Prior to tonight, we have been, at best, ambivalent about Ilya Kovalchuk. We kind of really didn’t ever care about him, and when he was brought to our attention, it was normally because Chico was throwing a clot during Devils/Thrashers games at how selfish and lazy he is. But… now we guess we’re totally on board with it. WOOOOOOOOOOO! Let the Kovalchuk Era begin!
After giving us a bit of background on Kovalchuk, MSG+ shows us that the Devils never even let Oduya’s 29 get cold. Welcome back, Batshit!
19:12 The snow-skittish crowd gives out an enormous roar when 17 comes over the boards for the first time.
19:11 We’re disappointed in Kovalchuk. Why hasn’t he scored yet? We gave up on Boogerfors for this?
18:13 The first Kovalchuk-led rush of the season ends with Kovalchuk getting pushed to the board and just weakly passing the puck forward to Langenbrunner, who does nothing. Pookie: “If all he’s there for is to give the puck to Langenbrunner, then what’s the point?”
16:51 We’re trying to think of a nickname for the new guy, because “Kovalchuk” is a pain in the ass to type. Pookie so far has suggested “Flashy”, “K-chuk” (it emphasizes the “Chuck” that way), and “O-Don’t-ya”, and Schnookie has suggested “Mr. Kovalchuk”.
14:38 After the first really sustained shift in the Leafs zone (with the Pando/Land Zhark/Niedermayer (the Lesser) line), the Devils proceed to get pinned behind Marty’s net as two Leafs forecheckers keep three Devils skaters frozen in place, petrified, with the puck in the trapezoid. Kovalchuk has not immediately improved the Devils breakout.
13:31 The Zubrus/Langer/Kovalchuk line gains the zone with some speed, skating three abreast, and Kovalchuk gets the puck up high… and makes a wide, wide pass to Langer, who accomplishes nothing. Schnookie: “Don’t pass, you asshole! Shoot! You’re the shooter!” Pookie: “Who does he think he is? Getzlaf?”
8:46 You know who’s been really clearly energized by the Kovalchuk trade? Land Zhark. That guy is flying tonight.
6:38 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kovalchuk has the puck on the near boards, where he’s being checked, and instead of passively giving it up or standing there, wasting time with it in his feet, he whips a hard pass into the slot. And Zubrus, leaping around a pair of defenders, takes that as a hint that having the puck in the offensive zone means you could, you know, try to score. So he chips the puck over the crouching Gustavsson to make it 1-0 Devils. We love it! That’s the most purposeful pass we’ve seen a Devil make in the offensive zone in weeks, and we’ll definitely appreciate the way Gustavsson saw the puck coming at him and actually worked to make himself smaller. He’s a Monster! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
5:19 Last time we saw the Devils, the broadcast was nearly unwatchably dull, as everyone involved was feeling moribund and maybe full of despair. It seems one giant trade is all it takes to wake everyone up, because even Doc is giddy tonight. When Chico breaks down Gustavsson’s incredible shrinking act on the Devils goal, Doc, mocking the “Monster” nickname, starts singing – in a gravelly voice – “C is for Cookie”.
2:09 We don’t mean to alarm anyone, but the Devils just had a dominant offensive-zone shift. On which they drew a penalty. This Kovalchuk guy isn’t half bad!
1:07 The PP is not, as advertised, better than before. After a fruitless, pathetic minute, Doc asks Chico, “Do you think they’re deferring too much to [Kovalchuk]?” Either that, or they’re their typically terrible selves. All the Kovalchuk in the world can’t change that Langer and Rolston are still out there with the man advantage.
0:00 That was fun! We can’t remember the last time we were excited about these guys, so we guess the trade’s working.
17:57 Chico is not making us feel good about the Devils as a newly-imagined juggernaut. He’s telling us, while play kind of hangs out in the neutral zone, that Marty’s feeling good that the Devils can be expected to score two goals every night now, what with Zach and Kovalchuk. That doesn’t sound like our expectations should be as high as we were starting to set them. Because with their defense, we’re not all that confident that two goals a night will be enough.
