Hey ho, Gentle Reader! It’s our first game diary of the new season! WOO HOO! We wanted to post a travelogue of our trip to the home opener, but thanks to these brutal back-to-backs, we’re putting that on hold until tomorrow. We’ll be updating this post in the intermissions, and if the intro to the pre-game show is any indication, it should be a roller-coaster ride of an evening tonight (Steve Cangialosi told us to stay tuned for his conversation with Bobby Holik [us: “GROAN!”] and then a close examination of what Jay Pandolfo means to the Devils [us: “WHEE!”]).
In the meantime, please do enjoy the open thread!
Okay, fuck you, MSG+/Cablevision, and your fucking refusal to give us this game in HD. FUCK. YOU. Ahhh, we’re in a good mood already! Doc and Chico are chit-chatting about last night’s game, and we think they’re saying that Paulie and the Iron Boar are an “emerging shut-down pairing”, but we’re not sure, because this feed seems like something we’d be pulling off rabbit ears. Chico tries to soothe our troubled souls by insisting Paulie is one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. Sometimes we find Chico’s gentle-hearted homerism laughable, but other times we just sigh happily, “Aw, Chico.”
(We spend the commercial break between the pregame and the first period flipping between all the channels that are theoretically showing this game on DirecTV. None of them have it in HD. But the Islanders are in HD. Being the red-headed stepchild is so wonderful. Someday when we win the lottery, we’re going to start a corporation that will own the Devils as well as the Rangers’ broadcast rights, and then we’ll shunt the Rangers onto the standard definition channels on every overflow night.)
19:19 We are discussing being cranky today, and Pookie is trying to get Schnookie to let her bad mood go: “In with Jesus, out with Satan. In with Paulie, out with Salvador.” Pause. “The Iron Boar is my lightning rod of hate on the blueline. I just don’t feel like he’s a Devil.” Boomer says, “I don’t think he deserves that,” and Pookie chirps, “He doesn’t! But I can’t help it!”
18:48 The defense is not looking awesome, as Talbot finds himself wide open in the high slot, and it is only thanks to his inability to hit the net that this game isn’t 1-0 Pens.
17:26 The Iron Boar makes a great play stripping a Pen in the near corner. Schnookie: “That was a nice play!” Pookie: “No it wasn’t!”
17:00 Chico’s excited because Sid’s grandparents have made their first trip to see Sid play in the NHL tonight. Really? It took him this long to get them tickets? Pookie suggests they’re only here tonight because they think Zach is such a nice boy.
14:58 As the Poppers put together some rather ineffectual work along the boards in the Pens zone, we feel like Zach looks like he’s half the player he was last night. We imagine he’s saying, “I say, these laurels are very comfortable! I’m going to rest on them for a while now. Boxworthy! Come fluff these laurels for me!”
14:45 Whitey bests Sid on a partial break situation, because he is just that much better an all-around hockey player. Or because Sid’s trying too hard to impress his grandparents.
13:34 Rupp and Godard fight for no reason other than to remind us that often, fighting in hockey is stupid. It doesn’t look as entertaining as this:
12:44 The Poppers have a nifty shift moving the puck around sharply through the Pens zone, and the sequence of encouraging shot attempts is ended by Travis whiffing completely in the slot. There are times when he looks like he’s not afraid of the acorn, and then times when he looks like he needs another shot of Hatcher saliva.
11:52 The crowd gets all excited for a Pens 3-on-2, but they weren’t counting on Paulie. Pookie describes the play best: “He was like a Transformer, and he turned into a wall.” We had been joking during last night’s game in Newark that Paulie has been working on a secret move called The Silver Gopher, and we’re hoping that was its debut – he shut down the odd-man rush by turning into a Jersey barrier that stopped not the puck, but the puck carrier, while spinning and sweeping the puck to safety. We love The Silver Gopher!
9:31 Langer manages to defuse a troubling development on the far boards in the Devils zone, where three Pens converged on Paulie and forced a turnover. After gaining the puck, the Pen closest to the blue line politely shoves a gentle backhand right onto Langer’s stick, and Doc posits that Langer had called for it. You can hear his spreading grin over the airwaves as he says innocently, “Remember that time John Madden did that here?” Oh yes, Doc. Do we ever.
9:02 Doc is comparing Satan and Hossa, and remarks that one of the differences between the two players is that Satan doesn’t have quite as much “tenacity, especially late in the season.” Pookie: “I love Doc. He’s so diplomatic while also being so unbelievably passive-aggressive.”
