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Archive for April, 2009

We’ve been feeling for the last 48 hours somewhat disconnected from our peers in the Diablogosphere because, well, we’re not stunned and horrified by what happened to the Devils in Game 7 against Carolina. Sure, there’s no question it’s a terrible and humiliating loss, but it’s also completely in character for the Devils. If it was at all uncharacteristic, we’d be feeling like we were punched in the gut, but since it’s not, we’re feeling a lot more like it’s something you just shrug your shoulders at and maybe roll your eyes.

Now, we’re sure there aren’t statbits to back this up, but our tra-la-la-feelingsbits about the last three-plus seasons have been that the Devils are simply terrible at closing things out. It is not uncommon to see them give up a late lead. In the seminal “blown late lead” Carolina/Jersey playoff game, Game 2 in 2006, we chorused afterwards, when a national television commentator asked, “Who saw this coming?”, “WE DID!” It is not uncommon to see them wilt down the stretch after a powerhouse January and February. When Claude Julien was fired with three games left in the season in 2007, we weren’t stunned — nope, that’s just the Devils. Not the coach-killing (well, yes the coach-killing), but the late-season craptitude. It is not uncommon in the Sutter Era to see the Devils stop pressing late in a game when they have a one- or two-goal deficit as soon as they pull the goalie for the extra attacker. In the moments when they should have the most advantage in the clutch, they disappear. Basically, the character of the New Jersey Devils over at least the last three seasons is that they are not closers.

So when they couldn’t get a two-goal lead in the third period on Tuesday, we knew, as seasoned Devils-watchers, that every minute that ticked off the clock was just getting us that much closer to a more legendarily colossal collapse. And now that’s back-to-back playoff years that have concluded with Lou saying it’s the worst loss he’s ever seen the franchise suffer. Last year it was a complete failure against our hated rival, this year it was 80 seconds of suck. So what do we need to change all this? What is the key to making this franchise into a finisher, or, better yet, a winner again?

Is it a new coach?

New captain?

New players in the place of departing graybearded free agents?

Or maybe just a motivational speaker? (NSFW)

If this isn’t what the Devils’ exit interviews play out like this year, maybe it’s time to get a new GM, too.

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Gentle Reader, as you know, we love statistics. Nothing tells the whole story of a hockey season like numbers do, so tonight we’re going to attempt to assign a numerical value to the ’08-’09 New Jersey Devils. Using a system of assigning numbers to the highpoints and lowpoints of the season, we’ll be able to to come to a solid, number-based conclusion about what this season meant. We have a methodology, as all good statisticians do, but we’re not going to explain it because it’s very complicated, and we all only have so much time we want to spend on a Devils post-mortem, right? Let’s just get right to it and crunch some numbers, in no particular order, as they come to mind!

+100: For the season opener, which we attended with Frisby and which allowed us to meet up with a lot of you from the IPB community. It was also a win for the Devils, but anyone from the IPB community who was meeting up with us missed the game-winner because Patty made a point of scoring it while we were all still returning to our seats from the concourse.

+94: For Zach Parise having a season that cemented his status as an NHL superstar.

+26: For Patty Elias breaking the Devils franchise scoring record on St. Patrick’s Day, prompting him to skate out for second star wearing a jaunty green hat.

+29: For the cool kids on the team (ha!) bringing cribbage to the mainstream. Here’s hoping one of them gets that magic 29 point hand some day.

+7: For Paulie Martin becoming a big-minute d-man.

+70: For more MSM types jumping on the “Paulie Martin is underappreciated” bandwagon.

+700: For MSG+ showing us footage of Paulie Martin from his high school football days. Go Elks!

-776: For Paulie Martin proving without a doubt that he has absolutely no finish whatsoever.

-227: For Nik “Talc Boar” Havelid being the single most unpleasant trade-deadline surprise evah.

-1975: For that Flyers fan who tossed a smokebomb on the ice at the very start of the season, setting the tone for the 82+ games to come.

