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Archive for December, 2008

Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Our pregame has us all kinds of wound up, because it’s MSG’s show about Game 6 of the 2000 SCF. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! It’s been a kind of rough past 24 hours for those of us who are friends with bottoming-out Sabres fans, as we’ve walked down memory lane to times when we’ve not loved hockey so much. But here’s MSG whisking us away from the lousy times and taking us right back to sheer, fucking awesomeness. Sure, it’s great as a fan to find the marvelous in the everyday, but you know what? Winning the Stanley Cup is, well… the best. It’s worth it. It’s definitely worth all the bad times. Just in case you’d forgotten. Heh.

Our pregame narrative from Steve is all about the star players for the Devils who are doing well these days. He’s all, “In the last game, Zach kept up his torrid goal scoring, and Patty was a beast, and Rolston is finding his all-star-caliber groove, and… ” He pauses, and searches for the right words, “Well, even Pandolfo got into the act.” PandoNation bristles, and wonders what he means by that.

FIRST PERIOD

19:51 Zach gets a lightning-quick shot basically off the opening draw, then sags when Turco turns it aside. “That’s strange,” he thinks, “That went in in St. Louis.”

16:48 There is some confusion in front of our TV as Pookie and Boomer are handing off some handcraft supplies, and Pookie sees Paulie following up on a rush down the slot after a Pando shot, dropping Stars all over the place as he goes. “Oooh!” She exclaims, “Paulie just made someone explode!”

15:57 Furious at his making-guys-explode trick not working, Paulie decides to carry the puck through the neutral zone and gets tripped up on the play. He falls down, slides a few yards, then in one smooth motion gets back to his feet, probably adding a “TA DA!” at the end. The Stars get a penalty, and it’s scorched earth time.

15:01 If by “scorched earth” we mean “offsides”.

14:22 Rolston misses the puck at the point, and as he turns to chug down the ice after it, Schnookie misreads his 12 as 17: “I just thought that was Rupp playing the point on the PP. I was like, ‘Has Sutter taken leave of his senses?’” Pookie: “Sutter, everything would not be tickety-boo then!”

14:04 Is it just us or is the ice nuclear-blast white?

12:52 Turco thinks he’s really hot shit, and decides to do some Ovechkin-style baseball-swinging, puck-bobbling clear of a Madden shot, but executes as well as Ovechkin did in last year’s ASG Superskills. Madden gets the puck back and has a look at the open net, but can’t finish on the bad angle. Pookie: “Madden’s got that barn he’s going to be taken out behind and shot flashing in front of his eyes.”

11:15 Zubrus flies up the ice with a little spinarama in the neutral zone, then barrels behind Turco’s net, passing to himself off the end boards, then wheels through a bunch of Stars defenders before finally losing the puck. Schnookie wonders aloud what the hell is going on with Zubrus, and Pookie answers, “Zach’s got him convinced there really is a plastic star scout in the building.”

10:42 We feel like we’re watching Blersus again, because there’s a penalty on the Stars and Chico has no idea how it happened. We get one replay, but no one can see what happened to earn Landon Wilson an interference penalty off a draw in the Devils zone. (When he goes to the box, Schnookie goggles, “Landon Wilson? The Landon Wilson?”)

9:51 Poop. The PP gets a dreadful reminder that it’s not a good idea to rest on your laurels. Eriksson scores on a long two-on-one that comes courtesy of a lazy, lazy change. 1-0 Stars. We all vomit copiously.

9:06 Clemmer thinks he’s Turco or something, and does a really good approximation of him, leaving his net to handle a mid-range dumped-in puck and completely muffing the whole thing. He barely scrambles back in time to be in net while an opportunistic Star fires a shot wide. We are further confident that the Clemmensen-as-this-year’s-Conklin Era is now over.

6:38 Clemmer freezes the puck after another flurry of Stars activity, and Schnookie wonders aloud, “Is Patty playing tonight? I haven’t seen him yet.”

5:32 Steve tells Chico he’s hoping for a Robidas “rabby-doo”, or however you spell Chico’s hilarious word for “scrap”. Chico giggles happily. We scurry to spend the next few minutes trying – and failing – to find any instance of this “rabby-doo” online, so as to verify the spelling at least. Do you suppose Chico invented his own language?

3:01 It’s good we haven’t been paying attention, because the Devils are pinned in their own zone.

2:30 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Applemotherfuckingsauce!!!! The Patty/Zubrus/Gio line creates all kinds of cycling havoc, and just as Schnookie is growling that someone needs to throw a garbage can at Patty’s head during intermission because of his insistence on touch-passing to guys at the point when he could otherwise be shooting, Mottau receives said touch-pass and blasts it through traffic to tie the game. 1-1 tie.

1:50 Another shift in the Stars zone yields a hooking penalty some Star. Let’s just not give up a shorty here, okay? (Wowza. Steve takes this stoppage to tell us that with that assist, Patty has now moved within 15 points of his entire season total from last year. Anyone who thinks the Devils have played in front of Clemmer the same way they’ve played in front of Marty the last few years need look no further than that.

0:32 The burned-out, blazing glare of the ice at center ice has been getting stronger and stronger all period, and now the Stars logo and red line are literally no longer visible.

0:23 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Clarkson protects his eyes from the glare of center ice by parking behind the last PKer in front of the net, and is on the doorstep to dig loose a rebound of a Gio point shot and push it around a sprawling Turco to make it 2-1 Devils.

