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Well, it’s the saddest time of the year, Gentle Reader – the time when the Holiday Season is officially over. Oh, sure, it’s not Christmas yet, or even really all that close, but during the pregame we got, in place of a Radio City Christmas Show commercial, an ad for Riverdance. Riverdance, people. Before we know it, the Devils are going to be March Swooning again. Where does the time go?

FIRST PERIOD

17:59 We are ranting about our issues with the way the Winter Classic gets marketed while the Devils are, for the most part, getting the better of the play. Suddenly Pookie stops herself and sighs happily, “Every time the camera angle shows our seats [from the Detroit game], I think, ‘Those are our seats!’” You can take the season tickets away from the girl, but you can’t take the season-ticketholder away from her.

14:26 Gah! For once the choice to use that behind-the-net cam pays off, as the Devils get a great point shot after an offensive-zone draw, but it hits the pipe and kicks across the goalmouth and out of the crease after beating Ward. Boo! That sucked!

13:36 The payoff for that shot that hit the goalpost is that, after Marty freezes the puck at the other end, MSG+ gives us a replay during which Chico does what we think might be his first-ever on-air Doc impression. He was still talking during the play when it happened (shocking, we know), and he wanted to express his regrets for not letting Doc do his patented, “He hit the post with his shot!”

12:25 Skating with the ZZ’s, Boogerfors gets a chance out of nothing at the side of the net, and Doc marvels that young Boogerfors “has hands like his linemates”. Pookie: “I thought he said he has cans like his linemates. Somebody loves those cans!”

8:49 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! You know you’ve just scored a cheap goal when Doc’s immediate call is “They don’t say how, they just say how many!” Boogerfors hypnotizes the Carolina D with his smooth skating stylings, and while all the guys in white sweaters are beguiled, Patty pinballs a shot off a defender’s skate and through Ward. 1-0 Devils, and BoogerforsNation is ecstatic.

6:54 Oh shit. The Iron Boar goes down really awkwardly in the corner to Marty’s left after being shoved from behind by Cole. Replay shows his leg buckling painfully, and the Iron Boar is extremely slow to get up. Chico spends the time while the Boar is down telling us first that he clearly hit his head, then telling us it’s his hip, then his knee, then his ankle, and then he tells us that he doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions. Thanks for that responsible reporting, Chico. Cole gets a boarding penalty on the play, and honestly, for a guy who had his neck broken on a boarding hit, Cole shows a shocking lack of respect for opponents in vulnerable positions like that.

4:34 Chico: “You can’t argue with this Devils power play, except that it hasn’t scored.” Pookie: “I can argue with that.”

4:05 The Devils are continuing to not score on the PP while Chico gives us our nightly weather report from the northern prairies. It was 30 below in Moose Jaw and Regina today, apparently.

2:46 Now, we love the Land Zhark as much as the next person, but when he is carrying the puck on a three-on-none with Zach and Patty, and chooses to shoot… well, we’re not so sure about his decision-making paradigm.

2:06 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Blandy! Blandy! Blandy Game Over Greene! Everyone’s favorite younger, cheaper, Sutter-squelched Rafalski replacement gets the shot at the center point, skates a few steps in and around the traffic in front, then lasers a top shelf shot that Ward never has a chance on. It’s 2-0 Devils, and replay shows that Pando made a lot of that happen by smartly weaving into the crowd in front of the crease to screen Ward. PandoNation swoons.

0:00 We LOVED that period! We get an interview with Blandy in which Stan declares that he is going to stun Blandy with the news that he is supporting his candidacy as an all-star. Blandy tries to play it cool, with effusive thanks for the sentiment, but we can tell that he’s like, “You know, I think you’re right, you crazy old coot.”

SECOND PERIOD

Before the period starts, MSG+ gives us a gushing paean to Pando, in which they pull out his PIM/game stats that demonstrate that no one in the entire history of the league has had a lower rate of PIM in the regular season or the playoffs. PandoNation falls into an even deeper swoon.

19:42 IronBoarsylvania is a sad place to be right now, as its emperor-god has not returned to the game. Dano threw a clot during intermission about how dirty he thought the injurious play by Cole was. We’re sure Cole is going to cry himself to sleep about that tonight.

18:39 The Devils seem shocked that the Hurricanes are playing in their offensive zone, and after a flurry of activity around Marty, Mottau takes a tripping penalty.

17:29 The Canes move the puck well around the perimeter, finally setting up a point shot for Cullen. Things are looking grim, but the shot just clanks loudly off the goalpost. The crowd exhales nervously. Everyone’s getting greedy after 103.

14:20 The Canes are getting some flow in the Devils zone, but things suddenly go sideways when The Kazoo decides to whack Mottau in the face. Somebody hates that Applesauce! The Devils go on the PP.

13:49 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Blandy is a beast! He carries the puck into the Carolina zone, dishes to Zach at the far wing, stands around to admire his pass long enough to get steamrolled by a Hurricane in the high slot, gets back to his feet, realizes there’s a rebound sitting right in front of him and no goalie between him and the net, and scores. It’s 3-0 Devils, and the All-Stars only wish they were good enough for Blandy.

13:12 BOOOOOOOO! The goal announcement isn’t over yet when Sutter snaps a shot from a good ways out that ricochets off Fraser’s stick and his foot before beating Marty. It’s 3-1 Devils, and with the shutout lost, there’s no point watching anymore. On the bright side, though, we don’t have to care about Sutter anymore, now that his dad isn’t our team’s coach anymore.

12:08 Pookie is working on some quilt piecing, and declares as we go to commercial, “Okay, this paper cut I have is in entirely the wrong place for quilting. However much pain the Iron Boar is in right now, it’s not as bad as what I’m dealing with.”

11:37 Niedermayer (the Lesser) seems to agree with us that the remainder of this game doesn’t matter, now that we know it’s not going to be shutout #104, so he hauls down a Cane in front of Marty’s net to the tune of a penalty.

11:12 You know, 3-0 felt like such an unassailably vast lead. But here are the stupid Devils proving Stan and his dumb “three goals is the worst lead in hockey” right. Everyone, including Marty, stands around watching while Ruutu makes it 3-2 Devils. Chico informs us that the Devils are not dominating this period like they did the first. He adds that the difference between tonight and the game in Buffalo on Monday is that the Canes, unlike the Sabres, seem to have made adjustments to actually try to win. We prefer the Sabres’ approach.

9:56 We go to commercial, get halfway through a spot, and suddenly we’re back in the middle of play with Doc saying, “Oh, nice move Johnny! Johnny Oduya skating through traffic and drawing a penalty!” And then we go to commercial again. We have no idea what’s going on. We come back from commercial again to see Cole in the box, and Iron Boar on the bench. It would seem the Iron Boar was shamed by Pookie’s perseverance through her paper cut.

8:20 Rolston gets a midrange shot that rings off the outside of the goalpost, and Doc gives an emphatic “and it rang off the pipe!” to make up for the call he missed in the first.

6:20 For a team that’s getting the significant better of the play in this period, the Canes just can’t stop taking bad penalties. Here, Ruutu hooks the Iron Boar behind Marty’s net to put the Devils up a man.

2:56 We feel like we’ve lived every day this week at least twice, and are at low ebb here on this not-even-close-to-being-Friday Wednesday. The Devils aren’t helping right now. Langer rags the puck a bit around the neutral zone and then walks into the Canes’ end before firing a shot through Ward from a terrible angle that goes through the five hole and then out to the front of the net, where a d-man is waiting to pick it up and head the other way up the ice. Doc remarks that he doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything quite like that before. Pookie: “Langer thinks if he does that twice, it counts for a goal.”

2:27 Pookie is convinced Zach is never going to score again, despite his having two assists in this game. She grumbles about him as we go to commercial, “Easy breezy funfetti.”

0:47 Pookie speaks for Devils fans everywhere when she remarks, “I wonder which Devils team is going to come out for the third…”

0:00 We HATED that period!

THIRD PERIOD

18:55 Ah. So it’s the second-period Devils again here in the third. They spend the first minute pinned in their own zone, and finally Applesauce ends everyone’s suffering by finishing the shift with a boarding penalty. Wait, no – that’s not ending anyone’s suffering at all. Chico tells us during the replay that it was a good call, and Pookie sighs, “Mottau, you just took a penalty that not even Chico could argue. That’s just sad.”

14:56 Whoops! We stopped paying attention there. In case you’re counting on us for game updates, rest assured that we didn’t miss any scoring. Heh.

