Yesterday saw the Devils do the absolutely unthinkable and beat the Islanders – we never thought we’d see the day, Gentle Reader. But they put together a good first period, managed not to piss away the entire game in one lousy second period, and then dominated in the third. Can they carry this vigor over now against the Capitals? It’s really hard to imagine emerging from a back-to-back matinees weekend (against the Islanders and Caps, no less) with anything resembling joy, so… we’ll see.
Since we didn’t diarize yesterday, we’d like to take a moment to point out here that we thought Patty, Zach and Madden were utterly awesome against the Islanders. Yes, we’re stating the obvious, but we’re sure the public record was wondering where we stood on that issue.
Today’s goalies are Johnson and Marty. We’re not sure what we think about Marty starting his gazillionth in a row. We actually think we might be ambivalent.
19:47 We get a quick icing from the Devils, and a cut to Boudreau, who is wearing a full-on Devils-colors ensemble involving a monstrously ugly paisley tie.
18:09 The Caps look like they’re not thrilled about having lost to the Canes yesterday, and throw a pretty uptempo, feisty shift in the Devils zone. It ends in an odd-man rush led by Gio down the other way. Unsurprisingly, Gio doesn’t score.
16:15 Mottau leads the Devils up through the neutral zone, probably thinking the same thing we are. Namely, that this building owes him a goal.
15:43 Kozlov is thinking today the book on Marty is to shoot high, as Marty has to make his second shrugging shoulder save off the ex-Devils shootout specialist. Pookie: “I’m calling a Kozlov hat trick.”
13:56 As Doc is wondering whether Brookbank will fight Brashear today (apparently his brother fought Brashear yesterday, a fact that prompted Schnookie to say, “Well good for Wade Brookbank”), a Cap jumps off the bench to join the rush and rings a big shot off the pipe.
12:23 Doc is prescient. Brookbank and Brashear do, indeed, fight, and it’s just as interesting as we thought it would be. As in, not at all interesting.
11:20 We liked how the Zach line played in their own zone yesterday, but today they’re back to their usual in-need-of-drownproofing selves, getting hemmed in, and needing Marty to make a huge-assed save on Semin. There’s nothing like a matinee against the Caps to see some quality Devils hockey.
10:04 Doc tells us, as Pando leads a weak one-man forecheck, that he asked Pando what needed to be done today against the Ovechkin line. Pando apparently said that he and Madden would have to get the puck into the Caps zone as much as possible, and not let them play in the Devils zone. As we watch play drift back toward Marty (where it’s been so far all afternoon), Pookie says, “Cue: letting them play in the Devils zone.”
8:33 It seems Boudreau is shuffling his lines to get Ovechkin away from Pando.
7:12 After a couple of good shifts complete with – gasp! – scoring-ish chances, the Devils give their own zone back to the Caps and the Semin line. It looks for a moment like the Devils might be gaining possession and possibly at least getting to that exotic and faraway land we like to call “the neutral zone”, but, of course, the play breaks down because one of the Devils skaters is without his stick. Doc tries to play it coy, like he doesn’t know who it is, but we can all see clearly that it’s Oduya. It’s like we’re revisiting the beginning of the year!
6:44 Just as Chico is telling us our intrepid heroes are hoping just to get into the dressing room without too huge a deficit on the scoreboard, our intrepid heroes stand around watching Ovechkin clang a shot off the crossbar.
5:00 Marty makes his bajillionth great save of the period. Pookie, ever mindful of the Hockey Gods: “Marty’s been playing, uh… average.”
3:14 We are stunned to have to watch the end of the rink with Johnson in goal for a moment, as Madden works a bit in the corner before handing the puck without any sort of pressure to a Caps defenseman.
2:30 Langer tries to put on his “Fuck This Shit” when Zach finds him barreling up the open wing, but Johnson is able to stop his not very fuck-this-shitty slapshot from the faceoff dot.
1:45 Patty tries to play a weird bounce off the half boards, doesn’t quite connect, and then stands there watching as a Cap takes it away just below the blue line and goes back to thinking offense. Schnookie: “Does Patty look like he was expecting the buzzer there?”
