Hey look – it’s a Western Conference team! We’re getting the vapors here, as we gird ourselves for a relaxingly “meaningless” game (in as much as any game worth two – or three – points can be meaningless) against the Sharks right before the meat of the Stretch Run.
Our intro tonight features a fresh-faced and enthusiastic Steve telling us about how Lou is back from the GM meetings, then Doc pointing out that twilight is falling later and later these days, meaning the playoffs are right around the corner. We love these wacky FSN guys. Our highlighted Devils players during Doc and Chico’s segment is the Zubrus/Travis/Gio line from the Carolina game, which FSN dubs “Z-Z-Rocket”. Schnookie: “No. I REFUSE Z-Z-Rocket.” Pookie: “How about Z-Z-Vinny?” Schnookie: “That’s better.”
After regaling us with the awesomeness of the last Devils game, Doc delivers the bad news: no Brodeur/Nabokov matchup tonight. Well, it’s been quite a while since the Devils have made a little-played rookie WC goaltender look good, so why not tonight?
18:49 Is it just us, or was the Carolina game already decided by now? It’s like a classic let-down game!
17:57 The teams are still feeling each other out, but the fans, sparsely distributed through the arena, are in full “Rangers suck!” roar.
17:26 Greiss proves he’ll probably be okay in this game, as he easily handles the first of what will likely be many medium-speed, unscreened shots from above the faceoff dots that he’ll face tonight.
16:37 Paulie jumps up on a Sharks turnover in the neutral zone and is suddenly bulling into the offensive zone with Pando on a two-on-one. His pass is not up to Madden’s level, and Pando doesn’t get a shot.
16:28 The Sharks suddenly wheel up on a three-on-one the other way, and despite Marty wandering off into the corner and leaving the net completely vacated, they don’t manage to get a shot off. Replay shows the hero of the moment is Oduya, breaking up a goal-mouth pass and calmly controlling the puck in the face of a wave of attacking Sharks.
14:45 A rebound kicks high over Marty’s head, and everyone on the ice looks around wondering where the puck has gone. Vish-Dog finds it first, and plays it way up in the air with a wildly-waving stick. Play is whistled down, and as the teams line up for the defensive-zone draw, Pookie sighs, “I don’t have a lot of faith in the boys tonight.”
14:18 The adorable Women Sutter are in the house! When FSN shows us Coach Sutter’s mom, wife and daughter in the stands, they could not be cuter, laughing it up and having a grand time. They have clearly never attended a Devils-at-home-against-a-WC-opponent game before. Those smiles will be gone soon enough.
10:58 Clarkson forces a turnover at the Sharks blueline, and for a moment we are hopeful that something exciting will happen, but instead he just takes a weak shot while walking along the goal line.
10:04 Ouch. Our Geico Quotebook is (surprise, surprise) from Sutter. He seems to be making a point about how an organization can’t rest on its past glories, and how the Devils now are all about the way they’re winning in the present day, but it totally comes off to us as him telling the guys who’ve won Cups with the Devils that they need to get off their lazy asses and play hard.
9:51 A Devils defensive-zone bobble that makes Doc gargle with dismay suddenly turns into a two-on-one for Gio and Travis. But… it’s Gio, and the sucktitude is catching – Travis’ shot hits the pipe and Greiss covers without difficulty.
7:47 Chico praises Greiss’ play on a Devils flurry, and Doc reports that Greiss is 22 years old, in his first NHL season, and has played only 70 minutes before tonight. We say, in unison, “He’s getting a shutout tonight.”
6:07 Chico gives Jacques Caron a shout-out, and encourages him, on the off chance that he’s listening to the broadcast, to be excited about the hip replacement surgery he just had because “[hip replacements] are a thing of beauty… after the initial problems.” That sets Doc off on a discussion of narcotic painkillers. Good times, eh, Caron?
4:32 Pookie: “I feel like we started this at 11:00.” Yeah, there is not a lot going on yet in this one.
3:17 A rush is started for the Devils when Marleau drops a blind feed from the corner to Marty’s left to Gio in the slot (Schnookie: “That was just suck passing to suck”), and Gio wheels up the other way. He then tries to mimic Marleau’s bad pass by feeding Thornton in the slot instead of Zubrus, and Zubrus tries to cover for the mistake by hooking Thornton down. Pookie: “I wouldn’t call them Z-Z-Rocket. I’d call them Z-Z-Shithead.”