14:09 We’ve returned to paying attention in time to see the Hurricanes turn the Devils’ zone into a shooting gallery. Gee. This is going great.

11:44 For the first time in recent memory, the Devils get a shift in the offensive zone. No one really knows what to do with themselves, not least of all, Ward, but fortunately for the Canes, the best scoring chance turns out to be a long shot that just barely skitters wide of the post on its way past the unsuspecting Carolina goaltender.

10:54 Doc tells us the shots are 5-0 Carolina in this period, but it feels like much, much more than that. MSG+ then tells us the Canes have been outscored 42-20 in the third period this season. Well, isn’t that nice of them to figure their shit out tonight?

8:52 MSG+ has added a feature this season wherein Chico gives us a tour of the opposing teams’ goalie’s masks. It’s not a bad feature, per se, but it’s also not terribly interesting, because, well, it’s not all that novel anymore that guys have personalized goalie masks. Anyway, tonight Chico has not been forced to explain to us anything about Cam Ward’s taste for Nickelback, because he’s giving us a tour of Legace’s mask instead. And Gentle Reader, believe us when we tell you that Manny Legace’s mask is, like, the Great American Novel. This thing goes on and on and on and on and on. He’s got all the Hurricanes/Whalers retired numbers on it, all their “honored” players, a tribute to the military, a tribute to the police, a tribute to firemen, probably a tribute to municipal sanitation workers, maybe a tribute to the local dogcatcher, and finally a tribute to meter maids. And then there’s the tribute to his mother, his children and, as Chico says, “Some famous people”. It’s an amazing sight. Pookie: “And then on this side of the mask is Hammurabi’s Code…”

6:02 Pookie: “Any old time Oduya wants to skate the puck through five defenders to score is fine with me.” Pause. “Maybe I need to start working every night the Devils work.”

5:06 Aaron Ward takes a penalty on another rare offensive-zone shift for the Devils. We smell shorty!

3:11 Blandy is trying to make this game over, but when his shot from the high slot creates a perfect rebound for Langer to fire into a wide-open net, Langer shoots directly into the toe of Gleason in front of the net.

1:20 It’s the fateful time in the third period when the Devils start thinking about losing in regulation despite having a one-goal lead. As Doc gleefully informs any fans who weren’t thinking of that stupid Game 7 right now.

0:29 It looks like it’s happening again when a broken defensive sequence gives Cole and Whitney a two-on-none right on the doorstep. A massive groan of “For fuck’s sake!” rises from the living room of stately IPB Manor, but Cole passes to Blandy instead of Kazoo.

0:12 The Canes get a last-second PP courtesy of the Iron Boar.

0:00.9 What the hell? This is not the Sutter Devils anymore, is it? The Canes have everything going right, winning the draw, setting up their play, getting the puck back to the point for the game-tying goal… and the shot hits a Carolina player above the faceoff circle. The puck bounces to Niedermayer (the Lesser), and being not at all a True Devil, Niedermayer (the Lesser) manages to fire the puck the entire length of the ice into the open net before time runs out. 4-2 Devils, and as Doc said of the Patty goal a hundred years ago when this game was still young, they don’t ask how, they ask how many. We’ll take it. And now let’s never speak of this game again.

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You had to know we were going to do this, right Gentle Reader?

Funfetti Cake

That’s right — we baked a funfetti cake. Of course, it’s also got some chocolate in it, just to have a part that doesn’t look like ass… And that seems most appropriate. Like the Devils/Hurricanes series, our cake is a toss-up.

April 26 2009

So here’s hoping the chocolate wins out tonight. In the meantime, join us for an open thread — funfetti or no, there’s cake all around!

UPDATED 2 1/2 HOURS LATER

Puke. That was a lot of funfetti cake.

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The big news from Gel-O to kick off the broadcast is that Samsonov is out for the Canes with a lower-body injury, and Babchuk is a healthy scratch. Huh. Meanwhile, Chico’s still apologizing for Marty for the non-interference call at the end of Game 4, and bitching about how the very fabric of society is going to unravel if those kinds of calls are allowed to stand. We’re exhausted already – Chico? Not another word.

FIRST PERIOD

Before the drop of the puck, we get a look at Sutter walking down the bench and barking briefly into each guy’s ear. He’s probably doing a last-minute check to make sure that all of his skaters realize that the team with the most goals at the end of the game wins. We then see Madden talking to Clemmer, and Boomer loses her mind: “What is he doing talking to Clemmer? Don’t talk to him, Madden!”

18:16 The teams are in that Game Five kind of “we already know each other pretty well, so let’s just see how this game is going to unfold” feeling-out process, so we have nothing really to remark upon except that our new favorite dasher ad, in the absence of the Swedish Fish one, is the one for Hoboken Lock. If we lived in Hoboken, we’d be calling them right now.

17:36 Clarkson cartwheels over Ward, and gets called, rightly, for goaltender interference. Chico tries, during several replays, to show us that he was pushed in, or Ward wasn’t in the crease, or somehow it’s just all cosmically unfair, but he’s full of it.

15:36 The PP was good, and so was the PK. We’re not sure who has the edge yet.

14:43 Okay, the Hurricanes might have the edge – they get a flurry of shooting chances while the Devils stand around worriedly. But maybe the Devils have the edge – all the shots go wide.

14:26 Is it just us or is Gio looking like he’s trying to fit an entire contract year into one playoff series? He’s had more jump in the last four games than he showed all season. And on this shift, some gentle-giant forecheck by Zubrus tries to turn into a turnover, but Gio manages to accomplish enough of a shot on goal that Ward has to freeze it.

13:31 The fourth line brings some offensive-zone swagger to the ice, and draws a roughing penalty to Seidenberg. Commence with the scorched earth, PPers.

12:16 Doc curses the Devils by pointing out that there has only been one shortie in this year’s playoffs so far.

11:28 Clarkson kills off the final fifteen or so seconds of the PP by refusing to play the puck in favor of trying to draw penalties. We’re trying to decide now how, exactly, Clarkson’s going to cost the Devils this game; regardless of the specifics, we’re fairly confident it’s going to happen.
9:57 Paulie is fairly well bested by Cullen while chasing a two-on-one (Marty and Oduya manage to hold strong, though), and Pookie creates a new composite word out of “putrid” and “ass” when she sighs, “Paulie is putr-ass tonight.”

7:32 The Madden/Pando/Shanny gets a fantastic flurry, with Ward diving out of the net, and Madden almost having a chance to squeak a bad-angle shot into the vacated net, but the Hurricanes survive it. And then the play breaks up completely when Paulie can’t hold the point. He really is the dictionary definition of putr-ass.

6:11 Zubrus and Gio take turns handing the puck to Hurricanes in the Devils zone when they could have cleared it. Gio follows his turnover by hooking, holding, and then wrestling the Cane to the ice. There is, curiously, no call.

5:30 We have no idea what is going on tonight. The Madden/Pando/Shanny line continues to be the best one for the Devils, and after forcing a turnover in front of Ward’s net, Madden makes the most of a “getting pushed by a defender into the goalie” opportunity and makes himself at home lying on top of Ward in the crease. The official is barking something at one of them (Chico thinks he’s lecturing Ward), but play continues.

4:50 Marty skates out to the hashmarks to play the puck, and LaRose takes the opportunity to crash, skate-first, into him. Marty goes down in an injured-looking heap, then realizes play is still going on and has to race back into his net to try to dive after an incoming shot. He’s lucky the Canes were as panicky on that play as he was, and they shot wide.

4:28 Now that he’s well-distracted, rattled, and pissy, Marty takes an interference penalty. Some composure would really help, Marty.

3:46 Chico keeps our optimism going strong by telling us Marty looks like he was cut on the ankle or foot on that collision with LaRose, and keeps flexing his foot. Meanwhile, Marty is making very strong saves on the PK. We don’t know what to think anymore.

2:08 Pookie: “It kind of looks like both teams are playing international soccer here. Everyone is just flopping over all the time. It’s like an entire ice sheet of Zambrottas.”

1:00 Doc’s play-by-play of a sequence in the Carolina zone includes him saying that a defender “can’t get [the puck] away from the reach of Havelid.” Pookie: “If you can’t get it away from the reach of Havelid, you should just hang ‘em up.”

0:00 At the buzzer we rewind a few seconds to watch Pando’s attempt at being an Italian soccer star. He skates toward the Carolina blue line and then, when a defender comes near him, falls over and literally rolls twice. It’s dazzling.

FIRST INTERMISSION

Blah blah blah.

