Okay, before we start this game diary, we have to respond to something that we saw on Fire & Ice today. Now, we keep hearing stories from more fervid hockey markets in the northern reaches about the stupid, stupid things fans say on message boards and newspaper blogs and whatnot, but we don’t see a lot of that in these parts. So it was with no small excitement that we read these comments from “Jason”:
“When Drew Bledsoe came back, the Pats correctly stuck with Brady. If the guy proves he can carry a team to the playoffs and or further, what more proof do you need that he can be a starter. If Matt Cassel won a SB this year, I can tell you this, Brady, his salary, and his injuries, would have been looking for a new home. I hate the Pats btw, but their take no prisoners, team first attitude with players is something Lou sometimes lacks.”
“And before you Brodeuraphiles get fired up. I’m not advocating trading him or anything like that. Clem certainly has more to prove, and this is all speculation right now. But if he proves he can handle the load, he is a cheaper, and younger. Just something to think about.”
Pookie read these comments aloud while Schnookie and Boomer were finishing dinner, and her oration was followed by a long, stunned silence. Then Schnookie declared, “Oh. My. God. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard said about sports. The. Stupidest. Thing. Ever.” Pause. “Period.”
Moving on, it’s an exciting night here at IPB – this is our first-ever game diary that includes the St. Louis Blues! We’d be surprised, but none of us can actually remember the Devils ever playing the Blues any time in the last 12 years.
20:00 It merits mention that we’re on Blersus tonight. With total strangers calling the game. We have no idea who these guys are because we missed the pregame.
18:58 WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Just as the strangers are telling us that the Blues have their “very good checking line” on the ice, Zach springs a puck at the point to carry down the zone on what turns into a three-on-one on which he shoots. The puck goes through Legace, even though it really probably shouldn’t have. 1-0 Devils.
18:15 Pookie’s intrepid research reveals this is Forslund and Eliot. Because no one cares, but we need to know to be able to correctly attribute their most interesting comments. Which we’re sure will be plentiful. Okay, we have no idea why we bothered looking that up.
16:52 We are not fans of the Blues sweaters tonight. It’s hard to tell whether they’re blue or black, so it kind of looks like the Devils are playing the mutant spawn of the Stars and those old Oilers “oil drop” third jerseys.
15:41 The Devils look thoroughly disinterested in trying to play defense, and after the Blues carry play for a few shifts, Boyes scores from the doorstep off a rebound from a point shot. 1-1 game.
14:18 The immediately-after-being-scored-upon shift for the Devils screams, “Aw, crap. We’re not winning 1-0? Well, why bother then?” Which is, admittedly, exactly what we would be doing, but that’s why we’re not NHLers. (And that’s the only reason we’re not NHLers.)
12:19 Ugh. It’s going to be one of those nights, eh? The Poppers fail to score while deep in the Blues zone, then no one bothers getting back when play goes down the other way, so Backes scores on a long two-on-one. 2-1 Blues. Have all the Devils/Blues games been like this? Is that why we don’t remember them?
11:32 Just as Forslund is telling us there is no hope for hockey in St. Louis because Cam Janssen is “by far” the most popular player on the Blues (he might have only said the second part of that), the Blues get another flurry of chances in close. We are now all wearing facial expressions very similar to Sutter’s on the bench after the Backes goal.
10:30 Berglund gets a penalty for hooking while the Madden/Pando/Rupp line has some rare puck possession in the St. Louis zone, and after the whistle, Blersus does an especially artful job of avoiding showing us anything even remotely pertinent during the lengthy delay. They show us guys milling around, then show us a replay of a gentle hit from Rupp on Berglund that Forslund tells us led to everything good the Devils got from that shift, and then, instead of replays to back up that point (or of the penalty), we get to see more guys milling around. It is astonishing how shitty Versus is at televising hockey here in its fourth season of doing so.
10:01 Pookie has the hiccups, and declares, “I just considered that holding my breath until the Devils shot would be a sure-fire way to get rid of my hiccups. But then I realized I would die.”
7:52 We go to commercial with Pookie positing, “I think the Clemmensen bubble has burst. All it took was someone suggesting on Fire & Ice that we trade Marty, and now we’re going to plummet to the bottom of the conference standings just like we all expected. Thanks a lot, Jason.”
We come back from commercial to a twinkly-eyed Boyes wishing us a happy new year. He’s so overwhelmingly adorable! We feel like Stephen Colbert, shouting, “Awww! So cute! Get it off the screen, Jimmy! Get it off!”
