So that knot we’ve had in our stomachs for the last couple of weeks? That ever-expanding pit of disgust we’ve been trying to live with since the wheels fell off the Devils after 552? Well, it’s finally gone, thank heavens. It’s been replaced with an even more unpleasant feeling, albeit a familiar one – that’s right! It’s the playoffs! And we wanna puke! Let’s get this started already so we can stop being so anxious.
Our blissfully non-Blersus feed kicks off with shots of fans arriving at The Rawk and being handed… towels! WOOO! Way to rock it old-school, Devils! Pookie: “Thank heavens it’s not Fuckerstixx. Thunderfuxx.” Indeed.
Doc tries to tell us in his intro that the regular-season numbers for these two teams’ respective special teams have evaporated, and that somehow that’s good news for Devils fans. Schnookie: “The numbers might be reset to zero, but the performance remains the same.”
Oh, and before our spirits get broken, we want to revel in a little jubilation: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Blobby’s benched! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
20:00 Before the drop of the puck MSG+ shows us prolonged shots of both coaches on the bench, and we pass the time by impersonating Cam Ward’s dinosaur noise from one of those brilliant “Ask The Canes” videos on the Hurricanes website. Those videos are comedy gold, if you’re looking to pass some time, but if you’re not willing to dig around in the archives for it, suffice to say that Ward’s dinosaur noise is not unlike the sound a sleepy kitten makes.
19:24 The first half minute of the Devils playoffs goes swimmingly, with lots of skating and hitting and not giving up a goal on the first opportunity for the Canes, and then suddenly the Devils are on the PP for a Carolina too many men infraction.
18:33 The teams trade chances (which is not as good as it sounds what with the Devils having the man advantage), and while we wait for a faceoff after Ward freezes the puck, Pookie starts fiddling with the volume. “Does it sound like they’re talking to us from the moon tonight, or is it just me?” It’s not just her.
17:47 Pookie: “Between the mention of the word ‘greasy’ during that Hawks/Wings game on Sunday and now Cam Ward’s water bottle not being in its cozy, I’m being reminded that the playoffs are entirely about some little, inconsequential thing just driving me completely fucking batty.”
16:41 Paulie artfully walks through the forechecking Canes, then manages to get the puck on a miracle onsides play to Travis, and then Travis artfully walks through the defending Canes in front of Ward… but he runs out of real estate and doesn’t have the presence of mind to bank the puck in off a surprisingly oblivious Ward from behind the net.
14:01 Just as Chico is telling us what a great story it was that Ray “Kazoo” Whitney won the scoring title this year (later he adds, “For his team”. That’s a very small qualifier), the Canes cough up the puck in the slot while the Poppers are pressing deep in the zone, but the play unfolds slowly, and Ward is calmly able to shut things down.
11:26 Paulie and Oduya decide they don’t want to win tonight, and put on a masterclass of turning the puck over behind their own net. Honestly, in a 15-second span, they combine for no less than 17 turnovers.
10:28 Madden looks like he’s lost the puck against the near boards in the neutral zone, but somehow punches it ahead in stride, leaving the camera behind as he charges into the offensive zone. Schnookie is stunned: “Madden was just too fast for the camera.”
6:54 As the Canes start picking up a head of steam in the Devils zone, Doc tells us ominously that the Canes were only even at 5-on-5 this year, while the Devils were +31. Schnookie: “Well, the Devils can regular-season stat into one and and spit into the other, and see which hand fills up faster.”
6:07 To answer for the increasing Carolina pressure, Zach heads up the other way and draws a penalty on Babchuk while doggedly working behind Ward’s net. It takes some wild play in the Hurricanes zone before the whistle even gets blown on the PP, and we suddenly have hope. Pookie: “I still don’t think we can win a game in this one, but I’m wondering now if we might not score a goal…”
5:13 After the Devils give up the zone without a fight and then struggle to get it back, Pookie sighs, “Hm. I may have to amend my bullshit statement.”
3:50 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ward plays the puck up the boards directly to Applemotherfuckingsauce at the point, and Mottau deftly waits for room while a defender passes by in front of him, then fires a wrister through a thicket of players that beats Ward’s glove. 1-0 Devils, and Pookie learns a painful life lesson: unexpected playoff goal + hiccups = disaster. But anyway, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO*hic*OOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
3:19 The Shanny/Madden/Pando line is absolutely flying, but comes up short when Shanny takes a rebound right in the mush, but just hops back up off the ice, blood streaming everywhere, and skates determinedly off the ice for repairs. We grudgingly admit that since Pando’s gotten his job back, we really don’t mind Shanny all that much anymore. Pookie: “And one other thing I’ll give Old NHLer Island is that those guys are tough.”
2:01 Zach works frenetically all over behind the goal line, then lasers a feed from a spot well to Ward’s right up to a creeping-down-from-the-point Paulie. Paulie then seems to scream, “No, no! You take the puck back, Zach. You’re doing great!” and fires a shot so far off target that it essentially works as a pass right back to Zach.