SECOND PERIOD

18:33 The Poppers start the period off with a fantastic shift full of hard work down low, sassy shooting and Ward looking totally unbeatable. Hm. We liked the first two parts of that list more than the third.

18:19 And to finish off his great shift, Zach draws an interference penalty for Gleason picking him at the side of the net.

17:24 Cole decides he’s going to give Doc that shortie he’s been talking up all night, but Rolston drapes himself all over him on his rush up the far wing, taking a holding penalty in the doing.

15:21 Oduya remembers that this is the Hurricanes, his coast-to-coast team. And so he rounds up the puck deep in the Devils zone in the waning seconds of the PK, and then smoothly swaggers his way through almost all the skaters on the ice before settling on a weak backhand shot from a bad angle. It was a good try, though.

14:35 Pookie, watching the fourth line try their shooting-gallery best: “Ward is surprisingly athletic.”

13:15 We are discussing the officiating in this game, and we ultimately agree that the calls have been very even, but that the refs seem to be letting all kinds of stuff go. Schnookie: “It’s like the league suddenly realized they might have to put this series on NBC Sunday, and they asked the officials to turn this into a powderkeg.”

12:41 Jokenin takes a point shot that pinballs into Marty, bounces off his glove, off the pipe, off his back, then stops on the line before Marty covers the puck with his glove. Pookie: “See, I’m the kind of person who looks at that and thinks, ‘There’s your even-up after Game 4.’”

12:16 Carolina puts on its best offensive-zone shift in some time, and just when we’re thinking the Devils are going down a goal, Marty makes a snappy glove save on a LaRose shot from the point. It’s nice to see the composure back again.

10:09 The officials have now tilted the “bullshit call” decidedly in the Devils’ favor, as Eaves gets called for tripping in the corner to Ward’s right after Zubrus takes a dive that would embarrass even the Italian national soccer team. We guess that’s what the Canes get for having had, as Doc informs us now, the last eight shots of the game.

8:38 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Clarkson’s going to have to work extra-hard to cost the Devils this game now. Greener lasers a perfectly-tippable shot from the right point that Clarkson, parked right on top of Ward, gets his stick on to make it 1-0 Devils. And since that was a complete joke of a call to put the Devils on the PP, we can safely say that the Hockey Gods have evened up whatever lingering injustice might have existed from Game 4, if you believed there was any. Which we do not.

5:59 The Poppers are taking a turn being pinned in their own zone. We don’t like it when the tables are turned like this.

5:17 The Madden/Pando/Shanny line takes the ice to calm things down after the Poppers’ defensive failures, and they get a great chance for Shanny off a smartly-conceived rush by Pando. The Hurricanes are unimpressed and resume setting up with ease around the perimeter in the Devils zone.

4:26 The puck finally gets deflected off the ice, and we get a whistle after what seems like about a half an hour of end-to-end free-wheeling hockey. We hear rumors that Blersus is going to be joining this game in progress when the Pens finish off the Flyers, so the teams better get the interesting hockey out of the way before then.

4:01 Doc, as a breakaway play unfolds: “Brodeur!! With the long pass!!! And here comes Mike Rupp!!!!!” The expected happens. Pookie: “And there goes Mike Rupp.”

2:18 Madden takes a long shot from way outside off the rush, and it goes just wide. Schnookie: “That’s funny. Those used to go in against Cujo.”

0:53 Whitey skates up to a Cane scrumming for the puck at the near boards and basically just punches him in the throat. Carolina goes on the PP.

0:21 Marty makes a great save in traffic while all manner of guys in white sweaters fall on top of him. This series is getting comical.

0:00 The buzzer sounds after a wild end-to-end exchange of chances by both teams. Whew! As we watch Madden take down Hooters as the clock winds down, Pookie remarks, “That’s weird. Hooters doesn’t wear a visor.” Boomer, very quietly, says in her Staal-brother voice, “Hooters is tough sod farmer. Don’t need eyes.”

SECOND PERIOD

That weird Face guy interviews a trio of the Devils dancers in the gift shop. And while that’s going on (us with the sound off) a little subliminal Chuck the Duck graphic pops up in the lower corner of the screen. We wonder if that made sense when there was sound.

THIRD PERIOD

18:36 The Devils finally touch on a delayed penalty after Oduya cross-checks Hooters in front of the net on a PP-ending scramble. This period’s going great!

18:23 Marty makes a great, improvisational save on a triple-deflection. Fine, Marty – we’re sorry we made fun of you for losing your marbles the way you have over the last 48 hours. But you’re still on notice. There’s plenty of Brahms left to be played in this game.

16:32 The kill comes to a successful close thanks in large part to Jokinen’s steadfast refusal to take a shot from above the near faceoff circle no matter how much space the Devils are giving him to do it.

15:36 Zach is Andy Greene-killing. The Devils set up deliberately in the Carolina zone, and after some cautious passing, Zach looks directly at the point, then shuffleboards the puck up to it… despite the fact that Greene had moved centerward. It’s like Zach specifically waited to make sure Greene wouldn’t be there for the pass. On the bench, Sutter is probably grinning and thinking, “Excellent! I hate that Greene kid!”

14:37 The Devils D has entered its “isn’t it hilarious how many turnovers we’re coughing up!” phase of the game, but Marty is scrambling really well. He’s not, as Chico points out on the replay of the sequence, catching the puck well, but he’s doing a great job of just staying in front of it.

13:43 Are the Devils planning to try to sit on this 1-0 lead for the rest of this game? Because we know how that’s going to end.

12:29 Madden and Pando get a two-on-one, with Madden carrying the puck under a lot of backchecking pressure, but Madden doesn’t even manage a shot (or think of passing).

11:31 The Hurricanes send a rush down toward Marty in response to Travis’s attempt at a slapshot, and what ends up happening is that a mass of humanity skates at the net, Marty makes a save, and sticks go flying everywhere. We have no idea what just happened. Perhaps the teams wanted to get one last bit of fun in before Versus joins us.

8:38 LaRose splits the D as he darts down the crease, but Marty is calmly (and amazingly) totally unimpressed by the shot attempt. As an aside, this period has been just amazing. We’re having a hard time diarizing because there’s too much hockey going on.

7:27 Eaves gets called for his second bullshitty penalty, this one for holding while Travis is falling over next to him. During the stoppage MSG+ shows us a replay of the LaRose chance, and Chico calls it “a rabby-doo”. Pookie: “I thought a rabby-doo was a fight.” Schnookie: “Maybe it just means ‘something good’.” Pookie: “Oh, so it’s the opposite of funfetti. Travis is like, ‘This rabby-doo is going to make our cake look awesome!’”

5:27 That power play was decidedly not rabby-doo.

5:09 PandoNation is ready to completely lose its collective mind when its emperor-god gets a clear breakaway from the Carolina blue line, but alas, Ward is no Lalime.

4:21 Marty is super-alert on a puck coming in through traffic off a fantastic set-up for LaRose, and just swallows up the shot, sending us to commercial. As MSG+ is about to cut away, Chico exults, “Excellent save, and he keeps the shutout alive!” We immediately scream with extreme annoyance at the TV, “Chico!!!” For the record, we weren’t the ones who said it. Or thought it.

3:20 The Hurricanes try to set Madden up with a turnover with a mile of real estate at the blue line, but he isn’t alert enough to receive the puck. Carolina promptly thanks its lucky stars and heads down the other way for a great chance for Hooters.

2:09 The great crowd sending up a full-throated “Marty! Marty!” chant.

1:00 The roof is ready to blow right off the building on a flurry of chances Patty and Madden have with Ward out of the net, but the puck stays out of the net. We. Are. Losing. Our. Minds.

0:23 Devils icing. The “Marty! Marty!” chant is coming at a frenzied pace. Carolina calls a time-out.

Before that wacky Patty/Madden flurry a few moments ago, we were discussing how this has been, flat-out, the most evenly-played high-level hockey game we have ever seen. Chico takes this opportunity to echo our sentiment.

0:19 The Canes win the draw, and get the play they wanted. Marty makes the save and freezes the puck. Devils time-out. Chico takes this opportunity to tell us Paulie is “up there with the elite defensemen. I know he doesn’t have the shot. Or the finish. But…” PaulieMartinNation wholeheartedly agrees. But without the “but…” Shots and finish are overrated.

0:15 Pando blamed himself for the GWG in Game 4, for not blocking the point shot, and here he dives out at the point man to throw a sliding, smothering block that kicks the puck to center ice.

0:00 Marty holds fast in the waning seconds, and gets the 44-save shutout , which MSG+ tells us is his playoff career high for saves in a game. We thought he was going to fall apart after getting himself pissy about the LaRose collision in the first period, but damn if he wasn’t amazing tonight.