+552: For the crazy run to the wins record after Marty came back from injury. That was as fantastic a time to be a Devils fan as any we can remember, with the fun, and the media attention, and the awesomeness, and the feeling like there was nothing that could ever stop this team…

-553: For the team deciding that, frankly, anything could easily stop them as soon as 552 was won.

+1,940: For not losing in the playoffs to the Rangers. Really, that means an awful lot to us.

-120: For coming up 80 seconds of defensive-zone coverage short.

-45: For bringing Blobby Holik back.

-40: For Brian Rolston getting hurt and then not being the game-changing superhero we were hoping he’d be.

+19: For Travis putting his sophomore slump behind him and anchoring the game-changing superhero line we were hoping the Poppers could be again.

-30,000: For the emergence of Scott Clemmensen: Prover Of Marty’s Overratedness.

+30,030: For Marty coming off the IR like such a house afire that within a week, the name “Scott Clemmensen” was nothing more than a bad dream, or a joke from his first stint with the team.

-180: For Marty playing not unlike Scott Clemmensen down the stretch and for the final two games of the Hurricanes series. And the fourth game of it. And probably the second. We don’t really remember all that well. It’s all like a blur of crap to us now.

-2000: For Brendan Shanahan thinking he was so welcome as a Devil that he could force Pando out of the lineup.

-2000: For Brendan Shanahan settling into the lineup, and, after an initial burst of scoring touch, pretty much just disappearing.

+1494: For Brendan Shanahan somehow still managing to make us grudgingly decide we don’t hate him.

+2020: For Pando’s stoic acceptance of his fate, then kick-assedness when he was finally permitted back into the lineup.

+49: For the Shanny/Pando combo (with a little Madden thrown in) making Sutter have to eat his words about the usefulness of a checking line, and the usefulness of Pando in general.

-8: For the weird feeling we had about Sutter for most of the season as the entire hockey media seemed to assume he was a lame duck.

-100: For the way the injuries and Clemmer and the Pando situation and the one-year deals for Holik and Shanny made this entire season feel like a place-holder while we waited for the real team to come along. It was a strange season for us, with some marvelous high highs but also a feeling throughout that the team was holding us at arm’s length.

So. What does this mean for the Devils season? It means the 2008-2009 Devils are a -894. Definitively. We could explain to you what the context for that number is, but it would take all night, so make of it what you will. And remember, numbers never lie.

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Game 7s are way to nerve-wracking for diaries, so watch this space as we woolgather while watching the final act in what’s been a pretty extraordinary playoff series.

— While killing time before the Devils game starts, we tune to the Rangers game. Sam Rosen, when reporting on the absence of Blair Betts, says, “The Rangers will be without one of their best underrated players tonight.” Boomer finishes his thought, “But no worries, their overrated players are in the line-up.”

— We attempt to change channels for the Devils game at 7:30. Pookie is not on her A game with the zapper — we end up first on a Spanish-language soap opera, and next on a program featuring some sort of traditional Asian music. Hm. Is this a sign from the Hockey Gods?

— Hey, wait a minute… Aren’t the Rangers playing a Game 7 tonight? Why is Stan here at our game? Wouldn’t he rather be in DC tonight? Or does he still think the Rangers swept?

— The tension dissipates early here at stately IPB Manor as Marty fails to notice the game has started, and Ruutu puts the Canes up 1-0 a minute in. Chico is flummoxed on the replay, and stutters while we all watch Marty completely biff the save, “I don’t know what happened…” Boomer answers for him, “It went in the net. That’s what happened.”

— The Poppers give us enough time to type out our thoughts about the Canes goal, then they remind us why we liked them all year. A sassy pass from Zach across the goal mouth turns into a Langer goal (of all things. Langer! Scoring! Madness!), and it’s 1-1.

— WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PandoNation is rioting in the streets! Shanny springs his linemates on a slow-developing, wide two-on-one, and Madden laces a perfect pass to a perfectly-streaking-to-the-net Pando… and it’s 2-1 Devils!!! Boomer is in the kitchen when it happens, and she asks us who scored after our cheering subsides. Schnookie shouts happily, “PANDO!” Boomer responds dryly, “There’s your unexpected hero.” Schnookie narrows her eyes and snips, “Shut up. He’s a big-game player.”

