There is excitement in the air tonight at stately IPB Manor, as we are celebrating Paulie PaulieMartin Day – that’s right, he’s returning to the lineup for this game against the Wild, valiantly refusing to miss the chance to skate in front of his 7,000 family members. We are confident his Leader Of Young Gopher powers will be enough to correct the Devils’ recent trend toward relentless sucktitude. Okay, “confident” probably isn’t the right word, but we’re at least really happy to see him.
Hey! Tonight’s game is also exciting because it’s not on FSN NY – no, it’s on MSG Plus. Or MSG+. Or… whatever. It looks a lot like FSN NY, but bluer. Because heaven forbid the Devils broadcasts shouldn’t be “subtly” branded with Rangers colors or anything.
Doc and Chico discuss Paulie a bit (and by discuss we mean “slurp”, something of which we approve), then move on to talking about ex-Devil Brian Rolston (the namesake of our cat Rollie, who seems singularly unimpressed that they’re talking about him). “What do you think of when you think of Brian Rolston?” Doc asks. As Chico starts to answer, “Big, booming slapshot,” Pookie cuts him off: “High and wide. That’s what I think.” Schnookie adds, “And shooting right into the goalie’s crest.” He’s kind of improved on that, we think, since parting ways with the Devils.
Oh, and for our gameplan tonight, if we were Sutter we’d try to find a way to convince the Devils that there is another trade deadline looming. They didn’t have such a problem scoring back when they thought their jobs were on the line, did they?
Before the drop of the puck, we are disheartened. JP Parise gets to do the “Let’s play hockey!” thing, which can only mean that Zach is going to have the worst game of his life.
18:31 Rollie gets his first big, booming slapshot of the night, and he does a fine job of showing off how he doesn’t hit the crest anymore. Marty has to shrug the puck down with a desperate bit of shoulder/arm. We are predicting a Rolston hat trick.
17:18 Paulie is on the ice, but Pookie is crushed: “I didn’t hear the crowd roar when he came off the bench.”
16:34 The Devils are continuing the defensive focus they had in Montreal, and leave Veilleux wide open (and the term “wide open” barely begins to describe it – there is literally not a single Devil within twenty feet of him on any side) in the high slot, and he makes no mistake in finishing on a fine feed from behind the net. 1-0 Wild.
14:51 We are having a very hard time taking this game seriously right now, because Chico is telling us all about Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
12:37 The Devils get their first flurry of scoring opportunity on a delayed penalty (after a save at the other end that Marty faked the fans out with by looking behind himself), but typically can’t corral the puck down low to take advantage of a scrambling Backstrom. The call, MSG+ tells us much later, is slashing on Simon.
12:13 Langer is playing the point on the PP. It has come to that.
11:24 A shorthanded two-on-one almost turns into absolute disaster, as Marty gets most of Rolston’s initial shot, but not all of it. But Patty’s heads-up backcheck is enough to sweep the puck out of the vacated crease before Veilleux can get to it. This really isn’t going well.
10:39 As the penalty is expiring, Demitra chips the puck past Travis at the point, and Travis trips him before he can take off down the ice. Sutter looks thrilled.
10:12 Doc remarks that the Wild PP has been bad lately. Pookie: “You know what that means – power play goal.” Doc then remarks that the Wild haven’t been winning at home lately. Pookie: “You know what that means…”
8:43 Langer shags the puck a bit on the PK, and Pookie grouses, “I don’t trust these guys anymore. I’m thinking, ‘He’s going to softly turn the puck over now.’” Schnookie: “I don’t trust any of them either.” Pause. “Except Paulie. I trust him with my life.”
8:00 NO THE FUCK WAY. Steve Kelly is in the Wild lineup tonight. Schnookie: “The Steve Kelly?” Between the J.F. Damphousse callback during the game on Tuesday night and now this, it’s Blast From The Past Week.
7:35 We come back from commercial to a Geico Quotebook from JP Parise about how proud he is as a father that both of his sons “like to work”. Schnookie: “What does Jordy Parise like to work at?” Pookie: “Guitar Hero.” She adds, “Zach likes to work because if he isn’t working, he’s thinking, and when he’s thinking he begins to doubt.”
7:01 This “scrambling D” scheme really doesn’t seem to us to be the way to approach playing hockey in the NHL. While the defensive zone coverage is completely breaking down, Mottau loses his stick when it’s broken on a slash, and as a result of the ensuing panic, Burns gets a fantastic look from above the faceoff dot and makes it 2-0. It feels like 17-0, because tonight we’re getting the October 2007 model of the New Jersey Devils.
