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Archive for March, 2008

We’ve suffered through the Rangers/Penguins home-and-home these last two days, and here’s a look at what’s on our minds now.

— Pierre McGuire is consistently the most annoying man in sports broadcasting. At one point during Sunday’s game on NBC there seemed to be some promotion where you could log on to some website after the game and, if you could answer enough questions right about what Pierre said during the broadcast, you would get 20% off on purchases from the NHL store. Or something. We decided we’d rather pay 20% more for our purchases at the NHL store than listen to Pierre. We’re also convinced that Doc’s follow-up to reading the instructions for the contest — “So do your best impersonation of Nipper, the RCA dog, and keep your eyes pricked for your master’s voice!” — was the subtlest dig at Pierre yet. When does he get hit with another out-of-control puck?

— We’ve finally seen Getzi’s “The Cup changes everything” commercial, and we think it’s fantastic. He does such an hilariously wooden job of making sure to EMPHASIZE at least one WORD in every sentence. Pookie suggested after we collected ourselves, post-laughing fit, that Getzi is secretly a student of the Meisner Technique, and he spends his days driving his teammates nuts by saying, “OOPS, my shirt fell off” … “Oops, MY shirt fell off” … “Oops, my SHIRT fell off” …and so on.

— Last year we were quite fond of the spunky Penguins. This year we’ve hated them, despite our efforts to feel otherwise. That said, as soon as Sid is back in their lineup, we like them a lot more. So yeah, we’re fully putting forth that we are completely shallow, but you know what, Gentle Reader? We don’t care. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to say, like Geraldine, that no, we’re not sports fans. We’re man fans. Or, um, little wooden manboy fans.

— We’re fairly certain that when Scott Gomez burned every single bridge he’d built in his entire career to sign for zillions of dollars to be Mr. A-One Super-Duper Star in NYC, he didn’t think the Iso-Cams on NBC’s Game Of The Week would be Sid Crosby and… Sean Avery.

— Daryl Sydor? Surely he died in Vegas!

— Hollweg’s mustache and Jagr’s, um, whatever you call that thing on his chin (is it a chin version of a bikini wax?) would be vaguely acceptable as facial hair if they were combined. As it stands, they’re not sharing the same face, so they’re both atrocities.

— With each progressive commercial break on Versus, we’ve become increasingly convinced that we are not the demographic that the advertisers think we are. We also wonder if Versus never sent us our playoff tracker because they figured the address we’d provided for them was no longer valid because we’d moved into an old-folk’s home. An old-folk’s home with walk-in bathtubs. (Walk-in bathtubs! Will wonders never cease?)

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Today the spiders who live in IPB’s inbox had to scurry aside for a moment when we got an honest-to-goodness email from someone in response to yesterday’s edition of The IPB Hour. John Fischer very thoughtfully came up with statbitty rebuttals to a few of the assessments we made about which Devils forwards are overachieving and which ones are underachieving. Now, we are very much of the “Tra la la feelings” approach to discussing hockey (as Katebits so aptly puts it), so when someone comes at us with statbits, it’s like we’re in a gladiator movie and our opponent just threw a handful of dirt in our eyes. Now we’re staggering around, roaring with pain from the injury to our pride, and more than that, we’re suddenly having our asses kicked by the net-and-trident guy when we’re armed with what seemed to be a far superior weapon like a battleaxe, or a spiked club.

John F.’s statbits left us reeling; we had to let some time pass, flush the grit out of our eyes, and disentangle ourselves from his insidious weaponized net. But now we’re ready to return to the ring and address his concerns. The player in question? John Madden. We said he was overachieving, and we even went so far as to ramble off on a tangent about something ridiculous like how he deserves the C or whatever. We don’t really remember. We were probably drunk when we said it. But anyway, this is what John F. said:

I have a bit issue with your description of John Madden as an overachiever with his scoring this year. His 19 goals are currently the highest he’s had since 2002-2003 (incidentally, his second highest season in shots with 207). But between then he’s had 12, 16, and 12 then. While his 19 goals have helped a lot, it’s not exactly new for him. Furthermore, his 23 assists is perfectly in line with his last 4 seasons (22, 23, 20, 20). He’s certainly more accurate/lucky this year; but wouldn’t you think it’s a bit of stretch to say he’s overachieving considering his past numbers. He’s just simply having a better statistical year than he’s had since the lockout (seriously, check the +/-).

