It feels like it’s been about a billion years since we last saw a real hockey game, but if the Devils think we’ve forgotten how their last match ended, they are mistaken. No, it’s hard to forget that kind of choke job, and we hope each and everyone one of the players involved in that collapse against the Canadiens spent their All-Star breaks feeling kind of teary and trying to figure out how to make things up to us. They can start by winning tonight.
Doc tells us in his intro that there are only 33 games left in the season. That is almost as depressing as that loss to the Habs was. Also depressing? Langer is out with the flu.
In their chit-chat session, Doc leads in to a stats graphics screen by saying, “If the Devils are going to excel down the stretch they’re going to have to count on these two guys.” The guys in question are Marty (duh) and Patty (her?). Schnookie: “If we have to count on Patty in order to excel down the stretch, put a fork in us.” Pookie: “We’re fucked.”
Before the drop of the puck we get a quick pan down the bench and it looks like Greener is eating smelling salts. Welcome back to the lineup, Greener!
19:04 We’re shocked – Gio leads a three-man rush across the Pens blue line and manages for it not to go offsides. His shot is unimpressive, but we’ll take what we can get.
17:38 Patty carries the puck on a mini-two-on-one iso play but Conklin is not impressed by the little “I might pass! I might pass!” dekes and head-fakes, because Rupp’s the other Devil on the play.
16:36 The Devils get pinned in their own zone, and then can’t win a draw after Marty freezes the puck. They then pick up where they left off before the break by standing around and watching the Pens whack away at loose pucks and forcing Marty to make a bunch of snappy saves. We’re ever so glad the season has resumed. Wait, we have to sit through 33 more games of this?
15:16 Icing on the Devils, after Marty flops around to stymie a nice set-up for Malkin at the side of the net. It is quiet in Newark and at stately IPB Manor.
13:33 We come back from commercial to hear Chico announcing that Weekes got married over the break in Toronto. We are puzzled. We thought Tom Gulitti said he got married in Barbados. Well which is it? TELL US WHICH!
13:04 What is Gronk thinking? The Pens have all the momentum in the world, but he decides to whack Madden in the nose with his stick while Madden is carrying the puck around behind Marty’s net.
12:32 Conklin stones Gio, and Chico explains the play, “The penalty killers forgot about Gionta there, but fortunately Conklin didn’t.” Schnookie: “Fortunately?” Pookie: “For whom?” Boomer: “Whose side is Chico on, anyway?”
11:06 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rupper and Zubrus combine to create all kinds of havoc in front of the net, and with Conklin down and out trying to cover a little rebound, Rupper manages to spin around and chip the puck over him and into the net. 1-0 Devils, and Stan Fischler’s dreams of having Rupper function as the linchpin of a power-forward-driven PP have finally come true.
9:52 Apparently a 1-goal lead midway through the first feels insurmountable to the Devils; they decide to spend a defensive shift lazily waving their sticks at passes and watching the Pens skate around them like pylons. Fantastic.
8:44 The Asham/Pelley/Brylin line is totally not on the same page as their teammates tonight, and demonstrate a little bit of hard-working forecheck and cycle. Guys, quit it! You’re making everyone else look bad!
7:48 Paulie swaggers up the ice, darting through Penguins all the way through the neutral zone and then over the Pittsburgh blue line, and then he dishes off to Gio on the wing… and Gio decides to wind up and fire an eminently stoppable, unscreened shot from above the faceoff dot. It is about the 15th time he’s tried that shot tonight, and it has not once appeared threatening. We really hope he’s not going back to the bench thinking, “16th time’s the charm!”
6:01 PaulieMartinNation is momentarily concerned as he looks like he’s trying to carry the puck through a forechecker, and gets stripped pretty much smack-dab in the center of the high slot. But at the last moment he reaches back with his stick, flips the puck into the air in front of himself, and then controls it with a little lacrosse-y cradling move. PaulieMartinNation ceases to be concerned and instead falls into a deep swoon. Doc then suggests that Paulie should be sent to do the trick-shot contest in next year’s Superskills.
5:05 We come back from commercial to a highlight reel of Malkin’s great plays so far in this game. Chico color commentates that Malkin is 6’3” “so he can throw his weight around.” Pookie: “What if he’s 6’3” and 69 pounds?”
