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.
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.
15:56 In a discussion of the third period in Pittsburgh, Chico goes out on a limb by saying it was the worst period of hockey the Devils have played all year. He says that the Devils were so awful for all twenty minutes of it that it looked like they were running to get out position the whole time.
15:51 Patty gets his first angry, glaring headshake from Sutter since his injury thanks to taking a moronic interference penalty while absolutely nothing is happening in the Devils zone. Great, Patty. We’re so glad to have you back.
14:42 Malone, having learned on his breakaway that just standing there with the puck isn’t enough to beat Marty this time around, gets a chance to one-time a shot in the slot, and buries it. 1-0 Penguins. We are not pleased to have Chico point out that giving up that shot is becoming a pattern for the Devils PK; as Pookie says, “I don’t ever expect our PK to be the problem, so it’s always upsetting when it is.”
12:37 Malkin gets tripped to the ice by Pando while carrying the puck over his own blueline, then gets slashed at twice by Gio. And, um, nothing is called.
11:55 Travis, Asham and Sarge all take turns looking puck-hungry and sassy in the offensive zone, but everything grinds to a halt when Asham tries to blindly cycle the puck back to the point… that Brookbank has just vacated.
10:55 Zach is running around a bit in the offensive zone, prompting Pookie to say, “That’s good. Zach looks like he’s starting to try to hit. Which means that eventually he will actually hit. Which means he will eventually score.”
10:30 Hossa looks like he’s going to bust through the D and get in alone on Marty, but Oduya is hounding him step-for-step on the rush, and then Paulie dives from behind him to knock the puck away with a sweeping stick check. All across PaulieMartinNation there is swooning in the streets.
7:56 Doc: “The crowd is not restless. Not bored. Just quiet right now.” As it is at stately IPB Manor, too.
6:59 There is a whistle when a Pens shot is deflected into the netting, and MSG+ gives us a graphic screen celebrating Pando. One of his notable stats is that he hasn’t missed a playoff game since 1998. Pookie: “That’s more than I can say.”
5:15 Travis does a great job forcing a turnover behind Fleury’s net, but Asham isn’t paying any attention in the low slot, and isn’t ready for Travis’ feed. Would it kill the Devils to practice being aware of their surroundings and the location of the puck when they’re going to the net? Isn’t that kind of the point of going to the net?
4:17 A very close offsides call is made when Mottau just barely fails to keep the puck at the point. After the whistle, Zach stands, minding his own business, at the faceoff circle while a Penguin absently-mindedly glides into him. Pookie is livid: “HEY! Zach was just standing there and that Penguin skated up to him and knocked him over. Whoever that Penguin was, I HATE HIM.”
2:02 Maxie gets called for a kind of phantom high stick on the forecheck, and the Devils PP – 2 for its last 20, apparently – gets to go to work.
1:28 As the Devils repeatedly try and fail to gain the blue line, Chico unironically remarks that the Devils should be doing well here because they have their “five best offensive players” on the ice right now.
0:32 Pookie: “All right. So our five best offensive players are… not that good.” The crowd is not being quiet anymore.
0:00 The fans are the loudest they have been all evening, showering the Devils with boos after the buzzer. And really, while it was hardly a period like the third in Pittsburgh, this was not a period for the ages.
Dano’s assessment of the first period has the same sort of vibe to it as a parent telling their young child that the beloved family dog has gone to live on a big farm where it can run and play all day, and eat ice cream and steak whenever it wants. Dano, we don’t believe you.
Before play resumes, we are treated to “vintage” footage (complete with smoke machine effects) of the “original” Chuck The Duck. As the Devils look more and more like a team that is going to slip quietly into the night, it is becoming increasingly likely that we will remember the 2007-2008 season as The Year Of Chuck The Duck. Chuck is sublime.
20:00 Zubrus and Orpik got coincidental cross-checking minors at the end of the first. Doc seems to think the Devils have been good at 4-on-4 this year, but we think he’s making that up.
18:53 As the teams mill about, Chico reports that the Devils had 10 missed shot opportunities (either from shooting wide or being blocked) in the first period, and the Pens had none. “The Devils really need to concentrate,” he says. This team? Concentrate? Pfft.
17:30 Vish-Dog gets a shot through traffic, and it is mentioned that he’s in the lineup tonight because Salvador is out. Pookie mumbles to herself, “Oh no. How ever will we play without the Iron Boar?” Pause. “The I. Ron Boar. Heh heh.”
15:25 Clarkson gets a shot from outside, but it doesn’t help. This really doesn’t look like a Devils team that is trying to win a hockey game.
14:02 It seems Patty is not the savior we were hoping he’d be, as he circles deep in the New Jersey zone, builds up a head of steam, looks like he’s planning to mount a dazzling offensive rush… then dishes straight to a stationary Penguin at the Pittsburgh blue line.
13:27 The crowd gets its first chance to buzz on a Devils possession in the Penguins zone, but the swirling sequence in front of the net ends up counting on Vish-Dog being able puck-handle through defenders and stay on his feet. Unsurprisingly, he can’t do either.
11:47 The Penguins are discovering that they can give the Devils their zone all night, and no ill will come of it. As we watch Oduya crank a booming point shot directly into the shin pads of the defender ten feet in front of him, Schnookie sighs, “This is going to be the easiest shutout of Fleury’s career.”
11:34 Brookbank puts the puck into a wide open net, but the official immediately waves it off, because the net was empty thanks to Asham having barreled into Fleury right before the shot. Now, we are huge fans of the concept of waving off goals without calling goalie interference, but in this case, we’re actually surprised there was no penalty on Asham to go with the no-goal call. If the teams had been reversed, we would have really wanted a penalty on that one.