And seriously, this game was the dictionary definition of awesome. This was hockey at its absolute finest. It was like a pissing contest between two great goaltenders, and two skilled, skating teams just throwing everything they absolutely could at each other. It was thrilling, from start to finish, 1-0 final score and all. Damn. We really, really, really love hockey.

(Oh, and Greene, Clarkson and Marty are the three stars. We’ll go on record saying Ward deserved better.)

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The scene: the living room of Stately IPB Manor, as we settle down in front of the TV after a long day at work. We notice something is awry. There is an empty space in our peripheral vision where some brightly-colored objects are supposed to be… a void… on the mantle. We can’t quite put our fingers on it, though. Something is off… What could it be?

Then we look down.

Stinkie Fishies

Ye gods! Joyless Depression Clemmer! That’s what’s missing! Fortunately, he left a trail of clues for us to try to find the den of evil where the cats and/or Hockey Gods are holding him.

Bucket

And as we followed the trail, collecting the stabby, stinky fishies and bucket (but no pelican, alas…), what to our wondering eyes should appear?

VE Mats Restored!!!

HE’S BACK!

This has to be a good sign.

FIRST PERIOD

20:00 It is indescribably nice to have Doc back. It never feels like a real game when Gel-O’s got the call.

19:36 The Devils ice the puck right off the bat, and while we wait for the faceoff, Pookie asks, “Why is Holik playing again tonight?” Schnookie: “Because Langer’s still injured?” Pookie, having none of that: “Why couldn’t we dress PL3 instead?”

17:57 Tuomo Ruutu skates through the neutral zone, and as Zubrus watches him making to skate by, he decides, we guess, that he just doesn’t like that guy very much. His elbow into Ruutu’s chin, though, does not go unnoticed by the officials. It’s a bit of an upset in the “who’s going to be the first Devil to take an idiotic penalty” pool.

16:47 The Hurricanes have remembered how to play on the PP, after three games of looking hapless all the time with the man advantage. We liked them more the old way.

15:57 It didn’t look good for the Devils, but somehow they managed not to give up a goal on that PK. And now that the penalty’s been killed, we’ll admit that we don’t have any problem with Ruutu getting a faceful of elbow.

13:28 Nope, the Devils still don’t have a shot on goal.

13:25 Check that. Now they have one.

12:45 Chico has been talking tonight about how both Marty and Ward played baseball in their youths, Ward at shortstop and Marty at first. When Ward calmly gloves a weak-assed Devils attempt at a shot, Chico tells us he caught it like a shortstop, and then starts babbling about how Marty catches differently, like his firstbaseman training would suggest. Pookie: “Yeah, Ward catches like an athletic, quick fielder. Marty catches like someone fat and lazy.” Schnookie: “Marty catches more like a DH who’s been forced to play at first because it’s an interleague game.” Pookie: “Yeah, and the team already has a slow, fat guy in right field.” We have a lot of respect for the ballet that is baseball.

12:15 The Devils play some fantastic defense (by “fantastic” we mean “standing around and watching”) while the Canes send a few waves of players to whack at the fat, bouncy rebounds Marty’s leaving after each of the sequence of shots being peppered in from close range, and finally Hooters punches the puck through. It’s 1-0 Hurricanes.

11:13 Marty has not cleanly handled a single shot yet tonight, and his bobbling another rebound conspires with more confused, passive D from the skaters to lead to a Bayda goal. It’s 2-0 Hurricanes.

10:09 Pookie points out that this entire period has looked like the OT in Game 2. The Hurricanes are the markedly better team tonight.

9:30 Chico tells us the Devils need “a catalyst”, and volunteers Paulie to do it. Meanwhile, the guys on the ice are going offside for the umpteenth time this period. (Okay, that might be an exaggeration – the Devils haven’t had possession of the puck nearly umpteen times.)

8:27 Marty makes a big save, but again leaves a terrifying rebound. Pookie sighs exasperatedly, “This game is…” she trails off, looking for the words. “Not… fun. “

8:05 Havelid is fucking fired. Honestly, why can’t Andy Greene dress in his place? Greener can totally turn the puck over behind Marty’s net just as well as the Talc Boar, but we at least don’t hate him while he does it.

7:52 Gio and LaRose get matching unsportsmanlike conduct minors off a scrum in front of the benches on a change. Whatever. We suspect the Canes will have a decided advantage at four-on-four, too.

7:01 Paulie struggles with about 15 Canes draped all over him behind the goal line in the Devils zone, and Pookie tries to buck up. “Come on, Paulie! Coast to coast!” she cheers. Then she pauses while watching the sequence turn into another turnover just inside the blueline. She sighs and recalibrates her expectations, “Come on, Devils. Just get it out of the zone.”

6:06 We watch the Canes skate with ease around the Devils zone, and agree that all we’re asking now of this game is that Carolina get complacent and not come out as hard for the next period. Not that we’re saying that in hopes the Devils will win – it’s just for our own benefit, having to watch the last 40 minutes.

4:45 Doc is no longer paying attention to the play; he’s rambling about Harris Teeter, and how that sounds like such a “good, Southern name”. Pookie: “We’ve hit a point I didn’t think we’d reach tonight. I call it The Harris Teeter point.”

3:33 The Carolina pressure remains relentless. This looks like one of those games in February when Marty just really needs to be pulled – both because he’s sucking and as a motivator for the lazy skaters – but he won’t be.

2:29 What is that happening on the ice? Is that… a scoring chance? In the Carolina zone??? The Patty/Gio/Zubrus line actually manages to wheel a bit around the side of Ward’s net, and create a quick, mid-range, unscreened shot for Patty. Ward doesn’t have any trouble freezing it. Pookie: “That’s as close as we’re getting to scoring a goal tonight.”

2:10 LaRose gets called for something no one but the center-ice official noticed during a Poppers shift.

1:24 We’ve been joking for the last few minutes about how Chico criticized Zach during G3 by saying that truly great players don’t score one goal in playoff games – they score two. And now he’s parked at the side of the net, with a gaping goal in front of him, when Ward kicks a laser-beam rebound right to him. He doesn’t have the reaction to get a stick on it. Because he’s not a great player. Or something.

0:00 That period was what we expected this entire series to be, so we guess we should be happy that at least the late-season swoon Devils waited until tonight to start crapping the bed.

FIRST INTERMISSION

Whatever.

SECOND PERIOD

19:51 As Paulie starts the period off with a swaggery little shot from just inside the blue line, Chico tells us the Devils need to concentrate on “winning the next two period, because then they can’t lose.” Oooohhh-kay.

18:00 Travis tries to spring his fellow Poppers, but his long outlet pass to Rolston turns into nothing as both Rolston and then Zach are easily muscled off the puck in the corner to Ward’s left.

17:31 Chico tells us what the Devils need right now is Patty to step up and start getting stuff done. Us: “No shit.” Boomer believes Patty’s playing hurt. Meanwhile, MSG+ gives us a little stat on the screen pointing out that Patty is the only player currently in the playoffs who has an active streak of scoring at least one goal in nine straight playoff series.

16:43 The fourth lines take a shift, and as the Hurricanes seem like they’re content to be firing long bombs from the point while the Devils are content to not pursue any of the ensuing rebounds, Clarkson gets called for an elbow. Replay shows an apparent lack of an elbowing infraction, but considering how stupid the Devils fourth line is, we’ll just assume that MSG+ failed to queue up the right highlight.

16:18 PandoNation’s heart is set a-flutter, as its emperor-god tears down the ice in a stunning display of hustle and gumption, dragging a couple of Cane power play guys behind him, and drawing a PP-negating holding penalty.

13:25 The pace is getting torrid, with the Devils finally skating a bit more, but Marty once again gives up a total crap rebound on a three-on-three rush, and LaRose is able to score the easiest goal of his career while Havelid conveniently takes Marty out. It’s 3-0 Hurricanes. We wonder what the math is now on Chico’s hopes for the Devils winning this period.

12:16 Marty makes a glove save and doesn’t give up a rebound. We know! Shocking! Meanwhile, Doc is giving us instructions on how to use your playoff ticket strips. Apparently there’s a trick to it. If you’ve got a ticket strip, you’re going to want to use the one for “Round One, Home Game 3” for the next game. Not “Round Two, Home Game 4” or something like that. And don’t try re-using “Round One, Home Game 1 or 2”. They won’t work either. Pookie: “And when you’re going to the game, remember to put on pants. You do that by first putting your leg into one of the pant legs, then the other one into the other…”

10:33 We are not paying attention to the game right now, and are only partially listening, but we do hear Doc’s call: “Penalty coming up. Probably Havelid.” Yeah, no kidding. Andy Greene: “I can do that!” Sutter: “Shut up, Greener. That Havelid guy is my ticket outta here.”

