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Perhaps the most amazing development for tonight’s match, according to what we’re learning from the pregame, is that it’s in Newark, not Dallas. We had no idea. This 7:00 start time is really taking us by surprise!

Also surprising? That LandZharkNation’s military assault on ClarksonNation was so effective. Clarkson’s out for 2-3 more weeks? Seriously? What is going on with the Devils this season?

FIRST PERIOD

We’re busy putting dinner together when the game starts. Honestly, this would have been so much easier if it started at 8. On the one hand, spaghetti and meatballs is so worth it. On the other hand, we seem to have missed an injury to Rolston. Seriously, what is going on with the Devils this season?

14:19 Okay, we’re all settled in. And just in time to hear Doc talking about that “12-game goal-scoring drought” Travis is in. AcornsNation narrows its eyes at Doc and hisses, “What drought?”

12:54 Our Geico Quotebook is Turco praising Marty, and Chico tells us that it means a lot because Turco is “one of the greats to ever strap on those big pads”. This elicits a round of gobsmacked “What???“s around the living room at stately IPB Manor. Pookie generously suggests that maybe Chico just means “relative to the other guys playing at the same time he was”, but even that seems a stretch.

11:25 Huh. It seems Rolston wasn’t too badly hurt, as he’s busy being the worst hockey player alive right now.

10:57 Ribeiro is such a ninny that he has no idea that Rolston’s the worst hockey player alive, because he trips him “accidentally” while the Devils are on their way out of the defensive zone. Chico actually thinks this shouldn’t have been a penalty, because Chico’s bringing the crazy tonight.

9:29 Chico’s been chortling through this entire ineffectual PP about how Zharkov has developed a habit of passing to places on the ice where no one is. Pookie starts discussing how that’s not a funny joke, and Boomer snipes, “It’s not funny if you don’t check to see if anyone’s home before you ring the doorbell, Land Zhark.” Schnookie says forlornly, “Candygram.”

3:47 Whoops! We’ve been focusing on eating dinner and sharing notes about our days, not on game diarizing. Shots are even, the scoreboard’s even, play looks even. Carry on!

1:57 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Way to carry on, Devils! Hambone leads the way on a nice breakout from deep in the defensive zone, then Rolston gets all “I’m not the worst hockey player alive!” inside the Stars blueline, losing the puck, then getting the puck, then losing the puck, then getting the puck, then getting the puck toward the net through a thicket of Stars up high, and Patty’s there in the slot to tip the shot through Auld to make it 1-0 Devils. Chico promptly curses the outcome of this game by telling us the Devils are 13-0 when they’re leading after the first period this season.

1:06 Pando suddenly finds himself in alone on Auld, but can’t score. Pookie: “I’d say that he’s never going to get a better chance than that, but he’s pretty good for about 10 of those a year.”

0:18 Perhaps the Devils don’t want the pressure of that 13-0 record leading after one period, because they get pinned in their own zone for the last minute of the period, and Niedermayer (the Lesser) takes a hooking penalty.

0:00 What we liked about that period was that both teams kind of waited for us to get settled in before doing much of anything. That, and Fistric gives us the heebie-jeebies. (Hi Patty!)

SECOND PERIOD

18:18 Oh, penalty killing. How we love you so.

17:27 It looks like the Devils are about to put together one of those awesome relentless-pressure offensive-zone shifts, but then Patty attempts a Land Zhark Special (a pass to no one), and the Devils lose the zone. Somehow it’s cute when Zharkov does it, but a lot less so when Patty does.

15:18 Langer has five of the Devils’ last eight goals? Really?

15:17 Patty takes a penalty for cross-checking Ott in the head off an offensive-zone faceoff. Because Patty’s bringing the stupid tonight. MSG+ gives us some replays showing Ott’s usual douchebag schtick leading up to the cross-check to the head, so he probably deserved it, but still.

