Here we go, Gentle Reader – it’s Game 2. We turn on the TV in time for the tail end of the Devils pregame show… with highlights from Game 1 as called by the Rangers broadcast. Thanks, MSG. We mute the rest of the show.
And we’re sad to report that the inevitable loss of Doc to the national broadcasts of the other series has finally happened. Steve’s attempt at a dramatic intro lacks Doc’s punch. We know. It’s surprising to hear. When we cut to Steve and Chico for their pregame banter, Chico is rocking at least a red tie, but Steve is following our lead and rocking no red. Yeah, Devils marketing sloganeers – it’s not working.
Chico gives us highlights of Gomez from Game 1, leading in with, “The guys in the truck have done a great job so we can show you what Scott Gomez does.” Schnookie: “I know what Scott Gomez does because he was a Devil for seven years.” When Chico calls him “The Galloping Ghost from the Alaskan Coast,” Pookie snorts, “That’s not what he is. He’s ‘The Slag-Faced Whore From Way Up Norrrrrrrth.’”
18:59 In Steve’s first play-by-play mention of Jagr, he makes it sound like he’s surprised that he’s in the lineup. We don’t think that’s what he meant by that intonation.
18:51 Straka lazily drags his stick behind himself in the offensive zone and trips Mottau. Pookie: “The Earth, she be smellin’ scorched.”
18:15 Hm. We’re not so sure about the scorched earth. Travis is out on the top unit with Zach and Patty, and fires a lousy pass to the point that Oduya can’t keep. Chico immediately starts heaping criticism onto Travis, and really, that’s a terrible sign. We’re not even two minutes into the game and even Chico is getting on him? Travis is just being unimaginably awful.
17:45 Chico tells us that Sutter is shaking up his PP units because he’s looking for “balance”. Pookie: “Putting Travis on the top unit brings them down to the second unit’s level, putting everything in balance.”
16:00 With the power play long gone, the game returns to its regularly-scheduled Rangers control. Pookie says happily, “This is more what I was expecting from Game 1, so I’m a lot more comfortable with it.”
15:45 Paulie goes all putrid and turns the puck over just outside the blue line, but Oduya does an awesome job of breaking up the Rangers two-on-one.
15:19 There is a long broken glass delay, and MSG+ gives us some looks at various players around the benches. Jagr has gone back to his meticulously groomed bikini wax chin hair, and after we get to soak up that poor choice of facial hair, we get an hilarious “compare and contrast” cut to Johnny Oduya’s amazingly robust full beard.
The delay goes on interminably. The two benches have emptied as the guys are all milling about to stay loose. Boomer: “The crew here at the Rock has gone to the local adult school to take a glass-blowing course to replace that pane.” (It turns out there’s some indeterminate problem with one of the penalty box doors.)
13:37 This game really doesn’t have the same pace as Game 1. At all. The Rangers go offsides, and Chico takes the opportunity to break down the previous rush by Gomez, to see if the Devils managed to defend it like the Sens did last Spring. Pookie: “Let’s see… first Whitey tried to break his arm… and then everyone else just stood around watching.” Yeah, that wasn’t how the Sens played him last year.
12:11 Gio strips Girardi at center ice, but his ensuing rush up the wing peters out into a misguided centering attempt to Pando rather than the usual “Gionta Special” shot from the faceoff dot.
11:03 Sutter’s master plan tonight? To match the Zach/Patty/Langer line against Gomez’s line, and Madden/Pando/Gio against the Drury’s. Well, we guess the Madden line didn’t exactly play lights-out D against Gomez in Game 1, did they?
10:31 Langer’s fired. Have we mentioned that yet? The teams trade odd-man rushes, and when Zach and Patty race down the ice on a long two-on-one, when Hank can’t play the rebound clean. However, Langer is, per usual, not actually looking for the puck in the blue paint, so he isn’t able to punch it into the net. Paulie’s lack of finish is back in full force, too, as he gets two more cracks at the puck after Langer does, but Hank holds fast.
8:41 We go to commercial after Marty is able to weather another storm of the “Greene/Salvador D-pairing is on the ice” variety.
6:16 Johnny Oduya has really come so far, hasn’t he? One of the positives we’re taking from this game tonight is that beauty of a clearing play off the glass there. At this time last year he would have fired it over the glass, if he could even break the lineup. Way to go, Oduya!
3:55 Pookie: “This game is no longer more interesting than I expected it to be.”
3:23 MSG+ gives us a statbits screen looking at great playoff contributions by rookies, specifically Don Maloney in whatever year he was a rookie and Gomez in 2000. This screen gives Pookie and Boomer fits, as Pookie snorts, “Maloney is their left wing?” and Boomer gargles, “I’d hardly call Gomez a rookie.” When Schnookie explains what the screen is saying, they both admit that they don’t listen to Steve and they don’t read statbit screens. If it had been a tra-la-la-feelings screen, that would be another story.
