7:04 PM You know what we don’t care about? This might surprise you, Gentle Reader, but what we don’t care about is “Brendan Shanahan facing off against his former team”. (Wait, we’re playing the Blues tonight? The Whalers? The Wings? Oh, right. The Rangers. He played with them, too, didn’t he?) Now, we don’t fancy ourselves anything more than just fans (which is why we have no interest in ever being credentialed), so we don’t feel at all idiotic when we say we’ve finally figured out why Shanny’s presence on the Devils roster is pissing us off so much: we feel like the Devils are to Shanny as community college is to an unmotivated-but-bright high school graduate. That high school graduate doesn’t have a lot of appealing options right off the bat, so he unhappily drags himself to community college classes until his emotional and social maturity catch up with his intelligence, at which point he transfers to a much better four-year program, then gets a graduate degree from an Ivy. Later in life, looking back at his accomplishments, that student will never talk up his community college years, but they were necessary at the time because he had no other choice. Likewise, when the book is finally shut on Shanahan’s career, his late-in-life return to New Jersey will just be a spot where he was able to keep afloat as a professional hockey player. Sure, that might not actually be the case, but that’s how we feel about it, and nothing he says or does will change it. We feel used and unloved, and Pando never acted like that. So there. Hmph.
7:11 PM Clemmer goes to handle the puck behind the net with the Devils on the PK and nothing bad happens. That doesn’t stop us from screaming, “GOD! Marty can’t come back soon enough!” Just as the negativity is about to completely overwhelm all of stately IPB Manor, Paulie draws a hooking penalty while killing time drifting into the Rangers zone. Thanks, Paulie. That feels better.
7:13 PM If Doc is required by Versus and NBC to call the trap “a 1-2-2 defensive scheme” one more time about “sexy” teams that don’t play sexily anymore (see: Penguins, Rangers, anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Blevils”), we’re going to scream. We’ve been seeing a lot of commercials for Invent Help, and Pookie wants to invent a device that will make everyone’s televisions say loudly over “1-2-2 defensive scheme” “TRAP!”
7:15 PM Pookie: “I suspect Shanahan’s entire motivation in this game is to impress the Rangers so they’ll sign him again. He’s like, ‘Oh my god! There are Rangers scouts in the building! I better play well!’”
7:20 PM Versus finally gives us a replay of a penalty to show us Zach running over The Prawn, and we are saving that highlight for the next time Rangers fans accuse Marty of being a flopper.
7:23 PM Doc is talking up Shanahan’s proclivity for leaving his feet to block shots. He clearly doesn’t read IPB, or, if he does, isn’t trying very hard to sell us on Shanny. Honestly, we get Pando taken out of the lineup for a penalty killer who eagerly topples over at every opportunity in our single least favorite play in hockey? Fan-fucking-tastic.
7:28 PM Schnookie declares her concern for the outcome of this game, as the Rangers are getting the better of play in what is traditionally the Devils’ best period. “If we’re getting outplayed in the first, this isn’t going to go well.” Just then, the Devils put on a great bit of pressure during which Madden gets fired for not being able to put the puck into an open net. Because the Devils are nothing if not contrary.
7:35 PM Eddie floats the notion that when Marty comes back, he’s going to have to sit periodically to keep Clemmer in the lineup, especially if his first game back is the start of a back-to-back situation. Boomer cracks up. “Eddie,” she cackles, “When was the last time you coached Marty Brodeur and told him to take a seat?”
7:38 PM We get a teaser for the intermission show, and the studio host guy tells us we are not going to want to miss Paul Kelly talking about the role of fighting in the game. Pookie: “I’d rather hear Paul Kelly talk about the Lindros firing.” Schnookie, miming holding a clipboard and pen: “Before we get to your salary review, NHLPA employee, one question – Paul Kelly. Great NHLPA head or greatest NHLPA head?”
7:40 PM Clarkson and Reitz (really? There’s a Ranger named Reitz? And he’s serving as Mara’s bodyguard?) fight. Yawn.
When it ends, Pookie says, “Well, I’ll give Clarkson this – he has a good sense of balance.” (Doc points out ominously several times over the course of the fight and afterwards, that both guys took off their helmets, and Eddie goes on a rant about how fighters should leave their helmets on, but “if you play that role [of fighter], you shouldn’t be allowed to wear a visor.” Schnookie: “Eddie, that is asinine.”)
7:45 PM The big, slow, dumb fourth line gets a shift, and big, slow, dumb Rupper takes an interference penalty, which is something like the 700th penalty by the Devils this period. It might be time for Sutter to take a page out of the Larry handbook and throw a garbage can at the head of the next guy to take a penalty, then staple his sorry ass permanently to the bench for the rest of the night.
8:07 PM The period starts the way all second periods in Newark do – with missed chances by the Devils, and glorious opportunities for the opposition. After Zherdev rings a shot loudly off the goalpost, Schnookie crankily says, “I’m calling this period ends with the Rangers up at least 3-0.”