6:45 For the first time in ages the Devils get the puck, and Zach does some really fancy toe-dragging before ringing a mid-range shot off the pipe. The other Devils all glare at him and hiss from the bench, “Stop making us look bad!”
5:57 Zach hits some random Blue behind the net, and the Blue goes down like he’s just been bulldozed by Scott Stevens or something. We suppose he didn’t have the puck, but still. There should be a dive there to even up whatever Zach got called for (not that Blersus wants us to know).
5:04 Madden tries a toe drag on a shorthanded one-on-one against Colaiaccovo, and the result is as you might expect. Pookie: “Oh, Mad Dog. Someday we’re going to have to take you out behind the barn and shoot you.”
3:24 Gio gets a mini-break and barrels in on Legace, forcing a rebound out to a rushing Zach, who is stopped from scoring only by the bad luck of there being a Blues d-man panicking all around the crease. We can’t figure out what’s got Zach motoring so hard tonight, and conclude it must be that there are scouts in the building. Pookie: “Someone told him there are All Star scouts here tonight. With plastic stars.”
0:00 The period, which pretty roundly sucked, ends with a bit of scrumming deep in the Devils end, and us luxuriating in the words from Forslund, “former Devil Cam Janssen”. We’re not sorry to put that period behind us and move on.
You know what the second stupidest thing in sports we’ve encountered tonight is? That Blersus commercial for the All Star superskills with Ovechkin’s baseball-swing penalty/shootout shot attempt. The way they show the puck bobbling in slow motion, then cut away as if none of us will remember that he whiffed on the baseball swing part of it would crack us up every time if we weren’t already terminally tired of the overmarketing of Ovechkin’s “exuberance”.
17:23 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Just as we are about to get annoyed at the complicated relationship non-Devils-affiliated observers have with giving credit for the team’s success (it’s always either all Marty or all the system in front of him, depending on whether they’re trying to undercut Marty or the skaters), Rolston distracts us by being Johnny-on-the-spot in front of the net to shovel home a rebound from a Clarkaround. 2-2 game.
13:44 This is a much more uptempo period than the first, but we might just be feeling energized by the Devils having scored more so far in the frame than the Blues. That could all come crashing down at any moment.
13:37 We come back from a commercial to see Chris Simpson interviewing Tkachuk. A few days ago Schnookie made a joke out of the blue about Tkachuk being fat (it, uh, takes one to know one, of course), and it took Pookie about a week to get it. So now she very happily exclaims, “Hello, Rollerpig!” as soon as she sees him. Schnookie makes a point of not laughing for at least a week.
13:18 Everything the Devils are doing in this game is, per Eliot, “just Devils hockey”. Pookie suggests before too much longer he’s going to say, “Relentless forecheck, d-men jumping up on the play: it’s all just Devils hockey.” Boomer: “Yup. It’s been working for them for years.”
11:02 The Iron Boar does something not really of note during play, and we start discussing what Pookie calls his “inner ear concussion”. “His little inner ear bell was rung,” she says. Boomer decides the injury was actually “cartoon bluebirds flying out of his ear after having his bell rung,” and Schnookie suggests maybe the infection came from the cartoon birds getting stuck and not being able to get out.
10:48 We get a little in-game highlight reel of hits from this game so far, and Eliot segues into the reel by informing us that “every player has a role to play in Devils hockey”. What that has to do with hitting we have no idea.
8:56 We come back from commercial to see a considerably less-twinkly-than-Boyes Rolston wishing us a happy new year. Simpson tells us Rollie is paying especially close attention to Team USA at the WJC, and for a moment we completely freak out that we’re going to hear that one of the Rolston children is old enough now to be playing there or something, but it’s actually just that his brother is coaching them. Oh, and the Devils are on the PP because Perron got called for interference, but we’re all on our own to know why.
7:04 What the fuck? Crombeen and a cohort get a shorthanded two-on-none, but he settles for a really, really, really bad shot. As Forslund and Eliot try to figure out what Crombeen was thinking shooting that weakly from pretty far out, Boomer states the more obvious question: “Where were all the Devils?”
2:40 Eliot regales us with a pretty amusing tale about how Legace has to buy his kneepads off eBay because he likes the Cooper ones that aren’t made anymore. And apparently after Eliot was wowed to discover Legace still uses them, he went into the Devils dressing room and found out Weekes uses them, too.