0:00 It’s no secret that we are really glad this series isn’t getting any national attention, but ever since the matchup got set, we’ve been really excited for how well-played this series should be Of all the first round matchups, we suspect this one’s going to be the most fun to watch. And if this period is any indication of what’s to come, we were right. That was just a fun, fun, fun 20 minutes. And the fact that the Devils have the lead is just the icing on the cake.
We get an interview with the president of the Devils Fan Club; she’s being interviewed by an MSG employee we have never seen before. After a few puzzled minutes, Pookie finally figures it out: “I know who that guy reminds me of! He reminds me of Face!” We spend the rest of the intermission singing the A-Team theme song over whatever it is Dano and Gel-O are talking about.
20:00 We come back from intermission to a big, gooey shot of Shanny’s pulpy face. It’s truly horrific, even moreso than his non-pulpy face. All around his giant wooden false teeth he’s got swollen, stitched-up lips, and then his long, horsey chin is all scraped up and bloodied. Our inane statement for tonight is that it would totally suck to have to deal with that.
18:58 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Poppers get an advantageous matchup thanks to a Canes icing, and Zach spends a few moments thoroughly dominating Hooters before walking out along the goal line and whipping a shot through a stunned Ward. It’s 2-0 Devils, and we can almost hear the sad little dinosaur sound from here. WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
17:44 Replay of Zach’s goal shows Ward just completely froze up on the near post, going into a confused half-butterfly and forgetting about covering the other side of the net. Schnookie: “Wow. He really was channeling his hero on that one.”
17:17 Ward isn’t rattled after giving up a bad goal, and stays focused during some relatively functional crease-crashing by the Devils fourth line. We can’t remember the last time the Devils went to the net, now that we think about it, so it’s probably not that hard to stop them when they do.
14:59 This game is wild — there are Devils other than Zach who are forechecking.
14:20 A Cane hits Paulie in the far corner, but Doc points out, “He didn’t get him entirely.” Pookie: “Oh, you can’t get Paulie entirely.” Pause. “He’s like Lamborghini Lightning out there.”
13:51 Marty looks sharp shutting down a Joni Pitkanen shot, which is more than we’d ever be able to do, because we’re always too busy laughing at the name “Joni”. What can we say? We’re 12.
11:48 The pace has not abated yet in this one, and the Hurricanes dart up the ice after a Patty/Zubrus/Gio line parry into the Carolina zone. Samsonov ends up with the puck just below the near faceoff dot with Paulie defending him, and as he tries to throw every move in the book at Paulie, he manages to get him to bite on exactly zero of them. Paulie’s so cool. Pookie: “He’s Mr. Kiss Kiss Pancake.”
9:58 The Devils are now buzzing around Ward’s net, with the great crowd in full “Let’s go Devils!” chant, and we’re puzzled. Pookie: “What is this… ‘puck pursuit’?”
9:18 Zach chases the puck down on the far boards in the Carolina zone, then rips a pass to Travis all alone in the high slot. Travis then canons a one-timer that whistles just over the net, as Ward crouches down in a little kittenosaur ball to save himself from decapitation.
8:36 Okay, we made fun of Ward for looking like Marty on that shitty goal he gave up to Zach, so we’ll give him a lot of credit for deftly swinging his stick back in a Marty-esque break-up of a wraparound chance for the Devils.
8:27 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gio just walks up to Brind’Amour in the corner to Ward’s right, yoinks the puck away from him, and tosses it back to Patty above the faceoff circle. Patty then rips a shot through a screen that just kisses the net inside the crossbar and it’s 3-0 Devils.
5:52 The crowd gets going with a “Cam Ward!” taunt, and Pookie’s hesitant about whether she’d be participating in it if she were there. It quickly shifts to a “Marty’s better!”, and Schnookie says happily, “Now that I’d chant.” Pookie: “I wake up every morning chanting that, even when I hate his guts.” Meanwhile, we go to commercial with it looking for all intents and purposes that the Canes are going to the PP (Doc tells us so, too).
We come back from commercial to find out that it was actually The Kazoo getting called for a totally phantom holding penalty, and it’s actually the Devils on the PP.
4:40 Patty misses an easy shovel-in attempt on a frantic little rebound on the doorstep. Schnookie: “Patty, you’re fired.” Pookie: “Yeah. What have you done for me lately?”
1:36 There is a bit of broken play deep in the Devils zone, and Marty is called on for the first time in recent memory to make some saves. He looks good on them, too. This is period has been the polar opposite from the Devils’ last 10 games of the season.
1:00 The Patty/Zubrus/Gio line is flying again, managing to best the slow-moving Canes with a molasses-uphill-in-January-speed cross-ice pass at the Carolina blue line, then they beat a handful of defenders in the far corner, and then Zubrus and Gio both lunge after a loose puck just in front of the net, but manage to fall all over each other as Ward freezes the shot. The two Devils then have a good giggle about it as they lumber back to their feet, and honestly, things have changed so much in Devils Land since this time last week that we can giggle about it too.