14:15 Marty demonstrates what it looks like when a goalie actually is one of the greatest to strap on those big pads.

13:01 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Patty’s sorry he took a stupid penalty. And he knows exactly how to make up for it, while also delivering another figurative cross-check to the head. After getting out of the penalty box, he carries the puck up the far wing with Langer on a two-on-one, doesn’t have a pass, and just lasers a shot over Auld’s lamely flapping glove. It’s 2-0 Devils, and that’s one hell of a “fuck you” unassisted goal.

11:39 We’re busy dealing with a runaway meatball emergency when the Stars take a penalty. We’re such good diarizers!

10:24 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! ACORNS! ACORNS! TRAVIS ZAJAC!!!! The PP moves the puck sharply around the perimeter, and suddenly Travis just walks a few steps down and cranks up a shot that blows through Auld (possibly tipped in front, but AcornsNation hopes by a Star, not by Boogerfors), makes the game 3-0 Devils, leads to a Dallas timeout, and gives us the marvelous play-by-play sequence of Doc telling us the Stars have taken a timeout, followed immediately by Chico saying, “I don’t know what the delay is – Oh, I know! The Stars have taken a timeout!” WOOOOOOO!!!!

9:28 We come back from a commercial to see Stan interviewing Steve Kelly on the sidelines. Yeah. Steve Kelly. We’re sorry, but any manufactured event that celebrates Steve Kelly is not classless.

7:59 In the Steve Kelly interview, Steve mentions that the intermission film about the 2000 Cup run included the Stevens/Lindros hit. That, and the three-goal lead, have clearly wound up this feisty crowd, because we are treated to a mighty “Rangers Suck!” chant right now. Keep up the good work, fans!
4:51 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zach blocks a shot in front of Marty, and faster than anyone can even register it, the Poppers are flying up the ice thanks to Zach’s sassy outlet pass. Travis dishes to Langer, and then Langer catches Zach trailing the play, and Zach beats Auld to make it 4-0 Devils. We love it when the Poppers have their shit all together! Also, we love it when, after a replay of a Devils goal, Chico informs us that the other team’s goalie is looking rattled.

1:49 It’s another Devils PP, apparently on a hooking infraction by Robidas. We were too busy chanting “Rangers suck!” to notice the play.

0:00 We are discussing whether we should have hot chocolate tonight, and Schnookie insists we should, because she spent half an hour outside in downtown Trenton today, in the frigid, windy, terrible cold, waiting for her ride home from jury duty. Boomer thinks we should because she walked halfway across Princeton in the frigid, windy, terrible cold to pick up our two growlers of beer from Triumph. And Pookie thinks we should, because it would celebrate how “right now — right now — this game is Swagger City.” That’s the best of the three reasons.

We get an interview with Patty, and Pookie says, “I can say this because he’s in the dressing room right now and can’t hear me: I love Patrik Elias.”

THIRD PERIOD

17:10 This period is boring. The Devils haven’t scored in it yet.

15:54 Doc’s warming the cockles of our hearts by regaling us with tales of Scott Stevens’s 2000 ECF. He goes on and on about how Scotty was doing such stalwart work making great defensive plays and helping Marty out and all that stuff. Pookie: “And scaring the shit out of all the other Flyers.” Heh. That series was the best, wasn’t it?

14:44 Patty continues his mastery of the Ott situation by hitting Ott in passing on his way up the ice, and then staying cool when Ott comes back after him at the other end. Ott ends up getting a roughing minor, and Patty ends up getting a delicious assy little smirk in and then skates to the Devils bench. It’s a beautiful thing.

12:34 We’re singing “Hambone” over and over again, and cracking ourselves up doing so, when suddenly we hear Chico say, “This could go on as long as the chinchilla story if I don’t get it all in now.” That’s such a fantastic comment to hear out of context; we don’t want to know what he was talking about.

11:11 Even back at even strength, the Devils continue to play in the Stars zone as if they were on the PP. The crowd roars approvingly.

