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Archive for November, 2008

Now that it’s after Thanksgiving, that means it’s full-time Christmas Season! WOOOO! It also means the quarter mark of the NHL season has passed, so Santa has a substantial enough body of work to assess when he makes his list of which Devils have been naughty and which have been nice. Sure, he’s still got a month or so to check the list twice, so these are entirely unofficial results, but we’re proud to say that we have spies in Santa’s workshop who have smuggled out — at great personal cost, no less — the preliminary draft. Let’s take a look at who on our team can expect a shiny new hockey stick for Christmas, and who’s in line for a honkin’ lump of coal.

Forwards:

Dainius Zubrus: Nice After spending last season being the 6’5″ Sergei Brylin, Zubrus has spent the last few weeks being the not-flakey Jason Arnott. We knew it! We knew he could be a good linemate for Patty! We don’t expect him to keep this up for very long, but even for just a few games, it’s worth a great present from Santa.

Zach Parise: Extremely Nice Santa should stop two or three times at Zach’s house this year for how extraordinary Zach’s first quarter has been. When all was darkness and despair, Zach was a bright shining light of talent, heart, and third-in-the-league-in-goal-scoring. We’ve been hearing for years that Zach is all but guaranteed to be the next captain of the team (we personally are pulling for Travis, but that’s a whole other post) and so far this season, we’ve seen why. When everyone else was content to say the season was a lost cause, Zach said, “Pshaw! Lost cause my arse! I’ll score fifty goals! What? Our defense and goaltending sucks so bad it won’t help? Whatevs.”

John Madden: Undecided Is it just us, or does it seem like Madden hasn’t been playing this year, even before he was injured? Santa has no idea. He’ll probably put him on the nice list, just because Madden’s a stalwart and a cranky-pants, but he’s our stalwart cranky-pants.

Brian Rolston: Naughty Oh, some people might say you can’t judge Rolston because he’s been injured all season, but you know what? That’s exactly why Santa’s stuffing his stocking with nothing but coal. You can’t go filling Devils fans with hope by being the first sought-after free agent to sign with New Jersey, then fail to make the power play instantly awesome right out of the gate, and then get injured in such a way that no one knows when or how you’ll ever be back, and have that injury happen to be the starting point for the most devastating team-wide run of injuries we’ve ever seen. No, Brian Rolton’s on the very top of Santa’s naughty list.

Brian Gionta: Nice Enough to Not Get Coal But… We had high hopes for Contract Year Gio. Those hopes haven’t really been fulfilled. He’s not been terrible, but we’re hoping Santa’s elves don’t knock themselves out making Gio’s toys this year. Give him a wooden train or two, but make them small enough to be packed in a suitcase come Trade Deadline Day.

Jamie Langenbrunner: Naughty, But Surprisingly Only Barely Langer can thank his lucky stars that Zach is a superstar and Travis remembered how to play hockey this year, because the resurgent ZZ Pops line is the only thing saving his petulant, stupid-penalty-taking, ineffective-captaining, open-net-missing, sucking-on-the-point-on-the-PP, craptacular ass. It’s hard to imagine what Patty did to make Sutter hate him so much, because there’s no way in hell that Langer is any better a captain than Patty was. But again, he’s the Pops for the Poppers (and that’s “pops” as in “lousy old man”, not “pops” as in “he’s what makes the offense pop”), so his lump of coal will at least be attractively wrapped.

Blobby Holik: Naughty There’s nothing Holik could have done to make Santa put him on the Nice List because, come on, Santa’s no dummy.

Mike Rupp: Nice As a jolly, fun-loving guy, Santa surely must love Rupper, what with his big grin and easy-going manner. We love Rupper, too, especially since this year’s he’s getting one of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon a Devil: The IPB Order of Pleasantly Surprising. That’s right, with Asham off being predictably bad with Philly, Rupper’s taken over the mantle of that player of whom we’re mostly likely to say, after a high-energy shift or an expected goal, “my, but I’m pleasantly surprised!” What fourth liner could ask for more?

Travis Zajac: NICE!, With A Capital “N-I-C-E” He’s still a tiny bit afraid of the acorn, but Travis has not only remembered how to center the ZZ Pops line, he’s become even more dynamic doing so. Santa is going to pile mountains of toys under Travis’s tree (that’s what she said!) to reward the way he’s become a dynamic, confident, powerful player in every zone. Of course, we fully put forth that we are totally blind to Travis’s flaws, but apparently so is Santa.

Jay Pandolfo: Nice, As Always Santa, like every important person of influence, is a citizen of PandoNation. Pando could have been sucking so bad that he was a healthy scratch every night and he’d still get every present he asked for. Sure, he’s not scoring as much as he was when he was in a contract year, but Santa doesn’t expect goals from Pando. We all spent half of last season with our hearts in our throats waiting for Pando to overcome his tragically shifted bits, but this year he’s bucked the teamwide injury trend and been his usual stoic, penalty-killing, defensively delightful emperor-god self. Santa will reward that handsomely.

Petr Vrana: Naughty Vrana Vrana Vrana! No matter how many times Santa sees his name on his list, it still doesn’t make him an NHL player.

David Clarkson: Nice Looking Santa’s elves are expected to be creative (no one wants the same dolly or toy truck year after year, do they?) so it would only follow that Santa would appreciate creativity in his gift recipients, too. So far this year, Clarkson has shown a shocking willingness to attempt moves other than his patented Clarkaround. Sure, those other moves aren’t really resulting in a huge increase in points, but as long as Clarkson’s still one of the prettiest names on Santa’s list, he won’t need to worry about making space in the coal bin. Santa may be smart, but he’s also pretty shallow.