1:40 With Doc in absentia, Boomer offers up, “We’re in the last 100 seconds of the period.”
1:17 The Devils back-and-forth in their own zone without a Ranger forechecker in sight, and Steve mentions dryly that the pace has dropped off considerably. Yeah, no kidding.
0:39 Under pressure by Langer in the Rangers zone, Staal fires the puck over the glass, so it’s back to the scorching the earth and whatnot.
0:00 The period comes to an end with the Rangers fans chanting for Hank thanks to Langer being, once again, too close to the front of the net to get a point-blank shot through him. It’s Langer’s season in a nutshell.
We don’t need Dano and Chico to tell us that the Devils don’t look as good in this game as they did in Game 1 (which they lost, so… do the math), so we spend intermission cleaning up from dinner and beginning to feel the wine going to our heads.
Is the warranty on The Rock up tonight? The start of the period is held up by the goal light behind Hank’s net, which won’t turn off. Chico cracks, “The Devils are having trouble turning that light on.” (Pookie suggests the technical difficulties are this year’s Devils team’s version of painting the visiting dressing room the day of the game.)
18:41 Oduya has to race to keep the puck in when the rotating, one-man-at-the-point PP setup sets up nothing more than a blind drop-pass from Patty to a spot on the blue line where no man is even supposed to be. In other words, the carryover PP is not impressive.
18:19 Marty lunges to glove a lofted-in shot, and he’s jostled by Staal on the way down. Steve calls the ensuing pursuit by Whitey thusly: “And now Staal has a fistful of White.” Pookie suggests the Devils spaghetti western should be called “For A Few Whiteys More”.
16:37 Since the end of the Devils power play, the puck has been exclusively in the Devils defensive zone. Because the Devils are really good at second periods.
16:19 A broken play at center ice, spurred largely by Pando going headfirst into a Ranger’s elbow, yields a one-on-one rush for Gio. In an entirely predictable turn of events, Gio’s attempt at fine-tuning a shot up high leads to a drifting shot that sails about ten feet over the net. Maybe if they tried to shoot low, the Devils would miss and put their shots in the top corners?
15:16 Zach picks up a softly-played puck from a Ranger just outside the blue line, and slowly wheels into the offensive zone, before settling for a Gionta Special.
14:54 Patty takes the ice with Rupp and Zubrus for an offensive zone draw. Okay, if Sutter’s about to go crazy with line combinations, this could get interesting. At least from a “who the hell is on this line?” perspective.
13:50 After a Devils defender manages to break up a Rangers three-on-one, Steve and Chico remark about how Gio is out now with Pando and Madden. Apparently the earlier Frankenline with Patty may have been spurred by an injury, but no one has any idea which Devil is hurt.
13:18 Marty skates out hard after an incoming puck that Avery is sprinting toward, and while he gets to it first and plays it clean, he really looks to be trying too hard tonight. Pookie: “Marty really needs to calm down and pretend he’s playing the Blues or something.”
13:04 Zach goes down hard when challenging Backman at the point, and when he gets up after the whistle, we see that his mouth is now bloodied and full of broken teeth. Replay shows that the play was a blatant, full-on crosscheck with the butt end directly to the mouth. Backman has the gall to argue the call.
The camera follows Zach to the bench and we get to watch him shake his broken bits of tooth out of his mouthguard into a container held out for him by the trainer. Backman gets a double minor.
12:06 Zach takes to the ice after the first minute of PP is a crapfest. Pookie: “It’s a good thing he calls for the puck with his stick, because right now he sounds like the Bananagrabber.”
11:04 This power play is unimaginably awful. Paulie, who seems to have learned from Game 1 that trying is for losers, softly turns the puck over just outside his own blue line. How much more time is left in this game?
10:20 It’s been all downhill since the Paulie turnover. It’s hard to believe that this group of Devils was, at some points in this season, capable of playing good hockey.
9:04 Zach’s teeth gave their lives for this? As Chico goes on at length about how great the Rangers are at blocking shooting lanes, Pookie remarks, “It’s like they’re shooting at a brick wall. I just don’t even bother thinking their shots are going to get through.” Schnookie: “Well, it’s like they’re shooting at a brick wall even when there isn’t another team in front of them.” As if to prove the point, when MSG+ puts together a highlight reel of Rangers blocking shots, it’s kicked off with Patty blocking a Devils shot.
8:22 Zubrus gets called for slashing Avery’s stick in half. Schnookie: “So what are the chances the Rangers score here?” Pookie: “100%. Is there anything bigger than 100%?”
7:24 Marty freezes the puck on a play in front, and Whitey takes down Shanahan, leading to a testy shoving match that sends them both to the box for roughing. After that’s broken up, Langer tangles with Gomez at the point, hilariously putting Gomez into a headlock after Gomez after bumps into him and gives him some lip. (They both go to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. We’d call them matching minors for a sizable difference in scoring capacity in one direction, and testosterone in the other.)