1:16 Lepisto can’t handle the offensive pressure of Pando, and hooks him down behind Johnson’s net. The fans boo (classless!) the call, and Ovie, who is just having so much fun playing this game, gestures to the officials that Pando dove. We bristle.
0:00 Let’s go from the net out here. Marty had a fantastic period. And beyond that… the rest of the Devils sucked. We shall never speak of this again.
Steve and Dano discuss the Brookbank-Brasher fight. We turn our attention to cocktails.
Chico starts this off by asking, after how badly the first period played out in the Caps favor, if Washington will be “demoralized” and the Devils “energized”. Boomer, dryly: “By what?”
18:22 A bomb of a shot from the high point rips wide, and Marty smartly doesn’t let Oveckin bank the rebound kicking off the end boards in off him.
17:59 Doc is talking about some old college rink. He is as interested in today’s proceedings as the rest of us.
17:09 Marty makes another pad save, and the sound of it echoes enormously through the arena. Schnookie: “Is the puck mic’d?”
16:40 Semin makes like he’s about to lace a huge shot toward Marty, and as he’s furling his windup, Patty impishly sneaks up behind him and yoinks the puck right away.
15:32 Chico raves about Ovie’s play on a one-on-one with Oduya (on which replay shows Oduya stayed with Ovie going wide, forcing a bad-angle shot), then tells us Ovie has been battling the flu. And while he’s in the lineup, he’s “such an energy guy that he needs everything in the tank.” Schnookie: “Great. So you’re saying he’ll be 100% effective for the next 13 years?”
15:10 Travis gets called for hooking, but it’s like we’re watching C-SPAN2 or something, for the way FSN doesn’t tell us what the call is for or give us a replay. Pookie: “Since I haven’t seen any footage of it, I’m assuming it’s bullshit.”
13:32 Ovie and Gio race for a puck at the boards in front of the Caps bench and Gio crushes Ovie to the ice. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t giggle.
13:00 After successfully killing the penalty, the Devils push the puck down toward Johnson, who scoops it up in the face of an oncoming Travis. The Caps defender then shoves Travis, and Travis – whoops! – glides into Johnson. The crowd roars its outrage and a horde of Caps swarm on Travis as we cut to commercial.
12:29 Schnookie: “I really wouldn’t mind seeing us play in the other zone for a little while.” Pookie: “Don’t be ridiculous.”
11:19 FSN gives us a graphic with the delightful news that the Devils have six shots so far in this game. So it’s that Devils team today, in case you hadn’t been able to tell yet.
9:51 Madden banks the puck cross-rink off the boards from his own blue line down behind the Caps goal line, but because of the geometry of the play, it’s not icing. Yes, the most exciting Devils play today has been Madden figuring out a way to ice the puck without getting called for it. Good times.
8:16 Clarkson gets the Devils first shot of the period. We pass out from the thrill of it all.
There is a bit of scrimmage after the shot, during commercial, when Brashear takes a penalty for punching Clarkson in the shoulder, but then Asham decides a power play would be sucky for the Devils right now, and evens things up.
7:21 Sutter takes to the four-on-four with Pando and Madden to match up against Ovie. The offense does not flow for the Devils.
7:04 Oduya goes to line Ovechkin up by the boards, but Ovie leaps out of the way at the last moment and Oduya has to stick his knee out to take Ovie down. He gets called for tripping, and Ovie lies on the ice long enough for Boomer to suggest he should have to leave the ice for the start of the power play, like in football.
6:29 After some broken-stick hijinks for the Caps at the blue line, Madden swipes an errant pass and tries to wheel through the defensive zone to start on one of his newly-patented “I didn’t change my workout routine at all this past offseason… what are you insinuating?” speedy-wheels shorthanded rushes, but Whitey decides to get in his way instead.
6:16 Paulie and Madden get behind the Caps D and almost connect on a scoring chance, but the play is broken up from behind and Johnson leaps up to snatch the puck out of the air. He holds it and holds it and holds it with Madden standing at the side of his net, but there is no whistle.
5:02 The penalties expire without much of a scoring chance for the Caps.