Patrik Elias: Nice-ish, But Trending Nicer There was a time this season when Patty was heading up the Naughty list, but Santa’s been swayed by his recent resurgence. It might be because he’s got the same linemates every night for the first time in the Sutter Era (thanks to all the injuries making it impossible for Sutter to keep shuffling guys as much as he’d like to), it might be because Zubrus has been possessed by ghosts of the A Line, and it might be because he’s suddenly realized that with Marty out, the team MVP award is up for grabs (psst, Patty — as long as Zach’s on the team, that award’s not actually up for grabs), but whatever the reason, Patty’s playing decently again. For that, Santa will be bringing, like, an orange to put in the toe of his stocking, and maybe some shampoo, like a friend of ours always got in her stocking as a kid. He’ll need a few more good games before Christmas if he wants to upgrade past hair care products.

Defense:

Sheldon Brookbank: As a Defensmean, Naughty; As a Forward, Nice Santa doesn’t usually do the conditional thing (if there’s too much wiggle-room, the elves get confused), but in Brookbank’s case, there’s not much choice. Maybe he’ll get a Transformer in his stocking that goes from coal to toy and vice versa depending on where Sutter puts him in the line-up.

Colin White: Nice He didn’t spend the beginning of this year devastating the Devils d-corps with an eye injury, so Santa’s bringing him that pony he’s always dreamed of.

Andy Greene: Undecided Uhhh… right. Santa’s highly likely to accidentally fly right over Greener’s house, completely forgetting that he’s supposed to stop there.

Paul Martin: Nicest! Two seasons in a row now we’ve seen the team go into a tailspin when Paulie’s missed more than two games due to injury. No, he’s not the Niedermayer replacement we were promised (remember those days, Gentle Reader? Ha! Sigh.) but he’s clearly the North Star leading the d-corps to respectability. He’s also played well enough to convince Sutter to let him have carte blanche in the offensive quadrants — now if only he can convince all of us (especially his father) that he can finish. Fortuantely, Santa’s a Devils fan (we mean, duh! Whose team colors does he wear? Yeah. We rest our case) so making the nice list isn’t contingent on being a good finisher. (Unless your name rhymes with Blian Blionta.)

Bryce Salvador: Super-Duper Nice The Iron Boar went from “guy who was so bad in the playoffs last year that it was later reported that he was playing with an injury” to “guy we don’t really like being a Devil” to “Pookie’s fifth- or sixth-favorite Devil”. That’s quite a trajectory of niceness!

Mike Mottau: Naughty Sorry, it’s too soon after his deserved two-game suspension for Santa to be bringing Mottau the guitar and dog he asked for when he was a kid. Sure, it was an accident that he threw such a dirty hit, and he truly didn’t mean to hurt anybody, but still. Santa can’t go rewarding that kind of behavior. If Applesauce really wanted those things, he should have waited until after Christmas to go around hitting people in the head.

Anssi Salmela: Nice, And Batshit Bonkers Finally — finally — there is a d-man on the point on the Devils power play who will wildly fire the puck no matter what things look like in front of the net. And more than that, he so loves firing the puck no matter what things look like in front of the net that he is remarkably capable of retrieving it after it ricochets off people in front and keeping it after defenders have been able to stop his ill-advised shot attempts. But he’s crazy! It’s marvelous! We love it! And so does Santa.

Johnny Oduya: Much Nicer Than This Time Last Year Santa’s all about rewarding improvement, and for that, Oduya’s going to get some wicked awesome educational toys that teach fine motor skills — just like us, the elves don’t want Oduya regressing back to his “dropping the stick at every key opportunity” ways.

Goaltending:

Marty Brodeur: Naughty Every other record that Marty’s approached in his career has caused his game to go into a giant tailspin — just look no further than every time he approached 48 wins in a non-shootout season. So we fully expected that trait and his traditionally slow starts to seasons to combine to make the first two months of this year excruciating as we waited for him to round into form before surpassing Patrick Roy on the all-time wins list. So what does Marty go and do? He comes out of the gate on fire, plowing his way mercilessly toward the wins and shutout records. But that’s not how it was supposed to be! More than that, he changed his mask. As soon as he put on that douchey, stupid, website-promoting mask, we all knew bad things were going to happen. And oh how terribly, terribly bad those things have been. We hope he enjoys his giant lump of coal this Christmas, and more than that, we hope that “MB30” mask of his makes him happy this June when he’s watching one of his rivals accept the Vezina. In the meantime, we’ll just keep vomiting on the floor every time we have to hear the words “Scott Clemmensen, New Jersey Devils starting goaltender”.

Kevin Weekes: Naughty Sure, it’s not his fault, but he’s naughty by circumstance here. If he’d been even remotely passable as a starting goalie, we’d all have been spared the Clemmensen Reign Of Terror.

Scott Clemmensen: Naughty Just… no. He’s still on Santa’s naughty list for the way he whined to The Sporting News about how unfair it was that he had to sit on the bench because the Devils were giving too much playing time to a guy who can rightly consider himself one of the all-time greats. And now that he’s smugging it up after games with Stan Fischler about what a total bad-ass goalie he is just because the Devils finally had to pay for putting all their eggs in one goaltending basket, he’s doubly on Santa’s shit list. In fact, Santa isn’t even going to bother giving him coal, because to add insult to injury, Clemmensen’s been very good in net simultaneously with being very bad. No, Santa’s just not even going to stop at Clemmer’s house. He’s going to be like us and keep pretending Clemmer isn’t even on the Devils roster. Wait, Clemmensen who now? Isn’t he the guy who couldn’t crack the Leafs depth chart last season? Sigh. Is it March yet?