— The Devils get an early man advantage in the second period, and, as usual, make a mockery of the concept of a power play. The Canes promptly score when they get back to even strength, and it’s a 2-2 game. We don’t think it’s unfair to say that this has been one of the worst games Applesauce has played as a Devil.

— Look, we realize the Kazoo’s goal there was a bit flukey, but Chico needs to stop acting like it’s the single most amazingly weird thing he’s ever seen. Chico? Guys score on shots they flubbed all the time. And no amount of telling us it “was as bizarre as they come” will make us think that Marty (or Mottau) couldn’t have been more heads-up on the play.

— WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Devils end up on another power play (when the Poppers draw the call off a fantastic hard-cycling shift, Schnookie groans, “Oh shit. That means we’re going on the PP”), and at first it looks like it’s going to be one of those holding-off-the-other-team-from-scoring-a-shorty two minutes. But then the Canes turn the puck over to Clarkson at the Devils blue line, he pushes the puck up to a slowly-rushing Gio, then Gio punches a cross-rink pass into open space as the Canes overcompensate in getting back. The play unfolds in what seems like slow motion, with the puck just sitting there inside inside the Carolina blue line, and then Rolston skates into the frame and one-times a shot right past Ward. 3-2 Devils, and frankly, we think that might be the first one-timer a Devil has gotten on goal all season.

— The crowd at The Rawk is awesome tonight. And when the Devils kill off a 5-on-3, and the 5-on-4s around it, they rise to their feet in a full towel-waving frenzy, and giving a big “Marty!” cheer for some stellar goalie PK-ing.

— Zach then kills our buzz by taking a roughing penalty in the offensive zone. Thanks, Zach.

— Zach gets drilled in the face by Gleason’s stick while he’s parked in front of the net, and he falls to the ice, feet kicking, taking several years off our lives while we wait to see if he’s okay. He gets up a few moments later to show a big bloody welt on his cheekbone. And he’s well enough to get out on the ice during the ensuing double-minor. We wonder what it would take, now that we think about it, to make it so Zach didn’t get out on the ice for the ensuing PP.

— We spend the first half of the third period in a state of nervous catatonia. We are jolted out of it by Captain Fuck This Shit taking an offensive-zone penalty. Now we are in a state of angry nervous catatonia.

— Langer’s penalty doesn’t end up costing the Devils, and on his next shift out of the box, he helps the Poppers on another one of their patented cycling shifts; he gets three point-blank shots, but Ward is up to the challenge. We are now in a state of frustrated nervous catatonia.

— Cam Ward and one of his defenders face the easiest two-on-one rush in the history of all time: Madden carrying the puck with Whitey lumbering up the wing. Yeah, no need to defend for the pass there. The catatonia remains.

— No matter how good the Devils look in a game, they’re still the Devils. They get pinned forever in the defensive zone, with the bad-news combo of Greener and Havelid coughing the puck up over and over and over again on the boards, and Marty not willing to cover the puck when he has a chance, and, predictably, the play finally turns into a goal. 3-3 game, with 1:20 left in the third. Funfuckingfetti.

— The Devils ice the puck. Boomer reflects on the game-tying sequence and sighs, “If only we’d been able to change defensive players.” Pookie completes her thought for her: “At the start of the season.”

— And with just over 30 seconds left in the game, it’s the same old story. As usual, the Devils give up a third-period lead to the Canes. Hooters scores off the wing, and it’s 4-3 Canes.

— Chico says after the buzzer that this was a completely unexpected turn of events. Considering how many times we’ve seen this happen between these two teams, what on earth was unexpected about it?

Anyway, this was an awesome, awesome series, the outcome notwithstanding. Thanks, Canes, for giving us seven great hockey games, and thanks, Devils, for at least not looking as shitty as you did in last year’s first round. It’ll be interesting to see what the off-season holds for our boys. And we wish the Canes luck in the next round — if there’s one thing we’re taking away from this series it’s that that Cam Ward kid is for real. Sorry we doubted you in ’06, Wardo. We’ll stop comparing you to a puppy-mill puppy now.