4:46 Sutter is icing a line of Madden, Clarkson and Elias. We give up.
4:20 Doc remarks of the D pairing of Whitey and Mottau that it’s the “familiar 5 and 27.” HAHAHAHAHAHA! Suck on that, Nieder!
2:30 Ruutu grabs Zubrus’ shoulder while they mosey into the corner to Conklin’s left after a dumped-in puck, and then twists Zubie painfully to the ice. He gets called for holding, and Zubrus looks shaken up as he skates to the bench.
1:14 Chico: “Conklin is talking to the official about being very careful about him getting bumped.” Pookie: “Oh, Ty Conklin can just shut his fucking piehole and take his lumps like the rest of the goalies in the league.”
0:30 That power play sucked.
0:02 After Doc calls that there are 30 seconds even in the period at the expiry of the PP, the Devils then proceed to spend what seems like a week meandering around the Pens zone. Pookie says, “This has been the longest 30 seconds of my life! It just. Won’t. End.” As soon as the words are spoken, Patty gets set up perfectly at the side of the net, and he beats Conklin fivehole, but hits the post on the other side of the net.
0:00 Chico: “Terrific period by the Devils!” Schnookie: “Terrific period? What period was Chico watching?”
After an interview with Rupper, we are subjected to more of “Hockey Night NY Live” as our intermission show. There is something about the presentation of the show, something about the way Stan and Al talk about any of the three area teams, that makes us feel cheap and unhappy.
Steve asks Dano to give his reason why the All-Star Game shouldn’t be phased out, and Dano gets himself all wound up about how much he loves watching all the amazing young stars in the game who are so much better than the best players were back when he was playing. If we didn’t love Dano with all our hearts before this, we do now, especially when he seems to be suggesting the All-Star Game makes him happy to know he’s retired and doesn’t have to play against the crazy-talented guys making up the NHL today.
18:48 What the fuck? Travis follows Gronk out of the corner to Marty’s left and sweeps the puck off Gronk’s stick to the front of the net and it ricochets through Marty off Oduya’s skate. 1-1 game. The Hatcher bite had finally fully worn off.
18:21 Doc tells us that the goal was quietly reviewed immediately before the drop of the puck, and the off-ice officials gave the thumbs up signal. Pookie: “And then they gave the ‘Trade Oduya’ signal.” Schnookie: “That one was all on Travis.” Pookie: “Yeah, but I don’t want to trade Travis.”
16:44 After a bit of moderate forecheck from the Pens, Zubrus finds himself on the boards with time, and he decides to make a blind pass to the middle. Schnookie: “If the Devils get out of this period with anything less than a four-goal deficit I’ll be shocked.”
16:01 We watch Zach skate to the bench after an offsides following a nice offensive shift, and Chico points out a little cut on the bridge of his nose. Apparently Pando drilled him in the face with an “accidental” elbow, and cut him with his own visor. PandoNation appreciates that its emperor/god is feeling feisty, if not entirely ready to play again. Chico assures the viewers that Pando has been, in his efforts to get healthy again, working his pelvic muscles quite a bit. We won’t touch that one.
14:30 What is going on here? Rupp makes a cold-blooded steal right at the Pittsburgh blue line as a Pen tries to swagger up the ice, and then he moseys in and whips a shot that Conklin has to work a bit to stop. Pookie: “He really doesn’t want to get sent down to make room for Janssen.” At the mention of Janssen a pall falls over stately IPB Manor.
11:21 Just as Doc says that the Devils have their “best guys” on the ice, Zach coughs the puck up at his blue line. Pookie: “Zach, you’re supposed to be best guys, not easy turnover.”
10:57 Nothing seems to be going on at all, but all of a sudden Whitney is ripping a fast, wide-open shot from the high slot. Marty is caught completely by surprise, but gets a shoulder on it.
10:02 For the umpteenth time this period, the Devils gain the Pens zone with speed, then have their shot deflected over the glass. As we wait for the facoff, Doc and Chico update us on Janssen’s conditioning game with Lowell. He apparently admitted to worrying he was going to get tossed out of the game because he injured an opponent with a dirty hit, but nothing was called. Great. He’s in game shape. We can’t wait for him to get back into the Devils lineup so he can ruin the season.