0:00 That period kind of encapsulated our point from the pregame – being a sports fan is all about high highs and low lows. And we get an interview with Applemotherfuckingsauce that MAKES OUR YEAR. Yeah, the highest high of all of 2008 is Mottau saying very earnestly that, as we all know, it’s good to have Intahchangeable Pahts.

FIRST INTERMISSION

For those who missed it the first time around, here’s the thing about the 2000 SCF again. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

SECOND PERIOD

19:30 Chico clearly doesn’t remember a single thing about last year when he tries to tell us Zach “has never been weak defensively”.

18:25 In praising the Devils’ four lines while the Rolston/Clarkson/Some-Other-Guy line is working the Dallas zone, Chico tells us that players hate when their coach is all about line matching. After a pause, he adds, “Well, they don’t hate it when they’re on the checking line.” “Damn straight,” say Madden and Pando as they share a fist bump on the bench.

16:37 Chico is on a roll here. He is telling us some rambling story about Langer’s origins with the Stars, and finally just trails off. When he realizes what he’s done, he chortles, “I’m sorry. I get distracted when the puck gets down into that scoring area. When that happens, Steve, you need to just jump in.” As if we needed to be reminded of what a consummate professional Doc is.

15:50 Hm. This seems to be the icing period for the Devils. Things are not going the way Sutter drew up. We hope. We suppose he might have drawn up a bunch of icings during the intermission. Surely he’s done crazier.

15:08 The Devils look hopelessly lost in their own zone, and are just lucky that the Star who finds the puck all alone in front of the net spins around and fires way wide.

14:33 If the Stars don’t tie the game up in the next minute, we’ll eat our hats.

14:21 Okay, they tie the game up in the next 12 seconds. There’s only so much running around chasing the puck (or, in most of the Devils’ cases, not chasing the puck) you can do before someone’s going to put the puck through Clemmer. After all, he still is Clemmer. And yes, it is that Landon Wilson tying the game at 2.

12:32 Dude, this period BLOWS. The Devils have checked out completely, and when the Modano line overpasses down low in front of Clemmer, the Devils are so flat-footed watching it happen that the Stars have plenty of time to recover the puck after they should have given it up and still fire a point-blank shot wide.

11:36 It only took 8 ½ minutes for the dreadful play of the Devils to cost them a penalty. As play is whistled, Pookie, not looking up from her quilting, says, “Let me guess. It’s on Holik.” She’s right. She is also hell-bent on blaming this period’s sucktitude on Clemmer; she’s been saying since the Stars goal, “We want Weekes! We want Weekes! Or, um, we want Clemmer to play better. Probably the latter.” When Schnookie suggests that Sutter could perhaps call a timeout now to go all “Mount Sutter eruption” on his team, Pookie says, “Yeah, and to put Weekes in!” Schnookie and Boomer inform Pookie that they think she’s crazy.

10:45 Please note that every single Holik penalty of the season so far has been accompanied, on the replay, by Chico saying, “They’re going to call that every time this year.” Not that Holik’s a relic or anything.

10:02 Happy, Blobby? We get a long look at him skating, unchagrined, from the box after Leach and Clemmer mishandle a rebound to allow Parrish to score in close. 3-2 Stars. Pookie: “I’m blaming Holik for that.” Schnookie: “Actually, I was going to blame Clemmer.” (Chico blames Clemmer, too.)

9:33 There are Devils flying everywhere at the near point, and it seems that Ott is making a game tonight of running our boys. One man’s petulant little ice troll is another man’s cheapshot artist. Let it be said here, if he injures a Devil, he’s going to the very top of our list. Myra.

9:20 We go to commercial with the still overwhelmed Devils going on the PK. We don’t know who took the penalty or how. (When we come back from commercial we just see on the scoreboard that it was Greener, for hooking.)

7:46 We are deep in discussion of whether this is the worst period the Devils have played since that first post-Marty game against Buffalo. Pookie’s not sure, but Schnookie can’t remember a period of this sustained craptitude across the board.

6:07 Lehtinen’s still alive?

4:22 The most shocking stat of this period comes from Steve: the Stars are outshooting the Devils 11-2. There is no way the Devils have two shots here.

4:04 Rupp hits Ott hard at the near boards at the Devils blue line, Ott does that “I’m dropping the gloves” feint, and Rupp bites. The officials seem to have a sense of The Code here, whatever it is, and don’t call any penalties.

3:06 As the Devils continue to be complete ass in their own zone, Chico tells us that the Devils will need to take liberties with Ribeiro, since Ott isn’t going to fight because he has a broken hand. “Can’t fight City Hall,” Pookie cracks. “Especially since City Hall is also a yapping douchebag.”

1:52 Clemmer makes a snappy save on an out-of-nowhere shot from the slot by the reanimated corpse of Lehtinen. In the course of making some “why am I talking so loud? Because I’m wrong!” statement about Holik, Schnookie says, “Wow, that was a great save by Clemmer.” There is a long pause, then Boomer says, “No.”

1:13 There is finally something good happening for the Devils on a two-on-two rush, but Clarkson decides to barrel into Turco just as Paulie’s firing a turned-over puck into the net. No goal, of course, as Clarkson gets called for goalie interference. Way back when we were new fans, we heard the criteria for goalie interference hilariously defined as, “Could he have stopped himself if it was a pit of snakes he was falling into?” Pookie says of this one, as Chico tries to say it wasn’t necessarily a penalty, “He could have stopped himself if that was a pit of mice.” We watch as he settles into the box, and she adds, “Playing the part of Bobby Holik…”

0:22 Paulie gets called for cross-checking in front of the net. The wheels? Have fallen off.