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You had to know we were going to do this, right Gentle Reader?

Funfetti Cake

That’s right — we baked a funfetti cake. Of course, it’s also got some chocolate in it, just to have a part that doesn’t look like ass… And that seems most appropriate. Like the Devils/Hurricanes series, our cake is a toss-up.

April 26 2009

So here’s hoping the chocolate wins out tonight. In the meantime, join us for an open thread — funfetti or no, there’s cake all around!

UPDATED 2 1/2 HOURS LATER

Puke. That was a lot of funfetti cake.

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We’ve got a goofy lineup today of afternoon and late-night hockey with nothing in between, so we’re planning to sit back, put our feet up, and spend the ridiculously beautiful day here (seriously, it’s 85, sunny, and heavenly) parked in front of the TV. Please join us and enjoy an open thread!

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The big news from Gel-O to kick off the broadcast is that Samsonov is out for the Canes with a lower-body injury, and Babchuk is a healthy scratch. Huh. Meanwhile, Chico’s still apologizing for Marty for the non-interference call at the end of Game 4, and bitching about how the very fabric of society is going to unravel if those kinds of calls are allowed to stand. We’re exhausted already – Chico? Not another word.

FIRST PERIOD

Before the drop of the puck, we get a look at Sutter walking down the bench and barking briefly into each guy’s ear. He’s probably doing a last-minute check to make sure that all of his skaters realize that the team with the most goals at the end of the game wins. We then see Madden talking to Clemmer, and Boomer loses her mind: “What is he doing talking to Clemmer? Don’t talk to him, Madden!”

18:16 The teams are in that Game Five kind of “we already know each other pretty well, so let’s just see how this game is going to unfold” feeling-out process, so we have nothing really to remark upon except that our new favorite dasher ad, in the absence of the Swedish Fish one, is the one for Hoboken Lock. If we lived in Hoboken, we’d be calling them right now.

17:36 Clarkson cartwheels over Ward, and gets called, rightly, for goaltender interference. Chico tries, during several replays, to show us that he was pushed in, or Ward wasn’t in the crease, or somehow it’s just all cosmically unfair, but he’s full of it.

15:36 The PP was good, and so was the PK. We’re not sure who has the edge yet.

14:43 Okay, the Hurricanes might have the edge – they get a flurry of shooting chances while the Devils stand around worriedly. But maybe the Devils have the edge – all the shots go wide.

14:26 Is it just us or is Gio looking like he’s trying to fit an entire contract year into one playoff series? He’s had more jump in the last four games than he showed all season. And on this shift, some gentle-giant forecheck by Zubrus tries to turn into a turnover, but Gio manages to accomplish enough of a shot on goal that Ward has to freeze it.

13:31 The fourth line brings some offensive-zone swagger to the ice, and draws a roughing penalty to Seidenberg. Commence with the scorched earth, PPers.

12:16 Doc curses the Devils by pointing out that there has only been one shortie in this year’s playoffs so far.

11:28 Clarkson kills off the final fifteen or so seconds of the PP by refusing to play the puck in favor of trying to draw penalties. We’re trying to decide now how, exactly, Clarkson’s going to cost the Devils this game; regardless of the specifics, we’re fairly confident it’s going to happen.
9:57 Paulie is fairly well bested by Cullen while chasing a two-on-one (Marty and Oduya manage to hold strong, though), and Pookie creates a new composite word out of “putrid” and “ass” when she sighs, “Paulie is putr-ass tonight.”

7:32 The Madden/Pando/Shanny gets a fantastic flurry, with Ward diving out of the net, and Madden almost having a chance to squeak a bad-angle shot into the vacated net, but the Hurricanes survive it. And then the play breaks up completely when Paulie can’t hold the point. He really is the dictionary definition of putr-ass.