8:57 There is some discussion at stately IPB Manor about whether the Devils are looking bad or good so far tonight. We conclude that they don’t look awful, but they don’t look great either. It seems that every time they do something good, it’s an isolated event; there’s no follow-up, or building on it, or anything like that. As a result, even while they’re not looking puke-tastic, the 0-1 hole looks insurmountable.
7:34 It’s been a while since the Devils have been pinned in their own zone, so the Malkin line takes to the ice to remedy the situation.
5:34 We watch, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, as Rupper’s one-man foray into the Pens zone is effortlessly stopped by some stand-up work by the defenders. Pookie sighs, “It’s just so easy to push the Devils off the puck.”
4:34 Malone takes a tripping penalty. We do not perk up at the prospect of a power play.
4:15 Schnookie hits the nail on the head when she says, “I don’t feel like the Devils are bad. I think they’re weak.” We feel like “bad” is something you can try to think of ways to fix, but we’re not sure what to do with “weak”.
2:34 If the Devils – both collectively and individually – didn’t look so terrified of trying things on offense, that power play might not have sucked.
1:28 We’re told that Sutter is yammering at the officials, and Pookie suggests he’s saying, “My team sucks. The offense sucks, the defense sucks, the power play can’t do diddly-pooh…” She trails off, then, sort of absently, renames the team, “The New Jersey Diddly-Poohs.”
0:00 The period ends with a shot of Sutter on the bench wearing an identical expression to the ones we have. This game has completely and utterly broken our spirits.
Steve and Dano say they were surprised to discover there is a rule that allows for goals to be waved off when the goalie is interfered with, without a penalty being called. You know, this gets called regularly enough that there is no excuse at this point for the TV people to sound so amazed when it happens.
“Chico Eats!” starts tonight with some Marines asking Chico what he’s eating. Then we get to see Chico trying some chin-ups, and he hilarious can’t jump to catch the bar. He has a chicken and pesto panini that is the first foodstuff in quite a while on “Chico Eats!” that sounds tasty to us. Chico is very proud of himself for sharing his panini with a Pens fan.
18:23 Apparently Whitney has been moved up to play checking winger against the Devils’ “top line”. Pookie: “Why waste the effort? I mean, really.” Pause. “Oh look! The Penguins put an old ball of tape against the top line, and it’s working!”
17:11 Travis is tripped off the puck in front of the net, and it looks for a moment like nothing is going to be called, but the official at center ice finally calls it. Laraque is sent to the box, but it looks on replay like some other Pen was the guilty party.
16:53 Chico cautions that the Devils can’t let this opportunity slip away, because they won’t get many more like it. Pookie: “That’s why the Devils are saying, ‘Oh, we can let this slip away. There are plenty more opportunities where this came from.’”
15:15 Patty makes a great backhand pass to Zach down low, and Zach flips a gorgeous saucer pass over a sprawling defender to find Langer all alone on the other side of the crease, but there is no way this team manages a quick shot after two good passes, so Langer takes plenty of time to let Fleury get across the goal mouth.
13:54 We come back from commercial to see Asham in the penalty box. We aren’t sure what the penalty is for, because MSG+ is busy showing us footage of the Pens giving up shorties in their last two games. If MSG+ thinks they’re fooling anybody…
13:03 Perhaps the best chance of the night for the Devils actually comes on this penalty kill. Fleury leaves a huge-assed rebound in the crease, but Langer, per usual, is too slow-witted to pounce on it.
11:54 That penalty kill was by far the best two minutes of offense for the Devils in this entire game. (Doc also tells us the call was for too many men.)
10:36 Paulie shakes a forechecker in the corner to Marty’s left with a few spin moves, prompting Schnookie to wake up and exclaim, “Nice! That was Paulie’s double-buttonhook! Paulie’s like, ‘I was going to do the triple, but no one’s ever successfully landed a triple in game action.’”
9:02 Mottau tries to make something happen by stepping up and skating through the defense, but when it looks like he’s beaten everyone back, he opts for a drop pass to Gio above the faceoff dot. Gio gets a decent shot off, but needless to say, there is no one trying to take advantage of Fleury’s struggles with the rebound.
8:13 Patty, Zach, Langer and Paulie finally realize there’s a hockey game going on. They manage some great work around the Pens zone, and even chip a few decent shots netward, but again, always with the not being quite in the right place to jam loose pucks home.
6:03 Patty is trying to do the whole “going into the offensive zone with speed” thing, but he isn’t watching where he’s going and gets operatically tripped ass over teakettle. Or, as Boomer puts it, “ass over handbucket”.
4:07 Pookie, sadly: “At the seven-minute mark, they actually looked like they might be able to tie this up. Now… they don’t.”
3:36 Zach gains the zone up the wing, then dishes to a Pen in the high slot. Pookie: “Zach needs to be benched for the rest of this game. I have returned my Zach goggles and demanded a full refund.”
1:05 The Devils have the extra attacker on. We’re engaged in a heated debate on how hard the Devils are or aren’t playing at the moment. Boomer is frustrated because she thinks the Devils are doing their standard “play hard only for the last five minutes of the game”. Pookie and Schnookie are extra-frustrated, because they think the Devils played their hardest at the ten-minute mark, and will have spent the last five minutes looking a lot less intense, as if not scoring during their “good” stretch of five minutes was so disheartening that they don’t want to bother anymore.
0:41 Hossa scores into the empty net after the Devils give up possession in the offensive zone without a fight. Nice fucking effort, assholes. 2-0 Pens.
0:00 And so the sun sets on the 10th game in which the Devils have been shutout this season, and the 10th easy shutout at that. That was one of the most depressing showings we’ve seen all year from an up-and-down team that’s given us plenty of depressing.