8:31 Gio is fired. He hooks a Pen to the ice as he’s coming out from behind Fleury’s net. And to think he was so functional as a hockey player last night.
8:08 It figures. Satan scores when a shot from the high point pinballs between Iron Boar’s and Staal’s feet in front of the net, then skids out to the side while Marty has no idea where it’s gone. 1-0 Pens.
7:22 The Poppers come out for the all-important first shift after a goal, and buzz all over in front of the net, but aren’t able to capitalize on a hapless Fleury. Then Langer gets shoved into the end boards and spins around, petulantly slashing at the offending Pen’s stick. Needless to say, he gets called for slashing. Because he’s such a good captain.
5:48 Pando gets tripped behind the play while Madden is carrying the puck Fleuryward on the PK, and Doc reports emphatically that he’s limping. PandoNation gnashes its teeth and rends its garments.
5:16 Chico says that the Devils are “back on their heels a little bit right now”, but says we should all have expected the Pens to come out hard tonight. He adds that you just don’t want things to “become a disaster”, giving up “two, three, or even four goals here.” The Devils promptly turn the puck over behind Marty’s net. Pookie: “Cue: the Devils giving up two, three, or even four goals here.”
2:35 PandoNation lets out its collective breath, as its emperor-god is back on the ice, shooting way wide. Everything’s normal and right in the world again.
2:00 Zubrus completely flattens Cooke, rendering our assertion last night that he’s a “gentle giant” and “a lover, not a fighter” totally wrong. Pookie: “Zubrus is like, ‘Oh my god! I’m a hater, not a lover!’”
0:00 The period comes to an end with the teams scuffling behind Fleury’s net, and Patty’s at the middle of it. He was probably trying to give unwelcome hugs again.
We get an interview with the Iron Boar, and he is adorable. Or maybe a-boar-able. (See what we did there?) He’s smiley, and has fluffy eyelashes, and loves being a Devil, and Pookie suddenly cries out, “I’m sorry! He’s wonderful! I love the Iron Boar!” We are now taking auditions for our new lightning rod of hate on the blue line. Maybe Gionta can move to D?
It seems Patty picked up the only roughing minor from that end-of-period scrum. Because he’s such a good former captain.
19:13 Malkin fumbles the puck at the high point, and a broken sequence up through the neutral zone turns into a Madden shot attempt from the faceoff dots. This is not quite the juggernaut of a PP as what the Pens were displaying in the first period.
18:40 Zach is flinging his half of the BFF locket on the ice in a huff, because Travis is out on the PK. And while nothing at all seems to be going on in the play, somehow Sid manages to get called for interference for it. (Replay later shows that it was his patented “clipping a guy at the blue line” play.)
18:00 Chico informs us that Rollie didn’t have much ice time in the first period, “so his arms will be fresh” for shooting on this PP. Riiiiiiiiiiight.
17:05 Rollie’s fresh arms don’t help much when the Pens get a rink-length two-on-one. (Malkin tips the puck just wide. UPDATE Replay later shows that the two-on-one was broken up gorgeously on a little display of backchecking artistry, as Patty reached in at the very last second from behind Malkin and tipped the incoming pass safely into the corner.)
16:36 Rollie’s fresh arms pass the puck from the near corner to a vacant point. Chico chortles nervously and says this is “a power play that’s not functioning very well… and now it’s over.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
15:36 The puck flubbers around the neutral zone, back and forth, as it appears we’ve entered the stage of this game where both teams have forgotten how to play hockey.
13:18 Clarkson and Gill fight. Considering Clarkson is half Gill’s height, we’re going to admit this fight is pretty entertaining. And even better, the Pens fans end up booing it because Gill doesn’t manage to pound the smaller man into the ice. We agree with Chico’s assessment: “Hm.”
11:58 Chico is telling us now that the Devils are, on occasion getting good puck possession in the offensive zone, moving the puck well around the boards, and getting the puck moving across the crease, “but they’re getting no luck – or don’t have enough skill – to get their sticks on those pucks.” We’ll go with the latter.
11:05 Marty makes a huge save on a bang-bang set-up when a Pen (we think Sid) at the side of the net stops an incoming, wide-angle shot, then fires the puck sharply out to a wide-open teammate at the top of the slot.
10:37 Dupuis hooks Salmela, tempting fate by putting the scorched-earth power play of the Devils back on the ice.