0:00 It’s official: that was the worst period of hockey the Devils have played since that Buffalo game. That was dreadful, from top to bottom.

SECOND INTERMISSION

We get a feature about how they’re putting together the ice for the Winter Retread Classic. This should surprise absolutely no one to hear that we couldn’t care less about the NHL’s outdoor games.

THIRD PERIOD

We really hope Sutter made the boys ride the bikes during intermission, while he threw garbage cans at their heads.

19:50 The Stars start the period with a five-forward 5-on-3 unit.

19:08 And miracles do sometimes happen, in this case the Devils managing to kill the 45 seconds of two-man advantage.

18:12 Other miracles? Killing the remainder of the penalty, while Clarkson is out on the PK. We did not see that coming.

17:44 Zach tries to put on a razzly-dazzly rush to beat a defender straight-up, but leaves the puck behind in his deking. Pookie: “Obviously Zubrus believed Zach about the plastic star scouts, but the rest of the guys have managed to convince Zach since then that there is no such thing as a plastic star scout.” The idea of Zach no longer believing in plastic star scouts is almost too sad to bear.

16:34 Steve tells us the two shots the Devils got in the second is the lowest single-period total allowed by the Stars this season. Great.

14:34 There is a faceoff in the Devils zone for which the Poppers take the ice. Chico tells us this is a big shift, on which Zach and his cohorts will want to “keep up the momentum”. Pookie: “What momentum? The ‘not getting scored on’ momentum, I guess.”

13:41 The teams are trading grade-A chances, which, while frustrating that the Devils are giving up grade-A chances, is, we guess, a step up, since they’re at least taking some in turn.

12:52 Steve has insisted all night on calling Niskanen “NEESH-ka-nin”. It’s driving us batty.

11:59 What is this we see? Hard work? By a Devil? Say it isn’t so! Rupper bowls down the wing and draws a holding penalty for his trouble. Ott yaps at him all the way back to the bench, and we hope he’s saying something about how he’s not worried, and the Devils aren’t going to score on the PP anyway. That would be funny because it’s true.

10:52 The Stars get another great shorthanded chance. We are having a special New Year’s Eve countdown now – to the end of this game.

9:59 Gio carries the puck in offsides, but it confuses Chico to no end that the Devils are getting called for too many men because the lineman waits about a week before making up his mind and blowing the whistle.

9:50 Pookie, as Chico calls the Devils’ opponent “the Northstars”: “He’s as out of it as the Devils are.”

5:53 We don’t have much to say about this one anymore. It’s kind of surprising that, after how wretched they’ve been so far, the Devils are only one goal back. But one goal seems like a completely insurmountable lead.

4:38 We go to commercial and see the one for the Marines with the guy talking about facing his greatest challenge while diving off a platform. Pookie regales the room with the biggest challenge of her workday: “Someone asked me to explain what the Marines are. And I had to do it without using the word ‘badass’.”

4:23 Madden’s out with Rolston and Clarkson, and Chico tells us this is a move made for “more speed.” We’re stunned. Pookie: “You know the game has passed you by when A) your name is Derian Hatcher, or B) you’re getting replaced by Madden for more speed.”

3:05 Patty gets sprung on a mini-break, but he can’t beat Turco five-hole while defying his poke-check. Pookie is aghast: “Turco never stops those!” Schnookie: “Well, he can stop them now because he’s not tanking to get rid of Avery.” (It merits mention that Patty’s fired.)

0:46 The last best chance for the Devils is a not-very-wild wild scramble in front on which the white sweaters are all blocking each other’s shots.

0:40 The foregone conclusion when a Devils goalie leaves the net is an empty netter. Honestly, the other teams in the NHL are shooting 100% when the Devils have the extra attacker in the final minutes. Ericksson gets this one, and it’s 4-2 Stars.

0:00 We hated, hated, hated this game. It was nothing short of puketastic. But hey. It’s New Year’s Eve, so we’re supposed to be looking at the big picture – our boys are doing a hell of a lot better than we ever would have expected when Marty got hurt. And to cap off the year with a happy thought, let’s all just think back to Patty in the far corner, firing a backhand pass off the boards to Arnott down low… Yeah. The high highs are so much better for having been through the low lows.

And win, lose, or tie (we wish!), we hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2009!

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Okay, before we start this game diary, we have to respond to something that we saw on Fire & Ice today. Now, we keep hearing stories from more fervid hockey markets in the northern reaches about the stupid, stupid things fans say on message boards and newspaper blogs and whatnot, but we don’t see a lot of that in these parts. So it was with no small excitement that we read these comments from “Jason”:

“When Drew Bledsoe came back, the Pats correctly stuck with Brady. If the guy proves he can carry a team to the playoffs and or further, what more proof do you need that he can be a starter. If Matt Cassel won a SB this year, I can tell you this, Brady, his salary, and his injuries, would have been looking for a new home. I hate the Pats btw, but their take no prisoners, team first attitude with players is something Lou sometimes lacks.”

“And before you Brodeuraphiles get fired up. I’m not advocating trading him or anything like that. Clem certainly has more to prove, and this is all speculation right now. But if he proves he can handle the load, he is a cheaper, and younger. Just something to think about.”

Pookie read these comments aloud while Schnookie and Boomer were finishing dinner, and her oration was followed by a long, stunned silence. Then Schnookie declared, “Oh. My. God. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard said about sports. The. Stupidest. Thing. Ever.” Pause. “Period.”