6:17 Color us stunned – the Rangers don’t score on the PP.
6:00 Oh, well, no worries – the Rangers will make up for it now, thanks to Zubrus getting nabbed at center ice for a weak hooking infraction. MSG+ gives us a look at Zubrus as he wonders what the whistle is for, then screams, “What the fuck?!?” when he finds out it’s for him.
4:17 Madden and Pando get a long two-on-one after a brilliant chip play at the point by Pando to free the puck, but it’s not the first half of the season anymore, so they’re not automatic to score on those.
3:14 We are still discussing the Gomez/Langenbrunner exchange, and agree that, while Gomez is almost certainly going to be the one advancing past this round, Langer looked like ten times the man. Schnookie comments that it was not unlike a little kid getting put in his place by his father, and suddenly we’re bereft – “What would you give to see Scott Stevens dress for one game against Gomez?” Boomer: “He’d skate with his head up, that’s for sure.” Pookie: “How about Stevens and Dano?” If only.
2:14 Zach, Patty, Langer, Oduya and Paulie do a really nice job putting together a series of chances, but their sustained pressure is finally broken up by Zach trying to feed a pass into the crease from behind the net long after Langer has vacated that spot.
1:46 Steve tells us the Rangers have only two shots so far this period. Schnookie: “What do you want to be we go into the intermission down 1-0?” Pookie: “No bet.”
1:29 Hank freezes a soft, dumped-in shot from Zubrus that is followed up by an ice-shaving shower from Zubrus. A scrum ensues behind the net, and Zubrus and Dubinsky end up in a clinch that is almost literally a face-wash waltz. They’re both face-washing each other with one hand while clasping their other hands at shoulder height, and swaying back and forth. Once everything is broken up, it takes a while to sort out the penalties, and we see a long look at Langer skating back to the bench after talking with the officials. Schnookie: “Oh my god! He’s growing a Friesen mustache!” Pookie: “You know what this means.” Long pause as we consider how the Devils won the Cup last time they were skating with a Friesen mustache. Then she concludes, “Parlez vouz World Championships?”
0:28 The Devils do a nice job of collapsing in front of Marty and blocking an incoming Ranger shot, and at the end of the play, Avery decides to drift into Marty and fall on him. He gets called for goalie interference.
0:10 Any goodwill we might have gained for the Devils is all lost on a last-effort rush when Patty, leading the way over the Devils blue line, whips an emphatic backhand pass directly to a Ranger.
0:00 The buzzer sounds, and we get a look at a toothless Zach skating to the tunnel, miserably waggling his jaw around in the hopes of making his mouth more comfortable. It’s truly pathetic.
Dano echoes Boomer’s sentiments from earlier in the period when he becomes apoplectic with rage that there wasn’t a five minute major called on the cross-check to Zach’s mouth.
The period opens with a long, lingering shot of Zach and his pulpy, swollen mouth. He has an uncanny ability to make a broken tooth situation look unimaginably painful.
18:57 Chico mentions that the Devils PP to start things off here isn’t going well because “they haven’t found yet that person who can carry the puck into the Rangers zone without dumping it in.” If he’s trying to imply that Gomez used to be that guy, we’d like to direct his attention to the woeful power play rushes Gomez led during the Ottawa series last year.
17:11 Patty forces Staal to turn the puck over at the far boards, and then tips a nifty little bank pass to Langer, who then leads Zach for a nice shot from well out. Hank stops the shot with his chest, and Schnookie sighs sadly, “Poor Zach. He wanted to be the toothless hero.”
15:44 It looks like the wheels are falling off, as they are wont to do in the third period of Devils/Rangers games, but Marty makes a great sweeping glove save to stop things.
15:34 Of course, the Devils can’t be bothered winning the ensuing defensive zone draw, and Jagr scores on an incredible, spinning shot as he skates around from behind that net, catching Marty up high just as Whitey brushes too close to the goal post and pushes Marty’s arm off it to create a puck-sized hole. 1-0 Rangers.
15:11 And of course the Devils can’t be bothered showing up after giving up the first goal, and lose another defensive zone draw, break down in their coverage, and give up a goal to Avery in the slot. 2-0 Rangers.
14:05 We’re remarkably mellow about this game, and Pookie puts it best when she says, “They’re losing tonight because the entire team is playing badly. That’s much easier to handle.”
12:18 Boomer, ever the glass-is-half-full kind of fan (HA!), says, “At least they held the Rangers off for the first two periods.” Well, that’s not necessarily a good thing, considering the season series was wicked close, but the Rangers still had a 10-1 goal lead in the third period coming into tonight. Uh, make that 12-1 now.