1:04 To make up for his partner being interesting, Forslund takes a moment out of his call of some mild Zubrus/Patty/Gio forecheck to inform Blersus’s viewers that Zubrus is “a large man”. We hope he doesn’t get paid for those insights.
0:45 Clemmer stops a rapid-fire Boyes shot from the slot. We grudgingly give him credit for that one, but will point out that he needed a d-man to clear his rebound because he had no idea where the puck was. But who are we to nitpick?
0:00 Well, that was better than the first period, no question. Also, we’re not going to lie: this has been a very entertaining game. There’s no way any other Blues/Devils game has been this zippy, otherwise we’d have remembered.
Crap. Zach is so not going to score 100 points this year, because Keith Jones declares he’s definitely going to. When is Jonesy ever right?
17:30 Clemmer struggles to stop a shot from the fourth line. Fuck. If Janssen scores tonight, we might have to kill ourselves.
17:00 Eliot tells us Andy Murray, when asked what Janssen brings to the Blues, said that whatever he brought to the Devils he brings to the Blues. He then continues to say that Janssen has worked a lot on his discipline, so he’s not taking stupid penalties anymore. Pookie: “Well, that was what he brought to the Devils, so I don’t know what’s left.”
14:12 Whoa! Greener’s been taking Houdini classes from Paulie or something. Blersus zooms in to give us a big close-up of him carrying the puck out from behind Clemmer’s net, and we are treated to the sight of him struggling on the very edge of control while miraculously skating through three Blues. We doubt he could do that again if he tried.
12:47 What seems like the first Devils chance of the period comes from Oduya, who has a week and a day to skate in from the point, but gets nothing but glass.
12:06 The Madden/Pando line has a fantastic shift, pinning the Blues in their own zone repeatedly, and Pookie cracks that Madden’s saying, “Take this out behind the barn and shoot it!” Eliot declares this is a great example of “Devils hockey” and we declare we should have made a drinking game out of that.
11:01 The Blues just barely miss an open net. We just barely manage not to throw up. When did we get so engrossed in this game?
9:54 Patty gets a bit touch-pass happy and hangs a point man out to dry with a misplaced feed that leads to an odd-man rush the other way. Some moron leaps up in front of the camera with fists triumphantly held above his or her head to celebrate what they’re sure will be a goal, but the Blues don’t even get a shot off. Heh.
9:12 We come back from commercial with the Devils starting a power play for no explained reason, and Chris interviewing JD. Dude, they should never be allowed to interview him during games on any channel, because it’s so sad that he’s not a color guy anymore.
8:12 Ah. It was a too many men penalty by the Blues. JD isn’t happy about it, because he thinks the team needs to not be shooting itself in the foot, or something like that, but he doesn’t need to worry – it’s not like the Devils are going to score here.
7:12 Yeah. The Devils don’t score on the PP.
6:40 EEEEEEE!!! Forslund and Eliot are members of PaulieMartinNation! Or rather, Eliot thinks he’s “underrated” and Forslund says, “Huh”. Clearly they love him.
5:41 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plastic star for Zach! WOOOOOOOO!!!! Zach manages to score while getting dragged down and spinning around to chase a loose puck in the crease, and Eliot tells us, “Parise wins the battle because he is willing to battle”. Actually, it’s also because a Blues d-man skates by and shoves the puck through the pile of Zach and Legace, but the BattleZach made that all mostly happen, at least. 3-2 Devils.
4:29 Eliot tells us Zach was “one of the many bright lights of the 2003 Entry Draft”, and Pookie says, “I expected him to say he’s one of the many bright lights that’s typical of Devils hockey.” (He also says that Zach is going to get some serious competition from Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy. Malkin’s like, “Wait, what?”) (And not that we think Zach would stand any chance of serious consideration for the Hart, but Schnookie can’t help but wonder, “If Zach won the Hart, do you think Marty’s head would explode?”)
3:27 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Pando! Pando! Pando!!!!!! Rupp bulls down the far wing, and laces a gorgeous pass across the goal mouth for Pando to tip in, making it 4-2 Devils. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
1:50 It’s almost comical how incapable of putting pucks into empty nets the Devils are.
1:29 It’s still comical. If their very lives depended on scoring into an empty net, the Devils would still miss.
0:27 It’s less comical now. Steen scores as the Devils struggle against the extra attacker, making it 4-3 Devils.
0:12 Patty clears the puck the length of the ice, and inexplicably doesn’t get called for icing.
0:00 Aaaand… the Devils hang on to win. WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! And Pando gets the gamewinner! It wasn’t always pretty, but we’ll take it!