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Tonight we’ll be following the Devils game and woolgathering as we go. In the meantime, enjoy an open thread!

FIRST PERIOD

7:29 pm Doc says of the last game, “Overtime was forced.” Schnookie starts to scoff, “I like the way Doc says that as if it was some kind of passive thing on the Devils’ part…” but then stops herself. “Oh right! It was passive. Heh. Sigh.”

7:37 pm Chico refers to Marc-Andre Fleury’s lower-body injury an “illness”. We think he’s not hurt, he just wants to be included in the list of great goalies who are hurt.

7:38 pm Sid Crosby? Is good. Paulie Martin? Is putrid. Scott Clemmensen? Is not an NHL calibre goaltender.

7:50 pm Thanks to the last few games, we’d been thinking that maybe the Devils would be able to just play well enough to hang on until Marty gets back in March. But now that they’re not playing a team from Florida, we’re beginning to suspect that might be a pipe dream. Although, on the bright side, Clarkson just took a slapshot from the faceoff dots — does that mean he’s adding a new move to his repertoire? One that doesn’t involve convoluted set-ups and monologueing?

8:03 pm We find out why Paulie was minus against Sid. Doc’s been giving us updates for the last few weeks of Minnesota’s national rankings for college hockey; after weeks of being #1, the Mighty, Mighty Gophers will be slipping to second. No wonder Paulie didn’t want to stop that play! He’s ashamed of that giant Goldy tattoo on his back, and it’s distracting him from the task at hand!

8:12 pm Doc and Chico calm a lot of troubled minds by informing us that you can not gong the puck into the net off your head in the NHL and have it count as a goal. We’d been losing sleep over that one. And there go our secret plans for the PP that we were going to email to the Devils.

SECOND PERIOD

8:40 pm We fall behind on tivo delay as we step aside for a few minutes to assemble open face hot turkey sandwiches. The open face hot turkey sandwich is truly the greatest culinary aspect of Thanksgiving.

8:56 pm Chico tells us, as the Devils fourth line initiates a scrum in front of the Pens net, that the Devils’ “battle level” has been very high lately. Pookie: “That makes it sound like they’re in a video game. Like, their energy level is low, but their battle level is high.” Schnookie: “And their skill level is non-existent.”

9:00 pm Zach gets called for interference off an offensive-zone faceoff and there is no even-up on the obvious dive by the Pen. Pookie is incensed: “I’m throwing my mouse-soaked beer pad at the… Wait. That’s not right.” Pause, as the Pens score, making it 2-0. “No, I’m throwing my puke-soaked mousepad at the TV.”

9:05 pm Newsflash: Matt Cooke is a dirty sack of shit. When he hits Zach into the open door of the Devils bench, the Devils on the ice go after Cooke, but they’re Patty, Zubrus, Langer, Paulie and the Iron Boar. Pookie: “Zach’s like, ‘Arise my henchmen! Arise and attack!'” Schnookie: “Yeah, but then he’s looking at who’s on the ice and shouting, ‘Change, my henchmen! Change on the fly!'”

9:08 pm Okay, that pokecheck save Clemmer had against Boyd Gordon in the shootout a few games ago was hilarious. But it’s also given Clemmer a woefully inflated sense of the power of his pokecheck. For the second time tonight, Sid scores thanks to Clemmer thinking all he has to do to stop the offensive onslaught is a quick whip of his stick into the oncoming rush. It doesn’t help that Tallackson’s the guy defending Sid on this four-on-four, but still. This shift was a trainwreck from top to bottom, and the caboose bringing up the rear of sucktitude is Clemmensen thinking he has any business at all pokechecking against Sid and Malkin.

9:23 pm We will grudgingly admit that Clemmer has made some really good saves tonight, and without many of them, it would be 7,000-0 Pens. That said, he was atrocious on the two goals from Sid, so without him, it would also be only 1-0 Pens. So when he’s good, he’s moderately good. And when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. (Pookie says, as we watch him holding down the fort at the end of the second period, “I appreciate that he makes kick saves and directs the rebounds well. And that’s the only nice thing I’m going to say about him.”)

THIRD PERIOD

9:36 pm WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Mike Rupp is this year’s Arron Asham, but more pleasantly surprising. He caps off a shift of countless turnovers in front of their own net by Pens defensemen by firing a laserbeam shot over Sabourin’s shoulder to cut the lead to just two. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Clemmer eyes Sid and starts mentally rehearsing his next pokecheck attempt.

9:40 pm Well, here’s something we didn’t expect to see tonight: matching roughing minors to Sid and Rupper.

9:57 pm With about five minutes left in what’s been a mostly fruitless but still valiant period by the Devils, Doc and Chico inform us that Zubrus is too ill to carry on, which explains why Brookbank’s the guy out there on the Patty/Gio line (and really, no, that’s not a giant step down at all, is it?). We wonder if maybe Zubrus’s problem is that he ate at Patty’s Thanksgiving dinner.

10:01 pm Chico says, “Tallackson is on with Elias and Gionta now.” Schnookie responds: “Even better.”