6:11 Zubrus and Gio take turns handing the puck to Hurricanes in the Devils zone when they could have cleared it. Gio follows his turnover by hooking, holding, and then wrestling the Cane to the ice. There is, curiously, no call.

5:30 We have no idea what is going on tonight. The Madden/Pando/Shanny line continues to be the best one for the Devils, and after forcing a turnover in front of Ward’s net, Madden makes the most of a “getting pushed by a defender into the goalie” opportunity and makes himself at home lying on top of Ward in the crease. The official is barking something at one of them (Chico thinks he’s lecturing Ward), but play continues.

4:50 Marty skates out to the hashmarks to play the puck, and LaRose takes the opportunity to crash, skate-first, into him. Marty goes down in an injured-looking heap, then realizes play is still going on and has to race back into his net to try to dive after an incoming shot. He’s lucky the Canes were as panicky on that play as he was, and they shot wide.

4:28 Now that he’s well-distracted, rattled, and pissy, Marty takes an interference penalty. Some composure would really help, Marty.

3:46 Chico keeps our optimism going strong by telling us Marty looks like he was cut on the ankle or foot on that collision with LaRose, and keeps flexing his foot. Meanwhile, Marty is making very strong saves on the PK. We don’t know what to think anymore.

2:08 Pookie: “It kind of looks like both teams are playing international soccer here. Everyone is just flopping over all the time. It’s like an entire ice sheet of Zambrottas.”

1:00 Doc’s play-by-play of a sequence in the Carolina zone includes him saying that a defender “can’t get [the puck] away from the reach of Havelid.” Pookie: “If you can’t get it away from the reach of Havelid, you should just hang ‘em up.”

0:00 At the buzzer we rewind a few seconds to watch Pando’s attempt at being an Italian soccer star. He skates toward the Carolina blue line and then, when a defender comes near him, falls over and literally rolls twice. It’s dazzling.

FIRST INTERMISSION

Blah blah blah.

SECOND PERIOD

18:33 The Poppers start the period off with a fantastic shift full of hard work down low, sassy shooting and Ward looking totally unbeatable. Hm. We liked the first two parts of that list more than the third.

18:19 And to finish off his great shift, Zach draws an interference penalty for Gleason picking him at the side of the net.

17:24 Cole decides he’s going to give Doc that shortie he’s been talking up all night, but Rolston drapes himself all over him on his rush up the far wing, taking a holding penalty in the doing.

15:21 Oduya remembers that this is the Hurricanes, his coast-to-coast team. And so he rounds up the puck deep in the Devils zone in the waning seconds of the PK, and then smoothly swaggers his way through almost all the skaters on the ice before settling on a weak backhand shot from a bad angle. It was a good try, though.

14:35 Pookie, watching the fourth line try their shooting-gallery best: “Ward is surprisingly athletic.”

13:15 We are discussing the officiating in this game, and we ultimately agree that the calls have been very even, but that the refs seem to be letting all kinds of stuff go. Schnookie: “It’s like the league suddenly realized they might have to put this series on NBC Sunday, and they asked the officials to turn this into a powderkeg.”

12:41 Jokenin takes a point shot that pinballs into Marty, bounces off his glove, off the pipe, off his back, then stops on the line before Marty covers the puck with his glove. Pookie: “See, I’m the kind of person who looks at that and thinks, ‘There’s your even-up after Game 4.’”

12:16 Carolina puts on its best offensive-zone shift in some time, and just when we’re thinking the Devils are going down a goal, Marty makes a snappy glove save on a LaRose shot from the point. It’s nice to see the composure back again.

10:09 The officials have now tilted the “bullshit call” decidedly in the Devils’ favor, as Eaves gets called for tripping in the corner to Ward’s right after Zubrus takes a dive that would embarrass even the Italian national soccer team. We guess that’s what the Canes get for having had, as Doc informs us now, the last eight shots of the game.

8:38 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Clarkson’s going to have to work extra-hard to cost the Devils this game now. Greener lasers a perfectly-tippable shot from the right point that Clarkson, parked right on top of Ward, gets his stick on to make it 1-0 Devils. And since that was a complete joke of a call to put the Devils on the PP, we can safely say that the Hockey Gods have evened up whatever lingering injustice might have existed from Game 4, if you believed there was any. Which we do not.