4:57 Now that both teams are at even strength, the Caps go back to dominating and pound a series of close-range shots at Marty that ends in a whistle and a pile-up in front. Pookie is confident she sees Whitey punching Oduya.
4:34 Doc and Chico are now discussing the “text your vote” feature playing on the jumbotron right now, in which the fans are supposed to pick which car is cooler, Brashear’s Lamborghini or Ovechkin’s BMW. We… don’t care. Could Brashear fight someone now or something?
3:28 A little shred of Langer’s heart seems to remember what “Fuck this Shit” means, and he rips a shot through a defender on a high three-on-three rush.
3:13 The Devils are momentarily inspired by Captain Fuck This Shit and put together a series of shot attempts. They don’t score, though, and play promptly sprints up the other way.
3:01 Oduya gets called for cross-checking on the goalmouth scramble following a frantic Caps rush. We don’t see a replay of it, so we’re assuming it’s bullshit.
1:45 Langer leads Paulie on a long two-on-one shorthanded, but Paulie’s shot goes wide. Immediately following the turnover at the point, we hear… booing?
1:20 Fehr loses his cool completely and high sticks a Devil carrying the puck behind Marty’s net. We are not holding out much hope for the scorched-earth PP today.
0:14 Poti drags his stick up to Zach’s shoulder, and Zach shrugs it into his ear, drawing a high-sticking penalty. We are not holding out much hope for the scorched-earth five-on-three PP today.
0:00 The period expires with some Devil we’re too angry to recognize telegraphing his pass to the point so the penalty killer can clear the puck with time running out. FAN-tastic. That period was no better than the first, other than the kick-ass penalty killing by the Devils. Not that we’re endorsing the Devils playing the entire third shorthanded, Oduya.
Dano makes excuses for how badly the Devils are playing today, then says he’s not making excuses. We turn our attention to cocktails.
19:38 Doc asks Chico what benefit there is for the Devils being on the PP at the start of the period, and Chico says the clean ice will make it so the puck lies flat for Devils shooters. Schnookie: “That would suggest the Devils are going to be shooting.”
19:23 Gio takes forever corralling the puck on a cross-crease feed, giving Johnson ages to get from post to post and stop Gio’s shot. Of course. Pookie is apoplectic, “That’s Johnson! I don’t even know his first name! It’s Someone Fucking Johnson, Gio. And you can’t score on him?”
19:21 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Patty wins the draw back to Paulie at the point, who dishes across to Langer. Langer then rips a Fuck this Shit special through a falling defenseman that has Johnson throwing his hands up in that “what was I supposed to do on that?” way before the puck is even in the net. 1-0 Devils, and the goal was scored with one second left on the five-on-three.
17:14 The remaining PP expires with little happening of note, and then the Devils go back into their “we’re not actually playing a game today, are we?” posture. After some pressure by the Caps, Semin swaggers through the D and ties up the game.
16:18 We are back to looking glumly for what little silver lining we can find, and say after a weak little offensive thrust, “Well, at least Zach got a shot off.”
15:12 If the Devils do not fire the puck at the net every single time they touch it, no matter where they are on the ice, from here out, they’re all fired. Travis steps over the blue line and just lets rip. Johnson sees the puck all the way, and yet the shot still gets through him, with the puck rolling just wide of the goalpost as he sits above the crease, unsure of where the puck has gone.
14:56 Lepisto takes a hooking penalty at the boards to Johnson’s right. We’re not wildly enthused.
14:03 Paulie can’t handle Oduya’s pass from the high point, and after he bobbles the puck, it gets deflected out of play, drawing the faceoff outside the zone. Pookie, more than a little ashamed, “Paulie is not having his best game.”
12:10 Doc informs us that if the Devils can win today, they’ll have the end-of-day lead in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2001. Well no wonder they’re playing like crap today. There’s nothing on the line.
11:24 Patty suddenly makes like it’s 2001 and makes a crazy, seeing-eye pass against the grain through a broken bit of defensive coverage that Zach isn’t quite able to tap through Johnson.
10:15 Travis sticks with the puck through another wacky broken bit of defensive standing-up by the Caps in the neutral zone, and suddenly Gio is busting down the wing, shoving a shot on net, and Zubrus is there to try to sniff out a rebound in front. Boomer: “If we had played like this from the start of the game…” The Devils: “Shut up.”