9:35 Whoa. We come back from commercial now to get a sideline Stan interview with Ken Sutton. Pookie: “Now Ken Sutton I remember.” He describes the 2000 Cup run as “neat”. Yes. It was “neat”. Among other things.

7:11 Rolston fires a slapshot from the high slot that comes off the glass so fast that it reminds us of the Mythbusters we watched last night where they were trying to create a scenario where someone would fire a gun, have the bullet ricochet off three surfaces, and end up bouncing back and killing themselves. That shot was hard, yo.

6:41 Speaking of self-inflicted wounds off three ricochets, the Devils cough up the puck behind their net, it tic-tac-toes around the perimeter of the slot, but then Marty manages to make an out-of-position save that we totally didn’t see coming.

6:31 The phonk? Niedermayer (the Lesser) decides he’s had just about enough of Jamie Benn, and they scuffle. Replay shows Benn hit Niedermayer (the Lesser) near the benches, then continued after him with some little swats to the face before Niedermayer (the Lesser) upgraded the situation to a full-blown shoving match.

5:59 Pookie, sighing happily: “This game is my favorite game of 2010.”

4:34 The Hambone-led group looks like they’re putting together some four-on-four offense, but Fraser ends up bobbling the puck at the point. Pookie snaps, “Fraser! You’re…” Pause. “Cute. You just keep on mishandling that puck at the point, if you want to.”

3:34 On a delayed penalty, Doc mentions Fistric in his play-by-play. Pookie corrects him, “Fistric skates down the wing with a whole bunch of overdue library books that he’s never going to return!” Oooh, burn. (We fail to note who took the penalty and for what. This game diary is like the Versus version of this match.)

2:00 Blandy leads a shorthanded three-on-one. His option to pass to is Pando, though, so nothing comes of it.

1:34 Oh, penalty killing. How we love you.

0:53 There’s a stoppage right after the PA announcement of the last minute of play, and MSG+ edits the moment perfectly, as Doc says, “He announced one minute left in the game…” Pointed pause. “But you can see at the top [of the screen]…” Pointed pause. Cut to a close-up of a smiling Marty. “53 seconds left.” What are you trying to tell us, Doc? Heh heh heh.

0:00 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! That. Game. Rocked. And honestly, how awesome is Marty? How awesome are our Devils right now? SQUEEEEE!

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Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Our pregame has us all kinds of wound up, because it’s MSG’s show about Game 6 of the 2000 SCF. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! It’s been a kind of rough past 24 hours for those of us who are friends with bottoming-out Sabres fans, as we’ve walked down memory lane to times when we’ve not loved hockey so much. But here’s MSG whisking us away from the lousy times and taking us right back to sheer, fucking awesomeness. Sure, it’s great as a fan to find the marvelous in the everyday, but you know what? Winning the Stanley Cup is, well… the best. It’s worth it. It’s definitely worth all the bad times. Just in case you’d forgotten. Heh.

Our pregame narrative from Steve is all about the star players for the Devils who are doing well these days. He’s all, “In the last game, Zach kept up his torrid goal scoring, and Patty was a beast, and Rolston is finding his all-star-caliber groove, and… ” He pauses, and searches for the right words, “Well, even Pandolfo got into the act.” PandoNation bristles, and wonders what he means by that.

FIRST PERIOD

19:51 Zach gets a lightning-quick shot basically off the opening draw, then sags when Turco turns it aside. “That’s strange,” he thinks, “That went in in St. Louis.”

16:48 There is some confusion in front of our TV as Pookie and Boomer are handing off some handcraft supplies, and Pookie sees Paulie following up on a rush down the slot after a Pando shot, dropping Stars all over the place as he goes. “Oooh!” She exclaims, “Paulie just made someone explode!”