5:59 The Poppers are taking a turn being pinned in their own zone. We don’t like it when the tables are turned like this.

5:17 The Madden/Pando/Shanny line takes the ice to calm things down after the Poppers’ defensive failures, and they get a great chance for Shanny off a smartly-conceived rush by Pando. The Hurricanes are unimpressed and resume setting up with ease around the perimeter in the Devils zone.

4:26 The puck finally gets deflected off the ice, and we get a whistle after what seems like about a half an hour of end-to-end free-wheeling hockey. We hear rumors that Blersus is going to be joining this game in progress when the Pens finish off the Flyers, so the teams better get the interesting hockey out of the way before then.

4:01 Doc, as a breakaway play unfolds: “Brodeur!! With the long pass!!! And here comes Mike Rupp!!!!!” The expected happens. Pookie: “And there goes Mike Rupp.”

2:18 Madden takes a long shot from way outside off the rush, and it goes just wide. Schnookie: “That’s funny. Those used to go in against Cujo.”

0:53 Whitey skates up to a Cane scrumming for the puck at the near boards and basically just punches him in the throat. Carolina goes on the PP.

0:21 Marty makes a great save in traffic while all manner of guys in white sweaters fall on top of him. This series is getting comical.

0:00 The buzzer sounds after a wild end-to-end exchange of chances by both teams. Whew! As we watch Madden take down Hooters as the clock winds down, Pookie remarks, “That’s weird. Hooters doesn’t wear a visor.” Boomer, very quietly, says in her Staal-brother voice, “Hooters is tough sod farmer. Don’t need eyes.”

SECOND PERIOD

That weird Face guy interviews a trio of the Devils dancers in the gift shop. And while that’s going on (us with the sound off) a little subliminal Chuck the Duck graphic pops up in the lower corner of the screen. We wonder if that made sense when there was sound.

THIRD PERIOD

18:36 The Devils finally touch on a delayed penalty after Oduya cross-checks Hooters in front of the net on a PP-ending scramble. This period’s going great!

18:23 Marty makes a great, improvisational save on a triple-deflection. Fine, Marty – we’re sorry we made fun of you for losing your marbles the way you have over the last 48 hours. But you’re still on notice. There’s plenty of Brahms left to be played in this game.

16:32 The kill comes to a successful close thanks in large part to Jokinen’s steadfast refusal to take a shot from above the near faceoff circle no matter how much space the Devils are giving him to do it.

15:36 Zach is Andy Greene-killing. The Devils set up deliberately in the Carolina zone, and after some cautious passing, Zach looks directly at the point, then shuffleboards the puck up to it… despite the fact that Greene had moved centerward. It’s like Zach specifically waited to make sure Greene wouldn’t be there for the pass. On the bench, Sutter is probably grinning and thinking, “Excellent! I hate that Greene kid!”

14:37 The Devils D has entered its “isn’t it hilarious how many turnovers we’re coughing up!” phase of the game, but Marty is scrambling really well. He’s not, as Chico points out on the replay of the sequence, catching the puck well, but he’s doing a great job of just staying in front of it.

13:43 Are the Devils planning to try to sit on this 1-0 lead for the rest of this game? Because we know how that’s going to end.

12:29 Madden and Pando get a two-on-one, with Madden carrying the puck under a lot of backchecking pressure, but Madden doesn’t even manage a shot (or think of passing).

11:31 The Hurricanes send a rush down toward Marty in response to Travis’s attempt at a slapshot, and what ends up happening is that a mass of humanity skates at the net, Marty makes a save, and sticks go flying everywhere. We have no idea what just happened. Perhaps the teams wanted to get one last bit of fun in before Versus joins us.

8:38 LaRose splits the D as he darts down the crease, but Marty is calmly (and amazingly) totally unimpressed by the shot attempt. As an aside, this period has been just amazing. We’re having a hard time diarizing because there’s too much hockey going on.

