We won’t bore you with the mundane details that filled most of Day Four of IPB’s Great Hockey Road Trip ’07 — Schnookie beat Pookie in Boggle but Pookie evened the score winning 2 out of 3 hotly contested Chinese Checkers matches — and skip straight to the nutmeats: Devils 5, Penguins 4. We began the evening by showing remarkable restraint, arriving at the arena a mere 10 minutes early, rather than our usual hour or two. Not two minutes went by before we were approached by a Pens fan bringing some good-natured smack:
Pens Fan: We’re going to win toinght!
Schnookie: Oh ho, I don’t think so! The Devils will win!
Pens Fan: Excuse me, but didn’t you lose Scott Gomez to the Rangers?
Crickets: Chirp. Chirp.
Schnookie: Uh, yeah…
Pens Fan: I rest my case!
Stifling our hysterical and bitter laughter, we headed in to find our seats, only to get the oddest directions to our seats ever. “Go a little bit further, and then go through the glass doors.” Glass doors? Ooh la la! This should have been our first clue that we were seated in the exclusive “Igloo Club”. No wait, our first clue should have been that our tickets read “IGLO2” where a numbered section should have been. At any rate, the Igloo Club was every thing the Harbour Club should have been but wasn’t. No there weren’t any ice sculptures of Sid, but there was food for the offing and restrooms without lines, all bathed with a sophistication not hinted at anywhere else at stately Mellon Arena. (Also, for many years the snooty-sounding Igloo Club was such a source of derision at IPB Manor that we began referring to our study as such.) Passing by the buffets and bars we got our first glimpse of our seats. O! what seats! When the fine folks at Roadtrips gave us the total price for this trip we both nearly keeled over, but believe you us, it is worth every penny to sit 25 feet from the bench at center ice (particularly if the game features Sid).
Last March, when we arrived early to the arena for the Devils game in Buffalo, we were treated to Zach Parise sitting on the bench in his skivvies doing some sort of visualization routine (or just trying to make it look like he doesn’t care that the guys in the dressing room don’t like him). We’d be lying if we didn’t say we were hoping to see the same thing tonight but the Hockey Gods can be cruel. Instead of Zach, we got Pierre. His visage is so heeeedeous that he caused our camera to die, forcing us to go to Plan B, Operation Crappy Camera-Phone:
The oddest thing about Pierre McGuire is that everyone involved on the ice seemed genuinely happy to see him and to chat with him. What? Surely they all hate him too, right? Right? Finding this too disturbing to contemplate, we turned our attention to the game.
We loved the way Pando and Madden were scoring at will in the first half of the first period. Pando is a noted Pen Killer, and so, it seems, is Marc-Andre Fluery. ZING! We can say this because aside from one or two huge saves, Marty didn’t look much better in the first. Regardless, with Madden scoring like that, can it be only a matter of time before he’s quoted in the paper saying, “I don’t know who my competition for the Richard Trophy is”? We were less in love with the characteristic lapse in the second half of the first. For the 16th consecutive period in a row this season, we turned to each other at the buzzer and said, “Well, I hope Sutter rips into them!”
Turns out Sutter didn’t need to rip into them since the Pens decided they’d rather take eight zillion penalties in a row than beat the Devils. When you’re at a game in person and can’t see the replays on the big board because of the hordes of angry Pens fans standing in front of you, you have to go with your gut on whether the calls are good or not. Our guts said “Bravo, officials! Nice job!” The Devils skated like puke at the start of the second period, but kudos to the boys for taking what the officials were giving them and, for the most part, not doing anything that could have allowed the refs to call an even-up. As for our physical safety, there was some concern, what with the shower of beer-soaked mouse pads raining from the sky, but fear not, Gentle Reader, we were demure and quiet and drew no attention to ourselves (in fact, we only stood to cheer the first two goals, spending the rest of the game securely stapled to our seats).
The third period was the best 20 minutes of hockey the Devils have played this season (or at least our raging endorphins lead us to this conclusion). Marty was a rock, the players mostly kept their cool when things could’ve gotten chippy, they kept the pressure on, and even Johnny Oduya made some fantastic plays. And how about that game winner? Our two best players, making smart choices and getting rewarded. There was a little bit of concern that Sid might don his familiar difference-maker hat when he showed up for a shift with his distinctive “fuck this shit” swagger. Too bad his teammates weren’t on board with it (Malkin in particular surprised us with his lack of energy and drive when the going got tough; we’re not complaining, of course, as we’ll take as many freebies as we can before he realizes he’s a Marty-killer). We suppose his teammates can’t take all the blame, since Sid was the one clotheslining Zach in the mouth with his elbow when his team couldn’t afford to take another penalty.
For all the excitement on the ice, though, the highlight of the evening just might have been the businessman sitting behind us. At the start of the game he was prattling on about who got what account and what type of car he drove while vacationing in Italy, meeting every stereotype of businessman-who-spends-an-arm-and-a-leg-to-go-to-the-game-and-then- doesn’t-pay-it-a-lick-of-attention. But then, late in the third, we heard something coming from him that had us falling off our chairs. “Some teams would sit on this one goal lead, but not the Devils! They’re going to try and get two more goals here.” Wha-huh?!? Can it be? Fans outside NJ are paying attention? Will the team be shedding its now-unwarranted reputation as hockey-killers? Wait and see, Gentle Reader, wait and see.
To celebrate seeing another zany night of hockey where the good guys won (this time starring our beloved Devils) we’re kicking back with a Kit Kat bar. We figure now’s as good a time as any to nip in the bud our new-found fear of the candy. That vending machine was creepy, but it has no power over us! Not on a night where our S,PW was interviewed on national TV, where our own little Travis got two acorns in a first-star effort, and where Itty-Bitty Prince, Zach Parise, got to chant in Sid’s ear, one more time, “Parise’s Better”.