15:57 Furious at his making-guys-explode trick not working, Paulie decides to carry the puck through the neutral zone and gets tripped up on the play. He falls down, slides a few yards, then in one smooth motion gets back to his feet, probably adding a “TA DA!” at the end. The Stars get a penalty, and it’s scorched earth time.

15:01 If by “scorched earth” we mean “offsides”.

14:22 Rolston misses the puck at the point, and as he turns to chug down the ice after it, Schnookie misreads his 12 as 17: “I just thought that was Rupp playing the point on the PP. I was like, ‘Has Sutter taken leave of his senses?’” Pookie: “Sutter, everything would not be tickety-boo then!”

14:04 Is it just us or is the ice nuclear-blast white?

12:52 Turco thinks he’s really hot shit, and decides to do some Ovechkin-style baseball-swinging, puck-bobbling clear of a Madden shot, but executes as well as Ovechkin did in last year’s ASG Superskills. Madden gets the puck back and has a look at the open net, but can’t finish on the bad angle. Pookie: “Madden’s got that barn he’s going to be taken out behind and shot flashing in front of his eyes.”

11:15 Zubrus flies up the ice with a little spinarama in the neutral zone, then barrels behind Turco’s net, passing to himself off the end boards, then wheels through a bunch of Stars defenders before finally losing the puck. Schnookie wonders aloud what the hell is going on with Zubrus, and Pookie answers, “Zach’s got him convinced there really is a plastic star scout in the building.”

10:42 We feel like we’re watching Blersus again, because there’s a penalty on the Stars and Chico has no idea how it happened. We get one replay, but no one can see what happened to earn Landon Wilson an interference penalty off a draw in the Devils zone. (When he goes to the box, Schnookie goggles, “Landon Wilson? The Landon Wilson?”)

9:51 Poop. The PP gets a dreadful reminder that it’s not a good idea to rest on your laurels. Eriksson scores on a long two-on-one that comes courtesy of a lazy, lazy change. 1-0 Stars. We all vomit copiously.

9:06 Clemmer thinks he’s Turco or something, and does a really good approximation of him, leaving his net to handle a mid-range dumped-in puck and completely muffing the whole thing. He barely scrambles back in time to be in net while an opportunistic Star fires a shot wide. We are further confident that the Clemmensen-as-this-year’s-Conklin Era is now over.

6:38 Clemmer freezes the puck after another flurry of Stars activity, and Schnookie wonders aloud, “Is Patty playing tonight? I haven’t seen him yet.”

5:32 Steve tells Chico he’s hoping for a Robidas “rabby-doo”, or however you spell Chico’s hilarious word for “scrap”. Chico giggles happily. We scurry to spend the next few minutes trying – and failing – to find any instance of this “rabby-doo” online, so as to verify the spelling at least. Do you suppose Chico invented his own language?

3:01 It’s good we haven’t been paying attention, because the Devils are pinned in their own zone.

2:30 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Applemotherfuckingsauce!!!! The Patty/Zubrus/Gio line creates all kinds of cycling havoc, and just as Schnookie is growling that someone needs to throw a garbage can at Patty’s head during intermission because of his insistence on touch-passing to guys at the point when he could otherwise be shooting, Mottau receives said touch-pass and blasts it through traffic to tie the game. 1-1 tie.

1:50 Another shift in the Stars zone yields a hooking penalty some Star. Let’s just not give up a shorty here, okay? (Wowza. Steve takes this stoppage to tell us that with that assist, Patty has now moved within 15 points of his entire season total from last year. Anyone who thinks the Devils have played in front of Clemmer the same way they’ve played in front of Marty the last few years need look no further than that.

0:32 The burned-out, blazing glare of the ice at center ice has been getting stronger and stronger all period, and now the Stars logo and red line are literally no longer visible.

0:23 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Clarkson protects his eyes from the glare of center ice by parking behind the last PKer in front of the net, and is on the doorstep to dig loose a rebound of a Gio point shot and push it around a sprawling Turco to make it 2-1 Devils.