17:09 Niedermayer (the Lesser) is not feeling invigorated by Kovalchuk, and takes a lazy, stupid, idiotic slashing penalty in the neutral zone. Wait, maybe he is feeling invigorated, and is re-committed to being as bad as he can possibly be.
16:21 Ah, it’s the same old Devils coming out for this period. Kaberle’s point shot gets tipped on its way in by Pando, and it’s a 1-1 game.
16:08 Whoa. Rosehill’s been to the Niedermayer (the Lesser) School of Really Shitty Penalties, because immediately after the Leafs tie the game, he slashes Andrew Peters and gets called for it. Andrew Peters. Anyone who takes a slashing penalty while trying to stop an Andrew Peters offensive parry qualifies to be considered the stupidest hockey player on earth.
15:03 Land Zhark takes the Devils off the PP with a dopey interference penalty while Kovalchuk is wheeling at the point. Replay shows the play, in real time, looked a lot like a pick, but in replay, makes Chico’s head explode. Of course, Chico never thinks the Devils are at fault, and always thinks the Leafs are bunch of diving divers.
11:31 Land Zhark skates directly into Gunnarsson’s elbow while they are racing for a puck, and goes down like he’s been shot. The crowd boos lustily when nothing gets called, and Chico’s head explodes that there is no penalty called on Gunnarsson for having an elbow that a Devil skated into.
11:22 Kovalchuk responds to the lack of a call on the Land Zhark elbow by being a human blanket on a non-puck-carrying Leaf in the neutral zone. The Leafs go on the PP.
9:37 Do the Devils even practice their PK anymore? Stempniak beats Marty on a long-range shot through Whitey. 2-1 Leafs, and this new fucking shit suddenly looks a lot like the old fucking shit.
6:10 It might be fair to say that the dead-cat bounce the Devils got from Kovalchuk has passed.
5:22 We go to commercial with a shot of Peters trying to be a preening peacock against the Leafs “tough guys”. Schnookie wails, “How can we expect to win? We’ve got Peters in the lineup!” Pookie: “And Lablond. And Rolston. And Niedermayer.”
4:35 Salmela attempts one of those long-range, flip-the-puck-over-everyone dump-ins from the neutral zone, and flings the puck so hard it sails into the netting in the far corner. Chico, trying to make us all excited for something on this still-misbegotten team, chirps, “Salmela’s really good at flipping pucks!” Well, there’s something to look forward to.
3:51 There is not a single good word to be said about the Devils conspiring to hand the puck to a cluster of Leafs inside their own blue line, then giving up a goal, and then Whitey screaming at the officials for reasons no one understands. Perhaps he’s furious that the officials didn’t call him for a penalty for being so unflinchingly awful. It’s 3-1 Leafs, and Pookie sighs, “It’s like the dead cat bounced, then fell straight through the rotting floorboards.”
1:46 Okay, everyone was giddy in the first period. Doc was singing Sesame Street songs. We were feeling fond of the Devils again. Kovalchuk was probably thinking, “Say, this Zubrus guy isn’t so bad.” But now even Chico sounds like he’s trying not to vomit from the stink coming from the guys in red tonight.
0:45 There is some concern from our broadcast team that the Devils need to stop passing just to Kovalchuk, because the Leafs are predicting it and picking off their passes with ease. Pookie: “Maybe they’re just rightly thinking that Kovalchuk’s the only guy to pass to because all the other Devils suck?”
0:00 The Devils skate off the ice to a chorus of boos. Welcome to Newark, Ilya.
Before the start of the period, Chico tells us that he knows that Devils fans are disappointed tonight because they were hoping it would be “a constant offensive onslaught” with Kovalchuk in the lineup. Schnookie: “No. I was just hoping it would be an occasional offensive onslaught.”