Moving on, it’s an exciting night here at IPB – this is our first-ever game diary that includes the St. Louis Blues! We’d be surprised, but none of us can actually remember the Devils ever playing the Blues any time in the last 12 years.

FIRST PERIOD

20:00 It merits mention that we’re on Blersus tonight. With total strangers calling the game. We have no idea who these guys are because we missed the pregame.

18:58 WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Just as the strangers are telling us that the Blues have their “very good checking line” on the ice, Zach springs a puck at the point to carry down the zone on what turns into a three-on-one on which he shoots. The puck goes through Legace, even though it really probably shouldn’t have. 1-0 Devils.

18:15 Pookie’s intrepid research reveals this is Forslund and Eliot. Because no one cares, but we need to know to be able to correctly attribute their most interesting comments. Which we’re sure will be plentiful. Okay, we have no idea why we bothered looking that up.

16:52 We are not fans of the Blues sweaters tonight. It’s hard to tell whether they’re blue or black, so it kind of looks like the Devils are playing the mutant spawn of the Stars and those old Oilers “oil drop” third jerseys.

15:41 The Devils look thoroughly disinterested in trying to play defense, and after the Blues carry play for a few shifts, Boyes scores from the doorstep off a rebound from a point shot. 1-1 game.

14:18 The immediately-after-being-scored-upon shift for the Devils screams, “Aw, crap. We’re not winning 1-0? Well, why bother then?” Which is, admittedly, exactly what we would be doing, but that’s why we’re not NHLers. (And that’s the only reason we’re not NHLers.)

12:19 Ugh. It’s going to be one of those nights, eh? The Poppers fail to score while deep in the Blues zone, then no one bothers getting back when play goes down the other way, so Backes scores on a long two-on-one. 2-1 Blues. Have all the Devils/Blues games been like this? Is that why we don’t remember them?

11:32 Just as Forslund is telling us there is no hope for hockey in St. Louis because Cam Janssen is “by far” the most popular player on the Blues (he might have only said the second part of that), the Blues get another flurry of chances in close. We are now all wearing facial expressions very similar to Sutter’s on the bench after the Backes goal.

10:30 Berglund gets a penalty for hooking while the Madden/Pando/Rupp line has some rare puck possession in the St. Louis zone, and after the whistle, Blersus does an especially artful job of avoiding showing us anything even remotely pertinent during the lengthy delay. They show us guys milling around, then show us a replay of a gentle hit from Rupp on Berglund that Forslund tells us led to everything good the Devils got from that shift, and then, instead of replays to back up that point (or of the penalty), we get to see more guys milling around. It is astonishing how shitty Versus is at televising hockey here in its fourth season of doing so.

10:01 Pookie has the hiccups, and declares, “I just considered that holding my breath until the Devils shot would be a sure-fire way to get rid of my hiccups. But then I realized I would die.”

7:52 We go to commercial with Pookie positing, “I think the Clemmensen bubble has burst. All it took was someone suggesting on Fire & Ice that we trade Marty, and now we’re going to plummet to the bottom of the conference standings just like we all expected. Thanks a lot, Jason.”

We come back from commercial to a twinkly-eyed Boyes wishing us a happy new year. He’s so overwhelmingly adorable! We feel like Stephen Colbert, shouting, “Awww! So cute! Get it off the screen, Jimmy! Get it off!”

6:45 For the first time in ages the Devils get the puck, and Zach does some really fancy toe-dragging before ringing a mid-range shot off the pipe. The other Devils all glare at him and hiss from the bench, “Stop making us look bad!”

5:57 Zach hits some random Blue behind the net, and the Blue goes down like he’s just been bulldozed by Scott Stevens or something. We suppose he didn’t have the puck, but still. There should be a dive there to even up whatever Zach got called for (not that Blersus wants us to know).

5:04 Madden tries a toe drag on a shorthanded one-on-one against Colaiaccovo, and the result is as you might expect. Pookie: “Oh, Mad Dog. Someday we’re going to have to take you out behind the barn and shoot you.”

3:24 Gio gets a mini-break and barrels in on Legace, forcing a rebound out to a rushing Zach, who is stopped from scoring only by the bad luck of there being a Blues d-man panicking all around the crease. We can’t figure out what’s got Zach motoring so hard tonight, and conclude it must be that there are scouts in the building. Pookie: “Someone told him there are All Star scouts here tonight. With plastic stars.”

0:00 The period, which pretty roundly sucked, ends with a bit of scrumming deep in the Devils end, and us luxuriating in the words from Forslund, “former Devil Cam Janssen”. We’re not sorry to put that period behind us and move on.

FIRST INTERMISSION

You know what the second stupidest thing in sports we’ve encountered tonight is? That Blersus commercial for the All Star superskills with Ovechkin’s baseball-swing penalty/shootout shot attempt. The way they show the puck bobbling in slow motion, then cut away as if none of us will remember that he whiffed on the baseball swing part of it would crack us up every time if we weren’t already terminally tired of the overmarketing of Ovechkin’s “exuberance”.

SECOND PERIOD

17:23 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Just as we are about to get annoyed at the complicated relationship non-Devils-affiliated observers have with giving credit for the team’s success (it’s always either all Marty or all the system in front of him, depending on whether they’re trying to undercut Marty or the skaters), Rolston distracts us by being Johnny-on-the-spot in front of the net to shovel home a rebound from a Clarkaround. 2-2 game.

13:44 This is a much more uptempo period than the first, but we might just be feeling energized by the Devils having scored more so far in the frame than the Blues. That could all come crashing down at any moment.