9:13 Clarkson goes for a wraparound (Johnson, unlike Crunchy, has scouted that shot), and then does this goofy little cartwheel-y spin when he is muscled away from the rebound. It’s an artistic addition to his wraparound catalog.
7:41 Zach is sitting on a five-game goal-scoring streak, and Doc informs us the last Devil to score in six straight games was Holik “ten years ago”. We are gobsmacked. And we think that’s a record Zach shouldn’t want any piece of, if Holik’s the guy who’s held it for that long. (We’re kind of surprised Patty didn’t do it in ’00-’01.)
7:13 Pando and Madden look like they might get a good scoring chance on a giveaway in front of Johnson’s net, but Pando is stuck having to shoot on a spinarama. Pando doesn’t do spinaramas well.
5:52 Travis and Gio scramble around the Capitals net, and Pookie says, as Travis cycles the puck, “Travis, it’s about time you scored.” Travis hands off to Gio. Pookie: “Gio, I’ve given up on you.” Schnookie, as Gio: “But I scored yesterday!” Pookie: “I don’t care.”
5:11 Whatever vestigial 2001-ness Patty was feeling has passed. He leads a three-on-two (after a putrid Zach turnover in the Devils zone), and decides the sassiest move would be to clumsily cough the puck up right at the blue line.
3:20 Chico tells us, as the Caps swarm around the Devils zone, that this game has become “scintillating”. We beg to differ. We are deep in a discussion about how Boomer dreamt there was a cow giving birth in our house. Scintillating that, Chico.
3:13 To drive home the point that we don’t want to be watching this game, Paulie leads another Devils rush that peters out in a great tape-to-tape dish on the fly… to a Caps defender.
1:42 Madden and Pando conspire to both just miss on a slowly-unfolding sequence of lucky bounces in front of the Caps net.
1:33 In response, the Caps sprint back down the ice and Backstrom just punches a rebound of an Ovechkin shot off Marty and over the net.
0:13 Marty sprawls across the side of his crease and just out-wills Laich as the Caps hope to convert on the follow-up after a blocked point shot.
0:04 The Devils tie the puck up off the draw, but it is cleared into the bench and we get another faceoff. Pookie: “This is like Playoffs Lite. I’m freaking out, but ‘litely’.”
0:00 And we’re going to overtime.
4:42 The Caps defender backs off completely while Madden is waiting for the trailers, so he shrugs and goes to the net. Well, by “goes to the net” we mean he “fires the shot high”. But that was kind of a given.
4:07 Marty lays the Mother Of All Pokechecks on Green on a one-on-one play we all think is the end of the game. Holy. Shit. That was spectacular. Chico describes it in replay as being “like a lizard’s tongue going after a bug”. It is so amazing a pokecheck that Green has no idea it’s even happened until well after the puck has left the vicinity.
1:53 As we continue discussing The Pokecheck, the Devils continue sitting back. It seems like a great approach to trying to win.
1:24 Chico is trying to marvel at the moves Ovie is putting on, but we’re more impressed with the way Gio just steps up into his bevy of dekes and skates away with the puck. Chico also tells us that no one in the NHL plays with the charisma Ovie has. We splutter, horrified: “Not even Marty?”
0:49 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely nothing is happening for the Devils, with Madden skating deep into the corner, covered by three Caps, and he one-hands the puck harmlessly across the crease… except suddenly Patty’s all over it, shoveling a shot that gets through Johnson, but rings off the pipe. Except suddenly Madden’s all over the rebound, punching under Johnson’s uselessly outstretched leg, and getting it to creep, seemingly in slow motion, into the net. Game. 2-1 Devils. And we realize it’s only February, but let us take a moment, before returning to Earth, to celebrate that this team, which was, at one point in October (after actual games had been played), in last place overall, is now in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.
Chico describes the replay of the winner as being “all about puck control”, a concept he kept saying was going to be the key to the Devils winning today. Boomer: “Well, the Devils only controlled the puck for 1% of the game, but it was the right 1%.” Word. WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!