Aieee! Our eyes! Okay, we’re trying to play it cool and just blink it off. These are salient points, yes, that his assists are just more of the same, and his goal total, while higher than the last few years, is hardly a staggering increase. But the “tra la la feelings” aspect of Madden-as-overachiever is actually manifested statbitstastically there in his +/-. He was -7 in each of the last two seasons and is +2 as of right now. Again, not a humongous increase, but it is at least a bit indicative of the overall improvement of Madden’s game. The thing about Madden’s value as a player is that it’s not entirely measurable in the static statbits. As a checking forward, he’s a guy whose contributions in a game are often just his smarts, or his tenacity, or his speed, or his strength in holding off an opponent; scoring is often just gravy with him. And it has seemed, over the last two years, and especially in the playoffs last year, that Madden’s smarts, tenacity, speed and strength were all eroding. Maybe we were being overly hard on him, but our expectations were lowered considerably after an extravagantly putrid showing last Spring, and he’s been, to borrow Asham’s label, quite the pleasant surprise this year. So while John F. has exposed the weaknesses in our praise of Madden’s scoring this year, we still stand by our belief that Madden’s overachieving in the “tra la la feelings” arena. He might not be having a career year in a “monster numbers” kind of way, but there’s no question when you watch the guy play that Madden has been rejuvenated.

Basically, what we’re saying is this: comparing John Madden’s statbits from this season with where he’s been throughout his career, you end up with “average”. But comparing his tra-la-la-feelingsbits from this season with where he was last Spring, you come up with a massive improvement. Therefore, it is cogently evident that the salient points of our argument are:

Net-and-Trident Man

Title: Pollice Verso Source: Wikipedia

Okay, we think we’re also saying that John F. remains the king of the statistical analysis for the Devils, which is why In Lou We Trust is as good as it gets.

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IPB Hour Album Art

In the second episode of our podcast, The IPB Hour (Contents May Be Less Than An Hour), we address an important paradoxical question about the 07-08 New Jersey Devils: Is the team overachieving or underachieving?

Gentle Listener, if you’d like to subscribe to the IPB Hour, please click here. If you have questions or comments, please email us at interchangeablepartsblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

If you’re not podcasted out, we cannot recommend highly enough the new podcast coming out of Buffalo, SabreCast. It’s a joint project of the geniuses behind The Willful Caboose and Top Shelf. Katebits and Heather are the future of sports talk radio with their brutal honesty, intelligent reasonableness, and plucky enthusiasm. (In short, it’s the opposite of the IPB Hour!)

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Things are looking very bleak these days. The Devils have become putrescent of late; they show up for games, skate around pointlessly (both literally and figuratively) for a couple of hours, then wander away, leaving us wondering why we’re putting more effort into watching the games than they’re putting into playing them. We start off the games without hope, and yet still end them feeling crushed, depressed, and emotionally battered. There is no happiness or light with our beloved Devils.

Meanwhile, we had been finding some small solace in the meager beauty to be found in nature around stately IPB Manor’s stately grounds. Bringing a shred of joy to our miserable lives were the crocuses blooming out front:

crocussmall.jpg

It was only fitting, then, to step outside on this morning after the soulless effort put out by the Devils against the Rangers yesterday and discover that our crocuses were gone:

eatencrocussmall.jpg

At first we thought maybe the deer had gotten to them. Then we considered it might have been squirrels. But really, the culprit is a much more obvious one: it was the Hockey Gods. Yeah, that’s right — the Hockey Gods ate our spring flowers. Given how diabolical they’re being about the Devils season (did you see that Dawes goal?!) can there be any other explanation?

To put the sheer awfulness that is the Devils these days into perspective, Gentle Reader, we turn to Boomer. Our mother is a sweet, gray-haired, little old lady. She has worked as a homemaker, a bank teller and a school librarian. She is now retired, and spends her days volunteering with the blind and the elderly. She fills her free time with such grandmotherly hobbies as embroidery and gardening. Here she is, celebrating some of the bounty of her garden:

Boomer

Boomer in happier times

Look at that sunny disposition! Look at the twinkle in her eyes! Look at that irrepressible moxie (as evidenced by her “Glenn Ford” haircut and implied impish grin)! And what have the Devils, in all their apathetic tanking, reduced her to? This is what she proclaimed after last night’s game:

“It’s a good thing I wasn’t at the game tonight. That ‘You can’t beat us’ chant… I would have gone crazy. I would have been put in jail for assault. I would have been homicidal. I would have assaulted a little kid. ‘Hey, where’s a baby? So I can beat it up?’ I would have been like those urban legend fans [Caps fans are always talking about].”

So, Gentle Reader, that brings us to tonight’s game against the Flyers. We are expecting nothing but pain and misery. We’re sure the Devils will still be able to find a way to surprise us with exactly how much pain and misery it will entail. We’ll have an open thread, and will be here participating in it, but we won’t be writing a game diary this evening. Really, at this point, the diaries are writing themselves. Just imagine a post with entries every two minutes or so that say, “The Devils are playing well enough that it’s extravagantly frustrating that they’re losing, but badly enough that we don’t, at any moment, honestly think they’ll win.”

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Here we are, Gentle Reader, girding ourselves for yet another Devils-Rangers game. The Good Ship Devil has lately seemed like a ship stranded on a becalmed sea, having lost their last four games in increasingly depressing fashion. We are currently wondering which Devil is the Jonah; popular opinion at IPB Manor is that it’s Langer.