0:00 That period kind of encapsulated our point from the pregame – being a sports fan is all about high highs and low lows. And we get an interview with Applemotherfuckingsauce that MAKES OUR YEAR. Yeah, the highest high of all of 2008 is Mottau saying very earnestly that, as we all know, it’s good to have Intahchangeable Pahts.

FIRST INTERMISSION

For those who missed it the first time around, here’s the thing about the 2000 SCF again. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

SECOND PERIOD

19:30 Chico clearly doesn’t remember a single thing about last year when he tries to tell us Zach “has never been weak defensively”.

18:25 In praising the Devils’ four lines while the Rolston/Clarkson/Some-Other-Guy line is working the Dallas zone, Chico tells us that players hate when their coach is all about line matching. After a pause, he adds, “Well, they don’t hate it when they’re on the checking line.” “Damn straight,” say Madden and Pando as they share a fist bump on the bench.

16:37 Chico is on a roll here. He is telling us some rambling story about Langer’s origins with the Stars, and finally just trails off. When he realizes what he’s done, he chortles, “I’m sorry. I get distracted when the puck gets down into that scoring area. When that happens, Steve, you need to just jump in.” As if we needed to be reminded of what a consummate professional Doc is.

15:50 Hm. This seems to be the icing period for the Devils. Things are not going the way Sutter drew up. We hope. We suppose he might have drawn up a bunch of icings during the intermission. Surely he’s done crazier.

15:08 The Devils look hopelessly lost in their own zone, and are just lucky that the Star who finds the puck all alone in front of the net spins around and fires way wide.

14:33 If the Stars don’t tie the game up in the next minute, we’ll eat our hats.

14:21 Okay, they tie the game up in the next 12 seconds. There’s only so much running around chasing the puck (or, in most of the Devils’ cases, not chasing the puck) you can do before someone’s going to put the puck through Clemmer. After all, he still is Clemmer. And yes, it is that Landon Wilson tying the game at 2.

12:32 Dude, this period BLOWS. The Devils have checked out completely, and when the Modano line overpasses down low in front of Clemmer, the Devils are so flat-footed watching it happen that the Stars have plenty of time to recover the puck after they should have given it up and still fire a point-blank shot wide.

11:36 It only took 8 ½ minutes for the dreadful play of the Devils to cost them a penalty. As play is whistled, Pookie, not looking up from her quilting, says, “Let me guess. It’s on Holik.” She’s right. She is also hell-bent on blaming this period’s sucktitude on Clemmer; she’s been saying since the Stars goal, “We want Weekes! We want Weekes! Or, um, we want Clemmer to play better. Probably the latter.” When Schnookie suggests that Sutter could perhaps call a timeout now to go all “Mount Sutter eruption” on his team, Pookie says, “Yeah, and to put Weekes in!” Schnookie and Boomer inform Pookie that they think she’s crazy.

10:45 Please note that every single Holik penalty of the season so far has been accompanied, on the replay, by Chico saying, “They’re going to call that every time this year.” Not that Holik’s a relic or anything.

10:02 Happy, Blobby? We get a long look at him skating, unchagrined, from the box after Leach and Clemmer mishandle a rebound to allow Parrish to score in close. 3-2 Stars. Pookie: “I’m blaming Holik for that.” Schnookie: “Actually, I was going to blame Clemmer.” (Chico blames Clemmer, too.)

9:33 There are Devils flying everywhere at the near point, and it seems that Ott is making a game tonight of running our boys. One man’s petulant little ice troll is another man’s cheapshot artist. Let it be said here, if he injures a Devil, he’s going to the very top of our list. Myra.

9:20 We go to commercial with the still overwhelmed Devils going on the PK. We don’t know who took the penalty or how. (When we come back from commercial we just see on the scoreboard that it was Greener, for hooking.)

7:46 We are deep in discussion of whether this is the worst period the Devils have played since that first post-Marty game against Buffalo. Pookie’s not sure, but Schnookie can’t remember a period of this sustained craptitude across the board.

