Blersus leads off tonight with a shot of Kevin Weekes, starting Devils goaltender. We pass out. They try to make us feel better by having a skatearound interview with Zach as part of the pregame introductions, but the highlights of Zach’s goals include footage of pre-“upper body soreness” Paulie, and it makes us pass out even more. The mood at stately IPB Manor in these bleak days of Devil injuries is one of heightened panic and hysteria, in case you were wondering.
The studio show pregame segment leads off with the host dude asking Engblom what Marty’s absence from the game will mean to the Devils’ D. We splutter in an attempt to figure out how someone could sum that up in a soundbite-sized way. Engblom, needless to say, doesn’t do a very good job of it. (Also, neither Engblom nor Jonesy mention that the Devils are also without their top defenseman tonight. Schnookie scarfed her dinner down moments earlier, so as to be ready to type this diary, and Pookie, who is still working on hers, says in disgust, “It’s a good thing you finished your dinner already, because my ravioli just turned to ash in my mouth.”)
Before play starts, Pookie breaks down in tears when Razor mentions that Weekes is “closing in on a hundred victories” in his career. Pookie, wailing: “Marty’s closing in on a hundred shutouts.” Yes, we’ve been very spoiled in our careers as Devils fans.
18:56 The Iron Boar does a nice job of blocking a Sabre shot with his stick and then working his way with it out of the defensive zone. We’re not sure whether we’re happy to see that, or sad that he’s capable of making a good play without Paulie’s help.
18:09 Weekes makes a save on a long shot/dump-in. We breath steadily into paper bags.
18:01 As Doc and Razor discuss Crunchy’s slight build, Razor says, “He puts the ‘lank’ in ‘lanky’!” Crunchy: “I’ll have you know that I cut my hair ages ago.”
16:55 The modest crowd is not deeply into this game yet.
16:19 Blersus takes small mercy on us and, when they have a graphic showing the Devils injuries, they make a point of having it on the screen at the same time as a shot of the three Stanley Cup banners.
15:49 No the fuck way! Travis and Zach stand around Weekes’s crease (who even knows what the D guys are doing during this sequence?) watching a Sabre hammer away at the puck in Weekes’s feet, and miraculously, the puck doesn’t go into the net. Nice, hold, Weekesie! We didn’t think you had it in you!
15:09 The Devils look as confident in their ability to win this game tonight as we are, and have one of those pathetic, “go ahead and just score on us, because we totally suck” defensive zone shifts that leads to Brookbank taking a penalty. Boomer takes offense to Razor claiming the Devils have been “hemmed into their own zone” for all of this game, but doesn’t really have an argument when we point out that the only times the puck’s been in the Sabres’ end has been when the Devils have been able to make rink-length dumps while making changes.
14:54 Razor’s pandering to us: “I love Pandolfo and Madden killing penalties together.” Us too, Razor!
13:59 Weekes freezes the puck, and Doc tells us there have been six scoring chances so far tonight, “and guess who’s had them?” Pookie, sadly hopeful: “Paulie?” Someone needs to put us out of our misery.
12:07 Gio forces the puck loose against a Sabre defender at the Buffalo blue line, and looks for a moment like he might be able to get around him for a mini-breakaway. Pookie cheers with gusto, “NICE, Gionta!” But the play peters out into nothing, and she sags, “Fuckin’ Gionta.” That’s kind of the story of his career for the last few seasons right there.
11:51 Boomer: “I think they guys are all just thinking ‘defense’ right now.” Pookie: “I think they’re all either thinking, ‘AAAAAAHHHHHHH!’ or ‘[Meow Mix jingle]’.”
10:44 Clarkson takes a boarding penalty that leads to some kind of grappling with Goose (that’s a lot of handsome in that clinch!), but we don’t see how all of this unfolds, and this being Versus, when we come back from commercial they don’t bother with a replay because they’d rather show us footage of Weekes standing in his crease during the stoppage.
9:51 The Devils put in a great show of feverish penalty killing, complete with a monster save by Weekes, and then Vanek takes a marvelously stupid-assed hooking penalty on Pando.
