So we meet the Penguins again. This… should go well?
The highlight of our evening so far, by the way, has been Boomer pronouncing solemnly, while watching the news scroll on the bottom line of MSG+, “Well, it’ll be a very merry Christmas at the C.C. Sabathia household.”
Before this game starts, we just have to say there are many, many ideas we will never understand that come from the brain of Brent Sutter. Dressing PL-3 instead of Rupper is one of them. Unless we’re shopping PL-3, in which case, why yes, Lightning Bolts, we will take Lecavalier for him!
20:00 There is an inexplicable delay to the opening faceoff, and we get a lingering shot of Sykora standing next to Patty at center ice, wearing a smile that looks like one of those fake, plastered-on grins that say, “No, I don’t mind at all that my former best friend isn’t talking to me right now.” (We might be projecting.)
18:59 Patty gets the puck at the near boards shallowly in the Penguins zone, and weakly gives it up at the slightest hint of physical contact. It not being overtime and all.
18:33 Shocking development: all that talk this week about how Madden and Pando were never ever ever going to play in any kind of checking role for the Devils ever ever again was not necessarily true. The Madden line has risen from the dead and is out against Sid. Pookie: “Pando and Madden are like, ‘I’m not dead yet.’”
16:37 Pookie, slightly tipsy, proclaims, “Right now, this very minute, the Devils all kind of sound like they did back when they liked having Larry as their coach. The way they’re all, ‘We’re all getting along so well, and we all love playing for this team so much.’” Pause. “Which means Sutter’s on a one-way trip to a nervous breakdown.”
16:07 Clarkson and Talbot agitate against each other all over the ice (and get matching minors), and Chico says, “Clarkson… not quite happy to be playing on the fourth line. But who would be?” Rupp, from the Halo: “Me.”
15:47 All of Zach’s mightiest “lying in the crease and whacking over his head at the puck” powers don’t put the puck into the net. Chico said before the game that Zach’s approach to playing hockey is “There’s only one puck, and I’m going to get it.” That statement and this play are sort of Zach in a nutshell.
13:54 We should point out that Chico has been expounding at length about how Blobby “Stitch Boxhead” Holik has never needed the trainer to help him off the ice after an injury. Because he’s such a fucking hero. It’s not the fourth line Clarkson has a problem with – it’s the Stitch Boxhead.
13:18 The hell? Sid has a wide open net (at a pretty sharp angle), but manages the impossible by shooting the puck into a prone Clemmer. Wow. He really is a singular talent. Every other guy in the NHL would have scored there. (A later replay shows he hit the post. Fine. We’ll let this one go. This time.)
8:59 Some snazzy passing between Zubrus, Patty and Gio leads to a two-on-one down low, but Gio is slow to pull the trigger, so Sabourin has no problem stopping the shot.
8:02 PandoNation is delighted that its emperor-god isn’t dead yet, especially on this shift. The Pens set up with the puck carrier behind Clemmer’s net, and after about a week, the guy finally makes his move to pass to a Pen at the side of the slot, but Pando is waiting there calmly to just whisk the puck away to safety. He’s so dreamy.
7:20 Wallace hits Paulie pretty hard against the far boards and Doc’s call is, “Wallace doesn’t show Martin any respect.” Pookie, aghast: “Well I know who my least favorite NHLer is.” Pause. “Alex Ovechkin.”
6:18 Our Geico Quote book is Clemmer saying, “I’m not trying to go out and do what Marty does.” As we puke on the floor we also roll our eyes furiously and grumble, “Thanks, Clemmer. You were in real danger of doing what Marty does, too.” He could go undefeated for the rest of the year and we’d still hate him and his $30,000 of capped teeth.
6:05 The Poppers have a feisty shift that leads to not a whole lot, and Chico starts waxing poetic about ye olde days of yore when Turner Stevenson (T!!!!) was on the Devils’ “Chaos Line”. He takes a long time to get to his point that the Poppers’ tactic is to create chaos in the offensive zone themselves. Pookie: “That’s why I call Travis ‘Mr. Entropy’.”
4:18 We are hugely distracted by this Pen named Ben Lovejoy. Pookie marvels “Ben” even sounds like “Rev.”. She posits, “I bet Sid is his Ned Flanders.”
3:32 There’s some kind of scrum behind the net after Clemmer covers a puck. We can’t be bothered to care, because Stitch Boxhead is in the middle of it. Chico seems to think we should be happy that Blobby’s well enough to be sassing it up on the ice, but all we notice is that the Devils get the extra minor (ostensibly to Leach, but that’s just the home scorekeepers trying to protect Blobby’s reputation).
