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Archive for the ‘Conference Quarterfinals’ Category

Today’s the day that the warm haze of “so this is what it feels like for the Devils to beat a lesser opponent in the first round of the playoffs” burns off and we are confronted by the harsh reality “oh crap, now they’re actually going to play the second-round games” sets in. It should be fun!

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Who doesn’t love Game 7s? We mean, other than Devils fans who watched the final 80 seconds of the last Game 7 their team was in? We’re not thinking of that right now!* No, we’re thinking happy Game 7 thoughts, of things like the 2003 SCF. Yeah, Game 7s are rad.

*(Who are we kidding? Yes we are thinking of that right now.)

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So Schnookie was driving to work the other day listening to John Zorn’s version of “The Ballad of Hank McCain”, and had an amazing realization:

Dude, that song is about Devils fans! Especially Devils fans who just watched Game 3 of this series. Seriously —

No one knows better than a Devils fan after Game 3 of this series that life’s a filthy dirty game, very very hard to win.

No one knows better than a Devils fan after Game 3 of this series how to to disregard the pain, never, never let it in.

No one knows better than a Devils fan after Game 3 of this series that a man who thinks he’s free knocks his head against a wall.

No one knows better than a Devils fan after Game 3 of this series just how bitter it would be to be beaten after all (by Clemmer).

No one knows better than a Devils fan after Game 3 of this series that they’d get him all the same, and they made him pay the price.

Of course, no one knows better than a Devils fan after any Devils game that when all is said and done, that’s the only way to live.

We meant to put up a post about this before Game 4 made it sort of irrelevant, but we’re lazy. The point remains, though, that losing playoff games to Scott Clemmensen is a sort of pain that only Devils fans know, and only Ennio Morricone can put into music appropriately.

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For some people, tonight’s Devils/Panthers game is just the first in the least sexy of the Eastern Conference playoff series, but those people don’t know what they’re talking about. There are so many subplots in this match-up! Just off the tops of our heads, this series is all about:

— Pete DeBoer’s sassy, relatively exciting, mildly successful new team vs. the remnants of Pete DeBoer’s listless, boring, massively unsuccessful old team.
— Living legend Marty Brodeur vs. legend-in-his-own-mind Scott Clemmensen.
— Zach Parise vs. the immense pressures of trying to have a great playoffs in a contract year.
— Ilya Kovalchuk vs. his legacy as a playoff flop.
— Adam Larsson, HBTN vs. the pressbox.
— Adam Henrique vs. Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins… wait a sec. Those guys didn’t get their teams into the playoffs. That must be why they’re better.
— John Madden’s ego vs. hold on — is that Pavel Bure? (True story: we were watching a Panthers game a couple of weeks ago in which Madden scored a goal on a passing play in front of the opponent’s net. Pookie remarked immediately after the goal, while watching the replay, “Oh my god, I was just about to say, ‘pass it to Pavel Bure!’ Isn’t that the most sad and pathetic thing ever? Pavel Bure! Remember that guy? Wait — is that actually John Madden?? Okay, that’s more sad and pathetic.”)
— The Devils proclivity for early-round playoff failure vs. hey, maybe they’ll be better if they’re not playing the Rangers or the Hurricanes?

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Our absolute favorite sporting-world insult that we’ve read about in the last calendar year comes from our favorite Olympic sport, cross-country skiing. At some indeterminate time in the last few years (we don’t really have much of a grasp of the timeline of the world of cross-country skiing, needless to say), Norway’s Petter Northug apparently said of an opponent, after beating him out in a sprint, that the guy was “too big to go around, almost half-fat”. AAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Almost half-fat! It’s genius! Since stumbling across that story on the interwebs, we’ve found countless opportunities to apply it to our lives.

Can you see where this is going?

Our official assessment of Game 3 in this series is that the Devils’ offense was almost half-fat, their defense was almost half-fat, their special teams were almost half-fat, their coaching was almost half-fat. They were almost half-fat. And we’ve come to expect nothing less. Oh, they’re playing again tonight? Faaaaantastic. Or, should we say, almost half-fat-tastic?

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We may have mentioned in this space that we have concocted consolation prizes for the inevitable moment when the Devils are no longer contending in this year’s playoffs. In the last few years, we’ve been plunged into periods of alternating rage and depression after the eliminating loss, so this year we’re prepared. We’ve both selected quilting projects that we really, really, really, really want to get started on, but have vowed that we won’t put a stitch in until the final buzzer of the Devils’ final game.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Here is just a hint of the fabrics — that’s Schnookie’s “Meadowsweet” on the bottom, and a square of Pookie’s “Frolic” on the top. They will definitely soften the blow.

So today we were doing some infrastructure work on our end-of-the-playoffs projects, because you can’t start sewing pieces of quilts together until the pieces are cut out. (We’re not being negative nellies, we promise. All the little pieces that were cut out today got locked away safely where we hope to not have to use them for weeks and weeks to come.) While cutting out the square of “Frolic” seen in that photo above, Pookie suddenly gasped, “It’s a sign! Look!

Now, when we first visited Katebits in Buffalo, one of the tourist stops we made was to take a stroll in the neighborhood Crunchy lives in. We had a reasonable notion of where he lived, and had narrowed down our options to two houses that could have been his. One had a “back off, strangers” cranky-pantsy security system that even the most untrained eye could spot from 50 paces, and the other had a cute little cat statue at the front door. We assumed Crunchy’s house was the latter, because that cute little cat statue was totally a decoy. It looked like a sweet little old lady lived there, but in reality that statue shoots poison gas at trespassers.

So imagine our surprise when a closer inspection of Pookie’s fabric revealed this:

Cat Poison Statue

We’re not sure what it’s a sign of, but it’s clearly telling us something. Maybe that the Sabres are in the playoffs. Which… well, thanks, fabric, but we already knew that.

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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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