8:57 Afinogenov looks like he’s about to do some fancy-shootin’ coast-to-coast stuff after stripping a Devil at the far boards in the Buffalo zone and flying up the neutral zone, but Zach (Zach!!) holds his ground in front of Weekes and Max loses the puck in Zach’s feet. As we are marveling at Zach’s defensive prowess, Razor says, “I think they’d say in Texas that Afinogenov is all hat and no cattle.” No! That was all Zach! Shut up, Razor!
7:08 In the course of Doc’s play-by-play he mentions two of the Devils forwards on the ice, “Bergfors… and Vrana.” Schnookie, despondent: “Bergfors… and Vrana… and Weekes…” Pookie, picking up where she trailed off: “This ball of tape… and this paper bag… oh, I’m sorry. That’s Brookbank.”
4:50 A Goose shot flies just wide of the net, and Pookie sighs, “I thought that was going in.” Pause. “Then I saw that Vrana, Bergfors, Salmela and Brookbank were out there, and I realized, what could possibly go wrong?” As if on cue, Brookbank takes another penalty.
3:52 Whitey topples to the ice after blocking a shot with his chest. Pookie: “Oh god, no.” Whitey then leaps back to his feet and continues on his chipper way. Pookie, as Whitey: “No worries. It’s just my heart. It’ll start again.” Schnookie adds, as Whitey: “Yeah. It’s not like it’s my pinky or anything. Bobby.”
2:44 Razor states the obvious when he says that Weekes has been amazing to keep the score at zero, and that the Devils have looked “out of sync” so far. Schnookie: “No fucking kidding! Have you looked at this fucking lineup?”
2:38 Woo hoo. The Devils take a too many men penalty. At least one thing looks normal for the boys tonight, as Sutter looks like he’s throwing a clot behind the bench.
2:14 Weekes makes yet another save from a shot off the Sabres rush, and Oduya takes a penalty somewhere on the sequence. Versus doesn’t tell us what for, or show us the infraction. We’d make some crack about how they’re broadcasting tonight as shittily as the Devils are playing, but who are we kidding? They’re always like this.
0:38 Doc makes fun of Razor’s invented adjective for Weekes’s performance so far, “mastodonic”. Pookie, as Marty: “Weekesie, he’s calling you fat!”
0:33 The inevitable finally happens, and the Sabres get the first goal, on a nice one-timer by Pominville. 1-0 Sabres.
0:00 Wow. That was every bit as bad as we expected!
They talk to Pommers. He says some blather about how the Sabres know their opponent tonight will sit back and take their chances, and that they’re really good on the power play. A ha! We’ve just caught on tape evidence that Pommers either doesn’t pay attention in the pregame scouting meetings he sits through or he has no idea who he’s playing on any given night.
The consensus at stately IPB Manor is that we’re willing to give the Devils one game to mope around feeling sorry for themselves. We came into this game feeling exactly the way the boys played that first period, so we can’t really blame them. So enjoy these next two frames, remaining actual NHL-caliber Devils players, because we’re not going to be nearly so patient with you on Wednesday.
18:45 Whatever Sutter screamed at his players in the intermission didn’t have much of an effect. They still look shell-shocked in their own zone.
18:09 A puck trickles out of the New Jersey zone and almost makes it all the way to the red line, and Pookie cheers.
17:48 We rub our eyes in disbelief. What is this wondrous thing we see? A shot on goal?? Langer, really? Crunchy makes an easy glove save, but still. It’s a shot!
17:17 Brookbank cranks a shot that rings loudly off the crossbar. It won’t count on the scoreboard, but we’re counting that as a goal. Just to take what we can get tonight.
16:49 Not a group to build on the great work of that shot hitting the crossbar, the Devils promptly give up a rush the other way that leads to Gio taking a lazy tripping penalty. Of course, Afinogenov takes an equally lazy dive to even up the calls. (Razor suggests that diving should have a 10-minute misconduct to go with the even-up call, and we are firmly behind this notion.)
14:49 Weekes has to make a zillion more saves off gruesome turnovers on the four-on-four; we can only imagine he’s having a George Lazenby moment right now, and is going to turn to the camera any minute now to say, “This never happened to the other fellow.”
13:39 Doc is completely stunned when the Devils mount a three-on-two. But it’s Bergfors with the puck, so nothing happens.
13:04 Razor suggests the Devils are playing rope-a-dope. Doc dismisses the notion out of hand while saying, pretty much, that this is by far the worst he’s ever seen the Devils play. (Because he’s forgotten Game 6 of the 2001 SCF.)