13:37 We come back from a commercial to see Chris Simpson interviewing Tkachuk. A few days ago Schnookie made a joke out of the blue about Tkachuk being fat (it, uh, takes one to know one, of course), and it took Pookie about a week to get it. So now she very happily exclaims, “Hello, Rollerpig!” as soon as she sees him. Schnookie makes a point of not laughing for at least a week.

13:18 Everything the Devils are doing in this game is, per Eliot, “just Devils hockey”. Pookie suggests before too much longer he’s going to say, “Relentless forecheck, d-men jumping up on the play: it’s all just Devils hockey.” Boomer: “Yup. It’s been working for them for years.”

11:02 The Iron Boar does something not really of note during play, and we start discussing what Pookie calls his “inner ear concussion”. “His little inner ear bell was rung,” she says. Boomer decides the injury was actually “cartoon bluebirds flying out of his ear after having his bell rung,” and Schnookie suggests maybe the infection came from the cartoon birds getting stuck and not being able to get out.

10:48 We get a little in-game highlight reel of hits from this game so far, and Eliot segues into the reel by informing us that “every player has a role to play in Devils hockey”. What that has to do with hitting we have no idea.

8:56 We come back from commercial to see a considerably less-twinkly-than-Boyes Rolston wishing us a happy new year. Simpson tells us Rollie is paying especially close attention to Team USA at the WJC, and for a moment we completely freak out that we’re going to hear that one of the Rolston children is old enough now to be playing there or something, but it’s actually just that his brother is coaching them. Oh, and the Devils are on the PP because Perron got called for interference, but we’re all on our own to know why.

7:04 What the fuck? Crombeen and a cohort get a shorthanded two-on-none, but he settles for a really, really, really bad shot. As Forslund and Eliot try to figure out what Crombeen was thinking shooting that weakly from pretty far out, Boomer states the more obvious question: “Where were all the Devils?”

2:40 Eliot regales us with a pretty amusing tale about how Legace has to buy his kneepads off eBay because he likes the Cooper ones that aren’t made anymore. And apparently after Eliot was wowed to discover Legace still uses them, he went into the Devils dressing room and found out Weekes uses them, too.

1:04 To make up for his partner being interesting, Forslund takes a moment out of his call of some mild Zubrus/Patty/Gio forecheck to inform Blersus’s viewers that Zubrus is “a large man”. We hope he doesn’t get paid for those insights.

0:45 Clemmer stops a rapid-fire Boyes shot from the slot. We grudgingly give him credit for that one, but will point out that he needed a d-man to clear his rebound because he had no idea where the puck was. But who are we to nitpick?

0:00 Well, that was better than the first period, no question. Also, we’re not going to lie: this has been a very entertaining game. There’s no way any other Blues/Devils game has been this zippy, otherwise we’d have remembered.

SECOND INTERMISSION

Crap. Zach is so not going to score 100 points this year, because Keith Jones declares he’s definitely going to. When is Jonesy ever right?

THIRD PERIOD

17:30 Clemmer struggles to stop a shot from the fourth line. Fuck. If Janssen scores tonight, we might have to kill ourselves.

17:00 Eliot tells us Andy Murray, when asked what Janssen brings to the Blues, said that whatever he brought to the Devils he brings to the Blues. He then continues to say that Janssen has worked a lot on his discipline, so he’s not taking stupid penalties anymore. Pookie: “Well, that was what he brought to the Devils, so I don’t know what’s left.”

14:12 Whoa! Greener’s been taking Houdini classes from Paulie or something. Blersus zooms in to give us a big close-up of him carrying the puck out from behind Clemmer’s net, and we are treated to the sight of him struggling on the very edge of control while miraculously skating through three Blues. We doubt he could do that again if he tried.

12:47 What seems like the first Devils chance of the period comes from Oduya, who has a week and a day to skate in from the point, but gets nothing but glass.

12:06 The Madden/Pando line has a fantastic shift, pinning the Blues in their own zone repeatedly, and Pookie cracks that Madden’s saying, “Take this out behind the barn and shoot it!” Eliot declares this is a great example of “Devils hockey” and we declare we should have made a drinking game out of that.

11:01 The Blues just barely miss an open net. We just barely manage not to throw up. When did we get so engrossed in this game?

9:54 Patty gets a bit touch-pass happy and hangs a point man out to dry with a misplaced feed that leads to an odd-man rush the other way. Some moron leaps up in front of the camera with fists triumphantly held above his or her head to celebrate what they’re sure will be a goal, but the Blues don’t even get a shot off. Heh.

9:12 We come back from commercial with the Devils starting a power play for no explained reason, and Chris interviewing JD. Dude, they should never be allowed to interview him during games on any channel, because it’s so sad that he’s not a color guy anymore.

8:12 Ah. It was a too many men penalty by the Blues. JD isn’t happy about it, because he thinks the team needs to not be shooting itself in the foot, or something like that, but he doesn’t need to worry – it’s not like the Devils are going to score here.

7:12 Yeah. The Devils don’t score on the PP.

6:40 EEEEEEE!!! Forslund and Eliot are members of PaulieMartinNation! Or rather, Eliot thinks he’s “underrated” and Forslund says, “Huh”. Clearly they love him.

5:41 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plastic star for Zach! WOOOOOOOO!!!! Zach manages to score while getting dragged down and spinning around to chase a loose puck in the crease, and Eliot tells us, “Parise wins the battle because he is willing to battle”. Actually, it’s also because a Blues d-man skates by and shoves the puck through the pile of Zach and Legace, but the BattleZach made that all mostly happen, at least. 3-2 Devils.