9:04 We like Rolston at the PP point – really we do – but we’re afraid there’s going to be a long learning curve for the other guys. After some awkward early stages, the PP sets up and starts moving the puck sharply around the zone, building up to a crescendo that collapses in on itself when Rollie’s “Fuck This Shit”-style shot is blocked in front… by the two Devils who are supposedly there to tip it, or screen Fleury. One thing we’ve learned about the Johnny-Mac-Behind-The-Bench Era is that there is not a single Devils forward who knows how to productively park in front of the net.
7:20 The Pens fans are sure the game’s going 2-0 when Sid and Satan scream down the ice on a two-on-one, but Satan tips Sid’s across-the-crease feed wide. And just think, Pens fans – he loses tenacity as the season progresses!
6:03 So much for Sutter’s commitment to his set lines. Patty’s skating with Holik and Zubrus. Patty also probably thinks this is a promotion for Holik and Zubrus.
3:56 The Sid line pins the Devils in their own zone (we don’t like the Iron Boar anymore, after his lackadaisical handling of a lackadaisical pass leads to an easy turnover), and the sequence culminates with a Clarkson penalty for tripping Sid. We are debating whether we think this one’s going to end up 2-0 Pens, or 3-0.
1:56 If we were attending this game, we’d be standing up and cheering that PK right now. That was awesome, awesome, awesome tenacious penalty killing by the Devils. And if we were attending this game and standing up and cheering that PK right now, we’d be getting pelted by beer-soaked mousepads. But that’s how you know you’re in Pittsburgh.
1:15 Zach’s having flopsweats because he’s skating with Holik and Zubrus now. He’s probably in a panic thinking, “I haven’t been a fourth liner since Larry Robinson was my coach!” Sutter’s going to spend the entire second intermission listening to Zach’s pathetic whining, demanding to know what he did wrong and how to fix it, and you know what? That’s Sutter’s own fault.
0:18 Travis is trying to be good, but it’s not his fault that his gorgeous cross-zone pass on a two-on-one isn’t converted into a goal because Langer doesn’t manage anything better than a weak-willed, apathetic swing-and-a-miss while trying to one-time it.
0:00 Jiminy Cricket! Doc tells us after the buzzer that the Devils outshot the Pens 15-4 in that period. That seems… impossible. Doc also has to kill some time before Clarkson joins Steve for an interview, and tells us about which Devils are approaching milestones. He emphatically tells us that Langer is just 20 goals from 200 on his career, and Pookie says just as emphatically, “So that’s three or four years from now!”
(As for Clarkson’s interview, Pookie remarks, “I would never be able to interview him, because I’d just say, “Clarkson, you have a beautifully-shaped head. Talk about that.”)
We are “treated” to Steve’s morning interview with Petr Sykora. Dear Devils, Stop trying to make us care about ex-Devils we were happy to see leave! Thanks. Love, The Ookies.
Before play starts, we see footage of Doc throwing out the first pitch at a Pirates game this summer. He and Chico have a marvelous laugh at the whole thing, and Schnookie nearly passes out from the combination of her two favorite things in sports: Doc, and mascots wearing special mascot outfits (the Pirates parrot is wearing a rain slicker in the footage).
17:35 We reemerge from our Doc-throwing-out-the-first-pitch tizzy to realize the third period has started. Things are very sedate on the ice, as both teams are being a bit deliberate right now.
16:48 Following an eminently stoppable Holik shot (yes, that’s redundant, but this one was especially easily stopped), Rupp and Godard get matching roughing minors out of a wee little scrum.
16:15 Chico is telling us that the Devils are in great shape on this 4-on-4, and that it’ll be great to score here, because the Devils are ill-served to wait too long in tying the game up. Pookie: “Wow. Chico’s doctor has really upped his crack prescription.”
16:01 Rollie forces a turnover in the Devils zone, then chugs up the ice, dragging two Pens behind him, and gets hooked while trying to cut to the net. Scuderi goes to the box, and we gird ourselves for the 4-on-3.
14:18 Paulie tries to unleash his other new signature move, The Platinum Gopher, which is a shrugging sort of rush up the ice as he realizes the other players aren’t coming with him, then firing a low wrister from a ways out that nearly handcuffs Fleury. It’s a sneaky move, and we hope to see him fine-tune it in the months to come.
13:40 We come back from commercial to see Johnny Mac talking on the bench with Rollie and Patty. The conversation is probably going something like this:
Patty: How about next time we’re out there, I go to the front of the net and try to screen Fleury while Rollie shoots from up high.