12:54 Pookie is surreptitiously looking on YouTube for a link to go with that Lazenby reference a few lines ago, and when we go to commercial she mutes the TV. Suddenly we hear a familiar theme song coming from her laptop, and Boomer says jealously, “Wait a minute! Pookie’s watching Bond movies right now! No fair!”
10:55 Schnookie: “Marty’s probably watching this game right now and thinking, ‘Excellent!’” His plans to strongarm the Devils into letting him start 70 games a season until he’s 150 years old are looking solid right about now.
10:19 Razor and Doc are positing that the Devils are having such a hard time playing hockey tonight because they can’t function with Marty not being around at all. We think they’re not giving this team’s history enough consideration – the Devils have been, for the last decade, the laziest group of highly-accomplished professional hockey players ever assembled. You think they killed that many coaches by being easily motivated? Hellz no! They just saw Marty being out as an opportunity to take a night off. These guys are highly accomplished underachievers; you think they’d let a chance like this go?
9:33 The four fans at the game give a hearty cheer when the first signs of life by the Devils lead to Zach getting (and missing) a scoring chance, followed by a penalty by Tallinder.
8:35 Right about now the four fans at the game are wishing they could take back that cheer for the power play.
8:04 A Mottau point shot hits Gio square between the shoulder blades, and Schnookie cracks, as Gio, “No worries. It’s just my heart. It’ll start again.” Pookie amends that, as Gio: “It’s just the hole where my heart should be.” Pause. “Just kidding. It’s not like he’s Mats Sundin.”
6:15 The Poppers have a marvelous shift with lots of scoring chances and hustle, and draw a cross-checking penalty on Rivet. We are not sure who these guys are and what they’ve done with Langer, Zach, and Travis.
6:04 The four fans in attendance enjoy a “Rangers suck!” cheer. It warms the cockles of the holes where our hearts should be.
5:49 A building-up of a rush led by Patty gets called back on a bullshit offsides call. Did these officials see the first period? Don’t they realize the Devils are totally remedial and need all the help they can get?
4:53 Pookie: “You know what this game needs? Some Applemotherfuckingsauce.” Schnookie: “I was thinking that earlier, and then he Applemotherfuckingsauced right into Gio’s back.” Pookie: “This game needs a snack cup. A snack cup of applemotherfuckingsauce.” Schnookie: “Yeah, there’s no way we can say this that doesn’t sound dirty.”
4:02 Patty sprints in one-on-one against Spacek, cranks a huge wind-up, and tries to cannon a shot through the defender and Crunchy. Crunchy shoulders off the shot, and Spacek falls to the ice in a weird sort of shot-blocking attempt. Boomer: “Well, at least he hit him.” Pookie: “Yeah, Spacek was as surprised as the rest of us on that one.”
3:19 The Sabres ice the puck, and then call a time-out. We thought that wasn’t allowed anymore. Cheaters!
2:07 After Gio, Clarkson and Teppo fall over in rapid succession in the Sabres zone, Doc says it’s some Keystone Kops action. We aren’t sure whether we can take that as a shout-out, like that he saw the Buster Keaton clip we put up last night, and has had the golden age of silent film comedy on his mind all day. First he called the Devils PK unit in the first period “the iron three” (NEARLY “the Iron Boar”), and now this? He obviously reads us!
1:20 Lydman hooks Zach, because he can’t handle our very own Itty-Bitty Prince. Wait, no, on second thought, it turns out it was Travis he couldn’t handle. Pookie: “That’s pathetic.”
0:00 It seems that after a few minutes of this period, the forwards realized that the defensemen might have an excuse tonight, but Marty’s absence shouldn’t have any effect on the Devils’ ability to forecheck. All in all, it was far less miserable than the first period. But that’s kind of damning this period with faint praise.
Jonesy praises Crunchy for his awesomeness at the very difficult task of facing very little pressure for half a game before finally having to stop a growing barrage of shots. Oh, sure. It’s a great skill and an illustration of how fantastic a goalie Crunchy is, but when Marty does it, he’s just a product of the system. Gah.
Also, Versus wants us to feel like this is a Devils broadcast, and spends a fair deal of the intermissions talking about the Rangers.
We’re making our own fun now by meowing the Bond theme. Maybe you had to be there.