8:28 The shots are 28-13 in favor of the Hurricanes. Chico finds this “amazing”. We don’t.

8:21 This game in a microcosm: Marty makes a save in traffic and kicks the rebound out toward a d-man. The d-man stands there waiting for the puck to come to him, facing toward the net. A Hurricane watches the play unfold for a moment, then decides to jump up from the point, and beats the Devil to the puck. The Devils are skating ever so hard.

6:24 The Devils think they’re doing something offense-ish. They’re not. It doesn’t count as offense when you’re just dumbly firing one puck after another into the shot blockers standing five feet in front of the blue line.

2:52 There’s a giant pileup in the Devils crease, with what looks like a penalty coming up on the Iron Boar while the puck is still loose, and then, as the whistle blows when Marty finally covers the puck, LaRose rolls over onto the Iron Boar’s let and operatically blows out his knee. We go to commercial watching the Iron Boar writhe on the ice, clutching at his knee, and taking whatever feeble playoff hopes we had for the Devils with him. We come back from commercial to see Rolston sitting dully in the box, serving the Iron Boar’s cross-checking penalty.

2:20 The Canes have 20 shots in this period. So far. The Devils, on the other hand, have made us throw up 20 times in our own mouths. So far.

1:44 We’re sitting in silence, our spirits completely broken. Pookie finally breaks the silence by beginning a thought, “Well, maybe the next two games…” she trials off, unable to fully form her attempt at optimism. From the depths of her chair, Boomer finishes for her, “…will be played without TV coverage.”

0:28 WOO. Gio scores on a breakaway. It’s 3-1 Hurricanes. Chico: “This changes everything!” Schnookie is about to go off on how it’s really not that big a deal to have cut a four-goal lead down to three goals when she realizes that it was actually only 3-0 Canes. Well. That does change things.

0:00 Is it over yet?

SECOND INTERMISSION

Whoops! Was there an intermission?

THIRD PERIOD

19:40 We suddenly look up from fabric shopping online to realize the game has resumed.

19:01 A spooooky thunderstorm is brewing outside. It’s just the kind of dark and stormy night during which Victory Euro Mats could be Matsnapped during a blackout or something.

17:44 Cole drills Zach from behind and puts the Devils on the PP just as the heavens open and start pelting stately IPB Manor with massive hail. We hold V.E. Mats close and dare the cats to try to take him if the power goes out.

17:08 This storm is pretty intense. And that’s not a poetic way of describing the Devils PP.

16:04 Marty makes a really awkward save on what Doc says “could have been the cash-in goal of the night.” We think about that for a moment, then Schnookie says, “That’s okay. 3-1 is a perfectly good final score, too.”

15:39 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! Ward takes a page out of his hero’s book and leaves a rebound right where Shanny’s standing, and Shanny calmly shovels the puck into the net. It’s 3-2 Hurricanes, and you can color us shocked.

13:18 A weak turnover at the Carolina blueline by Zach turns into a Hurricane two-on-one… and Oduya, smooth as silk, just coolly stands up the rush and pokes the puck back out to safety. That was a really good play by Johnny Handsome. And a really bad one by Zach. Just saying.

11:14 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CLARKSON!!! CLARKSON!!! DAVID CLARKSON!!!!! Our very own wraparound superstar has a shift where he looks like he’s trying to prove a point that he’s better than his fourth-liner linemates, and basically just takes over the game for a shift. After some hard work on the boards in the corner, then some hard work behind the net, he passes the puck out to Paulie at the point, gets it back off a rebound, waltzes through the ghost town that is the defensive coverage in front of Ward’s net, and rips the puck past the diving Ward. 3-3 game, and it seems that Gionta goal did change everything!

6:53 The Canes get their first shot since the tying goal. We are now really nervous.

4:00 The crowd is sounder tenser and tenser, and the play is clogging itself up pretty well as both teams are realizing the importance of the clock ticking down, and the Canes ice the puck weirdly on a neutral-zone bit of broken play.

3:17 The Devils did not retain possession of the puck off the icing faceoff, and now the Canes are pressing more. That said, both teams look like they’re playing for the extra point.

2:36 There is a grievous turnover on the Devils zone, but Samsonov bails them out by shooting wide on his glorious scoring chance.

1:43 The Patty/Gio/Zubrus line dominates for a shift, but they end up overpassing and nothing comes of it.

1:11 Hooters looks like he’s got the game on his stick after a frenzy of Canes activity, but he flops over in front of the net while Whitey stands somewhat culpably nearby. There is no call. The fans are not happy.

0:00 The Devils opt not to play to the buzzer, while the Canes do. A point shot from Seidenberg gets through the traffic, and with 00.2 on the clock, the puck is in the net. 4-3 Hurricanes, and at least we were spared fucking overtime. (Replay shows that Jokinen hit Marty while setting his screen, and Marty is livid. Well, maybe if you hadn’t played like complete crap in the first period, you might have won tonight, Marty.)

What a game.

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It’s a lazy Sunday night here at stately IPB Manor, Gentle Reader, so no game diary tonight. But please do join us for an open thread during tonight’s game.

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Oh dear heavens – the MSG+ intro looks like someone in the truck just got some new software, and they’re playing with all the different special effects they can use on the highlights from the last game. Most of them make it look terrifyingly like one of those ugly paintings the Devils give guys to commemorate milestones have come to life.

Oh, and ugh. Gel-O’s got the call tonight. That can’t be a good sign.

FIRST PERIOD

19:04 Well, the Poppers look like the Poppers again, with a great forechecking shift, and nice work from the d-men at the points, but it doesn’t lead to a shot.

18:21 While Zubrus takes a colossal tumble at center ice, Gio leaps on the puck he’s just coughed up and then darts into the offensive zone. He looks like he’s added a new level of speed to his arsenal, but alas – with that increase in speed comes a decrease in aim. His shot attempt ends up hitting heavily against the boards in the far corner.

16:22 We didn’t miss anything, did we? We just had to get up to get dinner out of the oven.

15:38 Zach attempts a centering feed from the far boards, but Langer’s busy standing all the way over on the near boards, so it ends up turning into basically just an ill-advised shot attempt. Not a Poppers shift for the ages.

15:09 Clarkson had a typical Clarkaround attempt a few minutes ago, and now LaRose shows him how much he has to learn about turning “skating around from behind the net with the puck” into an actual scoring chance. Marty’s up to the challenge, though.

13:26 So what are the chances we can get through this whole period without a whistle? It’s looking pretty good right now.

12:16 Rats. Our dream of seeing this period played in real time has come crashing down to earth, as the Madden/Pando/Shanny line does its best Poppers impersonation, with the cycling and the scoring chances and the yoinking and whatnot, and Madden draws a roughing penalty to Cole.

We come back from commercial to find that Hooters and Whitey had a bit of a tiff during the break, but it’s Gleason and Whitey getting the coincidental roughing minors.

10:27 Chico assures us, as the PP isn’t doing much to, like, score and shit, that when professional athletes say they’re not nervous for big, but rather are excited, they’re lying. He then says he admires Ward for admitting when he’s nervous. Actually, that’s kind of charming. In a puppy-mill puppy kind of way.

10:14 Just as the PP expires, Brind’Amour goes to shovel the puck out from deep in the corner and ends up hitting Shanny in the cheek with his follow-through. Chico tries to tell us this is a bad call, but the replay makes it look like Rod the Bod speared Shanny in the eye.

9:40 The Devils put the puck in the net when Ward flips a rebound way up in front of himself, but it’s immediately waved off for a high stick. It goes to review, and if this counts, that’s just wrong. Oh good. It doesn’t count.

9:16 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now that one counts! Paulie slaps a perfectly tippable shot from the point, and Zach, swooping around the high slot, tips it ridiculously artfully into the net. Zach’s puck-tipping skills are just scary – that shot basically ended up arcing gracefully just up over Ward’s shoulder, then dipping down inside the crossbar. It’s 1-0 Devils, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

7:57 What the hell? We’re nibbling away on dinner, with half an eye on the game while the Hurricanes are attempting a foray into the Devils zone, and all of a sudden the Devils are heading back on the PP. Replay shows us it’s Ruutu, getting called for charging after he leapt several feet in the air while gently jostling Whitey in the corner. In other words, it’s the dictionary definition of “stupid penalty”. On the bench, Paul Maurice is perfecting his deep, deep scowl.