9:31 Asham lays an assy, high hit on Letang well behind the play as the Pens are rushing up the ice. We go to commercial, and Geico tries to save us from our escalating depression and feelings of self-loathing by giving us that awesome Pips commercial. We are trying to take a train to happy town, woo woo, but it’s not really working. The penalty is for elbowing, but Pookie feels it was less an egregious elbow and more an egregious leaving-the-feet-and-punching-him-in-the-face.
7:31 We’re not sure if that was a great PK or a lousy PP. Either way, we’ll take it.
6:59 Travis tries to split two defenders on what was supposed to be a breakaway pass form Gio, but he can’t juggle the puck in the air while skating backwards. Pookie: “No trick shot competition for Travis.”
6:11 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pelley wins an offensive-zone draw somewhat meekly, and Rupper pounces on the puck as it’s sitting about six inches behind the faceoff dot. He then flings it toward the net and it bounces off the face of a defender and into the net. 2-1 Devils, and this is Rupper’s first two-goal game since 2003. We are inclined to believe this is Rupper’s second career two-goal game.
5:53 Marty is the only Devil on the ice who is awake for the all-important “first shift after a goal”, and makes two big saves on a barely-defended Pittsburgh rush.
5:19 Hey look! It’s the third period of the Montreal game again! Thanks, Oduya – we really wanted to relive that. Marty handles a rink-length dump, and passes it to Oduya on the boards. Oduya then tries to bank the puck off the end boards to Paulie on the other side of the net, but gets the angle of the bank all wrong and gives it instead to a Penguin. Paulie stands watching while the Pen passes to Christenson all alone in front, and Christensen slips a one-handed shot around Marty. 2-2 game and we are wondering why we wanted the Devils to come back from the break at all.
3:47 The Penguins pass with ease around a flat-footed group of red sweaters in the Devils zone, and after a lengthy sequence of embarrassing the home squad, they finally put everyone out of their misery by feeding Malone in front for an unimpeded shot at Marty. He roofs it, and it’s 3-2 Pens.
2:36 Gio flattens Taffe into the glass with a hit to his side and gets called for boarding. A frustrated Chico accuses Taffe of diving, and we watch the replay and get frustrated ourselves with how not a penalty that seemed to be. Then FSN goes live to a shot of Gio in the box and he is grimacing and clutching his knee. We officially hate this game now.
0:36 The penalty kill passes thanks in part to a great glove save at the side of the net on Malkin. When Gio gets out of the box he stays in the play, so we guess he’s not too grievously injured.
0:04 The Devils get called for icing and we get a look at Gio grimacing and working his knee around on the bench. Chico says, as if it’s an amazing bit of deduction on his part, that he thinks it might be something wrong with Gio’s leg. Schnookie: “Yeah, from the way he was clutching his knee, you kind of think so.” As the teams prepare for the faceoff, Schnookie mutters, “What do you want to bet we give up a goal here?” Pookie: “No. Bet.” (In the end, well, Pookie should have taken the bet, but in the moment, it seemed like the right choice.)
0:00 You know things went well in a period when the time FSN normally gives you a Devils interview, they instead give you a look at the Jennings standings. With 30+ games left in the season. (Poetically, the Devils have given up 118 goals so far this year – it’s like they gave up those shit-tacular goals this period as a shoutout to us!)
We go into commercial with Steve announcing what the intermission show will be discussing when we come back. Pookie: “When we come back, we’ll discuss why Pookie got out of bed this morning.”
Dano spends the intermission explaining that the Devils put on a clinic there in the second period of what Larry Robinson likes to call “swimming in your own zone”. He doesn’t mention that at this rate, the Devils are going to have to stop counting on Patty if they want to excel, and start counting on Mike Rupp.
We can’t muster joy in the face of “Chico Eats!” He’s eating pizza tonight, and says that he couldn’t choose which topping to get until “a friend” advised him to eat the plain cheese one. In the footage of him eating, he then reveals who the “friend” was: Chuck the Duck! Nice! We crack smiles, even, for how delightful that reveal was. Everything comes crashing down to earth, though, when Chico says, “The pizza was fabulous, as is everything at this arena. Except the Devils’ play.” Burn.