6:07 Lehtinen’s still alive?

4:22 The most shocking stat of this period comes from Steve: the Stars are outshooting the Devils 11-2. There is no way the Devils have two shots here.

4:04 Rupp hits Ott hard at the near boards at the Devils blue line, Ott does that “I’m dropping the gloves” feint, and Rupp bites. The officials seem to have a sense of The Code here, whatever it is, and don’t call any penalties.

3:06 As the Devils continue to be complete ass in their own zone, Chico tells us that the Devils will need to take liberties with Ribeiro, since Ott isn’t going to fight because he has a broken hand. “Can’t fight City Hall,” Pookie cracks. “Especially since City Hall is also a yapping douchebag.”

1:52 Clemmer makes a snappy save on an out-of-nowhere shot from the slot by the reanimated corpse of Lehtinen. In the course of making some “why am I talking so loud? Because I’m wrong!” statement about Holik, Schnookie says, “Wow, that was a great save by Clemmer.” There is a long pause, then Boomer says, “No.”

1:13 There is finally something good happening for the Devils on a two-on-two rush, but Clarkson decides to barrel into Turco just as Paulie’s firing a turned-over puck into the net. No goal, of course, as Clarkson gets called for goalie interference. Way back when we were new fans, we heard the criteria for goalie interference hilariously defined as, “Could he have stopped himself if it was a pit of snakes he was falling into?” Pookie says of this one, as Chico tries to say it wasn’t necessarily a penalty, “He could have stopped himself if that was a pit of mice.” We watch as he settles into the box, and she adds, “Playing the part of Bobby Holik…”

0:22 Paulie gets called for cross-checking in front of the net. The wheels? Have fallen off.

0:00 It’s official: that was the worst period of hockey the Devils have played since that Buffalo game. That was dreadful, from top to bottom.

SECOND INTERMISSION

We get a feature about how they’re putting together the ice for the Winter Retread Classic. This should surprise absolutely no one to hear that we couldn’t care less about the NHL’s outdoor games.

THIRD PERIOD

We really hope Sutter made the boys ride the bikes during intermission, while he threw garbage cans at their heads.

19:50 The Stars start the period with a five-forward 5-on-3 unit.

19:08 And miracles do sometimes happen, in this case the Devils managing to kill the 45 seconds of two-man advantage.

18:12 Other miracles? Killing the remainder of the penalty, while Clarkson is out on the PK. We did not see that coming.

17:44 Zach tries to put on a razzly-dazzly rush to beat a defender straight-up, but leaves the puck behind in his deking. Pookie: “Obviously Zubrus believed Zach about the plastic star scouts, but the rest of the guys have managed to convince Zach since then that there is no such thing as a plastic star scout.” The idea of Zach no longer believing in plastic star scouts is almost too sad to bear.

16:34 Steve tells us the two shots the Devils got in the second is the lowest single-period total allowed by the Stars this season. Great.

14:34 There is a faceoff in the Devils zone for which the Poppers take the ice. Chico tells us this is a big shift, on which Zach and his cohorts will want to “keep up the momentum”. Pookie: “What momentum? The ‘not getting scored on’ momentum, I guess.”

13:41 The teams are trading grade-A chances, which, while frustrating that the Devils are giving up grade-A chances, is, we guess, a step up, since they’re at least taking some in turn.

12:52 Steve has insisted all night on calling Niskanen “NEESH-ka-nin”. It’s driving us batty.

11:59 What is this we see? Hard work? By a Devil? Say it isn’t so! Rupper bowls down the wing and draws a holding penalty for his trouble. Ott yaps at him all the way back to the bench, and we hope he’s saying something about how he’s not worried, and the Devils aren’t going to score on the PP anyway. That would be funny because it’s true.

10:52 The Stars get another great shorthanded chance. We are having a special New Year’s Eve countdown now – to the end of this game.