7:27 Eaves gets called for his second bullshitty penalty, this one for holding while Travis is falling over next to him. During the stoppage MSG+ shows us a replay of the LaRose chance, and Chico calls it “a rabby-doo”. Pookie: “I thought a rabby-doo was a fight.” Schnookie: “Maybe it just means ‘something good’.” Pookie: “Oh, so it’s the opposite of funfetti. Travis is like, ‘This rabby-doo is going to make our cake look awesome!’”

5:27 That power play was decidedly not rabby-doo.

5:09 PandoNation is ready to completely lose its collective mind when its emperor-god gets a clear breakaway from the Carolina blue line, but alas, Ward is no Lalime.

4:21 Marty is super-alert on a puck coming in through traffic off a fantastic set-up for LaRose, and just swallows up the shot, sending us to commercial. As MSG+ is about to cut away, Chico exults, “Excellent save, and he keeps the shutout alive!” We immediately scream with extreme annoyance at the TV, “Chico!!!” For the record, we weren’t the ones who said it. Or thought it.

3:20 The Hurricanes try to set Madden up with a turnover with a mile of real estate at the blue line, but he isn’t alert enough to receive the puck. Carolina promptly thanks its lucky stars and heads down the other way for a great chance for Hooters.

2:09 The great crowd sending up a full-throated “Marty! Marty!” chant.

1:00 The roof is ready to blow right off the building on a flurry of chances Patty and Madden have with Ward out of the net, but the puck stays out of the net. We. Are. Losing. Our. Minds.

0:23 Devils icing. The “Marty! Marty!” chant is coming at a frenzied pace. Carolina calls a time-out.

Before that wacky Patty/Madden flurry a few moments ago, we were discussing how this has been, flat-out, the most evenly-played high-level hockey game we have ever seen. Chico takes this opportunity to echo our sentiment.

0:19 The Canes win the draw, and get the play they wanted. Marty makes the save and freezes the puck. Devils time-out. Chico takes this opportunity to tell us Paulie is “up there with the elite defensemen. I know he doesn’t have the shot. Or the finish. But…” PaulieMartinNation wholeheartedly agrees. But without the “but…” Shots and finish are overrated.

0:15 Pando blamed himself for the GWG in Game 4, for not blocking the point shot, and here he dives out at the point man to throw a sliding, smothering block that kicks the puck to center ice.

0:00 Marty holds fast in the waning seconds, and gets the 44-save shutout , which MSG+ tells us is his playoff career high for saves in a game. We thought he was going to fall apart after getting himself pissy about the LaRose collision in the first period, but damn if he wasn’t amazing tonight.

And seriously, this game was the dictionary definition of awesome. This was hockey at its absolute finest. It was like a pissing contest between two great goaltenders, and two skilled, skating teams just throwing everything they absolutely could at each other. It was thrilling, from start to finish, 1-0 final score and all. Damn. We really, really, really love hockey.

(Oh, and Greene, Clarkson and Marty are the three stars. We’ll go on record saying Ward deserved better.)

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Today is a very exciting day at IPB because we’ve declared our very own fake holiday: Gentle Reader Appreciation Day. In honor of the day, we’re going to pretend we sent each and every one of you flowers and a modest gift card for Olive Garden.

Administrative Professionals' Day Bouquet

Actual flower arrangement given to Schnookie at work for another fake holiday, Administrative Professionals Day

The reason for this celebration? Well, you, Gentle Reader and IPB Irregular, got some great press today, from David Lee over at Red And Black Hockey:

I highly, highly recommend the brilliant Interchangeable Parts blog for a Devils point of view. Not only are the authors of this blog very knowledgeable, but they possess a blistering wit. On top of all that, they and their readers have an uncommon levelheaded analysis of the game. Please give them a visit and take time to read the comments.

Clearly David Lee has no idea what he’s talking about when he says the authors of this blog are knowledgeable and/or brilliant, but he’s spot-on about you guys. So thanks, everyone, for making IPB such a fun (and uncommonly levelheaded) place to be. You all rawk!

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