7:12 The Devils are working the puck from point to point, building up a head of steam, and suddenly the whistle blows as Travis gets nabbed for a wee spot of goaltender interference. He doesn’t argue much, but replay makes TravisNation quiver with rage. He barely touched Ward! They better call that at the other end, too.

5:49 Yeesh. It’s a close call as the Canes start their PP, but the shot from up high that beats Marty doesn’t beat the goalpost.

4:32 Marty freezes the puck with a Cane down on the ice in front of him, and after the whistle blows, the Cane kicks Marty’s glove. As the three of us become apoplectic, Marty just gives his a stern little whack with his stick, then returns to his business of languidly standing in the crease, leaning on the crossbar, and generally looking cocky.

3:44 A Cane forward decides he’s about to blow into the Devils zone with speed and the puck, but as he tries his swaggery power move past Paulie, he suddenly realizes he is now skating just with speed alone, as Paulie is coolly heading up the other way with the puck. Pookie: “Dr. Pancake is in the house. He’s hung out his shingle for this game.”

2:09 We get a stats screen showing us the impressive TOI, +/-, shot and hit numbers for the Madden/Pando/Shanny line in Game 1. When we return to live action, they’re on the ice and Madden is just going crazy, giving the Canes everything they can handle and essentially being an offensive dervish. Schnookie: “It’s like it’s 2000 again.”

1:07 TravisNation is shocked and appalled as its emperor-god takes a really stupid hooking penalty in the neutral zone. Pookie: “Travis is going to have to be benched at this rate.” Schnookie: “I have to say, that never happened to PandoNation’s emperor-god.”

0:24 Poop. Travis is totally fired. As the crowd is all het up about a Cane player falling into the Devils’ bench, the PKers forget all about their jobs. Everyone decides to ignore Hooters at the side of the net, and Whitney’s intentionally-wide shot kicks off the endboards directly onto his stick, and Hooters punches it past a helplessly sprawling Marty. 1-1 game.

0:00 It might not have ended the way we wanted it to, but that period was another fun one. We get an interview with Zach, and Pookie points out, “His hair-spiking device was set to ‘wild and crazy’.”

FIRST INTERMISSION

We flip on some other game action during the Dano/Gel-O portion of our programming this evening.

SECOND PERIOD

19:32 We’re all still a bit groggy from our lazy afternoons (read: hours-long naps), so as the PA announcer is giving the scoring from the Hooters goal in the background while play resumes, Schnookie starts drowsily saying, “Hoot. Hoot.” It’s a happening night here at stately IPB Manor.

18:18 The Poppers are working behind the net, and Pookie suddenly declares, “For a second there I thought Travis was Zubrus, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, he really did get benched. I was joking, Sutter!’”

17:32 The Poppers just will not quit on this shift, and the crowd starts to get to its feet to cheer them just as Corvo starts molesting Langer at the point. The ovation turns into an unhappy cry for a penalty to be called, but Chico suggests that perhaps the officials are “letting them play” now. Of course, it could also be the officials telling Langer that he was just as culpable on the play as Corvo.

15:14 Hm. The Canes are getting to all the loose pucks now. Coincidentally just as Gel-O and Chico are telling us that the Hooters goal was pretty much just a bad break. Yeah, a bad break in which no one was bothering to defend the other team’s 40-goal scorer. This game suddenly doesn’t seem as fun.

14:31 The Poppers try to make us feel better by sassily zipping up the ice and ripping a quick shot at Ward. In the ensuing scrum, Zach draws an extra penalty to Pitkanen. Replay shows it’s for a minuscule cross-check. There’s the even-up for Travis’s goalie interference call.

13:37 Travis mis-plays a pass attempt on the halfboards, and the Canes get head up ice shorthanded. Schnookie: “Travis is having a Hooters baby tonight!” Pookie, channeling Jack Edwards, “Oh the IRONY! HA HA HA HA HA!”

10:44 Travis tries to beat three defenders, but the terrible burden of his Hooters baby is too much for him to bear. Pookie, sighing: “I wonder how you can exorcise a Hooters baby?”

9:51 Patty unveils his fancy new Pattynado move, which involves him darting between two defensemen, then spinning to the ice after being hit simultaneously by both of them. It’s surprisingly ineffective as an offensive tactic.

8:24 You know what we love tonight? The Devils’ commitment to cycling. And you know who we love best at it? The Madden/Pando/Shanny line. They have been beasts out there so far.

5:44 Rod the Bod can’t handle Gio at all, so he has to take a hooking penalty off more Devils cycling. He complains the whole way to the box, but dude. That was textbook. Chico tries to tell us it’s a bad call, but he’s been a Rod the Bod apologist all night.

4:30 Langer has left the game with an injury. Well that’s discouraging.

2:36 The Hooters line finally gets the better of play in the Devils zone against the Madden/Pando/Shanny line, but as Chico points out, they don’t ever really get the puck away from the perimeter. But still. We like the game a lot more when the cycling’s down at the other end.

1:35 After relentless Canes pressure, Marty finally freezes the puck. Whew. This is getting tense.

0:26 Patty stands up an onrushing Hurricane and then suavely heads up the ice. Schnookie: “Ooh! That was nice! Patty just stole Paulie’s Dr. Pancake shingle.” Pause. Pookie has no response for that, so Schnookie adds, “And beat him with it.”

0:00 The national audience is totally missing out by not having a Blersus spotlight on this series, but we’re not complaining.

SECOND INTERMISSION

We go to the studio intermission show with Butch and Deb, and Deb voices over about things being “all tied up at The Rock” while MSG shows us an aerial shot of Madison Square Garden at night. Boomer: “That’s not The Rock.” Schnookie: “No. That’s the A-Hole Building.”

THIRD PERIOD

20:00 Crap. Still no Langer. It looked during a replay in the intermission like he exploded something – either groinal or shoulderal – on an attempted point shot on the PP. Chico doesn’t think we’re going to see him again tonight. He says that in a tone that makes it sound like we’re never going to see him again. It’s the unspoken, “They’ve had to take him out behind the barn and shoot him.” That’s right: Langer’s had to move to a farm where he’ll have lots of room to run around and play, and they’ll feed him juicy steaks at every meal, and there are all kinds of other Langers he can play with, and the sun’ll shine every day, and hey, we can go to the pet store this weekend and get a new Langer – would you like that, kids?

19:22 Patty’s been promoted to the Poppers. It looks to be paying dividends right away as Zach and Patty get a long two-on-one, but Zach’s shot hits the goalpost.

17:48 Gio rags the puck a bit just inside the blue line while biding time during a slow line change, and after wheeling a dump-in softly into the corner, he gets to be on the receiving end of Pitkanen just completely losing his mind. Pitkanen is lucky Gio didn’t bleed after getting smacked in the face with a bunch of glove and stick, and he only gets a single minor for roughing.

15:48 That would have been an awesome power play if Patty was capable of not one-timing his glorious scoring chance wide.

14:37 Maybe Travis managed to exorcise that Hooters Baby himself during intermission? He scoops up a loose puck to the side of Ward’s net and swaggers in around a few d-men, but isn’t able to beat Ward’s sprawling leg pads. It’s a good start, though.

12:32 Ack! A skyhook of a dump-in bounces around in front of an oblivious Whitey and suddenly Cole comes streaking out of nowhere to snatch the puck up and fire it at Marty. Chico remarks that that’s the Cole we expected to see, but that it’s okay because Marty knew he was on the ice. Pookie: “That’s good that Marty did, because Whitey sure didn’t.”

11:03 Gel-O tells us “there is an eerie calm” at The Rawk. We’re not sure “eerie” is the word he’s looking for there, unless the sky is turning yellow and the birds have all fallen silent, or something like that.

10:43 Langer is now officially out with “lower body”. Bummer. Dano had assured us during the intermission that upper body would be the better injury.

8:58 Yay! Back-to-back icings! Just what the doctor ordered.

8:14 Zubrus smushes a Cane just outside the Devils blue line well after the puck has left the area. The crowd boos, but it’s PK time.

7:54 Dear Gel-O,

The Hurricanes player you are referencing is not Jarret Stoll. He’s Eric Staal. It shouldn’t be too hard a name to deal with, since there are oodles of other Staals in the Atlantic Division. Sheesh.

Love,
The Ookies

5:54 That was an awesome penalty kill. But the icing to follow it up was less cool.