5:06 Vish-Dog is happy to be back in the lineup – he does not miss the chance to step into a Wild carrying the puck over the blue line with his head down. It’s been a while since a Devil has thrown any kind of hit, let alone an open-ice one; Pookie says, “It’s been so long since Vish-Dog was in the lineup, I’m like, ‘What is that? Is that a “hit”?’”
4:27 Clarkson and Simon fight. Whatever.
3:50 We notice that Clarkson took an extra penalty on the fight, apparently for holding. We doubt the Devils have noticed.
2:57 The Iron Boar just manages to get a stick on another loose puck in the crease, and stabs it out from behind Marty to safety.
2:36 After Madden and Pando pull up on a shorthanded opportunity, Pookie says, “Either the book was to shoot from way out on Backstrom, or the Devils just don’t care.” Pause. “I’m guessing they just don’t care.”
1:51 There is a round of spit-takes here at stately IPB Manor when Doc announces that the shots are 11-9 Wild. “We don’t have nine shots!” Pookie splutters.
1:15 Gio carries the puck down the wing on a “rush” and fires a shot that gets all glass. Pookie tut-tuts, then says, “I’m reduced to only being able to make disappointed-grandmother sounds.”
1:04 There is a Rupp/Madden/Travis line on the ice right now. Pookie manages to overcome her grandmotherly clucking to say, “I don’t think Sutter even cares anymore.”
0:00 Chico takes the words out of our mouths when he says at the buzzer, “Well, the Devils had better hope they’ve bottomed out.” Although he says it a lot more kindly than we would have.
We get an interview with Rolston, and we are in agreement that none of us can really handle the concept of a grown-up Rollie.
We really have nothing to say.
Holy crap, no, wait! We wrote that we had nothing to say before MSG+ gave us a “Newark: A City On The Rise” tourism video. We are most stunned to hear that Newark has the largest museum in New Jersey (the aptly-named Newark Museum), although when Pookie says, “Really?” Schnookie responds, “Well, that’s in New Jersey. I mean, what other museums are there? You’re thinking of New York.” Pookie ponders this, then admits, “No, I’m thinking of aquariums.”
19:41 We spent much of our intermission discussing our plans for a new NHL-themed TV show (more on that tomorrow), and Doc comes back from reading the sponsor blurbs at the start of the period to muse aloud about what it would be like if the Geico cavemen were their own hockey team. “Do you suppose they’d forecheck hard?” he asks Chico, then adds, “I’m sure they’d be funny if we mic’d them up on the bench.” We are amazed that this game is so bad that Doc is also making up his own imaginary hockey TV show.
18:16 We’re not paying super-close attention, and all of a sudden, the Wild have a stationary three-on-one down low in front of Marty. Fortunately, the Wild are just as surprised as everyone else, and Marty doesn’t even have to move to make a save.
17:42 It is quiet in the building, and we can clearly hear an unidentified player shout, “Ehhh, fuck you!” during play. If it was a Devil, we say, “Fuck you, too.”
16:09 Schnookie: “I think Gio is trying to play himself off this line.” He darts up the wing with Pando and Madden trailing, and dishes to no one as neither Pando nor Madden is confident that they should be the guy going after that feed.
15:31 Doc and Chico are trying to find a happy place to retreat to, and end up giggling amongst themselves about the old Toledo Sports Arena and its three-foot-thick ice. Or something.
14:59 Marty bobbles a Roston shot strangely, and Pookie wonders aloud, “What is Marty doing?” Then she answers her own question, saying, “He’s like, ‘Eh, you guys suck in my hometown, I’m going to suck in your hometown.’”
14:17 What? WOOOOOOOOO? Huh? There is so little functional hockey going on with the Devils on the puck in the Wild zone that Doc and Chico are still talking about how long all the Devils’ goal-scoring droughts are. But suddenly the Wild start falling over, and Zubrus tips the puck to the point, and Vish-Dog just floats a shot through a moving screen and beats Backstrom over the glove. 2-1 Wild.
13:41 Doc tells us Vish-Dog’s birthday is on Tuesday. As is andrew’s! Happy birthday in advance, you crazy kids!
12:55 We go to commercial as a penalty is being whistled on XX for XX, and Chico says, “And now a penalty is being called, that can only help the Devils’ cause.” Schnookie gargles doubtfully, “How?”
We come back from commercial to discover that Schnookie was a lot righter than Chico, because the penalty is so not helping the Devils’ cause that it’s not on the Wild at all. It’s on Pando, for a comically minuscule hook.