4:29 Eliot tells us Zach was “one of the many bright lights of the 2003 Entry Draft”, and Pookie says, “I expected him to say he’s one of the many bright lights that’s typical of Devils hockey.” (He also says that Zach is going to get some serious competition from Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy. Malkin’s like, “Wait, what?”) (And not that we think Zach would stand any chance of serious consideration for the Hart, but Schnookie can’t help but wonder, “If Zach won the Hart, do you think Marty’s head would explode?”)

3:27 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Pando! Pando! Pando!!!!!! Rupp bulls down the far wing, and laces a gorgeous pass across the goal mouth for Pando to tip in, making it 4-2 Devils. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

1:50 It’s almost comical how incapable of putting pucks into empty nets the Devils are.

1:29 It’s still comical. If their very lives depended on scoring into an empty net, the Devils would still miss.

0:27 It’s less comical now. Steen scores as the Devils struggle against the extra attacker, making it 4-3 Devils.

0:12 Patty clears the puck the length of the ice, and inexplicably doesn’t get called for icing.

0:00 Aaaand… the Devils hang on to win. WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! And Pando gets the gamewinner! It wasn’t always pretty, but we’ll take it!

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So we were driving around our little hometown this weekend, running some errands and basking in the warm afterglow of the Devils smacking the Rangers around at MSG, when it suddenly dawned on us: the current Devils team is exactly what we thought they would be at the start of last season. Who would have thunk it? It only took a season and a half of us wondering how we could possibly have been so far off-base with our expectations, but now we feel like supergeniuses. We knew it! We knew it all along!

First was our faith in Zubrus. When we heard the Devils had essentially swapped Gomez for Zubrus, we were crazy excited because we were all, “He’ll be the newer, better Arnott for Patty! He’s just the kind of center Patty excels with!” Then he spent a full season being a laughingstock while we mentally downgraded him from newer, better Arnott to bigger, less effective Brylin. But what a difference a season and a half makes, right? Yeah, we knew it all along.

Next was the promise of Sutter. All we heard when he came aboard was about how uptempo and forechecky the team would be with him, and how we’d never recognize his totally transformed Devils team, and we were all going to love him as he ascended into the firmament to replace Lou someday. And… yeah. That didn’t really happen much last season. But now? Look at how forechecky and uptempo the Devils are! Look at how they score a lot*! Look at how they roll four lines! Dude, seriously, four lines? We’re not sure Julien even realized there was a fourth line when he was here. And how genius is Sutter? The guy pissed off a lot of fans when his first big move as head coach was to break up Pando and Madden and move Pando off the PK (we like to assume he pissed a lot of fans off, at any rate. If there were fans out there who were not pissed off, they need to keep that kind of thinking to themselves, or they will feel the mighty wrath of PandoNation). The team sucked so bad, though, that he was stuck putting them back together again, but he then proceeded this season to figure out how to get the Poppers and the Zubrus/Patty/Gio line to become defensively responsible enough that we all wouldn’t care that Pando and Madden suddenly weren’t hogging all the prime ice time when they got demoted to a truer sense of third line minutes. That’s right — we, the corrupt ruling priest class of PandoNation — are not at all concerned that Pando’s responsibilities have been limited in this new age of Devils gods and monsters. (Of course, it helps that some of us have been taking the land grants from PandoNation’s emperor/god, heading out into the Border Territories and establishing a rogue government of ZajacNation. But that’s another story for another day. We digress.)

After our belief that Sutter was going to turn our beloved boys into a kick-ass juggernaut right out of the blocks last year, we felt the defense-by-committee was going to gel into a delicious success story of interchangeable parts in which we could luxuriate. (Because who doesn’t love interchangeable parts?) We saw Andy Greene building on his baby Rafalski tendencies, and that Oduya kid figuring his shit out, and there were a couple of Russian guys we had last year, too, weren’t there? We don’t remember them. But now when you look at the d-pairs, none of them stand out as Giants of the Blue Line (other than Paulie, of course. You were going to say Paulie does, weren’t you, Gentle Reader? WEREN’T YOU? Just say yes), but none of them strike fear into your heart (in a bad way), especially since Brookbank got turned into a forward. What we’re saying is that the d-corps has rounded into a fine form, especially thanks to the Iron Boar, whom we’re ashamed to admit we didn’t want a part of this off-season. Sorry, Iron Boar. We love you now. You’re the straw that stirs the d drink. But you’re not helping our theory that we had this team all figured out at the start of last season, so this post isn’t about you.

Anyway, long story short, we love the way the Devils are playing right now, not least because they’ve affirmed that we were not losing our minds when we looked at the roster on our most insanely optimistic days two summers ago and thought, “This team isn’t necessarily a pile of puke.” Nope, the only thing we didn’t see coming then was — *gulp* — Clemmensen. But really, who could?

*Okay, well, except for that franchise-record shutout streak, but hey. Shutouts can be part of Sutter’s legacy too. How awesome is it that he saw the franchise-record 11 shutouts last season and raised us the interminable misery of seemingly all those shutouts in a row this year?

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Once or twice a year we like to prove to our non-hockey-lovin’ friends that we are capable of leaving the house on a night when the Devils are playing. If one or two of those nights just happen to fall on nights when the Devils are playing our most hatred rival, at a time when we are convinced there’s no way the game can end in anything other than pain and tears, well, so what, right? In any event, we’re leaving the stately confines of IPB Manor this evening for a evening of old fashioned board games (which may or may not end in pain and tears). We’ll be catching up on the game on TiVo delay following said bout of social activity (because we may be capable of leaving the house on a night when the Devils are playing the Rangers, we’re not really capable of giving up on the game altogether) and we hope to complete another TWC-style illustrated game diary in the process.

