It should be mentioned that Marty has made about 16 saves already in this period.
12:35 Clarkson shows off what happens when you step up to flatten a guy in open ice and miss terribly. It’s not a pretty sight.
12:30 With the kind of chaos you expect after such a colossally missed check, the Panthers skate with ease around the Devils (specifically Paulie) in their zone, and Booth (and his fluffy Farrah Fawcett hair) make it a 2-1 game.
11:54 Oduya gets drilled in the cheekbone by a deflected Panther shot; on the replay Chico says, “Fortunately it was just off the ricochet.” Yeah, the slo-mo look at it shows the puck is just gently kissing him on the face, not splitting open his cheek. That doesn’t seem painful at all.
9:14 For the first time in ages we find ourselves missing the first period of a game. The Devils get the puck in the offensive zone, but are now listless and dreadfully ineffectual, and the various attempts at setting guys up for shots fizzle into failure because everyone is standing around holding his stick waist high. (Madden, we’re looking at you.)
7:37 Vish-Dog boards McLean, and the Panthers leap onto Vish-Dog in response. It turns out to be two for boarding and two for roughing to the Freight Train From The Ukraine and just two for roughing to Campbell. Chico hopefully suggests the Devils will be able to set up a “coming out of the box” breakaway thanks to the fact that Sutter sent Zach to serve the second minor. We imagine Zach had to fight back tears when he got tagged for the job, and blubbered, “But… but… I say! I want to sit here with you, Coach!”
5:37 The penalty is killed, but Zach’s moment of glory never comes. He drifts sort of lamely out of the box, and Pookie says, as him, “I say! The play was drawn up for me! Give me the puck!”
5:08 Travis takes a moment to stop focusing on New Year’s resolutions two and three, and goes back to working on resolution number one. His snappy shot from the high slot, though, does not beat Vokoun.
4:10 We are not entirely sure how Zach was allowed to crosscheck a guy in the face. Perhaps he convinced the officials that he served someone else’s penalty already in this one, so he gets a free pass to commit one infraction without being called for it.
1:41 The Travis/Langer/Zubrus line seems to think it has Zach on it or something, because it’s buzzing in a way that only Devils lines with the Parise motor ever do. Although Paulie appears to be lacking a bit of verve when he has a chance to swagger up on the play; he clearly misses his A. Schnookie suggests he’s now spelling his name “Pulie Mrtin” in memory of his Leader Of Young Devils days.
0:00 The period ends with a wild flurry that has us thinking Zach beat Vokoun, but it turns out his shot just hit the crossbar. On replay Pookie insists it went in, but finally admits, “I just have my Zach goggles on.”
We turned into pumpkins ages ago, and are seriously regretting starting writing this game diary so late. We zap over the intermission again.
17:51 After a few minutes of the teams picking up where they left off in the second, Salei gets called for goaltender interference when he bowls Whitey into Marty while the Panthers are thisclose to scoring.
17:44 Bryan Allen decides he wants to see exactly how insurmountable the Devils PP drought is, and tosses the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
16:18 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Zach-to-Gio cross-crease 5-on-3 passing play comes through again, and Gio easily taps the puck past Vokoun to give the Devils a 3-1 lead. It’s the scorched-earth power play finally cashing in! We’re getting the vapors!
15:22 Doc and Chico are positively giddy and completely nonsensical tonight, but we’re too sleepy now to figure out what they’re talking about.
14:55 Chico excoriated Bouwmeester on the Gionta goal, and as if to make him take back everything he said, Bouwmeester beats Marty on a sharp-angle shot over the shoulder while the Devils skaters all stand around the zone pointing at the puck and saying things like, “There’s the puck, Marty. You might want to stop it if he shoots it at you, okay?” To be fair, as stagnant as the defensive pressure is on the play, the goal itself is pretty crappy. Marty should want that one back.
13:10 Chico singles Zach out for having some passive defensive-zone presence on a lousy change (bungled by Clarke) right before the last Panthers goal. No sooner are the words spoken than Zach charges up the wing and lasers a shot into Vokoun’s chest. What’s up with these guys being able to hear what Chico’s saying tonight?
11:57 Vish-Dog comes up huge making a diving split save when a Panther has a glorious chance at a wide-open net. Pookie: “Vish-Dog, bringing the Toe Of God.” (We’re never too tired here at IPB Manor for a Diego Maradona reference.)
9:27 Pookie shares a story from work about a patron who showed up today after a long absence, and explained his being away by admitting he was in prison. When asked what for, he shrugged, “Assault. Aggravated.” As she is telling the story, Travis wins a defensive zone draw more emphatically than he’s won a single draw so far in his career. Pookie suggests he’s going to go back to the bench and say coolly, “Yeah, that was assault. Aggravated.”
8:04 Travis continues his Zach impersonation by dominating a shift in the Panthers zone, carrying the puck all over the place, and calmly retrieving every one of his blocked passes, pouncing on his own rebounds, and making all manner of lunging, keep-the-play-alive desperation moves. However, as much as he’s acting like Zach, he’s still afraid of acorns, and doesn’t score.
4:28 Clarkson tries his toe-drag move, but the magic is gone – he ends up just losing the puck, but it ends up looking like a deliberate drop-pass to Sarge, who then just misses wide on a lightning-fast shot.
3:57 Gio wends his way around the rink leading a three-on-two that concludes with a feed for a Zach one-timer. Zach remains the second-best Shattuck Boy on the Devils, though, and shanks the shot.
3:08 We never thought we’d say this, but Langer is fired. Zubrus feeds him perfectly on a three-on-one rush, and Langer half-asses what should be a slam-dunk, letting Vokoun get to make a save that Doc declares “saves the game.”
2:44 We’ll mention for posterity that, while the Panthers have been the decidedly better team in this game, they’ve also committed two turnovers deep in their own zone that have left Chico spluttering, “I don’t know what [defender’s name] is thinking.” Posterity can note that the Devils are not so tenacious or puck-hungry, though, that they turn either event into goals.
1:11 After some hard forechecking by the Travis line, the Panthers D yet again cough the puck up directly to a Devil in the slot. Doc wonders what Vokoun must be thinking right now, and Chico suggests, “He’s saying, ‘Boys, we’re the ones in the white jerseys!’” Nicely played, Chico.
0:59 The Panthers get the extra attacker on.
0:00 Whew! The Devils hang on during a wild final minute, complete with a just-missed empty-net chance by Zach and a last-second miracle save by Marty that we were sure was the game being tied up by Weiss. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it. (Oh, and believe it or not, but that was just Marty’s 20th win this season. Even Doc marvels at this, remembering how things started this year.)