Posted in Andy Greene, Brian Gionta, Colin White, Dainius Zubrus, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, Johnny Oduya, Laffs, Marty Brodeur, Mike Mottau, Patty Elias, Peanut Gallery, Sergei Brylin, Travis Zajac, Zach Parise on March 5, 2008 |
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Tonight marks one of the most anticipated events of the hockey season here at stately IPB Manor. Gentle Reader, you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “Whatever is it that could be a significant event in the NHL at this time of year? Surely the -ookies wouldn’t get excited for Forsberg’s triumphant return or Ovie’s ascendance into ‘Greatest Man To Ever Breathe’ status.” No, you’re right, Gentle Reader, we really wouldn’t get excited for those things. In fact, we curse the hockey gods for finding ways to make March hockey even worse than it usually is. No, no, instead we’re excited for that most delightful evening of televised entertainment — Makeover Night on America’s Next Top Model!
Having said that, it probably won’t surprise you to know that we have long dreamed of New Jersey’s Next Top Devil. It would be a show that combines our favorite elements of ANTM (namely: the solid 10′s on the Bill Simmons Scale of Unintentional Comedy) with our favorite elements of hockey (namely: the Devils). We’ve conjured up all sorts of scenarios in which certain players fit the archetypal roles of the contestants on Tyra Banks’ magnum opus. Marty would be the spunky plus-size girl, persevering in the face of a complete lack of respect from the judging panel. Gomez would have been the girl who thinks she’s being really funny, original and outrageous, but who is only hanging around because someone else screws up enough each week to get kicked off instead. Holik would have been the self-righteous girl who lectures all the other girls all the time about their modeling skills and everyday comportment, and then flies off the handle when the subject of the lecture rolls her eyes or mutters, “Bitch” under her breath. Brylin would be the one Tyra ousts for “not having enough personality”. Mike Danton would have been the girl who with the attitude who thinks she’s better than the show, only to end up working at Wal-Mart when Tyra kicks her sorry ass off the show in Week 6. Oh wait. No, Danton doesn’t need a ridiculous reality-show analogy, does he? Anyway, we’ve decided, in honor of Makeover Night, to take a look at how our current Devils would fare if NJNTD was doing the same tonight.
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Saturday night means we’re too drunk and/or distracted to give you a running game diary, so instead, Gentle Reader, we offer a looser-structured taste of our thoughts, hopes, dreams and impressions as the game wore on.
– We hate this new pregame show format, where we only get 1/3 of a pregame because MSG has combined Islanders, Rangers and Devils into one pregame. We don’t care about the Isles’ lineup or what Jagr has to say about his game tonight. Come on! Give us boring Devils analysis! (Okay, they gave us Zach, Paulie and Travis interviews, so we will only complain mostly about this stupid format.)
– We were also trying not to freak out about Marty’s “personal reasons” for leaving the team. Damn you, Tom Gulitti, for giving us more news about the Devils than we know what to do with! We used to be able to do a very good job just imagining how dysfunctional this team is, without any facts to back it up. Now? We’re basketcases.
– The pregame show tonight forced us to take up smoking (a la Frisby) so we could avoid the mailbag. Al Trautwig led into it by saying, “We’ve gotten a great response from Rangers fans, Islanders fans are letting us know what they think, but Devils fans, you need to get online! This is your show too!” No, Al, this is a Rangers show because it’s hosted by you.
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We are hoping beyond hope that Lou Lamoriello drank a toast at some point this offseason to his new Devils team, just like Dr. Frankenstein in The Bride of Frankenstein — “To a new age of gods and monsters!” And, well, if he didn’t, we will. This year our beloved team is a really bizarre — dare we say freakish? — combination of familiar faces and a totally new look, and we’re here to help you, Gentle Reader, anticipate who and what about the 2007-2008 Devils will be god-like and who and what will be monstrous.
GOD: Brent Sutter
From what everyone has been saying about him since his hiring was announced, we fully expect Coach Sutter to be able to walk on water. And the way everyone seems to think that he’s someday going to be our new Lou, he damn well better walk on water. Of course, the way the coaching situation has gone for our boys since the lockout ended is reminiscent of “The Lord Of The Flies”, only the kinds of players Lou has on the roster means they don’t become a group of savages when they find themselves without a strong authority figure, but rather unleash a lethal passive-aggressiveness that drives good men to the brink of insanity. Sutter is talking a big talk that he’s not going to stand for more of that craziness, and this preseason he’s shown that he’s inclined to back it up. Stripping Patty Elias of his C? Instituting an aggressive forecheck? Refusing to obsessively match lines? Breaking up Pando and Madden? He means business! We’ve spent the last few Springs watching the Devils fade out with a whimper in the postseason thanks to a stubborn insistence on being a passive, reacting team. Sutter seems to be the guy who’s going to take us back to the glory days in 2000 and 2001 when the Devils swaggered around the ice, setting the pace and dictating tone. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that we are not going to see a third Spring with Lou behind our bench.
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The 11th in our 118-part series.
The French Rococo Stylings Of Andy Greene
The very first time we laid eyes on Andy Greene he was sitting sort of vapidly at the Devils bench staring off into space and we both immediately shrieked, “He looks just like the bubble guy!” Now, because we share one brain between the two of us, we actually both knew what we were talking about, but the long and short of it is that there was something about the way Greene was sitting, and about the way his facial features fit together, that brought to mind Chardin’s “Bubble Blower”. For several games, every time he made a play or we saw a shot of him on the bench, we would giggle and shout, “bubblebubblebubble!” Then we went to link an image of that painting to a post we were writing about Greener, and we noticed something distressing:
He doesn’t look anything like Chardin’s bubble blower at all.