Rollie: Great plan! And you could even try tipping a shot or something, if the cards all fall the right way!
Patty: That would be awesome! We totally need a goal right now, and that seems like a really good use of your cannon shot, for which the Devils paid so much on the free agent market this summer.
Rollie: It’s kind of one of my best attributes, and one of the ways I can best help this team win.
Johnny Mac: No, no, no!! Are you guys stupid??? Patty, you just stand dumbly in front of the net like I taught you to. And Rollie, you just shoot the puck right into him. Sheesh. It’s not rocket surgery.
12:00 Orpik hooks Zach in the armpit, and Zach smartly hangs onto the stick and draws the hooking penalty. The Pens fans calmly dip their mousepads in their beers and ready themselves to hurl them toward the ice.
10:11 Pookie: “All right, we’re not winning this game.” Yeah, Langer and Zach both have wide-open nets with Fleury scrambling helplessly, and both manage to shoot parallel to the goal line and directly into Fleury with their chances. The Pens fans start chanting “Fleury! Fleury!”, but probably just because it’s more rhythmic than chanting “Thanks, Devils forwards, for being panicked and lubberly!”
9:00 Dude, Chico has just admitted that he also doesn’t think the Devils are going to score tonight. Chico. It’s just that bad. So if you didn’t watch this game, and read how many saves Fleury made, take note that not a single one of them was a difficult save, and even the Devils biggest cheerleader was confident midway through the third period that, no matter how many more shots they toss toward the net, the Devils are not actually threatening anything.
8:15 The Pens get their first good chances in ages when they take advantage of Zubrus breaking his stick in the defensive zone. As the Devils try to hold their ground, Doc remarks that Zubrus is too far from the bench to get a new stick. Schnookie: “Oduya’s like, ‘Oh, just go to the bench and get a new one. That’s what I always do.’”
6:42 Oduya beats Talbot for an icing touch-up, and they both crash heavily into the boards. Weren’t there rule changes this year to take heavy, awkward hits on icings out of the game?
5:14 Pookie: “We’re getting shut out 15 times this year.” Schnookie: “I’m actually excited that we’re on pace to get shut out 41 times this year. Do you suppose Marty’d win the Hart if the Devils make the playoffs after getting shut out 41 times?”
3:20 If this game ends 1-0 on a Satan goal, it’ll be because Satan brought the Islanders mojo with him to Pittsburgh.
2:36 The Devils get the puck down low in front of Fleury, then run their own play into the ground by crashing repeatedly into each other. Pookie: “If I was in charge of the Devils I wouldn’t have them practice the power play. I’d have them practice not skating into each other. See, coaches don’t think of this, but I do.”
2:29 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What in the hell??? Patty whips the puck blindly from the near corner, and it ricochets perfectly off Gill’s feet into the net. 1-1 game. Chico tells us this was the Devils executing their game plan to perfection, and Boomer says, “Yeah, their game plan was to sit back and wait for Gill to put it into his own net.”
0:00 Madness! Madness!
4:24 The Pens call a timeout, and we suspect the Devils coaching staff will spend this break diagramming own-goals for Gill.
3:53 Zach deftly cuts off an outlet pass by the Pens, but can’t calm the puck down as he zips down the far wing. Gill heaves a huge sigh of relief, because he’s not quite sure he can beat Fleury twice in one game when he’s in a zone like this.
3:15 The Pens manage a weak shot that Marty blockers away, and they get a sarcastic cheer from the crowd. Heh heh heh.
1:36 Malkin wipes out while buttonhooking above the faceoff dots, and Gio is sprung up the far wing on a semi-break by the Devils d-man who pounces on the puck, but Gio’s attempt at a rocket of a gamewinner hits Fleury in the crest. As expected.
0:37 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whitey is cool as ice stopping a 3-on-2 Pens rush, just calmly putting his stick on the puck while the Pen is thinking he’s about to pass, and the puck gets chipped to Travis in the corner. Travis then lobs a perfect pass over the Pens D to a streaking Zach, who then chips a shot over Fleury’s shoulder for the winner. 2-1 Devils. And while it’s not quite as cute as the pileup for an Elias OT goal (that’s the cutest thing in hockey), the heap of grinning Devils leaping onto Travis and Zach is enough to make us forget all about everything that happened earlier in this game. What a wonderful night of hockey! WOOOOOOOO!