11:20 Our announcers are every which kind of confused because they thought they heard a whistle, and the Devils all held up, further leading them to think play has stopped. Of course, there was no whistle, and the Wild are still skating. Just like in Montreal. Pookie: “I would really like for the Devils to learn not to stop skating until the other team stops skating. Sutter should spend the next practice randomly blowing false whistles in the middle of plays.”
10:16 Zach gets a glorious chance all alone in front of a wide-open net. Boomer suggests that Zach should be fired, but Pookie’s Zach Goggles will not let her think he was actually at fault on the play. Schnookie wasn’t paying close enough attention to act as the tie-breaking vote, so Zach keeps his job. Barely.
6:42 Well, if Paulie PaulieMartin’s own family won’t cheer his nice keep (the arena is deathly silent), we’ll point it out here. Nice keep by Paulie.
6:15 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Burns loses all sense of where the Devils are in the Wild zone, and Pando crashes creaseward to poke the puck off his stick and toward Gio, who is all alone at the side of the net. And Gio is still apparently capable of finishing like a guy who’s afraid of losing his job at the trade deadline. 2-2 game.
5:37 We are discussing Marty’s quality of play so far tonight, and Boomer puts it best when she says, “He looks like he has some kind of inner ear infection that’s messing with his balance.”
5:32 We come back from commercial to see Dale Martin (PaulieMartinNation’s Official Dad) holding up homemade “Hey Chico, what are you eating tonight?” signs. He looks exactly like a dark-haired Paulie, only with a “Paulie’s Evil Twin” bit of facial hair. We are beside ourselves with excitement at this Paulie’s Dad sighting. (Doc says in response to the signs, “I can answer that question but it’s a long list!”)
3:56 Paulie tries to make his return extra-triumphant by jumping up on the play and going to the net, but his shot is deflected to the glass. We figure his Dad is bitterly ripping up his posters up in the Martin box right now.
1:06 Who even knows what’s happening right now? We saw Paulie’s dad! This is an historic night for PaulieMartinNation.
0:39 Chico feels compelled to point out that Sutter has kept his top two lines intact. It’s 71 games into the season and is notable that Sutter hasn’t broken his lines up in a game. Yeah.
0:13 Perhaps Sutter should practice teaching his team to play all the way to the buzzer, too. Koivu weaves his way around Mottau, then across the crease, and then around Salvador, and puts the puck through the falling defenseman. Gaborik is there to tip the puck home, and it’s 3-2 Wild. That was a pretty spectacular play. And it made our eyeballs puke shards of glass.
0:00 Well, it was an okay period for, like, 19 ¾ minutes. Stupid bastards.
We get an interview with Dale, and he says of Paulie, “He’s never been a big scorer… and never will be.” He then adds that while Paulie has always been able to see the ice “pretty well”, he “can’t finish a play.” We hope Paulie’s saying, mortified, “DA-AD! Not on my own team’s broadcast!” (We can see, in Dale, where Paule gets his trait of getting himself into sentences in interviews, then getting nervous, then stumbling over his words, then hoping to just get to trail off into silence, then realizing he’s going to have to finish the sentence, and resignedly meandering to his point.)
19:32 Doc cracks, “The Devils are getting tired of being scored on by the Koivu brothers.” Hardy fucking har.
18:37 As the Wild wheel around the Devils zone with assertion, Doc is telling us how the Wild are not good in shootouts. Schnookie: “Well good thing they’re going to win in regulation, then.” Seriously, shootouts, Doc? The game isn’t even tied.
17:39 For those who missed the discussion of Marty’s backups on the first night of Blast From The Past Week over on C-SPAN2 the other night, MSG+ gives us a graphic screen listing every guy who’s played in goal for the Devils during Marty’s tenure. For those of us who weren’t amazed enough at the Damphousse callback, how about a little Jeff Reese and Rich Shulmistra?
16:27 The Wild manage what seems like a 5-minute shift in the Devils zone, and the climactic moment comes when Marty, stumbling backwards, manages to get himself enough in the way of a close-range shot that the puck just barely rolls along the goal line and out of the crease.
15:50 The Devils can’t keep the puck out of their zone. Schnookie: “I guess if we weren’t going to put together an insurmountable lead in the second, we aren’t going to win tonight.”
14:29 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It took the entire season to get to this point, but Zubrus finally shows off what a huge guy like himself can do when he takes the puck hard at the goalie along the goal line out the corner. He just shrugs off defenders and takes advantage of Backstrom going down early, and it’s 3-3.
13:09 Madden and Langer combine for a flurry of offensive pressure, but thank heavens Pando is there to break things up. No, wait, that came out all wrong…
11:41 We are trying to figure out who wore 12 with the Devils when Rolston was still around, as Boomer shockingly didn’t remember that Rolston wore 14. How could she have forgotten that his media guide bio used to contain the fascinating personal tidbit that he was the 14th Devil to wear 14?