10:05 pm Sid completes a hat trick with an empty-netter. We can’t stress enough that the Brent Sutter Devils are the worst team in the history of the NHL in empty-net situations. They invariably give up goals when facing the extra attacker, and always give up goals when they’ve pulled the goalie. It doesn’t often take more than 20 seconds to give up the empty-netter, either. Two years ago the Devils were money when they were down a goal with a minute left. Last year and this year, they are guaranteed to have the game iced as soon as they put the extra guy on. This isn’t a complaint. It’s a statement of fact.

10:10 pm The game concludes with Chico telling us that it “really benefits the Devils to score first.” We’ll step back from this game to suggest that it benefits the Devils to score first and to play teams that are worse than they are.

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We’d do a post about things we’re thankful for here on the Friday after Thanksgiving, on which we’re celebrating Thanksgiving Observed, but really, you know us better than that, don’t you Gentle Reader? Instead, we’ll just keep our complaining to a minimum as we try to power through our turkey comas. Right this minute we’re watching a smorgasbord of non-Devils hockey while nibbling on caramel cream pie and trying to think of some way to tie our Thanksgiving dinner pictures into some sort of riotously funny Devils-themed post. And we’ve got nothing. So we’ll just leave you with this, a dish we hope graced the tables at all three of the Devils’ competing Thanksgiving dinner parties:

Cranberry Sauce

Who wouldn’t want to eat this with all their favorite Devils?

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Happy day before Thanksgiving, Gentle Reader! We hope you’re all settled in wherever your holiday will be, comfy, cozy and ready for some hot Devils/Panthers action. And, if you’re not American, we hope you’re having a really nice Wednesday night.

Steve leads us into Doc and Chico’s intro by calling tonight’s game “The Drive For Five”. Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Doc promptly makes it clear that he’s not a regular IPB reader because he grouses that the Patty/Zubrus/Gio line doesn’t have a name yet. Doc! Come on! They’re the Square PEGZ! Everyone knows that. (It should be noted that Doc looks like he’s dressed for an Easter Parade.)

Oh, have we complained yet that this game isn’t in HD? Because it’s not. That’s something we’re not thankful for.

FIRST PERIOD

19:36 Pookie is calling the Square PEGZ being -5 tonight. She also adds that she is not thankful for Scott Clemmensen, either. Which is fair. He’s probably not thankful for us.

18:41 Patty takes a dumb-assed hooking penalty in the neutral zone. The Drive For Five is falling on its flat on its face.

18:28 One of our favorite things about this season is the utterly moronic trades fans on the interwebs seem to think their teams will be able to swing for Bouwmeester. One example would be the school of Devils fans who think Gionta will be enough to bring him to Jersey. Silly fans. Gionta’s the bait we’re going to use to get Vinny Lecavalier, not Jay Bouwmeester!

17:17 By the way, Doc has noted this evening that the Devils have been suddenly good as soon as Paulie came back to the lineup. And then he melts our hearts by adding that Paulie would never take credit for it himself.

16:26 Sheesh. We get a stat that tells us the Devils PK is over 85% on the road and is under 69% at home.

16:09 Having survived the relentless Panthers PP, the Devils promptly draw a penalty on Kreps on a call Chico thinks is total crap. We’re too busy with our respective laptops to notice what happened. We’ll take Chico’s word for it.

15:35 Zach and Patty are fired. Vokoun goes behind his net to handle the puck and passes it directly to Zach, with no one in front of the net. Zach isn’t quite in position to shoot it, though, so he tries to drop a pass to Patty, and Patty misses it completely as it bounces over his stick. That would have gone in against the Lightning Bolts and Kolzig.

14:57 In discussing the missed chance by Patty, Doc and Chico posit that he could have headed the puck in; they decide it would be legal because it’s not a “distinct kicking motion”, but rather “a distinct gonging motion.”

14:27 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Gio scores. Schnookie: “I missed it!” Pookie: “So did Vokoun.” Replay shows a rush started by an awesome defensive play by Paulie, a great rush led by Oduya, and then Gio tipping an insanely stoppable shot straight through Vokoun. 1-0 Devils.

12:56 Brookbank and his fourth-line buddies work the boards nicely, and we start thinking about how Brookbank was quoted in TG’s blog today saying that the D-corps is starting to give him a hard time for being a forward now. Pookie hopes they’re shunning him like the Amish. Like, he’ll go into D meetings and the other guys will say, “Thou does not belongeth here.” Paulie would look so cute in an Amish outfit.

10:06 Chico tells us Clemmer’s been told he can get an apartment. Pookie: “That’s the worst news I’ve heard since November 4.” Thanks for ruining our holiday, Chico.

8:17 In a discussion of how Holik is one of the last guys left using a wooden stick, Doc casually mentions Chico has estimated a return to the lineup for Blobby next week against Philly. Pookie: “That’s the second worst news I’ve heard since November 4.”

6:52 Patty and Paulie pair up for a sassy rush, and while they don’t score, they do draw a penalty. And we all know how awesome the power play is. That’s as good as a goal!

5:26 Schnookie: “Why hasn’t Zubrus scored yet?” Pookie, in response, tells a story of how she had a blog up on her computer at work that had the title “A Look At Zubrus”. A coworker walked by and asked, “What’s ‘Zubrus’? Is that like hubris? What does it mean?” Excellent question, Pookie’s coworker. What does Zubrus mean?

