Gentle Reader, we have terrible news. Victory Euro Mats has gone missing. We are waiting, with a full team of FBI investigators, for any news from the kidnappers, but we suspect we know who did it. It was the Hockey Gods, Gentle Reader. The spiteful, cruel Hockey Gods. Sure, the FBI dude in charge keeps telling us he thinks it was one of our cats knocking V.E. Mats off the mantle in the living room and then “playing” with him until he skittered down the stairs into the oblivion of our basement, but we know better. First they came for our crocuses, then they came for Mats. What more do you want, Hockey Gods???. *Glancing at the playoff-bound Devils* Oh. Right. That.
Ugh. In watching the pregame we learn these things:
1. Cam Ward is not starting for the Hurricanes, so it’s a Devils/Canes matinee featuring Carolina’s back-up.
2. Whitey’s sitting, and Havelid’s back in the line-up.
Pookie: “I’m calling 7-2 Carolina.”
Dano, by the way, is all het up that the Hurricanes are “disrespecting” the Devils by dressing Leighton instead of Ward; he thinks they’re saying that they’re happy to end up in sixth place to match up with the Devils in the first round. To which we say, “No shit.” Seriously, if you’re the Hurricanes and you’re choosing between the Penguins, the Flyers, or the Devils, you’d take the Devils too, wouldn’t you?
19:27 The Pando/Madden/Shanny line (which we happen to like very much) gets the first shift, and does their best Poppers impersonation, forcing Leighton to look sharp on a wraparound attempt that made up in effort what it lacked in skill. It might be that being in HD again for the first time in three games is making the Devils play sharper.
18:33 The Poppers are apparently hell-bent on getting Langer his 30th goal of the season. Great – that would be another milestone for the team to be emotionally exhausted from.
17:04 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh the insanity! Rolston fires a hard dump-in along the boards that kicks crazily out in front of the net that Leighton has vacated for better handling of the puck in the trapezoid. So while Leighton waits fruitlessly for the puck behind the net, Clarkson happily pounces on it out front and fires it into the goal. 1-0 Devils.
14:57 Zubrus, ever alert for opportunities to undermine his own team, takes a moronic holding penalty in the neutral zone.
13:26 The Hurricanes PP is, as advertised, quite good. Also, the Devils PP and goaltending are not quite good. Babchuk fires a bomb from the point that may or may not have been perfectly screened by the two Devils who were standing back and waiting for him to shoot, and it’s a 1-1 game. Way to challenge the shooter, guys.
10:25 Langer is never going to get his 30th goal if he’s going to insist on standing around while Zach and Travis do all the heavy lifting. After a foxy bit of forcing offensive-zone turnovers and then sassily cycling, Zach and Travis watch in dismay as a pass to a flat-footed Langer at the side of the slot turns into an easy defensive play for the Canes.
8:57 We come back from commercial to see the records of all the EC playoff teams over the last 10 games. And not surprisingly, the Devils are far and away the worst. Chico tells us you can’t really tell anything from those stats, and that we’ll just have to wait and see how the playoffs go. Pookie: “We’ll be able to tell four games from now.”
8:13 The Devils get possession deep in their zone on a delayed goaltender interference call on the Canes, and Doc tells us the Devils will either get to score on the PP or score on the delayed penalty now. Pookie: “Or they can just squander the power play chance.”
8:03 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We love that crazy glitch in the boards! There is another hard dump-in along the near glass that kicks wildly out in front of the net again, and Zach’s there to push the puck into the net off Corvo’s stick. Corvo is all pissy that it shouldn’t count, because it was on a delayed penalty and he was the one touching the puck, and we’d probably agree if the teams were reversed on this one, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The goal stands, it’s 2-1 Devils, and that’s Zach’s 45th.
7:15 The Poppers are warming to the task, and on a hard-charging shift that prompts Pookie to exclaim, “Look! They’re finally playing dominantly again!”, Zach draws a cross-checking penalty. We hope the Devils spend the entire PP rimming those hard dump-ins off the glass. Unless Leighton’s finally learned not to go behind the net in anticipation of the puck…
5:15 Well, nothing of note happened on the power play.