1:32 The Pens get absolutely nothing on the PP because they spend the entire time standing around flat-footed and passing the puck around the perimeter before Malkin lazily lets a pass to him at the high point miss his stick and clear to center ice. Chico marvels, though, at how amazing the Pens PP is, and how helpless the Devils were against them. Any other team and he’d be praising the PK for keeping the passes to the outside. (Not that the PK had anything to do with it, but still.)
0:15 Rolston shoves Eaton near the top of the crease and Eaton careens into the goalpost while the Devils are setting up behind the net with the puck, and Eaton knocks the cage off the moorings. He gets called for delay of game. We’d be livid if that call went against us, but we figure the Pens are probably due a shitty call going against them for a change.
0:00 That was not the greatest period of hockey that we’ve ever seen.
Life is too short to pay attention to intermissions.
18:40 The Devils are getting healthy, but their power play still sucks.
18:18 A rambling discussion of player conditioning wends its way to Doc telling us Sid is going home for the Christmas break and is very excited to eat his mother’s special turkey dinner. We can only assume she bastes it in a mix of grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce.
17:03 Doc tells us, while the teams back and forth pointlessly, that we’re in the middle of a “scoreless tilt.” Pookie editorializes, “An exciting scoreless tilt!”
16:15 Fun fact: the Pens are 5-0-1 in their last six games in New Jersey, and the Devils have won 15 of their last 21 games in Pittsburgh. These two teams really hate their fans, don’t they?
15:54 After yet another uninteresting whistle, Chico says very gently that this period hasn’t been “as up and down” as the last one. “That’s right,” says Pookie, “This one’s even more boring.” Chico ignores her and continues to tell us about how the longer a game goes scoreless, the more the teams buckle down to not give up the first goal, because “to score the first goal you just need one, but if you give up the first one you need two.” He pauses. “I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true.” You can’t really argue with that.
11:25 Nothing interesting is going on yet. There is apparently a Penguin who played on the same team in Alaska as Scott Gomez during the lockout, and they were, in fact, linemates. Pookie: “He probably caught douchebag.”
10:40 Stitch Boxhead (Pookie mutters, “Bitch Stockshead”. See what she did there?) takes an idiotic offensive zone high-sticking penalty against Gronk. The scorekeepers struggle to find a way to pin this on someone else. Our joie de vivre is seriously diminished when he’s on the ice. Just saying.
9:13 After several failed clearing attempts by the Devils, the Pens put together some good passing and spring Gronk for a Grade-A scoring chance in the crease. After the shot, everyone stands around watching while Sykora stands in the foreground with his hands over his head in celebration, but the actual result of the play was the puck hitting off the crossbar, then the goalpost, and finally coming to rest near Clemmer’s scrambling blocker.
7:23 It seems like the Devils have collectively stuck their fingers in an electric socket, as they spend a wild few minutes cramming all the excitement and energy this game has been missing into just one shift. The best scoring chance comes when Applesauce misses a long-range crack at a wide-open net, and the whole thing culminates in a tripping penalty to Wallace.
6:51 Patty’s totally, completely, utterly fired. He lackadaisically pursues a puck sitting loose on the vacated side of the crease in a goal-mouth scramble, thereby giving Scuderi time to get back and get a stick on it and stymie the scoring chance.
5:10 Schnookie, watching as everyone on the ice takes a turn having a pass roll lamely off their sticks, “The interesting part of this game appears to be over.”
4:16 Holy crap! Sid sucks! Dupuis lasers a glorious pass across Clemmer’s crease to Sid, giving Sid a week and a day to shoot at the entirety of a gaping, yawning, unbelievably empty net. And Sid clanks his shot off the goalpost.
3:06 Clemmer mishandles a rebound into Oduya’s feet while there is very little Pens pressure, and Oduya, facing flat-footedly into the net and playing with Gio’s stick, dully shovels the puck back into Clemmer’s pads. Clemmer freezes up, the puck squirts behind the net, and it seems like everyone is moving in slow motion as the Devils begin panicking, the Pens realize play is still alive, and Clemmer inchworms behind the net to cover the puck. The officials rightly call a delay of game penalty, and while we’d love to blame Clemmer (and make some crack about how, no, he’s really not going out and doing what Marty does), this one is just as much on Oduya.