2:24 We’re not paying a huge amount of attention to the game because we’re having a discussion about what kind of centerpiece Paulie’s going to have at the Thanksgiving dinner he’s hosting. Things quickly ratchet up from “a bong set next to a turkey decoration” to “a stuffed Oscar the Grouch” (a la Rick Nash) to “a stuffed Goldy” to “a real-life, tamed gopher” to “a real-life wild gopher”. Pookie: “He’s like, ‘I got the little turtleneck on him once, and now it’s just staying on.’” Schnookie: “Yeah, after trying that he missed a few games with ‘upper-body injuries’.” Pookie: “It was gopher-related lacerations. Again. He comes to the coaching staff and says he’s got gopher wounds again, and they have to say, ‘Just leave the gopher in the turtleneck. Stop trying to change it to a football jersey on Saturdays, and a hockey sweater on Fridays.’”

1:35 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! The Poppers are not thrilled that the Square PEGZ are stealing their thunder, and put on an awesome tic-tac-toe passing shift that culminates in a Travis goal. 2-0 Devils.

0:00 We’re thankful for that period! WOO HOOO! However, we get an interview with Gio instead of Travis. Bummer.

FIRST INTERMISSION

They replay the “Ask the Announcers” feature with Doc from the pregame. Unlike Chico, Doc says nothing to make us think he reads IPB.

SECOND PERIOD

20:00 The hell? The Panthers have replaced Vokoun. Well, we guess we agree with Chico’s assessment of what the goalie change means: “This is just to shake up the team. The Panthers were awful in the first period. Just awful.” He sounds like he can’t put enough vehemence on “awful” to truly express how bad he thought the Panthers were.

18:15 Schnookie: “Oh crap. It’s the second period. We suck at that.” Pookie: “Yeah, a second period with a new goaltender? I’m calling 4-2 Panthers by the time it’s over.”

17:30 As if on cue, the Devils allow the Panthers to pin them for a long shift in their own zone.

16:43 After firing a shot into Vrana’s back and then watching as the Panthers deflect the puck into the crowd, Zach decides he’s going to talk some smack to Wade Belak. He’s at least a foot shorter than Belak, and, after giving him what Doc calls “a tongue-lashing”, Zach then skates away from the bewildered Panther, waggles his eyebrows at the camera and gives that DING! smile of his. Zach? Is being a punk. Heh.

15:16 Doc is still marveling at Zach taking Belak on, and excitedly looks up Zach’s career stats to see if he’s ever had a fight. He could save himself some time just by asking us — of course he’s had a fight! He got his shirt ripped off during it! How could we forget? (Doc informs us it was against Dan Boyle when he was a Lightning Bolt. We didn’t remember that part. Just the shirt-ripping-off.)

15:00 Boomer suddenly remarks, apropos of nothing, “Just think of poor Greene having to skate back home with Holik. And you think your job sucks.”

14:13 The Rupp/Pando/Clarkson line decides to join the parade of sassy shifts by Devils forwards and, after some hard work in the Panthers zone, draw a tripping penalty to Horton.

12:13 That strangled, gargling sound you’re hearing? It’s us, witnessing another fruitless Devils power play.

11:16 The Panthers are, um, not doing everything in their power to take advantage of the Devils’ proclivity for sucking in the second period. They take a terrible tripping penalty in the offensive zone on a rare shift of solid puck possession. The fans send up a feeble booing that sounds more like a cry for help than actual dismay at their team.

10:30 As the Devils set up some perimeter PP passing, Chico says it’s looked like men against boys in this game. Boomer: “Yeah. Men against boys. But we only have two goals.”

9:16 This is starting to feel like a game where these empty power plays are going to come back to haunt us.

9:06 Doc and Chico can’t get enough of telling us how horrible the Panthers are and how terrifically the Devils are kicking them around, including having a 24-7 shot advantage and a 16-1 chance advantage, but really, it can’t be stressed enough: the lead is only 2-0. Unlike a certain broadcast pair tonight, we know enough about this Devils team not to count our chickens before they hatch.

7:13 The Panthers must be able to hear the Devils broadcast guys in this deathly-silent arena, because now they’re hemming the Devils in their own zone.

5:32 The Square PEGZ step up to try to wrest control back of this game. They don’t score, but at least we’re not holding our breath hoping Clemmer’s Moonraker days aren’t about to begin.

3:48 Chico is positing that the Panthers are playing as if they’ve been instructed that they can’t bodycheck their opponent. It really hasn’t been the most scintillating game in NHL history.

2:29 Leach is not able to legally hold his ground against the apathetic rush of the Panthers and takes a hooking penalty.

0:05 FINE. We’ll say it. Clemmer’s looked sharp here in the face of modest pressure as the Panthers are trying to cram all the Devils second-period sucktitude into the final two and a half minutes of the frame.

0:00 That period was a lot less giddy than the first, and it should be said that we hate having to say nice things about Clemmer. Grumble, grumble, grumble. We get an interview with Salmela, who we’ve decided we love. We hadn’t really noticed him until the game the other night in Tampa, but that kid is bonkers. Even Sutter says he cracks him up, and really, what cracks Sutter up? The guy we’ve dubbed Batshit Bonkers tells Steve that he doesn’t have plans to have Thanksgiving with any of his teammates, and Boomer is dismayed. “What? No one’s invited Batshit over? He’s going to have to go door-to-door ringing bells until someone lets him in?” Poor, poor Batshit.