2:45 Madden barrels up the ice shorthanded, with two defenders all over him, and somehow dekes around them and almost gets a great shot off. Pookie: “I didn’t know he was capable of doing that.” Doc and Chico seem equally surprised.
2:11 PaulieMartinNation’s collective heart is in its collective mouth when Paulie has to limp off after blocking a shot.
1:21 Vish-Dog hauls down a Shark away from the play, because he figures that first penalty kill was too easy. PaulieMartinNation is relieved to see that Paulie took enough amphetamines before the game to completely mask the pain from that blocked shot earlier.
0:00 The period ends scorelessly, and we are less than scintillated. Doc leads us into intermission by promising a visitor from “one of the most successful TV shows of all time” after the break. Pookie and Boomer, in unison, show off how dorky we are by shouting, “James Arness!” Then we see that the actor in question is not, in fact, from the cast of Gunsmoke, so we mute the TV and wander off to clean up from dinner.
After jettisoning the offending non-James Arness, Steve and Dano turn their kitty claws to the Flyers and their 8-game losing streak. Dano does not have many kind words to spare about the Philadelphia blue line.
The crappy ice at the Rock has claimed another victim – this time it’s not the typical odd-man OT rush that dies a painful death at its hands, but rather a linesman, who, during warm-ups at the end of the intermission, seemed to hit a divot and blow out his knee. As the remaining officials mill about discussing how they are going to proceed with this game, Paulie hovers just outside their huddle suspiciously listening in. It’s good to know he’s on the case.
19:25 Well that was craptacular. A shot drifts harmlessly wide, then kicks hard off the end boards. Marty turns to play the rebound, and no one tells him that Cheechoo is standing in the crease behind him, so his leaning over to scoop up the puck lacks any kind of urgency. Cheechoo just reaches around him while Paulie stands there watching pathetically, and taps the puck into the net. 1-0 Sharks on what is probably one of the top ten lamest goals we’ve ever seen against the Devils.
18:18 The Devils actually respond to the goal by mounting some play in the Sharks zone. But it’s not, like, shot-producing play or anything. That would be crazy.
17:11 The Devils offensive-zone pressure is a thing of the past; San Jose musters a shift so strong on the forecheck that Doc points out that the ice seems tilted.
16:44 Chico tells us to have faith, because the Sharks have consistently scored first in games on this road trip of theirs and have consistently gone on to lose. Pookie: “Oh, they’re going to buck that trend tonight.”
16:02 Greener earns what we can only assume will be a return trip to the Healthy Scratch list by grabbing the puck out of the air in the slot and then throwing it out toward the blue line. He is called for closing the hand on the puck.
14:46 Madden kickstarts another two-on-one with Pando, and it is stating the obvious to say that he has been head and shoulders above his teammates as the best guy in red tonight.
13:43 We go to commercial with Chico remarking that the Devils need to start putting more pucks on the net to try to take advantage of Greiss’ inexperience. We are informed the Devils have a grand total of seven shots so far tonight. What a totally predictable turn of events.
12:51 Zubrus cranks a huge-assed shot that Greiss comes out to nearly the top of the faceoff circles to play. He leaves a giant rebound, but naturally, there are no Devils thinking of going after second chances against a kid with 90 minutes of NHL experience and obvious overaggressive positioning problems.
12:23 Pookie: “You know who I’d like to see score some real goals instead of crap-assed goals with four seconds left?” The Zach Goggles! They’re failing!
12:04 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ask and ye shall receive! Langer drives past the Sharks D as Greiss unwisely decides to skate out to practically the hashmarks to meet the incoming puck, and suddenly Zach goes all wrecking-ball, storms down the center of the ice, and punches the puck past the wandering goalie into the net. 1-1 game.
10:14 Okay, we can’t totally hate Jody Shelley after the report from Chico that he has a dog named Ellie. We hope it’s spelled Elley.
8:04 The teams are settling into a comfort zone of the Sharks pretty much controlling the puck and the Devils trying to weather the play in their end and the near neutral zone. The highlight of the stretch of action is Paulie’s standing pokecheck of Thornton at the blue line. Well, there were probably shots and offensive-zone plays that were highlights for the Sharks, but we’re looking for the Devils good, and that pokecheck is pretty much it.