18:17 Play has been fairly even going up and down the rink, but we’re still meowing Bond music. Pookie wishes she could remember how the zany helicopter-chase music goes, but Schnookie only knows the Sexmob version of it off-hand, and thrills the other denizens of stately IPB Manor with her impersonation of a jazz sax. We are so cool. And so focused on this game, considering the likelihood that the Devils will pull it out.
17:06 Zach’s hustle leads to an rink-length rush, and then the Poppers draw another power play. Crunchy’s quaking in his skates.
17:02 Boomer has mentioned, since we’ve all got Bond on our minds now, that Zach could benefit from an invisible car to get up and down the ice tonight. Pookie decides he’s hoping for exactly that, and is now calling Boxworthy “Q”, Sutter “M”, and Travis “Moneypenny”. Travis is probably delighted at this upgrade from “Robin”.
15:18 This power play is good enough that we’ve stopped with the Bond crap. Of course, just when we start paying attention, Langer weakly gives up the point and things all peter out.
14:15 Madden forces a lovely turnover behind Crunchy’s net, and drops a beautiful feed out to a streaking point man in front… but the Iron Boar whiffs on his one-timer. We still remember the first period well enough that we’re happy to take this as a moral victory.
13:36 Shaquille O’Neal is a Devils fan? Wha-huh?? The sideline guy interviews him in the stands, and he’s wearing Pando’s favorite t-shirt, one that features a giant bedazzled Rolls Royce logo.
12:19 Travis loses a defensive-zone draw cleanly, and some Sabre (first they say Paille, then they say Kaleta) artfully tips a shot from the high point past Weekesie. It’s 2-0 Sabres, and Boomer, who has been holding out hope, finally agrees with us, “Now this one’s over.”
12:08 Crunchy, under zero forechecking pressure, fires the puck over the glass behind the net, putting the scorched-earth New Jersey power play back on the ice.
11:56 Razor tells us that people have been saying since Travis broke into the league, “That is a young version of Joe Nieuwendyk!” Pookie: “Really? Well there’s your problem.” (Oh, Nieuwy. We kid because we love. And because you were the one who cried in the dressing room during the 2003 SCF to “fire up” the Devils who weren’t being scratched in that series.)
10:29 Vanek puts the Devils on a five-on-three when he takes a lazy hook against Zubrus in the neutral zone. A shot of Lindy Ruff at the Buffalo bench shows he’s thinking, “Seriously? You guys are still calling stuff in this game? Haven’t you noticed it’s over?”
10:16 Patty is a remarkable creature – in a game where we’ve stopped expecting anything from the Devils, he manages to get us to sigh, “Patty, you’re fired.” He is the guy at the top of the formation on the five-on-three, and after the puck is moved around the perimeter, he takes a week to look like he’s ready to shoot, waits for the PKers to go down in front of him, then shoots the puck straight into them.
8:51 The Bond theme continues as Pookie sums up this game experience thusly: “This is like Never Say Never Again. I thought going in that it would be like one of the Timothy Dalton ones, you know, expectedly awful and unnecessarily dour, but instead it’s just been so much worse than that.”
8:41 Pookie: “I feel like if anyone’s going to score tonight, it’s going to be Zajac.” Pause. Schnookie: “And we all know that’s not going to happen.”
6:33 Travis drives home our point that he’s never going to score by having his stick break in half on a shot attempt from the blue line.
6:03 Doc is talking about how Crunchy’s nursing a shutout, having had one in his previous game, and how it would be his first career back-to-backer. This one might deserve an asterisk, though.
4:25 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! We found it! We found the link! Here’s the movie equivalent of Weekes’s experience tonight. (What, did we make you think the Devils might have scored there? HAHAHAHA! That’s not going to happen, silly!)
3:21 Ooooh. Back-to-back icings. The Devils are really awesome. And, um, wouldn’t have done that if Marty and Paulie were playing tonight.
1:49 Weekes gets to the bench, and with the extra attacker on, Whitey cranks a bunch of shots. For some reason, we find that hilarious. Zach’s probably like, “You puck hog! You’re supposed to be setting me up!”
0:00 Things we expected to have happen tonight: The Devils losing. The Devils being shut out. The Devils looking like ass. Things we didn’t expect: Us working in an On Her Majesty’s Secret Service quote. We’re really proud of that. Thanks, Devils!