9:59 Gio carries the puck in offsides, but it confuses Chico to no end that the Devils are getting called for too many men because the lineman waits about a week before making up his mind and blowing the whistle.

9:50 Pookie, as Chico calls the Devils’ opponent “the Northstars”: “He’s as out of it as the Devils are.”

5:53 We don’t have much to say about this one anymore. It’s kind of surprising that, after how wretched they’ve been so far, the Devils are only one goal back. But one goal seems like a completely insurmountable lead.

4:38 We go to commercial and see the one for the Marines with the guy talking about facing his greatest challenge while diving off a platform. Pookie regales the room with the biggest challenge of her workday: “Someone asked me to explain what the Marines are. And I had to do it without using the word ‘badass’.”

4:23 Madden’s out with Rolston and Clarkson, and Chico tells us this is a move made for “more speed.” We’re stunned. Pookie: “You know the game has passed you by when A) your name is Derian Hatcher, or B) you’re getting replaced by Madden for more speed.”

3:05 Patty gets sprung on a mini-break, but he can’t beat Turco five-hole while defying his poke-check. Pookie is aghast: “Turco never stops those!” Schnookie: “Well, he can stop them now because he’s not tanking to get rid of Avery.” (It merits mention that Patty’s fired.)

0:46 The last best chance for the Devils is a not-very-wild wild scramble in front on which the white sweaters are all blocking each other’s shots.

0:40 The foregone conclusion when a Devils goalie leaves the net is an empty netter. Honestly, the other teams in the NHL are shooting 100% when the Devils have the extra attacker in the final minutes. Ericksson gets this one, and it’s 4-2 Stars.

0:00 We hated, hated, hated this game. It was nothing short of puketastic. But hey. It’s New Year’s Eve, so we’re supposed to be looking at the big picture – our boys are doing a hell of a lot better than we ever would have expected when Marty got hurt. And to cap off the year with a happy thought, let’s all just think back to Patty in the far corner, firing a backhand pass off the boards to Arnott down low… Yeah. The high highs are so much better for having been through the low lows.

And win, lose, or tie (we wish!), we hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2009!

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The Stars are our favorite team in the world.

Until Wednesday.

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Today was a whirlwind of hockey, and while we’re too busy being (in Dallas) to give it the full-on travelogue treatment (you’ll just have to wait a few days for our report about Sonic ice [hint: our conclusion? It rhymes with “blabulous”]), it’s definitely hockey- and blog-pertinent to do a quick write-up of our hockey adventures. Today was the centerpiece of our visit, the big day of meeting Caitlin, Myra, Hub and The Kid and seeing the Stars take on the Avalanche.

It should surprise absolutely no one to learn that the whole gang was awesome and not at all ax murderer-y (see kids? Meeting people on the interwebs is fun!), nor should it surprise any hockey fan who’s seen a game on TV from Dallas that the Stars arena is well worth the trip here. It was the 17th NHL arena that we’ve been to, and is easily the nicest of all the ones that don’t have Devils logos on the urinals.

October 18 2008

We were feeling pretty confident that we were bringing “good game” mojo into the house with us, and we weren’t disappointed from a purely entertainment standpoint. From start to finish, the Stars and Avs gave us a taste of everything hockey has to offer: fights, chippiness, speed, good passing, good shooting, fights, crappy goaltending, fights, crappier goaltending, bad penalties, catastrophic goaltending, fights, overturned goals, moronic penalties, and lots of goals. The only problem was that the wrong team won. And while we were truly sorry for our despondent hosts, and felt our bile rising at having seen an Avalanche win in person that included a goal by Darcy Tucker, the thrill of a great game was enough for us to consider it an afternoon well-spent.