4:51 Damn but Hooters is fast. He just blows past everybody, going essentially coast-to-coast, but Marty is calmly up to the task of stopping the shot, flipping out a teensy rebound, and then covering the puck before anyone can respond to it. If we weren’t so freaking tense right now, this game would be really fun to watch.

3:50 Oooh! The Iron Boar has speed no one knew about! The Canes are busting up the rink on a two-on-one, and Salvador turns on his jets and stuns the guy with the puck by coming up behind him and stolidly punching the puck away with a deft stick check.

2:41 Fuckety fuckety fuck. Pando slams inadvertently into Cole at the side of the net, and stays down. After staying down long enough to draw a whistle when his linemates start up the other way, he walks off with the trainer and heads straight down the tunnel. We get a look at Sutter letting out a long, aggrieved sigh, with which we agree whole-heartedly.

0:37 The Devils touch up on an icing. We are trying not to throw up.

0:00 OT, anyone?

OT INTERMISSION

Chico exhorts Devils fans to make sure they’re well-fed and hydrated before the extra session starts, because he thinks this could go a long time. Considering Marty’s career OT record, we’re not holding our breath for that. (Meanwhile, the fans in the bar are singing “Happy Birthday” to Dano, leaving him totally flustered.)

OVERTIME

20:00 Before the drop of the puck, we get some good news, some bad news, and some depressing news. The good news is that Pando’s back. The bad news is that Langer isn’t. The depressing news is that the Devils are, as a franchise, 13-23 in playoff OTs.

19:00 LaRose tosses a short-range shot into Marty’s feet, and he struggles to keep the puck out. Or even to have any idea where the puck is.

18:34 The Hurricanes are buzzing. Pookie: “Do they have a power play or something?”

17:41 Carolina is, so far, the significantly better team in this frame.

17:20 Make that 13-24. Marty has not even the remotest idea where the puck is as the Canes just hammer away, and with Hooters parked on top of Marty and Havelid parked on top of Hooters, a point shot comes in, Havelid deflects it perfectly and it’s 2-1 Hurricanes. It is astonishing at how terribly the Devils came out for that overtime. That was dreadful. We guess the brief renaissance was exactly that – brief.

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So that knot we’ve had in our stomachs for the last couple of weeks? That ever-expanding pit of disgust we’ve been trying to live with since the wheels fell off the Devils after 552? Well, it’s finally gone, thank heavens. It’s been replaced with an even more unpleasant feeling, albeit a familiar one – that’s right! It’s the playoffs! And we wanna puke! Let’s get this started already so we can stop being so anxious.

Our blissfully non-Blersus feed kicks off with shots of fans arriving at The Rawk and being handed… towels! WOOO! Way to rock it old-school, Devils! Pookie: “Thank heavens it’s not Fuckerstixx. Thunderfuxx.” Indeed.

Doc tries to tell us in his intro that the regular-season numbers for these two teams’ respective special teams have evaporated, and that somehow that’s good news for Devils fans. Schnookie: “The numbers might be reset to zero, but the performance remains the same.”

Oh, and before our spirits get broken, we want to revel in a little jubilation: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Blobby’s benched! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

FIRST PERIOD

20:00 Before the drop of the puck MSG+ shows us prolonged shots of both coaches on the bench, and we pass the time by impersonating Cam Ward’s dinosaur noise from one of those brilliant “Ask The Canes” videos on the Hurricanes website. Those videos are comedy gold, if you’re looking to pass some time, but if you’re not willing to dig around in the archives for it, suffice to say that Ward’s dinosaur noise is not unlike the sound a sleepy kitten makes.

19:24 The first half minute of the Devils playoffs goes swimmingly, with lots of skating and hitting and not giving up a goal on the first opportunity for the Canes, and then suddenly the Devils are on the PP for a Carolina too many men infraction.

18:33 The teams trade chances (which is not as good as it sounds what with the Devils having the man advantage), and while we wait for a faceoff after Ward freezes the puck, Pookie starts fiddling with the volume. “Does it sound like they’re talking to us from the moon tonight, or is it just me?” It’s not just her.

17:47 Pookie: “Between the mention of the word ‘greasy’ during that Hawks/Wings game on Sunday and now Cam Ward’s water bottle not being in its cozy, I’m being reminded that the playoffs are entirely about some little, inconsequential thing just driving me completely fucking batty.”

16:41 Paulie artfully walks through the forechecking Canes, then manages to get the puck on a miracle onsides play to Travis, and then Travis artfully walks through the defending Canes in front of Ward… but he runs out of real estate and doesn’t have the presence of mind to bank the puck in off a surprisingly oblivious Ward from behind the net.

14:01 Just as Chico is telling us what a great story it was that Ray “Kazoo” Whitney won the scoring title this year (later he adds, “For his team”. That’s a very small qualifier), the Canes cough up the puck in the slot while the Poppers are pressing deep in the zone, but the play unfolds slowly, and Ward is calmly able to shut things down.

11:26 Paulie and Oduya decide they don’t want to win tonight, and put on a masterclass of turning the puck over behind their own net. Honestly, in a 15-second span, they combine for no less than 17 turnovers.

10:28 Madden looks like he’s lost the puck against the near boards in the neutral zone, but somehow punches it ahead in stride, leaving the camera behind as he charges into the offensive zone. Schnookie is stunned: “Madden was just too fast for the camera.”

6:54 As the Canes start picking up a head of steam in the Devils zone, Doc tells us ominously that the Canes were only even at 5-on-5 this year, while the Devils were +31. Schnookie: “Well, the Devils can regular-season stat into one and and spit into the other, and see which hand fills up faster.”

6:07 To answer for the increasing Carolina pressure, Zach heads up the other way and draws a penalty on Babchuk while doggedly working behind Ward’s net. It takes some wild play in the Hurricanes zone before the whistle even gets blown on the PP, and we suddenly have hope. Pookie: “I still don’t think we can win a game in this one, but I’m wondering now if we might not score a goal…”

5:13 After the Devils give up the zone without a fight and then struggle to get it back, Pookie sighs, “Hm. I may have to amend my bullshit statement.”

3:50 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ward plays the puck up the boards directly to Applemotherfuckingsauce at the point, and Mottau deftly waits for room while a defender passes by in front of him, then fires a wrister through a thicket of players that beats Ward’s glove. 1-0 Devils, and Pookie learns a painful life lesson: unexpected playoff goal + hiccups = disaster. But anyway, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO*hic*OOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

3:19 The Shanny/Madden/Pando line is absolutely flying, but comes up short when Shanny takes a rebound right in the mush, but just hops back up off the ice, blood streaming everywhere, and skates determinedly off the ice for repairs. We grudgingly admit that since Pando’s gotten his job back, we really don’t mind Shanny all that much anymore. Pookie: “And one other thing I’ll give Old NHLer Island is that those guys are tough.”

2:01 Zach works frenetically all over behind the goal line, then lasers a feed from a spot well to Ward’s right up to a creeping-down-from-the-point Paulie. Paulie then seems to scream, “No, no! You take the puck back, Zach. You’re doing great!” and fires a shot so far off target that it essentially works as a pass right back to Zach.

0:00 It’s no secret that we are really glad this series isn’t getting any national attention, but ever since the matchup got set, we’ve been really excited for how well-played this series should be Of all the first round matchups, we suspect this one’s going to be the most fun to watch. And if this period is any indication of what’s to come, we were right. That was just a fun, fun, fun 20 minutes. And the fact that the Devils have the lead is just the icing on the cake.

FIRST INTERMISSION

We get an interview with the president of the Devils Fan Club; she’s being interviewed by an MSG employee we have never seen before. After a few puzzled minutes, Pookie finally figures it out: “I know who that guy reminds me of! He reminds me of Face!” We spend the rest of the intermission singing the A-Team theme song over whatever it is Dano and Gel-O are talking about.

SECOND PERIOD

20:00 We come back from intermission to a big, gooey shot of Shanny’s pulpy face. It’s truly horrific, even moreso than his non-pulpy face. All around his giant wooden false teeth he’s got swollen, stitched-up lips, and then his long, horsey chin is all scraped up and bloodied. Our inane statement for tonight is that it would totally suck to have to deal with that.

18:58 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Poppers get an advantageous matchup thanks to a Canes icing, and Zach spends a few moments thoroughly dominating Hooters before walking out along the goal line and whipping a shot through a stunned Ward. It’s 2-0 Devils, and we can almost hear the sad little dinosaur sound from here. WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

17:44 Replay of Zach’s goal shows Ward just completely froze up on the near post, going into a confused half-butterfly and forgetting about covering the other side of the net. Schnookie: “Wow. He really was channeling his hero on that one.”