Our pregame chit-chat includes this gem from Chico: the Devils didn’t get a single second-chance shot against Pittsburgh in their last game. Not a single one. That is not a statement about the iron-clad defense of the Penguins. This team is killing us.

FIRST PERIOD

Before the drop of the puck, we get a massively long look at a scruffy Gomez on the Rangers bench. Other than demonstrating how much Gomer looks like a hobo when he doesn’t have a dress code to keep him in line, we’re not sure why MSG+ is showing us this. It’s Paulie’s 300th game! Let’s see some Paulie!

19:36 The circus is apparently in town, and after some talk about elephants, Chico chirps, “There are also tigers under the ice tonight! That’s how these teams want to play. Like tigers.” Pookie: “The Devils want to play like those lazy tigers that just lie around in the sun and let the females hunt for them.” Schnookie: “Those are lions.”
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Last week Scott Burnside and Damien Cox had another one of their regular “Even Stev(ph)en” columns for ESPN, and unlike the usual way we ignore them (seriously — ever since he wrote Marty’s “autobiography” for him, Cox has been an even bigger Devils apologist than we are, and Burnside is an ardent Devils-hater. Right there we know all we want to know about whatever dialogs they’re going to have: Cox is right and Burnside is wrong), we actually read this one. It was fairly benign nattering about the playoff races, with some boilerplate “these are the things that should be changed about the standings” crap, and it killed 45 seconds of downtime at work. We moved on, our worlds just as not-rocked as we expected them to be after reading the column.

Or so we thought. As it turns out, there was something to that column, a little kernel of annoyingness, that has been eating at us for days. We don’t have any problem with what they have to say about the teams involved, or even, really, with the suggestions they have for changing the playoff structure. No, what’s bugging us is this question from Cox:

“But couldn’t there be a way to introduce more drama to other parts of the standings in the final weeks?”

Is he kidding us? Seriously? We need to introduce more drama to playoff races? Come on. Isn’t that why we’ve been putting up with this asinine division-heavy schedule? Isn’t that why we’re all being hermetically sealed into our own divisions for the rest of the season, with league-approved blinders to block out any glimpse of teams on the outside, or, heaven forbid, the other conference? Isn’t that why we have the abomination that is the shootout “win”? How much more “drama” do we need?

We were working ourselves into a small tizzy about this, until suddenly we realized something: Burnside and Cox are hockey writers. Their job is to feed the 24/7 sports news beast. And unless the league is offering up a lot of drama that writes its own stories, that’s a job that requires a ton of work. Trust us — after a year of blogging, we’ve discovered that it’s not easy to think of new things to say every day, and we’re even willing to write posts about which fake mustache most suits which Devil, or what we think of the Acuvue flag-football commercial. We don’t want to sound here like we aren’t cognizant of the herculean labor that goes into finding interesting NHL news to write about. But you know what? The game isn’t here to make the sportswriters’ jobs easier. This is hardly a new and exciting complaint, and it’s certainly something we’ve dragged out before, but it just pisses us off to hear someone in the MSM whining about a lack of “drama”, because it seems like they’re talking about “drama” as an artificial construct. Why does every game have to be “huge”? How could that even happen? How can you make all 82 games on a team’s schedule “dramatic” without undermining the organic, genuine drama that’s part of the narrative of an entire season? How do you manufacture the races for all 16 playoff spots to be “dramatic” without watering down the drama of the situation altogether?

There are a lot of times when we read the work of veteran hockey writers and we really appreciate their take on a situation, or we find ourselves reconsidering our stance on a hot-button topic, or we just admire their writing. But there are just as many times when we wish they could remember that their audience exists because fans just love hockey. Obviously, everyone likes “drama”, but it shouldn’t be forgotten in the pursuit of “drama” that fans also just love the game; let the game speak for itself and drama will come.

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Tonight we get to find out if the debacle in Pittsburgh on Saturday was something a fan can just shrug off with a laugh and a “well, that happens,” or if that was a sign of greater problems with the Devils. You can probably guess, Gentle Reader, what we suspect is the case.

Of course, Patty’s back tonight, and with him comes the surprising news that the Devils have won only one of the six games he’s missed since the end of December. Who ever would have guessed? Also shocking? It’s Pando’s 700th game. PandoNation has rarely been more proud.

FIRST PERIOD

19:00 Okay, one minute gone, and still no score. Things are looking better since the last time we saw these two teams play.

17:43 The first huge defensive collapse happens here, with Malone getting in behind everyone on a great outlet pass from the Pens zone. He thinks he’s all that, though, and figures trying to get a good shot isn’t necessary. Marty proves him wrong.

17:18 The excitement of his 700th game is too much for Pando to bear, and he completely shanks a great opportunity in the slot following a very nifty shift by the Devils.
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