PREGAME

Our Mood: Goalless. Two straight shutouts is… not fun.

Our Least Favorite Devil: Everyone and anyone who played in the two straight shutouts. (That includes you, Holik! Don’t think we’re letting up on you by not singling you out!)

Our Favorite Devil: Bryce “Iron Ear Boar” Salvador. We can only assume the boys can’t score without him in the line-up. We have no proof that this isn’t so.

Our Prediction: Devils – 0. The Rangers – More than 0. The Ookies – Tears and pain.

Playmobil Picture Representing Our Hopes That The Devils Win This Game:

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Don’t bother sending a life raft.

AFTER THE FIRST

Our Mood: Stunned! The shutout streak ended, and ended early! And on the special teams, no less!! Wha-huh?!!!!

Our Least Favorite Devil: Brian “I Might As Well Be Bobby Holik What With These Dumbass Penalties I’m Taking” Gionta. For obvious reasons.

Our Favorite Devil: Patty “I”m Tired Of This Scoreless Streak And Hey, If I’d Been Playing Like This In The Past Two Games We Might Not Have Been Scoreless” Elias. Also for obvious reasons.

Our Summary Of Events: So far we see no reason why we shouldn’t leave the house every time the Devils play the Rangers. Of course, it’s not like we’re from the future or anything, so there’s still plenty of hockey left to be played.

Playmobil Picture Representing Our Hopes That The Devils Win This Game:

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It’s a valiant fight. So far.

AFTER THE SECOND

Our Mood: Happy but exhausted. We started watching this at midnight. The bad news is that we’re fading fast. The good news is that if the Devils are going to suck in this one, they’re only going to suck for one period.

Our Least Favorite Devil: Scott Gomez. Christ but he sucks! How many more years are we stuck with him again? Wait, what’s that? Oh, right! He’s a Ranger now! HAHAHAHAHA!

Our Favorite Devil: Travis Zajac. If Lundqvist had a book on Travis, it was missing the chapter about slapshots. Who knew Travis had that shot? Did Travis know he had that shot? (Honorary mention would go to Clemmer for the five-on-three, but we don’t want him to get a big head.)

Our Summary Of Events: This is a Devils/Rangers game, and we’re enjoying it. Down is up. White is black. Something must be terribly, terribly wrong in the universe.

Playmobil Picture Representing Our Hopes That The Devils Win This Game:

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Travis’s game has so many new facets.

AFTER THE THIRD

Our Mood: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! And zzzzzzzzz…

Our Least Favorite Devil: Impossible! We don’t not-love ANY of them! Wait, what’s that? Blobby who? No, he’s not a Devil, is he?

Our Favorite Devil: Everyone and anyone who played in this game tonight.

Our Summary Of Events: Gloriousness! Gorgeousness! Wonderfulness! We are tapping into our primordial memories of back when the Devils used to win at the Garden regularly. It feels so great! If it wasn’t after 2:00 in the morning right now, we’d probably be dancing in the streets.

Playmobil Picture Representing What This Win Feels Like:

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Is that a heavenly chorus we hear? No, it’s just Rangers fans booing the loss. Sweet!

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Watch this space for some woolgathering thoughts on tonight’s post-Christmas match-up. In the meantime, please enjoy an open thread!

7:00 PM The game opens with Doc’s voiceover about the previous matchup between the Pens and Devils, and Doc sounds like death warmed over. Poor guy.

7:08 PM The Penguins get a rush going in the midst of a line change, and as the camera pans down into the Devils zone, we see the Pens are on a two-on-none because Paulie is sliding on his caboose into the crease, all ready to bowl over Clemmer. Fortunately, the Pens on the play are as bumbling as Paulie, and fail to capitalize. Doc and Chico literally just crack up in response as we watch the replay of Paulie pratfalling around, and Pookie decides the only explanation is that Paulie’s point-shaving tonight.

7:10 PM Doc sounds so terribly ill that Pookie suggests, “I’d like to figure out a way to remaster this recording of his call to say, ‘I’m sorry [Pookie’s boss], but I’m not able to come to work today.'”

7:15 PM A freshly-shorn Zach gets called for goaltender interference. Boomer is only barely paying attention to the play, and sums up pretty well how dumb a penalty it is by asking, “Was that Blobby?”

7:20 PM The Pens don’t get a shot on the power play, and would have given up a shorthanded rush if Madden wasn’t so impossibly slow. Schnookie: “I think Madden still looks sick/hurt.” Pookie: “I think he’s point shaving, too.”

7:25 PM Applesauce is such a dirty player! He can openers Talbot, rightly getting two for tripping (Cooke manages to pick up a responding ten-minute misconduct during the ensuing commercial break), but all the penalty leads to is some kick-ass PK, particularly by Travis and Pando.

7:33 PM Tonight’s Geico Quote of the Game is Therrien saying “We better wake up soon or else…” This is followed by a chorus in our living of “… Or I’ll lose my job!” Chico suggests the “or else” refers to missing the playoffs.

7:36 PM Schnookie suggests another possible explanation for Paulie’s poor skating this evening — he got new rollerblades and is wearing them instead of skates. It’s either point shaving or rollerblades; there are no other explanations.