11:15 The tension is very thick at stately IPB Manor, as Pookie earlier called a 2-0 Rangers final, but Schnookie called at the start of the third a three-goal Rangers period. Will either of us be right? The clock’s moving so slowly, and we can’t wait to find out!
10:07 The Devils are looking solidly beaten, turning the puck over weakly every time they gain the Rangers zone, and suddenly the Rangers are on a rush and tossing a bad-angle, ricocheting shot that Marty has to acrobatically stop. Steve points out that the ricochet toward the net was actually a kick, “so the goal wouldn’t have counted.” Pookie: “Oh, it would have counted.”
9:28 Whitey elbows Dubinsky in the head at the near boards, but we guess the officials are just as interested in getting to the end of this one to see whose final score call was right, so they let it go.
6:56 We’d fire Madden for not being able to convert on a scrambling pursuit of a loose puck in the crease, but we don’t really care anymore. The puck remains loose for several long moments with Gio and Madden “going after it” before the whistle finally blows. Pookie: “I don’t understand why every time there’s a scrum for a loose puck in the crease, a Devils forward immediately falls over and lands on the puck.” Chico watches the replay and marvels at Hank’s “million-dollar legs”, as he stretches his left leg to meet the puck right at the goal line. Pookie: “Yeah, he’s the Mary Hart of the NHL.”
There’s a long delay as Toronto reviews the play, but it’s pretty clear that the puck didn’t completely cross the goal line before Hank’s pad pushed it back out and over to safety. We can’t be bothered trying to convince ourselves that it should have counted, because the War Room has well and truly broken our spirits by now anyway.
6:06 Paulie leads a rush, doing his version of coast-to-coast, and Hank bests his shot from the high slot. Chico points out that the Devils are now going to have to get their D involved in carrying the puck more “because when you carry the puck out of the zone with speed, it’s hard to defend.” Pookie: “Yeah, but if you leave it on Paulie to have to finish, he’ll defend himself.”
4:40 Paulie tries to be the puck carrier again after a flurry of Rangers shots, but he leaves the puck behind in the slot for a surprised Ranger. Poor Putrid Paulie, trying to win this series all by himself.
3:21 The teams mill about in the neutral zone after a flurry of “offensive zone pressure” by the Patty/Langer/Zach line that is broken up by Patty passing up on an open shot to dish off to Langer. Schnookie: “This is the most impressively subtle coach killing ever.”
2:29 After a good chance by the fourth line passes by without really threatening, Chico tells us “you have to give the Devils credit.” Us, in exasperated unison: “For what?!?” He elaborates that they’re “still fighting”, and getting their “best offense” of the night here when the game seems to be out of reach. Pookie: “That’s saying more about how bad they were earlier in the game, that this is their best offense of the game.”
1:57 The one satisfying twist of this series is highlighted by Chico. As he shows us the stifling defense in front of their net, he comments that there was a time when the Rangers used to complain about the defensive system of the Devils, and then says blandly that, well, that’s how the Rangers are winning now. It’s kind of nice to see all those Rangers fans, who spent the last ten years proclaiming that they’d rather have an offensive-minded team that loses than a defensive-minded team that wins, discovering that it’s actually a lot nicer to have the latter.
1:23 WOOOOOOOO!!!!! The Devils score their very first goal of the year with the extra attacker and Marty on the bench, as Patty rips a low shot from above the faceoff circle that Madden tips through Hank. Pookie: “See that??? See that, Devils? It was a low shot! Quit it with the fine tuning!”
0:53 The Devils line up for an offensive zone draw after a Rangers icing, with the extra attacker, and when they win it and look to be gaining possession, our Captain Fuck This Shit adds another exhibit to our case for finding a new captain by taking a lazy, fat, obvious holding-the-stick penalty. Nice one, Langer.
0:35 Sutter, Madden, the entire Devils bench, and every Devils fan in the building is apoplectic when the officials blow the whistle when a Ranger touches the puck behind the goal line after a long Devils dump-in… and call icing. On the Devils. On the penalty kill. On the penalty kill. What in the fucking fuck? It’s not like the Devils are going to win this game, but what the fuck kind of fucking officiating is that? The faceoff has to come out to center ice now, and really. This is the playoffs. It’s not Junior Pairs ’82. There are missable calls that you can just let go, and then there’s blatant incompetence. That’s just terrible. Whoever that was who called that icing had better not be moving on to the next round.
0:00 The game ends 2-1 Rangers, with the Devils furious about the icing call and an uncalled cross-check/board by Roszival on Zach behind the net in the waning seconds. Chico’s head is exploding, too, but really, guys – where was the passion earlier in the game? The positive we’ll take from this is that at least we have shitty officiating in the final minutes to give us something to bitch about and distract us from the fact that the Devils no longer even vaguely resemble the team that was good enough to be in first in the conference a month ago.