4:21 A Devils d-man takes an awful hooking penalty in the near corner, and Pookie grumbles, “I hate Havelid.” She then notices, at the same time Doc does, that it was actually Oduya. Pookie: “I don’t care. I still hate Havelid.”
2:21 Amazingly, the PK holds fast.
1:00 Doc points out the PA announcement of the last minute of play in the period. Pookie: “Only a minute?”
0:09 Cole gets a mini-breakaway and Marty just flat-out misses a pokecheck, like a car wreck unfolding in slow motion. Then Cole misses the puck, in equally slow motion, and nothing comes of it. Pookie: “That was like watching a celebrity hockey tournament, how slow and crappy the play was.”
0:00 Whew. That wasn’t how we would have scripted the first, but we’ll take it. We get an interview with Zach in which he says the Devils “deserved” the lucky bounces. Pookie, angrily: “The Devils deserve nothing.” Yeah, we’re not exactly warming to the notion that the Devils have turned the corner yet.
Our intermission entertainment consists of an interview with a NASCAR driver whose wife is a Devils fan. We think MSG might be scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one.
19:40 We notice the Devils have started the period on a PP. Doc very politely waits until Pookie asks, “What are we on the power play for?” before answering that it was a boarding call against Ruutu.
18:43 The Canes mount a fairly effortless shorthanded rush while Chico tells us all about how awesome the Devils PP is thanks to its two units having two completely different looks. Right.
17:11 PandoNation is all aquiver that its emperor-god is about to have another apotheosis, but he is unable to score after pouncing on a turnover all alone right on top of the crease.
16:46 Geico’s branding has completely failed if they were hoping to draw in Doc and Chico. For some reason the two of them start going on about “the Geico creature” and whether Chuck the Duck knows it. They can’t come up with the word “gecko”, but admit to us that Chuck knows some owls. What? Pookie: “Is Chuck going to the Owl Correspondence School?” Schnookie suddenly faces a bleak afternoon of having the Owl Correspondence School fight song stuck in her head.
15:50 The Devils buzz hard on a delayed penalty, but can’t quite connect. We’d be optimistic about this man advantage, but the lucky boards are at the other end now.
14:21 Paulie cranks his version of the Babchuk point shot, but manages just to fell Zach. Pookie, as Paulie: “Stay on target… stay on target… Direct hit!” Good thing he’s got a BB gun rather than a cannon.
13:50 Paulie has tasted human flesh now, and is relentlessly firing at any person ill-fated enough to be standing in front of him. This time he catches Gleason in the head, but again, Paulie doesn’t have much of a shot. Gleason barely feels it.
9:28 We go to commercial after a few minutes of the teams zipping around up and down the rink, and just then a herd of about 15 deer races across our front yard, leaping, frolicking, and fighting. We think it might be time to invest in a wolf. Anyway, we come back from commercial to see MSG breaking down the potential matchups for the Devils in the first round. It turns out that the Devils have been outscored in their season series against all three teams. Great!
7:30 The Canes finally start peppering a few shots at Marty, and while he’s on the ball enough make a few good stops, he’s also lame enough that he decides holding Hooters’s stick is a good defensive plan. The officials disagree. In a past life we might have found that charmingly cheeky of Marty, but considering the way he’s been playing the last couple of weeks, we’re just narrowing our eyes at him and grinding our teeth.
6:03 What’s this feeling in our hearts? Is that… delight? Marty makes a great save on an equally great move by a rushing-down-the-slot Hooters, then makes a second, blind save on the rebound, and then Madden is there with some super-alert penalty killing to clear a rebound that flipped high in the air, and it kinda a little bit feels like the good old days.
4:35 A Cane defender is tripped right in front of his net, and Rolston swoops in to steal the puck from him. Fortunately, Leighton makes a great save on the one-on-one, to, as Doc says, “save two teams – the Hurricanes and the one in stripes”. It really was the kind of trip that doesn’t warrant a penalty until it turns into a one-on-the-goalie scoring chance.
3:25 We feel like we’re watching a game on NBC! We come back from commercial to find the teams playing four-on-four, with no replay or really any explanation.