6:59 The Sharks prove to have done a better job scouting the Devils than the Sabres did earlier this year, as they are calmly ready on D for Clarkson’s attempted wraparound.
5:25 We come back from commercial to see the fallen linesman is back on the ice. He must not have taken as many amphetamines before the game as Paulie did.
4:57 The Devils look like they’re going to string together some kind of good offensive-zone pressure, and Pookie perks up. “Come on!” she exhorts, then deflates, crestfallen, groaning, “Oh. Oduya has it. Ugh! And now Langer has it!”
4:04 Marty makes a crazy, swinging, blind, overhead windmill save. Chico informs us, “That was the Seeing Hand. That wasn’t the Unseeing Hand.” Replay shows that Marty was down on one knee, totally screened, and managed to bat the puck (unseen, despite Chico’s protestations) out of the air from behind his ear with a calm swing of his glove. It is really, truly amazing.
3:04 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is almost as if the Hockey Gods feel like Marty has atoned enough for that crappy goal with the Seeing Hand Save, and are giving the Devils one back. Paulie carries the puck in around a group of surprised Sharks defenders (they’re all like, “Isn’t there a quadrant you’re supposed to be tending to?”), drops the puck off behind the net, then darts back out toward the blue line, further confusing everyone in white. Brylin takes advantage of the befuddled Sharks, leaping on the loose puck and tapping it to Madden at the side of the net, and Madden just coolly stuffs it through Greiss’ feet and into the net. 2-1 Devils, and PaulieMartinNation celebrates his dramatic assist.
1:54 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Some spreading-the-zone tic-tac-toe passing between Patty, Pando and Brylin (??? Yes, Sutter has lost his mind, or this was the world’s craziest line change) turns into Greiss letting an eminently stoppable Brylin shot through him. 3-1 Devils, and PandoNation celebrates an assist for its emperor/god – the 200th point in his career. WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!
0:00 Marty has to stay sharp in the final seconds of the period, stopping a sneaky shot right at the buzzer. Well that was a much better 20 minutes of hockey than the first!
Steve, Stan and Dano discuss the possible rules changes coming out of the GM meetings. The highlight is Dano saying the smaller goalie pads in the early 80’s were the reason he could score six goals a year. The lowlight is Stan, that crazy old bat, attempting to get his rant on over widening the rinks. Mercifully, Steve cuts him off summarily, sending us to a commercial break.
Tonight’s “Chico Eats!” is quite possibly the cutest thing EVER, kicking off with Chico looking around, pretending to be perusing the food stalls, and then the camera pans to the side where Grace Sutter is standing with a microphone, asking, “Chico, what are you going to eat tonight?” Chico then treats her to a corned beef sandwich, and the two adorably ham it up while sampling the sandwich, then joyously re-create the dance she did when the Devils won that game in Edmonton before Christmas. Seriously, Gentle Reader, Grace Sutter is the bomb. We could not possibly love her more than we do now – no, wait. That’s a lie. Because FSN cuts then to a shot of the Ladies Sutter in their box, and mother and daughter-in-law have a nice-looking line of wineglasses on the ledge in front of them. Now we couldn’t possibly love Grace Sutter more than we already do.
18:38 We’re still in so much of a tizzy about Mrs. Sutter that we’ve barely noticed the period has started.
17:14 Boos rain down from the stands as both officials raise their arms when Gio can openers a Shark to the ice next to Greiss’ goal. We hope the fans are booing for the same reason we are; Pookie puts it best when she says, “Gio, I tire of you.”
15:14 It is not often that as bad a penalty as the one Gio took gets killed off, but we guess the Sharks just don’t have the same killer instinct as most teams the Devils play.
14:31 A Travis shot ricochets off about four sets of feet in front, but Greiss manages to cover the puck at the last moment. Pookie: “I just realized he’s not getting a shutout tonight!” Chico remarks that another Devils goal would be great, but then stops himself, saying somberly, “Of course, that would be a three-goal lead.” Doc snarks, “As we have learned, since we are given multiple choice tests in every production meeting when Fischler is there…”
12:31 Our house smells suspiciously of cooking oil every time the heat comes on. We can’t decide whether we should be concerned, but finally figure we might as well just shrug it off, because Gracie Sutter probably wouldn’t worry about it.
10:43 There is a bit of back-and-forthing between the Devils and Shelley after Shelley pushes Zubrus to the ice on a false start of a Devils-zone draw. As play goes up and down the rink, with various Devils taking shots at Shelley, Doc dryly informs us that Jody Shelley is “no relation to the author of Frankenstein.”
