Ahhh… Presidents’ Day. The time when a young blogger’s fancy turns to thoughts of Devils v. Canes. So how helpful of the schedulemaker to give us the Devils/Canes pairing our hearts are so set upon! Last time these teams met it was a bloodbath, with the Devils romping all over the Hurricanes, but a lot of things have changed since then. For starters, the Canes have shipped a few players out of town since then. More importantly, though, we were at the Rock that night. Will the Devils look so good without us in the crowd? Stay tuned to find out, Gentle Reader.
Before the drop of the puck we realize we will not be able to identify any of the Hurricanes today by name. On top of the trade of Stillman and IPB’s Official Favorite Cane, Mikey C, there’s the season-ending injury to Brind’Amour, and Erik Cole and Ray “Kazoo” Whitney are also out. So what we’re trying to say is that unless Hooters is the only Carolina player doing anything, this is going to be a game diary full of “Caney McCane”.
19:45 The normal script for Carolina/New Jersey games for us is that the game is a matinee, we’re in attendance, and the Devils lose by no fewer than 6 goals. That didn’t happen in the last game, probably because it wasn’t a matinee. We are predicting in a make-up game by the Hockey Gods, that this will end 800-0 Canes.
19:02 Doc: “That was an interesting haircut on Corvo in that [roster] picture we showed you. A little frosting on top! Huh huh.”
18:21 Grahame misplays a puck behind the net (probably because he’s intimidated by the “fresh back into the lineup” d-pairing of Brookbank and Greene), but the forechecking Devil (Devil McDev?) can’t play it cleanly. Pookie, that font of optimism, adjusts her prediction: “801 to nothing.”
17:58 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Travis takes a nice feed from Zubrus on a rush started by Brookbank, and rips a shot in stride that easily beats Grahame. Chico chortles, “That’s just what the Devils need!” and Pookie snots, “What? A goal? Yeah.” 1-0 Devils.
16:04 Gleason tries to lay a huge hit into Zach as he’s setting up in the Canes zone, and ends up just bouncing off a totally unimpressed Zach. Pookie: “Zach just Phaneufed that guy. Not that he hit him hard, but that he made him look like a dumbass when the big hit bounced off him.”
15:09 We are having a serious, hockey-related conversation (we know, we know. We try not to do it often) about whether we should be harder on Travis for how lousy he’s been offensively this season. We decide he deserves a little slack because of how well he plays off the puck. As if on cue, he cold-bloodedly strips the Canes pointman from behind while the rest of the Carolina skaters think they’re setting up in the Devils zone, and then leads a three-on-two the other way. Of course, Travis ends up dishing to Gio, so the expected result is achieved.
14:40 Wallin gets called for a textbook-yet-still-pretty-marginal holding infraction against a forechecking Zubrus. Laviolette is doing his annoying-face whining thing on the bench, and Pookie declares, “When I see a shot of Laviolette I have the same emotional reaction I do to a political candidate I’m tired of hearing about.”
12:39 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The power play holds the zone brilliantly in the face of some amateurish clearing attempts, and after moving the puck smartly around the entire PP unit, Travis steps out from the side of the net, whacking the puck on Grahame, but then Applemotherfuckingsauce sneaks down backdoor and is there to punch home the rebound. 2-0 Devils.
9:42 The Devils decide a two-goal lead with less than half a period played is good enough, and start letting up. There is a lengthy shift of sucktitude in Marty’s zone, and then all of a sudden Asham and Caney McCane start a grope-fest (that is officiated as if it was a fight), Rupp and some other Caney McCane are fighting, and Whitey and Clarkson are involved somehow too, FSN cuts to commercial, and we’re not entirely sure what’s going on.
We come back from commercial with a nekkid (read: sweaterless) Asham skating off the ice. Hooters and Langer are talking with the officials, and Pookie says, “Staal looks like he’s nodding along going, ‘I understand. I get it. I comprehend English. … Langer, what’s he saying? Can you repeat that in Dullard for me?’” The Canes emerge from this all with a power play, and Rupp, Clarkson and Asham all got 10-minute misconducts.
8:15 Pookie: “Zach is on the bench right now holding panicked, impromptu henchman interviews. He’s freaking out, ‘My henchman, back-up henchman and back-up back-up henchman are all out for the next ten minutes! Who wants to be my temporary back-up back-up back-up henchman?’”
7:33 Well Marty certainly doesn’t think a 2-0 lead with less than half the period gone was enough. He makes a crazy-good, corkscrewing, invent-a-new-way-to-make-kick-saves save, flicking the rebound out of a crowded crease on a lightning-fast, brilliant sweep of the bottom leg on the goal-line, semi-stacked-pad crouch he set up in on the initial wraparound shot by the Canes.