8:10 PM Rupp and Orr fight.
After the Clarkson/Reitz fight in the first, Eddie gave the old “all the fans are on their feet, so it must have been entertaining” line that drives us so batty when it’s used to justify the shootout. As we watch the current combatants go to the box, Pookie speaks for all of us when she says, “I don’t think I’ve ever stood for a fight.”
8:12 PM Look, the Devils’ inability to get penalties called on the opposition is starting to drive us completely bonkers. Gomez infracts badly enough in the Rangers zone that Eddie starts shouting about how he’s gotten away with a couple of hooks, and then at the other end of the ice, Zubrus gets called for boarding. Sigh. Gomez does go after Zubrus to take a retaliation penalty, though. So it all evens out in the end?
8:15 PM We sit in stunned silence as Clemmer gloves a high shot with a box of Devils standing all around him, then, when it seems he is going to hold on for a whistle, he instead drops the puck into his unaware d-man’s feet to turn a nothing play into a turnover deep in the Devils zone. The seethe-o-meter in our living room is rocketing off the charts.
8:17 PM WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Patty gets an assist! Yeah, Holik gets a goal and Shanny gets the other assist, so we have to cling to what we can here. Keep our eyes on the prize: it’s 1-0 Devils (that’s AWESOME!), there was some laughably awful defense by the Blueshirts on that play (that’s DELICIOUS!), and we only hate two of the guys involved in the scoring (that’s MAKING OUR LIVES DIFFICULT!). (Are we cutting off our noses to spite our faces here? Probably, but go back to the opening thought of this post – we don’t claim to be rational. We’re fans. We follow our hearts. Heh.)
8:22 PM WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! There’s one we can really cheer for! Travis and Zach team up for some great work in front on the PP, and Zach is able to punch the puck into the net, and it’s 2-0 Devils. Renney tries to pull a Mt. St. Sutter slow-burn eruption on the Rangers bench, but he just doesn’t have quite as lethal a glower.
8:29 PM Versus informs us the shootout is the brainchild of the famous Shanahan Coffee Klatch That Saved Hockey. Why don’t you just kick our dog while you’re here, Shanny?
8:31 PM Zach falls over when Gomez skates near him, and the officials, taking mercy on us, call it tripping. On Gomez. We’ll stop complaining now about the penalties.
8:37 PM Versus is trying to horn its way into PaulieMartinNation, as the entire broadcast grinds to a halt so we can all revel in the mad b-ball skillz that allowed Paulie to keep the puck on the PP that led to Zach’s goal. We’re not complaining about that, either, but we’re not granting Versus citizenship. Maybe, like, a 12-month visa, and we can see how things go.
7:41 PM The lights go half out at The Rawk, but for some reason the officials are not willing to take Zach up on his offer of lighting up the arena just with his smile for the remaining two minutes of the period. DING!
9:05 PM Rupp gets a mini-break. He doesn’t score. We’re stunned. (Actually, he surprises us a little by beating The Prawn, but he rings the shot off the crossbar.)
9:10 PM We feel a glimmer of sympathy for Rangers fans as Doc and Eddie are spending the better part of this period so far trying to figure out why Renney isn’t sticking with the line shake-ups he tried earlier in the game. We’ve been there. It’s not fun. Of course, it is the Rangers, and this means Rangers fans are miserable, so we’re not, like, sorry for them. Just sympathetic. While also laughing with maniacal glee.
9:16 PM Ah, so the Devils are going to take the second part last tonight. If they are counting on Clemmer holding the fort in the final frame here, they should take a long, hard look at how well he’s held shutouts in third periods so far this season.
9:20 PM The Devils are on the PK, and while watching the play unfold, Schnookie calls it: “Zach and Redden in a race down the length of the rink for a loose puck, Zach shorthanded and Redden with the angle. Advantage? Zach.” On the next sequence, Redden takes a hooking penalty against Shanahan. Sweet.
9:21 PM Sjostrom hits Madden from behind with the puck nowhere nearby, and the Devils go up two men.
9:23 PM The 5-on-3 is not as impressive as the Devils PK that preceded it.
9:27 PM The Devils draw a well-earned roar of approval from the surprisingly Devils-fan-heavy crowd for a series of shifts that involve Zach besting three Rangers with typical dogged play behind The Prawn’s net, and then a whole lot of standing fast by the rest of the guys in the defensive zone at the other end. It almost looks like the Devils are trying to issue a statement here.
9:35 PM WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy shit! Renney finally quiets Eddie by pulling Prawn with two minutes remaining, and just as we start to think, “Aw fuck, the Devils suck when facing an extra attacker,” the Devils retrieve the puck on a defensive zone draw won by Gomez, Zach skates it up the far wing, and then makes no mistake in putting it into the empty net. 3-0 Devils!
9:37 PM Look at us! We’re happy! For a Clemmensen shutout with a Holik gamewinner! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!