1:38 Fedotenko has the unmitigated gall to high-stick Paulie in the mouth. We watch as the officials check Paulie for blood (there is none), and Pookie suggests Paulie is saying, while working his jaw in pain, “Well, I’ll never play the violin again. Or eat a pancake that I’m not drinking through a straw.”
2:21 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sabourin sees Clemmer’s brainfart at one end and says, “I can top that!” On a rush where Travis is carrying the puck and Langer’s about a mile offsides, Travis fires the puck bouncingly to the end boards and Sabourin just completely loses his mind trying to figure out how to play it, and in the doing manages to flop to the ice at the side of the net while he watches the puck skitter into the crease for Travis to calmly tap into the goal. 1-0 Devils.
0:44 A broken sequence of shots almost turns into a PP goal for Zach, but Orpik pulls the puck out of the goalmouth at the last possible second.
0:00 Pookie has a coworker whose husband was a fighter pilot in the Navy, and he described his job thusly: “Hours of boredom and moments of terror.” That’s kind of what this period was. We do, however, get a darling interview with Travis to make up for it.
We get an interview with the Marine spokesman for tonight’s Toys For Tots drive at The Rawk. Kudos to everyone at the game tonight contributing to the drive.
17:42 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Langer has a hugely inspired shift that in turn inspires his teammates on the ice with him, and they force turnover after turnover in the Penguins zone before the Iron Boar finally rips a shot from the point that Zach tips, blind, between his legs up over Sabourin’s shoulder. 2-0 Devils, and that was awesome.
15:55 Why is there a Penguin wearing 65? We hope it’s because he thinks he’s just one notch below Mario. Or three below Jagr.
14:51 Blah blah blah Clemmensen. You can’t make us love you, Clemmer! No matter how good the saves you make are. We’re still going to say stuff like, “That wasn’t a save against Sykora! Malkin got in front of the shot at the top of the crease! Quit giving him so much credit, Chico!!!!”
10:50 Malkin fancy-pantses himself out of an offensive rush when he refuses to shoot after creating an open shot for himself. Chico critiques him by saying that the one thing he’d want to change about his game is being just a bit more selfish about shooting. Doc: “So you’re saying he has some of that Larionov predictability?” There is an awkward pause, and Doc scrambles to make it clear that he’s not trying to insult Malkin. “He’s in the Hall of Fame,” he continues, “But everyone always knew he was going to pass.” Pookie: “Heh. Did we ever.”
9:48 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No way! Gio leads a three-on-two rush with Patty and Zubrus after a stolid defensive-zone stand, and Zubrus rips a low, sneaky shot through a defender that beats Sabourin to make the game 3-0 Devils. And we were getting massive “75-0 loss” vibes tonight, too!
6:55 Wait, were we complaining about this game? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Sid, pissy that he’s not winning, skates up behind Gio — Gio!!! — behind the play, wraps his head around Gio’s head, and hauls him down to the ice. Gio, obviously expecting this kind of behavior only from Chara-sized players, gets up swinging, his fists swatting at the air like a cartoon character, and Sid hastily flings him face-first back to the ice. And that, Gentle Reader, is a Sid Crosby/Brian Gionta fight. It is a sight to behold. And they actually both get just roughing minors and Sid an extra for holding.
5:46 Doc very carefully starts talking about the last time the Pens were “[dramatic pause]… blanked”. Schnookie, hating Clemmer, “Oh come on! You guys will say it for Marty!”
3:58 Malkin makes a great play to tap the puck into the crease while he’s tied up by Paulie and Clemmer is overcommitting, and Cooke, streaking down the slot, punches the puck home to make the game 3-1 Devils.
2:13 Shit shit shit. Salvador takes a deflected slapshot straight in the face, and falls, writhing, to the ice. He leaves the ice in a hurry, leaving a puddle of blood on the ice. We really hope he’s okay.
1:08 Sabourin goes to the bench, and the Devils look puzzled about having the puck at center ice so close to an open net. Normally they’re pinned deep in their own zone and giving up goals in this situation.
0:40 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There’s a first for the Sutter Era – an empty net goal! For the Devils! Patty lofts a gorgeous shot from center ice over the head of the last Pen back and it bounces in to ice the game at 4-1 Devils.
0:00 Don’t believe a word we said earlier in this diary – we loved every single scintillating minute of this awesome, awesome win. WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! (Except the Iron Boar taking that puck to the face. We didn’t love that.)