11:15 Marty is down and out, and a Wild has the puck and a wide-open net, and suddenly Paulie is there, being a valiant Leader Of Young Gophers, and making a fantastic stick-check to block the shot. Marty then sprawls across the crease to make a dazzling save with the paddle of his stick on the rebound. Paulie flops down, then, in the blue paint, and somehow manages to both cover the puck in the crease and still clear it out to the corner.
10:58 The Devils finally get the puck after scrambling around their zone, and the whistle blows, drawing boos from the crowd, but it seems Patty is crumpled in a heap in the neutral zone. Replay shows he got clocked by Zach’s helmet on a mix-up at the blueline. We go to commercial, and come back with Patty looking typically vacuous on the bench.
9:35 Zach and Langer whirl out of the corner to Backstrom’s left, and Zach whips an off-balance shot at the net, but Backstrom snags it out of the air. And yes, that was Zach’s only good offensive play of the game.
We come back from commercial to see a fan holding up a sign that says, “Hi Brodeur.” We hope Marty saw that and said, “Hi” back.
7:41 The puck flies out of play after some frenzied up-and-back, and Chico takes this moment to talk about the two teams’ respective number 9s. We get looks at Zach (who is whining at the official about something) and Koivu, and Chico blathers on about how the best players traditionally wear 9. Considering the Devils assign numbers, we’re not sure how much that means for Zach. Chico also says that he thinks 9 is an especially nice hockey number, particularly compared to, say, 8. Then he backtracks to say that he thinks 8 is a perfectly cromulent number, prompting Pookie to crack, “He sounds like he’s concerned he just hurt 8’s feelings.”
5:40 Zach tries to set up a tap-in feed to the front of the net, but the guy he’s got trailing the play is Rupper. So, yeah. There is no goal scored on the play.
4:12 Zubrus handles a pass along the boards in front of the Wild bench just as a Wild decides to take a run at him. Zubrus calmly turns his back to the oncoming attacker, and the Wild bounces off his caboose, without so much as jarring Zubrus the slightest bit. Schnookie: “Have the Wild never played a guy that size?” Really, this is the first time this season that Zubrus has looked taller than 5’6”.
2:04 As Mottau looks a bit overwhelmed behind Marty’s net, Schnookie sighs, “Mottau’s not having his best night.” Pookie: “No, none of them are.” Pause. “Except Vish-Dog.”
0:53 Once again, this “playing to the buzzer” thing is beyond the Devils. Bouchard curls off the boards, and Madden loses a step to him and hooks him. Chico is not pleased (and neither are we) that Bouchard doesn’t pick up a matching minor for the dive he adds, where he staggers to his knees as a result of Madden’s stick being in his hands.
0:00 Whew. We get to the end of regulation with a tie, which is a lot more than what the Devils really deserve. Okay, we’ll grant them that they did a nice job of battling back to even the score, but the Wild have been the better team for the bulk of this game.
We come back from commercial to see a replay of Oduya handling the puck to the side of the net while regulation was winding down, while being hooked as blatantly as the infraction Madden got called for.
4:40 Burns decides he’s about to go all coast-to-coast on the Devils’ asses, but he doesn’t factor in the huge open-ice hitting skill of one Patrik Elias.
3:44 After Marty makes a sequence of huge kick saves in the waning moments of the man advantage, Gaborik just flies into the Devils zone and rips a slick wrister that Marty makes a third huge save on, this one with a snappy glove.
3:14 The Devils tic-tac-toe up high to set up Paulie for the win, but it seems Dale is right, and Paulie’s got no finish.
2:39 Brookbank cranks a ginormous shot from the blueline that gets all of Patty. Patty collapses in front of the crease as the Wild gain possession and charge up the other way, and Doc periodically gives us updates as he apparently struggles hugely to get to the bench while play continues.
1:50 The Wild are wheeling all over the Devils zone, the fans getting increasingly tightly wound about it, and the sequence culminates in Marty challenging hard along the goal line to cut off the eventual scoring chance.
0:40 We get to see Patty looking shaken up still on the bench. Well, the Devils aren’t winning this one without their Mr. Overtime.
0:00 As far as we’re concerned, this one ends in a tie that can be seen either as another game in which the Devils were the second-best team, or as a show of good character by a Devils team that really had no business getting a point. You can probably guess which way we’re looking at it.
(The Devils, do, however, regain first place in the east when Langer is better at the superskill against Backstrom than Rolston is against Marty.)