19:45 There’s a delay at the start of the period because the goal light behind Marty is flashing (insert “they’re just turning it on now to save themselves the effort later” joke here), and Doc lamely starts cracking about police lights in your rearview mirror, and getting out his drivers license and registration, and blah blah. We’re all cranky, so Boomer and Pookie grumble, “Ha. Ha.” Then Pookie perks up, “Oh! Thanks for reminding me to check if my speeding ticket is in the system yet, Doc!” (It’s not.)
17:11 Boomer: “Why are we skating Peters?” Schnookie, not looking up from the magazine she’s flipping through: “Because the Leafs are truculent.” Boomer: “Oh, that’s right. I forgot they were truculent.”
16:28 Lemaire has blown our minds by putting Land Zhark out with Zach and Travis… thereby creating another ZZZ line.
16:03 Doc tells us the Leafs are “thinking defense all the way.” Pookie: “Meanwhile, the Devils are thinking [Meow Mix jingle] all the way.”
11:54 The Devils are looking typically hopeless, and Chico marvels at how amazingly good the Leafs are in the neutral zone. Schnookie: “Are the Leafs really good in the neutral zone, or are the Devils just really bad?” Pookie: “A pinch of Column A and a whole truckload of column B.”
11:10 Whitey gets hit in the corner to Marty’s left, responds, right in front of the official, with a crosscheck, then decides to slash the Leaf too for good measure. He gets called for the slash. Chico can’t understand how something so small can be called a penalty, but doesn’t seem to consider that maybe the slash on its own would have been fine, or the crosscheck, but not both.
9:30 It’s sort of hilarious to think about how, 30 minutes of hockey ago, we liked this game, and liked the Devils again. We take it all back.
8:23 Welcome to New Jersey, Ilya. Here are your new linemates, Brian Rolston and Dean McAmmond. Yeah, we agree – Don Waddell really must have hated you to send you here.
7:27 The Devils continue to be abominable, and Chico starts to say something about how the most commonly-used term about Kovalchuk this morning was “game changer”, and we cut him off. But as we are starting to complain, Schnookie points out, “Hey, we played these same Leafs on Tuesday and lost 3-1. This game is identical but for one thing – that one Devils goal. That was created by Kovalchuk. So he did change the game.” Pookie: “It’s true. And, unlike that game, I don’t feel like I would rather die than watch the end of it. I mean, I am not literally forced to leave the room rather than sit through the final ten minutes.”
5:26 For a team that is supposedly thinking only of defense, the Leafs are getting an awful lot of shots.
4:56 Pookie: “I bet Boogerfors would have had a hat trick tonight.” Schnookie: “And Oduya.” We both collapse into fits of laughter. See? It’s not the same old fucking shit. It’s new fucking shit!
3:04 What in the what??? Land Zhark feeds Hambone off a little rush, and Hambone takes advantage of Gustavsson’s shrinking-goalie act with a sassy little backhand shot. 3-2 Leafs, and the building comes back to life.
2:22 The Devils come back after the goal with the Showdown at the Triple Z Ranch line, and they dominate in the Leafs zone, finally drawing a penalty when Zubrus tries his “leaping across the crease while shoveling a backhander” move again.
1:01 Every time Kovalchuk gets the puck, the crowd starts to go crazy, this buzz of “what’s he going to do now?” humming through the air. Schnookie: “Guys, just keep giving him the puck because he knows what to do, and all of you don’t.”
0:44 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Don’t be alarmed, Gentle Reader, but the Devils just scored a power play goal. WE KNOW! It’s RIDICULOUS! They pass the puck like some crazy mofos, the swagger mounting with every time Kovalchuk touches the puck, and suddenly it’s Kovalchuk to Hambone, then a ballsy cross-rink pass to Travis, then an Acorns slapshot right through Gustavsson to make it a 3-3 game.
0:18 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOLY FLIRKING SCHNITT!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! PANDO!!! PANDO!!!! PANDO!!!!!!!!!! Gustavsson thinks he’s got everything covered by directing a rebound under pressure onto Pando’s stick, because hey, he’s Pando, right? WRONG, BEEYOTCH! 4-3 DEVILS! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
0:00 No. The fuck. Way. That was UNBELIEVABLE.