17:17 Ward isn’t rattled after giving up a bad goal, and stays focused during some relatively functional crease-crashing by the Devils fourth line. We can’t remember the last time the Devils went to the net, now that we think about it, so it’s probably not that hard to stop them when they do.

14:59 This game is wild — there are Devils other than Zach who are forechecking.

14:20 A Cane hits Paulie in the far corner, but Doc points out, “He didn’t get him entirely.” Pookie: “Oh, you can’t get Paulie entirely.” Pause. “He’s like Lamborghini Lightning out there.”

13:51 Marty looks sharp shutting down a Joni Pitkanen shot, which is more than we’d ever be able to do, because we’re always too busy laughing at the name “Joni”. What can we say? We’re 12.

11:48 The pace has not abated yet in this one, and the Hurricanes dart up the ice after a Patty/Zubrus/Gio line parry into the Carolina zone. Samsonov ends up with the puck just below the near faceoff dot with Paulie defending him, and as he tries to throw every move in the book at Paulie, he manages to get him to bite on exactly zero of them. Paulie’s so cool. Pookie: “He’s Mr. Kiss Kiss Pancake.”

9:58 The Devils are now buzzing around Ward’s net, with the great crowd in full “Let’s go Devils!” chant, and we’re puzzled. Pookie: “What is this… ‘puck pursuit’?”

9:18 Zach chases the puck down on the far boards in the Carolina zone, then rips a pass to Travis all alone in the high slot. Travis then canons a one-timer that whistles just over the net, as Ward crouches down in a little kittenosaur ball to save himself from decapitation.

8:36 Okay, we made fun of Ward for looking like Marty on that shitty goal he gave up to Zach, so we’ll give him a lot of credit for deftly swinging his stick back in a Marty-esque break-up of a wraparound chance for the Devils.

8:27 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gio just walks up to Brind’Amour in the corner to Ward’s right, yoinks the puck away from him, and tosses it back to Patty above the faceoff circle. Patty then rips a shot through a screen that just kisses the net inside the crossbar and it’s 3-0 Devils.

5:52 The crowd gets going with a “Cam Ward!” taunt, and Pookie’s hesitant about whether she’d be participating in it if she were there. It quickly shifts to a “Marty’s better!”, and Schnookie says happily, “Now that I’d chant.” Pookie: “I wake up every morning chanting that, even when I hate his guts.” Meanwhile, we go to commercial with it looking for all intents and purposes that the Canes are going to the PP (Doc tells us so, too).

We come back from commercial to find out that it was actually The Kazoo getting called for a totally phantom holding penalty, and it’s actually the Devils on the PP.

4:40 Patty misses an easy shovel-in attempt on a frantic little rebound on the doorstep. Schnookie: “Patty, you’re fired.” Pookie: “Yeah. What have you done for me lately?”

1:36 There is a bit of broken play deep in the Devils zone, and Marty is called on for the first time in recent memory to make some saves. He looks good on them, too. This is period has been the polar opposite from the Devils’ last 10 games of the season.

1:00 The Patty/Zubrus/Gio line is flying again, managing to best the slow-moving Canes with a molasses-uphill-in-January-speed cross-ice pass at the Carolina blue line, then they beat a handful of defenders in the far corner, and then Zubrus and Gio both lunge after a loose puck just in front of the net, but manage to fall all over each other as Ward freezes the shot. The two Devils then have a good giggle about it as they lumber back to their feet, and honestly, things have changed so much in Devils Land since this time last week that we can giggle about it too.

0:00 The period comes to an end on a delayed penalty to the Iron Boar. That period? Was insane. The Devils were a complete juggernaut. Who knows what the third period will hold, but for now, we’re just delighted that we’ve gotten 40 solid minutes from our boys. It’s 40 more good minutes than we got from them in the playoffs last year.

SECOND INTERMISSION

In this intermission, Face is interviewing some old-school fans up in the last row of section 231. Yeah, they’ll go up to the last row in the new building, but did anyone ever climb those stairs to interview us in the last row at the Meadowlands? Of course they didn’t. You had to have a death wish to climb those stairs. Hmph.

THIRD PERIOD

18:00 One way to not let the Canes score on the PP is to not let them set up in the zone. It seems like they learned something from that last game.

17:22 We kind of feel like internet-commentary discussion of future playoff beards has jumped the shark a bit, but we never tire of admiring actual fully-grown beards. So we’ll take this moment to say that, in the playoff beard department, the Devils have found a fantastic replacement for Scott Niedermayer in Johnny Oduya. He’s practically got an owl living in his beard already.

16:46 The Poppers start another puck-hungry, buzzing-around-the-net sequence on which we learn, once again, that Zach is the guy who should be shooting, not passing. Pookie channels her Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross and says, “Zach, always be shooting.” Pause. “ABS.” Pause. “Zach’s like, ‘Anti-Lock Brake System?’”

13:55 Pookie admires someone behind the Devils bench who is wearing their playoff towel like a neckerchief, and Schnookie starts expounding on how she would have brought some sort of kerchief accessory to be able to really Dale Evans it up with her towel. Pookie: “Like a napkin ring?” Schnookie: “Yeah. A big wooden one with jungle print from Pier One.” Pookie: “And you’d look so cool in it! And I’d go sit on the other side of the arena so I’m not seen with you.”

13:29 Play is continuing much as before. Pookie: “I don’t even know how the Devils are getting the puck, but they just are!” Schnookie: “I know. It’s like they’re puck magnets. It’s like they are magnets for the puck. No one has ever made that analogy before.” Pookie: “Nope. And this just in: Marty’s like a fifth defenseman out there. Fourth. Fuck. No, third. Third defenseman.”

11:26 Uh oh. Is this the dreaded prevent defense? The Devils aren’t exactly giving up their zone with ease here, but they’re also not exactly pursuing it much further past their own blue line.

10:38 Yes, it is prevent defense! And you know what prevent defense does? It prevents you from winning. (Thanks, Barry Melrose.) The Devils all stand around after a draw to Marty’s right, watch the puck bounce around a bit, and then everyone sags when The Kazoo punches a goal home. 3-1 Devils, and Pookie sighs, “We are so not going to win this.” We can’t help it – it’s been a rough few postseasons these last couple of years.

10:06 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At one end of the ice there is nothing but wretched defensive-zone scrambling by the Devils, and then all of a sudden it becomes a three-on-two the other direction, and Langer, as the trailer, whips a perfectly-placed shot over a collapsing, screening pair of defenders to find the top corner of the net. 4-1 Devils, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, so maybe we are going to win this one. Heh.

7:28 Gio decides to make things a bit more interesting, loses ground to The Kazoo on the rush in the Devils zone, and takes a tripping penalty. We don’t feel as optimistic about this kill as we did about the one at the start of the period.

5:45 The Canes finally get set up on their PP, but then lose the blue line when a Cullen point shot drills off Brind’Amour in the high slot and bounces out to the neutral zone. We’ll take it. Brind’Amour, meanwhile, kind of wishes they’d drawn that play up differently.

4:36 Chico tells us, “Lest the Devils fans get too excited… The Devils have dominated the Hurricanes tonight, but the Hurricanes are much better than what we’ve seen here.” Quit raining on our parade, Chico!

3:36 PaulieMartinNation is all aquiver – it seems the MSG team is applying for citizenship. Chico informs us that Gel-O, when asked before the game which player would be the impact guy for the Devils, chose Paulie. And Chico thinks he was right. So do we. *Swoon!*

3:06 Play is still going on, but Doc is busy positing that Applesauce is going to be giving Nellie the pug extra hamburger in celebration of tonight’s goal. Chico adds that Mottau has said that he showed Nellie the tape of her appearance on TV, and ever since she’s had a big head. Meanwhile, the Devils get called for consecutive icings.

1:07 The arena has fallen pretty silent as many fans have departed to catch their trains. And a feeling of content satisfaction settles over everyone left as Gio draws another Canes penalty out in front of the net while his linemates are mildly cycling.

1:00 The crowd looks substantially bigger when the last minute of play announcement goes up, and they rise to their feet to cheer and wave their towels.

0:00 And the game comes to a close with a surprisingly raucous house celebrating what was, from start to finish, awesome, awesome, awesome. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was not at all what we were expecting after the season series between these teams. It seemed like the Devils had the puck for basically the entire time; they were faster, harder-hitting, hungrier, smarter, and all-around dreamier than the Canes tonight. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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