7:17 The Devils promptly wheel up the other way and ring a shot hugely off the pipe. It is unseasonably warm today, and we’ve got the windows open in the living room of stately IPB Manor. We find ourselves feeling, in large part because of how Spring-like it is, that this game has suddenly taken on the cast of that “waning days of the regular season” type of game. As if the Canes, with their all-AHL roster, were eliminated from the playoffs last night and the Devils clinched their spot last week and know who their first-round matchup will be.
5:22 A slowly-developing four-on-two for the Madden line predictably doesn’t even yield a shot.
2:26 A Whitey turnover, and ensuing broken stick, turns into a good set-up for the Canes, and it is only the luck of Corvo hitting the outside of the net on his streaking-down-the slot attempt that keeps the lead at two goals.
0:00 We liked the first half of this period more than the second half, but really, it’s a matinee between the Canes and Devils! It feels like it’s April! This has a serious “meaningless” vibe! We’re loving it!
You might be shocked to learn, Gentle Reader, that we are not interested in unmuting to hear what Stan has to say.
What the hell? “Chico Eats!” should be in the third period! Chico is hanging out with a High School cross-country team, and eating funnel cake, licking tons of sugar off his fingers and admitting he’d never eaten funnel cakes before. Schnookie’s with him on that.
19:05 Chico gets so far ahead of himself that it hurts, blathering on about how if the Devils get another goal, then the Canes will need four to win, and he just doesn’t see that happening… and suddenly he reels himself in, with the depressing reminder that right now the Canes are actually only down by two.
18:52 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well, we shouldn’t have laughed at Chico there. A bad play by Kaberle at the point turns into a Madden-led two-on-one with Pando, and Madden lays a glorious pass through a nonexistent space between Cullen and Grahame, and Pando tips it home. Chico gives us this rehearsed call (he starts it, then waits for the goal horn to stop, and then resumes the call): “Salt and pepper, bread and butter, and now Pandolfo and Madden.” Yes, they are as timeless as the sands. Or as timeless as the salt and pepper and bread and butter. 3-0 Devils.
15:36 It looks like it’s 4-0 Devils after a clever little tip pass by Patty to the point sets up a booming slapshot that just kicks off the post. Alas, our depth perception is not always married to reality.
13:52 Doc is talking about how Ottawa has been caught in the standings by Montreal, and points out that the Senators have not won since the trade, and the Hurricanes have not lost. Schnookie: “Well, we know who’s dressing-room poison now, don’t we?”
13:43 Aw, fuck. As great as some of the saves Marty made in the first were, this goal by Hamilton from the high slot is super-sucky. Chico tries desperately to come up with an excuse, even going so far as admitting he’s looking for an excuse, and finally has to admit that Marty just crapped the bed on it. 3-1 Devils.
12:42 Hooters leads a snappy little rush that leaves Marty scrambling, and as everyone in the building starts to feel nervous (and Pookie grumbles, “This period is going so slowly…”), Chico giggles that maybe a three-goal lead is a bad lead, just like Stan always says. Doc, speaking for all of us: “Don’t encourage him.”
10:22 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zubrus manages to dig the puck out of a group of confused Carolina defenders on a turnover that is so slow it could have been generated by a Bond supervillain’s robot, and he and Gio move the puck around the zone to Oduya at the point. Because Oduya is not an idiot, he decides a two-goal lead is not as good as a three-goal lead and cranks a huge shot that tips off something in front (quite possibly Rupp’s foot) and beats Grahame. 4-1 Devils.
8:46 We come back from commercial with Chico palpably relieved to have found an excuse for the goal Marty gave up. FSN shows us some replays of a few shots on which the puck kicked off the top of Marty’s glove, including the Hamilton goal, and Chico tells us it must be a new glove, and he’s still breaking it in. Of course, it might not be new, but he’s just sayin’…
6:51 How did Sarge not just score there? Madden whips a wraparound across the crease (after a three-on-two rush led in workmanlike manner by Pando, we’d like to add), and Sarge leaps down the slot to get a shot at the wide-open net, but somehow Grahame gets a leg across the goal mouth and stops him.
4:43 Stan reports to us that Vancouver has a scout in the building, then says something about how the Devils would be insane to give up Brookbank (because, uh, he sees so much playing time?). Wha-huh? This segues into Doc murmuring, while the teams listlessly trade chances, about trade history between the Devils and Canucks, and then the convenient coincidence that today is Mogilny’s 39th birthday.
3:20 Pando dazzlingly strips Hooters of the puck at the Carolina blue line. Pookie: “Pando is twice the player Hooters is!”
2:43 There is a bizarre pile-up of players at the boards in the neutral zone (literally a pile-up), and Pookie declares, “I think we have reached the ‘matinee’ portion of today’s game.”
1:35 Chico tells us he has no bead on what the Devils might do at the trade deadline, and he says that, like every team, the Devils might be looking for a high-level PP quarterback, but he wonders aloud what a team would have to give up to get that player. As he says this, the puck is obviously, and ominously, handled at the side of the net by Gionta.