3:03 Cole plows through Oduya, and the two of them crash into Marty, knocking him into the net and the net off the moorings… as the puck crosses the goal line. This goes to review, and frankly, we’re happy with the call going either way. The Devils have been on the positive side of this call twice this season, but it seems our luck is still holding, as it’s no goal. Strange. How is it possible that the Devils have twice had the War Room rule in their favor on a goal like this and not at all in anyone else’s? Boomer posits that V.E. Mats has gone to Toronto to stage a coup, and now we’re reaping the benefit of the new regime.
0:00 You know what? This game has been really fun. We like how the teams are playing today – it’s sassy and fun.
We don’t really pay attention to Gel-O and Dano here.
18:36 Marty tries a sweep-check as a Cane is coming around behind the net, and misses. He then makes a really awkward, swiveling save with his stick way out of position. Sigh. We guess he looks better today? Sorta?
17:04 The Devils are doing their impersonation of the last time these two teams played, with the standing around pretending a one-goal lead in the third period is insurmountable, and Eaves takes advantage of the backing-off defense to rip a wrister past Marty. Fortunately, the shot hits the post, bounces off Marty’s back, and Marty is able to cover it before it causes any further damage. PL3, meanwhile, proves that he’s every bit as qualified to be in the lineup as Blobby, as he takes an idiotic cross-checking penalty after the play.
15:31 Babchuk just misses on a one-timer from the point that was labeled for the top corner. Chico tells us he’s “Carolina’s Brian Rolston” in that he’s got an amazing, unstoppable shot on the point on the PP. Schnookie: “Except Rolston never does that.”
15:15 PL3 skates miserably back to the bench after another Babchuk one-timer beats Marty after lasering through a forest of players in front. 2-2 game.
14:21 The Devils are going to sit on this 2-2 tie as if it’s a three-goal lead.
14:06 Smart hockey abounds on both sides of the ice, as Samsonov cross-checks Clarkson in front of Leighton’s net.
12:56 Chico tells us, as Rolston takes a week and a day to think about whether he maybe might want to fire a shot from the point eventually, that the Canes “don’t want to give up a shot to Rolston!” Schnookie: “Yeah. Wouldn’t want to do that. The puck might hit the glass.” Pause. “Of course, that has been a problem for them today…”
9:19 The Devils are sending us out with some insanity, giving us a last moment of mirth for this season when a Madden/Pando two-on-two rush turns into Paulie jumping up as the trailer and trying some sort of power move skating deep behind the net. Of course the whole thing fizzles out into nothing, and Pookie says, “If you break that sequence down frame by frame, you’d be able to see the exact moment where Paulie turns from Dr. Pancake into Mr. Putrid.”
7:17 Doc informs us that Patty, on a hit in front of the Carolina bench, has just been “wanged” by Walker. We… aren’t sure that word means what Doc thinks it means.
4:26 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gio does some great work corralling Leighton’s clearing attempt, then carries behind the net to feed a perfect dish to Zubrus in front. We are then actually in the process of groaning about another scoring chance missed on by the Devils when we realize that Zubrus did, in fact, score there. Who ever would have guessed? WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! 3-2 Devils.
3:32 The Poppers again respond awesomely immediately after another line has scored a goal, and after forcing a turnover at the Carolina blue line, Zach draws a tripping penalty to LaRose.
1:32 Okay, so the PP didn’t exactly make the end of this game seem easier.
1:00 The Carolina net is empty. We have a bad feeling about this.
0:31 Babchuk gets room to uncork a giant slapshot from the point, and amazingly a Devils defender actually gets in front of it this time. We give Oduya the “Way To Notice That Guy Is Killing Your Goalie And Take Matters Into Your Own Hands” award for today.
0:00 The buzzer sounds with Marty trying desperately to set Langer up for his 30th goal, but it’s not to be. You know what, though? We’ll take the win. That was… almost encouraging. And adorably, the team piles around Marty and Langer, with everyone having a good laugh at Langer’s season ending at 29.
There you go, Gentle Reader. The 2008-2009 season is behind us. What a weird, weird year.