SECOND INTERMISSION

We don’t pay attention to this intermission show. Although we do notice the NHL Shop commercial with the family of Rangers fans with the son who love the Flyers. Pookie loves this commercial for this reason: “The Flyers fan is miserable and the Rangers fans are douches. All is right in the world.”

THIRD PERIOD

19:32 Chico curses this period by saying the game is in the bag, and declares, “of all [the Devils’] wins lately, this was their most convincing.” Doc actually quotes Blazing Saddles in his effort to get Chico to stop putting the cart so far before the horse. And while it’s hardly one of the more iconic quotes from that movie, we’re still surprised to hear Doc saying it. He doesn’t really seem the Blazing Saddles type, does he?

17:15 Schnookie, who normally shoulders the diarizing typing duties, is instructed to go replenish everyone’s drinks, but we don’t pause the game. She grumbles that Pookie will have to diarize whatever happens while she’s gone. When she gets back, this is Pookie’s report: “We had it, then they had it, then we had it, then Clarkson shot.”

15:34 As we watch the Devils contain the Panthers at the near boards in Clemmer’s zone, Boomer sighs, “They can play like they were in the first period any time they want to. I won’t complain.”

14:44 We’ve settled into the prevent defense part of tonight’s action. We perk up a bit when Salvador makes a nifty little between-the-legs pass from behind Clemmer’s net to start a soft outlet by his teammates. When Boomer remarks that it was a nice play, Pookie declares, “I love Salvador. He’s like my fifth or sixth favorite Devil this season.” The Iron Boar appreciates her excessive ardor; he probably didn’t count on being anywhere above 13th or 14th favorite.

13:16 What the hell just happened? Clemmer is down and out, the fans are roaring as if a goal has been scored… but the Panther shooting the puck at the wide open net… what? We need to see a replay of this. When we come back from commercial we see that the shot kind of bounced around the crease, drifting ever closer to the goal line, and at the last possible moment Oduya kicked it out with the tip of his toe.

10:27 Whitey takes offense to getting a forearm to the head from a Panther and shoves the Panther a bit after he falls over. And predictably, Whitey gets the roughing penalty. We actually think both the initial hit and the rough were pretty weak, but whatever.

9:18 After a nifty shorthanded rush that doesn’t result in a goal, Gio takes a stupid tripping penalty in the neutral zone to put the Panthers up two men. Pookie: “It’s time for the Iron Boar Three.” Doc fails to include the “Boar” part when he promptly tells us Paulie, Pando and the Iron Boar himself will be the Iron Boar Three.

8:27 The Iron Boar Three prevail, even with Pando not managing to win a single draw.

7:18 The Iron Boar Four also prevail. In large part because the Panthers are really, really, really bad at playing ice hockey.

7:08 One of the fun features of tonight’s game is that some of the secondary cameras used for replays are, like, sepia-tone. It gives some of the replays a Ye Olde Civil War-Era Archived Hockey Footage feeling, which is nice during a nostalgia-heavy holiday like Thanksgiving.

5:00 Zach bests Bouwmeester humiliatingly at the point and gets a long breakaway (with a bit of pressure coming from behind from Bouwmeester’s much faster and more focused d-partner), but he opts not to use his Unstoppable Move when he gets to the goal. We guess he was just satisfied to have made Bouwmeester look like such a loser.

4:07 Doc tells us for the billionth time that Clemmer is the first ever NHLer from Iowa. We know, Doc. And we’d care if he were anyone other than Clemmensen.

2:19 Bouwmeester decides to make up for looking like a loser a few shifts ago, and when he finds some open ice in the slot after a defensive breakdown by the Devils, he breaks up Clemmer’s shutout. It’s 2-1 Devils.

0:32 With the Devils scrambling and Paulie without a stick, Booth makes a lousy choice to take a weak-angle shot that Clemmer easily freezes.

0:07 Oh for fuck’s sake. The criminally-bad defensive presence of the Devils facing an extra attacker in an empty-net situation once again lets us down, and Booth ties the game at 2. Honestly, has there ever been a team in NHL history as crappy when facing these situations than Sutter’s Devils?

0:00 We hope Chico’s happy now that he declared this game over at the start of the third. And if we knew the theme song to Moonraker, we’d be singing it now.

OVERTIME

4:19 The Iron Boar swats at a puck at shoulder height and clears it over the glass, giving the Panthers a power play.

2:19 One positive we’ll take from this game is getting to see how calm, cool, collected and supremely professional Pando is as a penalty killer. PandoNation swoons.

0:55 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Oduya! Oduya! Johnny Oduya! After a whole bunch of Panthers missed chances, Oduya leads Zubrus on a really slow two-on-one, ends up taking the shot, and rips a shot through Anderson. Devils win 3-2. That’s five wins in a row, all against fantastically putrid teams. If the schedule feeds us a steady diet of Islanders, Panthers and Lightning Bolts from here on out, things are looking pretty good for this season!

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Gentle Reader, if you remember back to the first post-Marty game of this season, you might recall that we compared Kevin Weekes in that godawful Sabres game to George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We were really just patting ourselves on the back for the obscure cultural reference, because we’re of the generation where obscure cultural references are almost a currency, but it’s suddenly struck us how deeply — and troublingly — apt the comparison is. Think about it, Gentle Reader: a handsome man is brought in deep over his head to replace an iconic face of a franchise. He fails miserably. And then he is replaced by a vapidly handsome, less talented hack who goes on to inexplicable success because the franchise around him becomes increasingly its own creature, less and less reliant on the insubstantial man at its core.