7:37 PM Travis misses a wiiiide-open net thanks to some pressuring from Malkin. Chico says Travis will be talking to himself about that one. We think he probably talks to himself to look busy so he can get out of the intermission meetings of “Shot Club”.

7:45 PM HOLY CRAP! The intermission show gives us a look at a picture of wee baby Dano, when he was, like, 20. Our minds are blown.

7:56 PM Chico and Doc spend a good amount of the beginning of the third period talking about where Grand Rapids, MN is. We are constantly impressed with Chico’s encyclopedic knowledge of geography west of the Mississippi, and the hockey players who have come from there.

7:58 PM The Devils go on the PP and we are informed that the Pens PK is catastrophically awful. Great, so we can be that much more depressed when the Devils don’t score. (Meanwhile, Doc’s gravelly voice prompts Pookie to remark, “This sounds like if Ursula the Sea Witch was calling the game.”)

8:00 PM It is a rare game where the color guy is musing aloud, “I can’t tell whether the power plays are this bad, or the penalty kills are this good.”

8:07 PM Doc and Chico are hopelessly bored right now, and Doc’s too sick to bother pretending otherwise.

8:15 PM The boredom is broken by Fedotenko firing a puck softly through Clemmer, making it 1-0 Penguins. Okay, we’re totally lying when we say the boredom is broken. The boredom is just made more excruciating. Doc almost immediately mistakenly refers to the Pens as the Islanders, and Pookie says, “That’s right. It is as bad as an Islanders game.”

8:20 PM Pando draws a penalty, then the Devils proceed to give up a series of short-handed rushes. Pookie: “I’m reaching the point in this game where I’m just hoping no one except Clemmensen gets hurt.” Long pause. “Just kidding.”

There is, at the end of the penalty, a pile-up in front of the Penguin goal, and it looks like the puck has crept all but an eensy-weensy bit over the goal line before being kicked out by Eaton. Promptly thereafter, Gio takes a tripping penalty. Oof.

8:45 PM The third period is kicked off with a “Chico Eats!” in which Chico makes funnel cake. In dusting the cake with powdered sugar, Chico does his “LeBron James move” of dusting his hands and then tossing the powder into the air. Chico says, “I have no idea why he does that, but I did it because I got to like my fingers afterwards!” Doc’s response: “Good luck to us all.”

8:46 PM Langer is fired a thousand times over, for being the culprit on the third time this game (second for him) where a Devil has had the puck right in front of a wide-open net and not being able to score. We are getting very strong “the Devils are getting shut out again tonight” vibes. Because who doesn’t want to go into a game with the Rangers riding a two-game, team-wide scoreless streak?

8:53 PM Paulie is living in a vortex of putridity these days, and a few minutes after getting tripped by Malkin while skating through the neutral zone with the puck but not drawing a call, he gets sent to the box himself when a Pen goes down easy after a soft, high cross-check. Pookie: “If I were Paulie I would refuse to believe in any kind of justice in the world. So I’d go on a giant crime spree, knowing I’d never get caught.”

8:56 PM There is a merciful god! After going to commercial midway through the third, we come back to find that croaky, miserable Doc has been replaced by Steve. We never thought we’d see the day where we’d actually want to hear Steve instead of Doc. All of a sudden the game feels like it’s got tons more jump. (It might be because Patty, Gio and Zach manage a very feisty shift, as if they were waiting for Doc to leave because they didn’t want to tax him.)

8:59 PM Sutter’s changing up his lines and Steve can’t handle it. Langer and Travis are out with Zubrus, and the hybrid beast “Zabrus” makes his first appearance. Meanwhile, Langer, being the totally awesome captain that he is, takes an outrageously awful tripping penalty in front of Fleury’s net. We hope the Devils are riding the bikes after this game.

9:13 PM It is an interesting statement about how shittily the Devils are playing offensively that Chico can’t, when asked by Steve, give credit to either Thomas in the last game or Fleury in this one for being especially good in these shutouts.

9:15 PM We get a brief moment of comedy as Whitney commits a “playing the puck with a broken stick” penalty of such hilarious idiocy that if Doc were still calling this one, he’d describe it as “Hartnellian”.

9:16 PM Our moment of levity comes to a crashing end when Gio takes a boneheaded slashing penalty in front of the net while the Devils are setting up their six-on-four, empty-net, final-minute stand. Have we mentioned that we hope the Devils will be riding the bikes tonight?

9:19 PM The game ends 1-0. Every hockey season is paced like the tides, and it would seem the Devils are currently experiencing this:

The Ebb

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Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas to everyone from stately IPB Manor!

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V.E. Mats poses with the kick-ass Christmas card we received from our newest Canucks fan friend, Carol Browne.

Victory Euro Mats is spending his holiday hoping Playmobil Santa will be bringing him lots of presents, which we’re sure he will, and we’re spending our holiday greedily eying our pile of loot and counting down the minutes. Because that’s the true meaning of Christmas, right?

Anyway, one way to help hockey-starved fans get through these two bleak, dark, hockeyless days is this truly mind-boggling feature on the Devils website. Seriously, everyone should go soak up the brilliance of the season with the Devils.

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Devils vs. Bruins, 12/23/08

Guess what, kids? We lied. There is no Santa Claus. There is also no diary for tonight’s game. Merry Christmas.

Seriously, happy holidays/day off, Gentle Reader! We’ll be taking a two-day hiatus (i.e. we’ll be taking two days to drink just enough mimosas to make us think that whatever garbage is on television is as good as hockey) but we’ll be back in action on Friday. Until then, enjoy an open thread here tonight!

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