10:00 We are given a “Who Am I?” feature for the first time ever on FSN, and the answer is Paulie. Of course, Chico reveals the answer by saying, “His first name is Paul, and his last name is…” Pause, while the graphic on the screen reveals Paulie’s mug shot, “Paul Martin!” Pookie: “I think I need to go out tomorrow and get all my paperwork changed to say I’m a citizen of PauliePaulMartinNation.”
9:25 Zach makes a really nifty backchecking play, yoinking the puck away while the Sharks are setting up and zipping some good passes around the Devils zone. He is then promptly flattened, while not playing the puck, by Thornton while the teams start chugging on the rush up the other way. Schnookie, wondering why Pookie is not raving about the defensive play: “Where are your Zach Goggles now?” Pookie: “I don’t know. Zach just got smushed.” Thornton gets called for interference, and on the replay, Chico fairly points out that the problem was less a penalty, and more a case of size differential. Pookie: “Finally! The Pronger Defense works!”
7:25 The Devils must not have been very het up about Thornton smushing Zach, since they don’t mount much pressure at all on the PP.
7:08 The Sharks suddenly barge up the ice on a two-on-one rush that is eventually caught up to by another defender, but Thornton can’t score. Pookie, stunned: “That was a rush defended by Sheldon Brookbank and Zach Parise.” Pointed pause. “And the Sharks didn’t score.”
6:18 Marty makes a great diving paddle save on a wraparound attempt by Cheechoo. Pookie: “Cheechoo’s like, ‘That’s funny. Those went in on Marty earlier tonight.’”
6:06 Gio is the pukiest pile of puke ever, tipping a long, soft shot from some loser Sharky McSharkyson (aka “McLaren”) past Marty. 3-2 Devils. Sutter calls what we can only hope isn’t a MacTavish-style timeout.
4:33 Oduya makes a good, simple play, clearing the zone smartly from the halfboards, and Doc praises him, adding, “Now is not time for a rabby-do [???] play.” We are puzzled. Pookie: “That’s a dialect of jive I don’t speak.”
3:17 Zach tries to throw a bone-rattling hit, but bounces off harmlessly. Pookie: “Zach is Phaneufing himself tonight. If you know what I mean.”
2:08 Langer is the king of obliviously breaking up plays and losing the puck in his feet, and now is a great example of that. The Sharks recover while Langer is standing just below the blue line, looking around frantically (with an unspoken, “Where did it go?? Where did it go??”) and realizing almost too late that the offensive flow has resumed around him.
1:59 A pileup in the crease finally draws a whistle, and when FSN cuts in to a tight angle of Marty at the bottom of the heap, it looks like he’s looking up at the official and asking, “Did I stop it?”
1:07 San Jose gets the extra attacker on the ice.
0:42 Marty curls over a shot, drawing a whistle quickly before he loses hold of the puck. Roenick taps the loose puck into the net well after the whistle goes, and Marty hops up, waving his stick at JR and getting up into his face while the two exchange what we have to imagine is delightfully hilarious smack talk. The whole sequence culminates in Paulie grabbing JR and wrestling him into the boards. Schnookie: “Paulie’s all, ‘I will dunk a bitch!’”
0:15 After some frenzied play and a few faceoffs in the Devils zone, Paulie emphatically clears the puck from one knee, and PauliePaulMartinNation holds its breath as the puck curls the length of the ice, just missing the empty net and crossing the line for an icing. FSN cuts to a closeup of Paulie, and he’s shaking his head as if to be like, “Yeah, well, I could have scored there if I wanted to. I just… didn’t want to. That’s all.” And then he adds, after the camera cuts away, “I will dunk a bitch!”
0:00 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Devils hang on for a 3-2 win! We immediately get to see the Sutter Women celebrating, including Gracie snapping pictures from her seat. FSN sticks around for the three stars, and the third star is, oddly, Patty. He doesn’t skate out for the announcement, and Schnookie remarks, “He’s probably just as surprised to be hearing he was a star as we are.”
All in all, this was a workmanlike performance by the Devils. They started slow, put the cat in the hat when it mattered most, then hung on to preserve the win (we won’t say they sat back, because some people don’t like when we assess their performance that way. And you know who you are!). We’ll take it.