That’s right — Scott Clemmensen is the New Jersey Devils’ Roger Moore.

We can only assume that Sunday’s win in Tampa, and Zubrus’ four-goal night, were this season’s The Spy Who Loved Me, and it’s all going to be downhill in quality from here. What have we got to look forward to? Yeah, you guessed it. Our very own Moonraker.

So this has us wondering: how will the goaltending Bond trajectory play out after the season bottoms out? We figure Clemmer/Moore will finally be put out of his misery and then either Weekes will come back in for an atrocious Never Say Never Again encore or Marty will come back too soon from his injury to play the role of the over-the-hill Connery. After that, Lou will be forced to swing a trade for Dwayne Roloson/Timothy Dalton, with predictably dour results. And then? We’ll jubilantly return to the giddy, goofy heart of what the Devils are all about, in the form of a fully recuperated Marty/Pierce Brosnan. Sure, it won’t be his Cup-winning, Rangers-beating Connery-in-his-prime self, but there’s no denying Brosnan brought the Bond franchise back to relevance, and as long as the NHL still insists on the trapezoid rule, it’s not like Marty could ever return to his full Connery form anyway.

And the best part about the Bond trajectory is that it means that Marty will either turn into a sleek, ass-kicking Daniel Craig at the end of all this, or it means that after Marty’s gone, the Devils will reinvent themselves again with a super-foxy new goalie with steely blue eyes. Either way, we’re on board. We’d try to spring some sort of clever Bond line on you now to wrap this up, but all we can think of is Clemmer/Moore in Moonraker spouting lame “pithy” lines like “He had to go into space.” Yeah, we’re not trying either.

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We have thought of a couple more questions we’d ask professional hockey players if we were given press passes by the Devils.

1. What’s the name of your fantasy football/baseball/hockey team?

2. Do you like your handwriting?

Lou, we know you’re reading this, and we know you’re dying to know the Devils’ answers to these questions. So why not credential us? What could possibly go wrong?

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Okay, Gentle Reader, we are not thrilled with this 5:00 start time. What is uo with that? Why are the Devils and the schedule makers so insistent on making it impossible for us to prepare nice dinners on game nights? Well, in the pregame show they had a feature called “Ask The Announcers” in which Chico mentioned that he reads a lot of blogs and gets a lot of his “best ideas” from “fans”. Chico, if you’re reading this (and you probably are), could you put a bug in someone’s ear to let them know that 5:00 Sunday starts are every bit as annoying as 7:00 weeknight starts? Thanks.

Anyway, we’ll be doing a bit of a lite game diary (same great taste but half the calories!) as this one goes along, updating as we see fit. Stay tuned!

PREGAME

Two thoughts: First, what are the Lightning thinking with these third jerseys? This season the NHL is establishing a new low for sheer putridity in sweater design. And second, with Clemmensen starting and no Madden to match up against Vinny, what could possibly go wrong for the Devils tonight?

FIRST PERIOD

19:02 Chico asks Doc to rank the new Tampa third jersey on a scale of 1 to 10 and Doc shocks us by saying 7. He then regains our good graces by snotting about how we’ll never see a 3rd Devils sweater because “that’s just not something that’s done”. (It should be noted that Doc’s opinion of 3rd jerseys seems to be entirely based on how easy it is for an announcer to read the names and numbers. We suppose that excuses him from not noticing that the jerseys, in addition to having names and numbers that are easy to read, also look like a retread of an old All-Star jersey, are continuing with this stupid trend of having team nickname wordmarks [those new “Sens” Senator jerseys are almost cartoon duck bad], and also seem to say “Tampa” across the ass.)

18:16 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Rupper’s giant wingspan and Kolzig’s big, slow five hole combine to make a beautiful goal out of Salmela’s artfully wide tippable shot/pass. 1-0 Devils.

12:30 Our feed is misbehaving a bit tonight, so it keeps getting hung up and then restarting, say, just as Chico is cracking up about Doc’s invention of the word “Salmelian”. We’re not sure we want to know what we missed.

9:41 The Patty/Zubrus/Gio line is looking pretty snazzy on this shift, and on one sequence in front of the net, Patty gets flattened from behind. Schnookie: “Isn’t that cross checking?” Pookie: “Not on Planet Bolt it isn’t.” We snort loudly. Seriously, who calls them “the Bolts”? We thought that was just their own PR people.

2:23 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! THE SLUMP IS OVER! THE SLUMP IS OVER! OUR LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE HAS ENDED! Zach is inspired by a Salmelian scamper of a buttonhook to keep the blue line on a delayed Lightning/Bolt penalty, and he cranks a shot in off the pipe to make the game 2-0 Devils. We have this exchange after the goal:

Schnookie: “I hate to give him credit for this, but Clemmer had a great save to set the Devils up to draw that penalty.”
Pookie: “Yeah, and that’s a save Weekes couldn’t have made because his legs are too short.”

0:00 The buzzer sounds on a thoroughly delightful first period, and after a little interview with a very tall Rupper, MSG+ tells us we’ll get a chat with Clemmer during the intermission. Schnookie wails, “A chat with Clemmer? But we saw that in the pregame show!” Boomer solemnly adds, “I’ve talked enough with Clemmer.”

SECOND PERIOD

19:18 After Travis is unable to force the puck over the goal line against the paddle of a sprawling Kolzig, he looks hilariously embarrassed that the officials are even reviewing the replay. Aww, Travis. We cry for every other Devil to be fired when they can’t get the puck past a prone goalie’s stick into an otherwise wide-open net, but when he does it? We swoon.