0:00 The period comes to an end on a delayed penalty to the Iron Boar. That period? Was insane. The Devils were a complete juggernaut. Who knows what the third period will hold, but for now, we’re just delighted that we’ve gotten 40 solid minutes from our boys. It’s 40 more good minutes than we got from them in the playoffs last year.
In this intermission, Face is interviewing some old-school fans up in the last row of section 231. Yeah, they’ll go up to the last row in the new building, but did anyone ever climb those stairs to interview us in the last row at the Meadowlands? Of course they didn’t. You had to have a death wish to climb those stairs. Hmph.
18:00 One way to not let the Canes score on the PP is to not let them set up in the zone. It seems like they learned something from that last game.
17:22 We kind of feel like internet-commentary discussion of future playoff beards has jumped the shark a bit, but we never tire of admiring actual fully-grown beards. So we’ll take this moment to say that, in the playoff beard department, the Devils have found a fantastic replacement for Scott Niedermayer in Johnny Oduya. He’s practically got an owl living in his beard already.
16:46 The Poppers start another puck-hungry, buzzing-around-the-net sequence on which we learn, once again, that Zach is the guy who should be shooting, not passing. Pookie channels her Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross and says, “Zach, always be shooting.” Pause. “ABS.” Pause. “Zach’s like, ‘Anti-Lock Brake System?’”
13:55 Pookie admires someone behind the Devils bench who is wearing their playoff towel like a neckerchief, and Schnookie starts expounding on how she would have brought some sort of kerchief accessory to be able to really Dale Evans it up with her towel. Pookie: “Like a napkin ring?” Schnookie: “Yeah. A big wooden one with jungle print from Pier One.” Pookie: “And you’d look so cool in it! And I’d go sit on the other side of the arena so I’m not seen with you.”
13:29 Play is continuing much as before. Pookie: “I don’t even know how the Devils are getting the puck, but they just are!” Schnookie: “I know. It’s like they’re puck magnets. It’s like they are magnets for the puck. No one has ever made that analogy before.” Pookie: “Nope. And this just in: Marty’s like a fifth defenseman out there. Fourth. Fuck. No, third. Third defenseman.”
11:26 Uh oh. Is this the dreaded prevent defense? The Devils aren’t exactly giving up their zone with ease here, but they’re also not exactly pursuing it much further past their own blue line.
10:38 Yes, it is prevent defense! And you know what prevent defense does? It prevents you from winning. (Thanks, Barry Melrose.) The Devils all stand around after a draw to Marty’s right, watch the puck bounce around a bit, and then everyone sags when The Kazoo punches a goal home. 3-1 Devils, and Pookie sighs, “We are so not going to win this.” We can’t help it – it’s been a rough few postseasons these last couple of years.
10:06 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At one end of the ice there is nothing but wretched defensive-zone scrambling by the Devils, and then all of a sudden it becomes a three-on-two the other direction, and Langer, as the trailer, whips a perfectly-placed shot over a collapsing, screening pair of defenders to find the top corner of the net. 4-1 Devils, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, so maybe we are going to win this one. Heh.
7:28 Gio decides to make things a bit more interesting, loses ground to The Kazoo on the rush in the Devils zone, and takes a tripping penalty. We don’t feel as optimistic about this kill as we did about the one at the start of the period.
5:45 The Canes finally get set up on their PP, but then lose the blue line when a Cullen point shot drills off Brind’Amour in the high slot and bounces out to the neutral zone. We’ll take it. Brind’Amour, meanwhile, kind of wishes they’d drawn that play up differently.
4:36 Chico tells us, “Lest the Devils fans get too excited… The Devils have dominated the Hurricanes tonight, but the Hurricanes are much better than what we’ve seen here.” Quit raining on our parade, Chico!
3:36 PaulieMartinNation is all aquiver – it seems the MSG team is applying for citizenship. Chico informs us that Gel-O, when asked before the game which player would be the impact guy for the Devils, chose Paulie. And Chico thinks he was right. So do we. *Swoon!*
3:06 Play is still going on, but Doc is busy positing that Applesauce is going to be giving Nellie the pug extra hamburger in celebration of tonight’s goal. Chico adds that Mottau has said that he showed Nellie the tape of her appearance on TV, and ever since she’s had a big head. Meanwhile, the Devils get called for consecutive icings.
1:07 The arena has fallen pretty silent as many fans have departed to catch their trains. And a feeling of content satisfaction settles over everyone left as Gio draws another Canes penalty out in front of the net while his linemates are mildly cycling.
1:00 The crowd looks substantially bigger when the last minute of play announcement goes up, and they rise to their feet to cheer and wave their towels.
0:00 And the game comes to a close with a surprisingly raucous house celebrating what was, from start to finish, awesome, awesome, awesome. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was not at all what we were expecting after the season series between these teams. It seemed like the Devils had the puck for basically the entire time; they were faster, harder-hitting, hungrier, smarter, and all-around dreamier than the Canes tonight. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!