18:35 This game has the feel of the classic “March Swoon” game. The kind we used to see in the waning weeks of a division-title season in the late ‘90s, when you just knew the decline had begun.
18:05 Gio has not returned to the bench. Someone else will have to pick up the offsides slack now.
17:24 As Chico wonders who’s going to step up to score in Langer’s and Gio’s absences, FSN editorializes with a long look at Zach on the bench. Schnookie: “Well, Mike fucking Rupp has already been stepping up tonight. I don’t see Patty and Zach and Travis doing much of anything so far.” Just then, Gio magically materializes on the bench, and Schnookie’s rant loses most of its vinegar as she gives a happy little, “Oh! That’s good!” at the sight of him.
16:08 Doc is in the middle of mundane play-by-play and suddenly the whistle blows, and he had no idea any kind of infraction had occurred. It turns out it’s Sarge getting called for hooking; replay shows it’s an iffy kind of call, but Chico pricelessly chirps, “Well, I don’t want to call that borderline, because everything is borderline.”
15:07 Pookie bitterly barks after every play by any Devil, “That’s a penalty. And that’s a penalty. And there’s a penalty.”
14:29 Sykora hits the pipe on a short-side shot, and the puck kicks out in front with Marty way overcommitted out to the side of the crease. Malone is alone in the blue paint with four red sweaters watching him as he takes a couple of swipes at the bouncing puck before putting it home for a 4-2 Pens lead. Pookie: “I really didn’t expect the Devils to suck this bad tonight.”
13:54 During our recent visit to New Orleans, we discovered a relative of ours invented the famous water safety technique called drownproofing. We think it’s time for Larry Robinson to think about drownproofing the Devils d-corps.
12:44 Pookie, watching Paulie wipe out just above the faceoff dots on the boards, grumbles, “All the D, every single one of them, have been awful tonight. Hell, all the skaters have been awful tonight.”
12:39 Zach gets called for holding the stick while trying to start some forecheck. We didn’t see the infraction, and FSN doesn’t show it because they’re too busy giving us a replay of Paulie’s wipeout, which, it turns out, was prompted by Christensen chopping down on his wrist and tripping him. It seems our producers honestly expected they’d need to have that replay queued up for the next whistle.
11:43 Talbot slashes Mottau’s stick in half. Chico says, “Some four-on-four hockey! That’s good news for the Devils.” Pookie: “Less than 20 minutes left in this game! That’s good news for the Devils! Or rather, that’s good news for the denizens of IPB Manor.” Doc suggests this call is an even-up for the non-call on Christensen, and says that’s satisfying for all parties, “unless you paid $200 for the stick [that got broken].” Boomer: “It’s satisfying unless you paid $200 to watch this game.”
8:12 Greener decides to build on the momentum of a hard-hitting shift by Asham by coughing the puck up to a surprised Pen as he backs over his own blue line.
6:04 Just as Schnookie is launching into a shrill rant that the Devils have not at any point in this game made the Pens D or Conklin have to work at all, Chico pipes up that they have five shots in the third. Because they’ve done such a bang-up job of coming out with desperation after blowing that lead in the second.
5:05 After looking overpowered in the defensive zone, the Devils finally get the puck and start up the ice, but Clarkson’s dump in goes over the glass without any assistance from a Pen. Chico wonders aloud, “What’s going on with the Devils?” He points out that the Devils have now given up three straight goals to give up second-period leads in consecutive home games. We have nothing to say to that.
4:06 Doc corrects Chico with the news that the Devils have three shots this period, not five. Chico sighs as we get a look at a seething Sutter, “Brent Sutter – I don’t know what else he can do…” Then he catches himself and tries to say, “Well, it’s not over yet!” For fuck’s sake, Chico. Have some self respect.
1:51 Pookie heaves a massive, frustrated sigh as she clutches her head and tries to look away from the listless “attack” of the Devils. “God! I can’t believe how fucking lazy they’re being. Can’t they just try for the last two minutes to make it look like they care?”
1:15 Marty vacates the net. Oooh.
0:00 Boos drift down from the disgruntled crowd. We don’t give FSN time to wrap up before we flip to find something else to watch. We don’t want to show the Devils any more effort than they showed us.