18:02 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have we mentioned how much we love the Zubrus/Patty/Gio line? Because we love them a lot. Zubrus is not as impressed by Kolzig as Travis was moments earlier, and just fires a totally stoppable shot from above the faceoff dot straight through him. 3-0 Devils.

15:25 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Zubrus gets to literally sit in the crease and whack away at a loose puck until it gets past Kolzig’s feeble leg pads. Doc and Chico’s response is to discuss at length how well Zach just did by scoring (because people often see a guy who’s 6’5″ and think he’s Zach), and Pookie’s response is to say very slowly, “That was the worst defense I have ever seen in the NHL.” She’s right. The Lightning Bolts all just stood there, hands limply hanging at their sides, watching Zubrus score.

14:00 It had been very quiet in the Tampa building, but now the crowd is making all kinds of noise. Because the Lightning Bolts are on the PP and totally sucking. The noise all kind of rhymes with “STUUUUUUU!”

8:15 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Can we play Kolzig every night? This game is awesome! Gio whips a nifty little wrister into the net while Zubrus and Zach are creating all kinds of havoc amongst the hapless Lightning Bolt defense, and Kolzig is too busy spinning around like a top in the crease to be able to stop it. 5-0 Devils, and a might groan rises from stately IPB Manor as Kolzig gets the hook and Ramo enters the game as the new Lightning Bolt goalie.

6:52 Bummer. Paulie is victimized on a two-on-one, and it’s 5-1 Devils.

6:14 The Lightning Bolts seem to feel bad for ruining our awesome game, and take a too-many-men penalty. As we wait for the faceoff after the whistle, we get to see Paulie sitting on the bench screwing up his face. He needs our tender loving!

5:35 Travis is standing around doing nothing but getting pushed over near the crease, and gets called for interference. This is the site of his phantom diving penalty from the 2007 playoffs, too! Pookie: “Poor Travis! He’s going to end his career with 2,000 penalty minutes, only four of them earned.”

5:20 This game suddenly blows. St. Louis scores to make it 5-2 Devils. And Clemmer is just shitty enough that we’re fairly confident a five-goal lead is not safe. We’re even more nervous now that it’s down to three goals.

3:18 For fuck’s sake. Ryan Malone (of all people) gets behind the D, Pando trips him up to stop the breakaway chance, and he scores on the ensuing penalty shot. 5-3 Devils. Hey, remember how last year the Devils really, really sucked in every second period? Looks like it’s keeping on this year! (Pookie believes that play would never have happened if Marty was in net because Pando would have known his goalie could have stopped Malone [of all people] on a breakaway.)

0:25 Zubrus ends up twisted around a d-man right on the goalie’s doorstep with the puck just sitting on the goal line in front of an empty net. He attempts a spiraltortion jab at the puck, but misses. That would have gone in against Kolzig. Muh! Still, Chico makes a great point in saying that the Devils should be happy to go into the third with a 2 goal lead. We mean, that kind of lead would blow Perry Pearn’s mind!

SECOND INTERMISSION

For the second intermission in a row, we get material recycled from the pre-game show. Surely we could be seeing a slide show of Chuck the Duck’s Florida vacation right now! He’s always been so happy to lounge by the pool on Florida trips past. Bring back Chuck!

THIRD PERIOD

15:25 The game has tightened up quite a bit, and on a defense-first shift in the Devils zone, Zach clears the puck smartly high off the glass. Schnookie: “That’s the kind of play that won him the MVP of the YoungStars game.” Pookie, as Zach, holds out her hand and snots, “Plastic star, please!”

15:11 We are informed that Malone has been the first person to score on a penalty shot against the Devils since Freddie Olausson did it in 1999. We snarl at the TV that this one should get a big fat asterisk.

12:39 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Hats fly everywhere! Zubrus — ZUBRUS! — gets a breakaway just when it appears the Devils aren’t going to try to get the puck past center ice for the rest of the game, and he scores on Ramo with ease. His ensuing celebration is an hilarious twirling, leaping dance that looks even funnier for him being a giant. And his linemates have the kind of response for him that is normally reserved for OT game-winners and Kevin Weekes wins. Considering what a crappy turn this game had taken, it’s a delicious ray of sunshine. 6-3 Devils.

10:55 Pookie: “Every time Doc says ‘Ramo’ I think he’s saying ‘Grandma’.”

6:16 We’re distracted now by how hungry we are. Stupid 5:00 start. Schnookie isn’t going to even start making dinner until this is over. See what you’ve done to us, Devils schedule? See???

4:42 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Save something for the rest of the season, St. Zubby! A magnificent, swirling, forechecking shift by the Gio/Patty/Zubrus line leads to Zubrus being left all alone in the slot to score his fourth goal of the game. 7-3 Devils. This is… amazing. We fully expect for him not to score again this season.

4:35 Huh. This is the first four-goal game for a Devil since the infamous McKay/Madden simultaneous four-pointers against the Pens. Salmela is just as squicked out by how awful that game was as we are (Pookie was at NYU at the time, and didn’t get the game on her dorm cable. Schnookie vividly recalls telling her it was so lopsided that it became actually uncomfortable to watch) and takes a penalty in the neutral zone.

0:00 Okay, so there was a bit of a lull there, but you know what? The end result is that we loved this game. And now we’re faint with hunger and have to go make dinner.

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