But surely our brains couldn’t be so in sync about something that wrong. There had to be a nugget of truth to this association somewhere. And that nugget had to be contained in Rococo painting somewhere, it just had to! We wracked our brains to find the connection, and even scouted the man out in person while riding in an elevator with him in Buffalo. After many hours of soul-searching and reflections on our years spend studying Art History, we narrowed the choices down to two possibilities:
And while the debate has settled somewhat uncomfortably at stately IPB Manor that he has a Boucher maiden’s face, there is something about the turn of the swinger’s delicate foot in the Fragonard that just makes us want to whisper a flirtatious little “bubblebubblebubble”.
The only conclusion is that Andy Greene is, in fact, a bubble-blowing Bouchenard.
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Let us take a moment, Gentle Reader, to let our minds wander back and recall the ten things we found most memorable in the 2007 NHL Playoffs…
1. The emergence of the Kid Devils. The overall flameout that was the Devils postseason this year can do nothing to obliterate the joy we felt while watching our very own Zach Parise come into his own against Tampa Bay. He was an absolute beast in the first few games, and managed to hang on to a spot on the Top Goal Scorers list surprisingly deep into the playoffs. And while Zach was further making it easy for us to admit to including him on our short list of favorite Devils (previously it was pretty obvious he was only on there because he’s cute), Paul Martin and Andy Greene both asserted themselves as actual legit blueliners — Paulie finally stepping up as the dependable top-minutes guy we’d always hoped he could be and Bubbly Greene came out of nowhere to look like a bona fide NHL-caliber D-man.
2. The emergence of “Mic’d Up” as an art form. Slowly but surely, the good folks who bring us hockey on the TV are realizing that giving us some shaky audio feed of muffled hits and predictable shots ringing off goalposts isn’t going to cut it. This year we got some animated, fun, and sometimes even enlightening mic’d up action from the likes of Tom Preissing, Colby Armstrong and Sean O’Donnell. What seemed, when it first debuted a few years ago, to be a ridiculously unnecessary programming hijink is now entering a Golden Era. Look no further than Marty Turco at the All-Star Game to see the potential “Mic’ed Up” can have in bringing us hilariously closer to the action on the ice (without the aide of one Pierre McGuire).
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Another Devils season has come and gone, and while anything short of a Stanley Cup will always be a disappointment (hey, why should the fans have lower expectations than the players?), there’s a lot that can be taken out of the 2006-2007 season. As we said at the conclusion of the Game 5 recap, we’re more excited for next season than we are disappointed over this season, but before we focus entirely on the future of the team we’d like to take a moment to reflect on what we liked about this season. We had originally planned to break this down the way we’ve seen big shot bloggers do, you know, all player-by-player-like, with letter grades and all, but then, staring at the blinking cursor on the computer screen, we realized that this season wasn’t about individual guys doing things. It was about a team, winning and losing as a team. It was about a team failing miserably on a long road trip out West over Thanksgiving, and then about a team deciding they didn’t want to lose in the new year. It was about a team that started the season with expectations that their long reign at the top was over, and then about a team grabbing hold of the division title and refusing to let go. It was about a team racking up atrocious plus/minus ratings then helping their Hall of Fame goalie set a new record for wins in a season. So in no particular order, here’s a smorgasbord of delights that the team served up as a team.
The “Never Give Up, Never Surrender” Devils
At some point in February we lost count of how many times in the season the Devils managed to pull out 2 points they had no business getting, how many times the last guy you’d expect came up the last-second hero, how many times they just left us shaking our heads in amazement, grinning from ear to ear. They might not have looked flashy on paper, what with the way they averaged scoring 0.42 goals a game all year (or did it just seem that way?), but the Devils this year perfected the art of the thrilling, unexpected and come-from-behind win. We can’t imagine there was another team in the league that more consistently rewarded their fans with those “How in the hell did we find a way to win THAT one?” types of games. And making it even more remarkable, it wasn’t like last year after Patty came back, where every night we could count on the top line’s heroics; no, this season we got to marvel every night at Marty standing tall behind an inexperienced D-corps, and a revolving door of unexpected clutch plays. Every fan’s favorite unsung hero got a turn in the spotlight this season. Who can forget Brad Lukowich’s clutch goals over Philly? And more than just being a delight to watch because they were never out of any game, this team had a fun vibe — they looked like they really liked to play together. They may have run out of gas (and lucky bounces) by the end of the season, but for that stretch from December to March, it just felt as fans that we were watching something really special.
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Tonight’s Game 5 — oh wait, there’s a contractual obligation to include the word ‘pivotal’ in that phrase, let us start again. Tonight’s pivotal Game 5 could be the Devils’ last. In preparation for the big game, here’s our take on what’s been good, what’s been not-so-good and what’s been down-right awful in this round to date.
1. Scott Gomez. This might be his last game as a Devil. And for all that we’ve been snarking that he’s only playing this way to make up for his catastrophic contract year, the fact remains that he’s been fantastic. Every time he hits the ice he changes the dynamic of the game with his unparalleled skill at skating with the puck; if only he and his linemates could parlay that into generating (and finishing) more scoring chances.
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