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Archive for the ‘Playoffs’ Category

June 11 2012

There wasn’t any champagne in our glasses this year, but hey, at least we got to a point where it was worth dusting the glass off in the first place. Thanks, Devils! And thanks to you, stalwart Gentle Reader, for making this already fun season even funner. We hope everyone has a fabulous summer.

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So, is this the point where all of our “tra la la, we’re so happy the Devils just managed to get this far!” gives way to heartbreak?

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So, is tonight the night? Or do we live to fight another day? Either way, we really hope Henrique keeps his mustache. That’s our new favorite thing ever.

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We jumped aboard Devils fandom at the start of the 1995-96 season, immediately after the team had shamed itself by failing to make the playoffs immediately after winning the Stanley Cup. In the 14 seasons that followed (spread over 15 years) we were conditioned to believe, the entire time, that our team was a “contender”. Twice we got to actually see them win the Cup, which is truly, truly amazing. But the other 12 seasons involved watching our team come up woefully short; 12 years where we committed massive energy and emotion in a grueling nine-month slog, only to give the experience a final grade of “fail”. There’s nothing wrong with this — being a fan of a contender (even a self-described one) can be a ton of fun. You get to see more wins than losses, for one thing; every game can feel much more intense when you think you’re watching a Team of Destiny; and you can put a little swagger in your step right up until the moment it becomes clear that your team isn’t going to end up champion. But it also means, in the likely event that your team doesn’t win the Cup every single year, that you’re going to have a lot more bitter, angry, or sad hindsight than fans who had no expectations for their teams. Take, for example, the 2000-2001 Devils. That team was a remorseless winning machine, a juggernaut of a defending Cup champion, and got all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Do we look back on that season with fondness in our hearts, or an appreciation for how lucky we were to see our favorite team be that good? Nope, not at all. Because they should have gotten that one last win, at least in our assessment. For better or for worse, our memories of that season are shaded primarily with a belief that the team came up short. Our memories of so many of the seasons during the first 15 years of our fandom are of wasted opportunities and squandered greatness.

Last year was the first time we experienced our Devils falling off a cliff. We expected it to be much harder than it was, but as it turns out, life goes on when your hockey team is decidedly not a contender. And more than that, it gave us a sense of perspective. Thanks to John MacLean, Terrible Head Coach, we suddenly got an understanding of what other kinds of failure a hockey team can have. Sure, losing in the first round when you’re the top seed is something worth being pissed about. But you know what’s worse? Being actually, sustainably, across-an-entire-season shitty. Last year’s experience was an epiphany for us: we don’t ever want to be back in the same place we were after losing in the first round to the Rangers (and all their attendant Avery-ness), where an entire hockey season of fun fandom is wiped out by one week of crap. It’s a polar shift for us, no question, but the thing is that being happy is… well, nice.

This spring’s Devils run has been a fantastic ride. Each step has been a further one out of our old mentality, starting with “we just hope the first-round failure is relatively painless,” then “how can the best regular-season penalty kill in the history of the league be giving up this many power play goals to the Panthers???”, then “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Who knew winning a wholly winnable first-round series could feel this unexpectedly sweet???”, then “hey, just one win against the Flyers will make us happy,” then “HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WE’RE MOPPING THE FLOOR WITH THEM!,” then “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Who knew getting to the Eastern Conference Final could feel this unexpectedly sweet???”, then “hey, just one winning period against the Rangers will make us happy,” then “this playoff thing can actually be fun, even if we don’t win,” and then “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” Because seriously, guys, the Devils won the Eastern Conference Final. The Devils are the Eastern Conference Champions. They beat the Flyers and the Rangers to do that. This is, without question, fabulous.

So who knows what happens now. Maybe they’ll salvage some pride and force a Game 5. Then maybe the ridiculous will happen and they’ll force a Game 6. Then maybe the insane will happen and they’ll force a Game 7. Then maybe the divinely outrageously magnificent will happen and they’ll win the Cup. Most likely, though, the Kings will win comfortably tonight, and the Devils will end up having been swept hard out of the Cup Final. It’s all cool, because you know what? We will not look back on 2011-2012 with even the slightest shred of anger, bitterness, sadness, or “what might have been”. This season was TRULY AWESOME.

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Yikes! It’s almost time for the puck to drop! Man, the first day after vacation is so disorienting. Here’s hoping the Devils are more put-together tonight than we are.

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May 26 2012

When Victory Euro Mats was awarded the Victory Euro Prince of Wales Trophy, he made sure not to touch it. He doesn’t want to be the one who jinxes the Devils!

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There’s been all kinds of talk about some stupid guy doing some stupid thing against the Devils exactly 18 years ago, and frankly, we think that’s all stupid. We weren’t hockey fans yet way back then, so all this nostalgia has us wondering what we were up to on this day in 1994. Pookie was wrapping up her freshman year of high school, Schnookie was a couple of weeks away from graduating, and we were dreading the fast-approaching graduation-gift trip we were going to have to take with our grandparents. (The trip itself was an absolutely amazing tour of Switzerland, followed by a few days in Paris. The price we had to pay was spending all that time with our grandfather, nervously tittering at every racist and xenophobic thing he said, and recognizing where the “ugly American” stereotype comes from.) More importantly, though, we were huge NBA fans, and the Conference Finals were just under way. Looking at Wikipedia, it appears that on this day 18 years ago we were getting ourselves all psyched up for some hawt Rockets/Jazz Game 2 action. Which, in hindsight, seems preposterous. Who voluntarily watches Rockets/Jazz games?? That was just the undercard, though, because for all our self-identification as NBA fans, our primary concern was the Knicks.

The sexy, run-and-gun, flashy-scoring, mid-’90s Knicks. Wait, no… they were the opposite of that. Heh.

On this day 18 years ago we were also reveling in what Wikipedia reports was a 100-89 win by the Knicks over the Pacers, which sounds like about 188 more points than we remember being scored in that series. The Pat Riley Knicks were sluggish, thuggish, low-scoring, defensively smothering, and basically seemed, in comparison to all their opponents, talentless and slow. We adored them. So you can imagine how, when we jumped to the NHL, we were already on the fast-track to becoming fans of the late-Lemaire Era Devils. (“Wait, there’s a team that’s even more plodding, lifeless, and underachieving in the playoffs? Sign us up!”) Actually, now that we’re looking back at this golden time in our lives, we have to wonder… were the Devils reaching out to us across sports? Were they sending their insidious trapping tentacles into the NBA’s fanbase and plucking out the choicest morsels (because we’re nothing if not choice)? Did they somehow influence David Stern’s beautiful league toward the dark side of Uglyball, all to lure in the impressionably defense-minded fans? Did the Devils try to kill basketball at the same time they were killing hockey??? When we look at the big picture, that seems like a far more significant “this day in sports, 18 years ago” story than some bullshit guarantee/hat trick combo from a self-aggrandizing bald guy. So there.

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