0:36 In backing off what he’s saying about potential trades, Chico adds that everything is just rumor. To illustrate his point, he says, “One I heard the other day was that the Devils were going to get Holik back. For John Madden.” Pause. “I mean, some of it is pretty laughable.” Pookie and Boomer, in unison: “Or a lot laughable.”
0:00 The early returns on this game, 2/3 of the way through, are that it’s been delightful. Clearly neither team has realized this is a Carolina/New Jersey matinee. We expect them to remedy that in the third period.
Stan leads us into the intermission with an interview with Oduya, after which he declares the he “discovered” Oduya back in the first preseason game Oduya played in for the Devils. Seriously, we just don’t have the energy to deal with Stan.
19:32 Pookie realizes there are still nine days left until the trade deadline. “Nine days???” she wails. “That’s too long! They need to move the deadline up.”
18:18 Doc and Chico have spent the entire start of this period talking about how a power play would be just the thing to let the Canes get back into this, and Clarkson decides to see exactly how true that is by “holding” Caney McCane against the boards (it looked more like a hit from behind to us).
16:18 HA! Take that, Doc and Chico! Getting an early power play didn’t do much (yet) to help the Canes.
15:55 Marty shows off that on long shots from outside the blue line, his glove works fine, thank you very much.
15:24 Oooh! Brookbank v. Brookbank! Who doesn’t love brother-on-brother matchups? In this case the thrill-a-minute facing off involves Sheldon trying to force a shot from the point, and Wade blocking it from about three feet away. We are overcome with the excitement of the moment.
12:12 We are hanging happily on every word as Doc and Chico discuss Ottawa’s goaltending woes. There is no question that there’s a Curse Of Beating Brodeur, people. NO QUESTION. (Hilariously, Chico reports that a friend of his mentioned that Emery was almost late to Saturday’s game, and Doc dryly mentions that “game time” is something that every player should have a pretty good grip on. Heh.)
10:27 The play has settled firmly into “meaningless late-season matinee” mode (which is strange, considering it’s a stretch-run matinee between two division leaders, but still…), and we think the monotony has been broken by a close-range shot from Travis, but Grahame manages to stop it.
8:32 A terrible Canes turnover to Madden, standing dead-center on the blue line, leads to a nice shot that Grahame makes an overly flashy glove save on. Doc is still talking about players being late to games, now regaling us with an anecdote about the Stasny brothers and some 2:00 matinee that two of them thought was actually a 7:00 start.
7:52 How weak is Samsonov? After a soft attempt at a shot, he gets flattened by a gently-charging Greener.
6:17 The fourth line can’t help but make it look like they’re trying to run up the score, but we’ll say it’s in the spirit of good sportsmanship that their finish isn’t as good as their forecheck.
4:55 Doc is breaking down the scoring from the Devils d-corps over 20-game stretches. The first 20 games of the season saw 13 points from them (combined), the next 20 games saw 20-some points, and the latest 20 games has seen 47 points. Pookie: “Wow. Come August, our D is going to be unstoppable.”
3:55 As the Devils continue to look puck-hungry, if not hugely uptempo, in their own zone, Pookie says, “This is the strangest Devils matinee I’ve ever seen. They’ve played…” she pauses, looking for the right word, “well the whole time.” It really is almost unthinkable.
2:05 We don’t know what to think about the fact that the Devils don’t have morning skates. Chico talks about how no one else does that as regularly, and we can’t decide if that’s genius on Lou’s and Sutter’s parts, or if they’re doing something horribly wrong.
1:24 We get a report that another Cane (a callup from the A) has left this game. Doc reports that despite having nine regulars out of the lineup, and despite losing today, they remain in first place in the Southeast. We loved how Scott Burnside wrote on ESPN the other day that watching the race for the Southeast title is like watching sea slugs perform “Swan Lake”. So when Doc makes this surprising announcement that Carolina will retain first place, Schnookie cracks, “Yeah, because sea slugs are really, really bad at dancing ‘Swan Lake’.”
0:27 What the hell? Aucoin decides he really, really doesn’t like Travis, and they end up clinching behind the play in what Travis is probably hoping will be called a fight so he can claim a Gordie Howe hat trick. Chico and Doc are as disappointed as we are (although not as crushed as Travis) when the two players only get roughing minors.
0:04 It is terrifically poor form for us to respond here with a “WOOO!” but, uh, yeah. The Canes quit the game about 20 seconds early, and the Devils work the puck around and Zach manages to score through Grahame without even really trying. He looks a bit ashamed of himself while meekly celebrating on the ice, but is shown on the bench beaming and cracking up. 5-1 Devils.
0:00 Don’t look now, but the Devils have as many points now as Ottawa and Montreal. Schnookie: “If you’d told me in October that we’d be tied in points with them on February 18, I never would have believed you.” Pause. “Neither would the Senators.” Pookie: “If you’d told me this morning that we’d be tied with the Senators at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have believed you.”