Caitlin steered us all after the game to a colossally good Tex-Mex place, Matito’s, where we gorged on crazy-good food and spent many, many hours enjoying fantastic company. And we have TiVo to thank for the easy, breezy nature of the get-together, because while we were being sociable in person, Patty’s massive TV set-up was humming away recording the Devils/Caps game for us. (Seriously, people, Patty’s TV is huge. It’s like having hockey games happen in your lap.) So after getting our fill of enchiladas de mole, stuffed jalapenos, and the like, we moseyed back to Patty’s, hunkered down, and soaked up the Devils offensive explosion (relatively speaking).

Our take on the game was that if it had ended the way the Hockey Gods intended, in a tie, it would be one of those where both teams have reason to be happy and both teams have reason to be pissy. We’re thrilled that they managed to score more than two goals for a change (and got an entire two in one period! Madness!). We loved the confidence the Devils generally had on the puck, and their assertiveness on the forecheck. We giggled with glee for Patty becoming the Devils all-time assists leader, and Vrana (Vrana Vrana) getting his first goal, and Zach scoring in the shootout on that sick move. We were less thrilled with all the penalties and the not winning in regulation. But you know what? So what! We’re on vacation, the Devils aren’t starting this season with only three wins in their first ten games, and life is grand.

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WOOOO HOOOOO! After three terrible nights, the playoffs are back! We never would have thought we’d be so happy to see the VS studio guys again. Less surprising than that, though, is how happy we are to see Doc again. It looks like hockey… It sounds like hockey… Must be hockey!

Edzo really earns his paycheck when Doc asks him to pick players from each team who were key in the second round and he goes off the charts by picking Franzen and Morrow. Thanks for the hard-hitting analysis, Eddie. After a bit of time filler about those two and a short interview with Morrow, VS sends us to commercial with some of those HD studio close-ups of stars from both teams: Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Richards, and Ribiero. Ribs looks so much like Clifton Collins, Jr. in his shot that Pookie reaches for the timeworn Tigerland reference, “No really. I’m a butcher.” Don’t let your meat loaf, Ribs! (We say it every time we see him. And we laugh like it’s never been said before each time, too. Because we’re cool that way.)

Okay, those “Messin’ With Sasquatch” commercials didn’t have to come back.

When we come back from commercial, Doc informs us this game is available in HD, “the same shape as the surface this game is played on.” We love Doc more than anything, but… huh?

FIRST PERIOD

19:22 Pookie, slowly and stunned: “I don’t think I’ve really paid any attention to the Red Wings this season. I had completely forgotten they had Rafalski. And I had no idea he was wearing 28. He looks totally different.”
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It hardly feels like a year since our last Conference Finals Tale of the Tape, but it’s time to break out IPB’s highly scientific approach to determining who should win. Today we’ll address the Western Conference. You know, that conference we know we sooooo much about. Tune in tomorrow for the Eastern Conference.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Detroit (1) vs. Dallas (5)

Skaters:

We are really well-informed about this series. What can we say? We’re bloggers. That makes us experts. We’ve been paying very close attention to the Stars in the early rounds of the playoffs, and have watched a grand total of maybe 40 minutes of all the Red Wings games so far. But they were a very convincing 40 minutes. If the Stars decide to look at all like the Avalanche did in Game 4 of the second round, it’s going to be a quick and bleak series for them. Apparently, when their opponent is utterly incompetent at the sport of hockey, the Red Wings are really good. But are they as good when their opponent is, like the Stars, not utterly incompetent? Probably. But don’t go trying to burst our bubble of newfound Stars fandom. We love how confident both of these teams look, and the fact is that while we know a lot of the names of the players on both rosters, we wouldn’t be able to pick more than three guys from either team out of a police lineup. Advantage: Red Wings

Goaltending:

This is a head-to-head battle between two guys who’ve long struggled with a terribly unfair, burdensome label — no, we’re not talking about the whole “playoff choker” or “underrated” thing, we’re talking about us thinking they’re douches. As it turns out, we were just projecting our dislike of their teams, when in reality, they’re both adorable in their own unique ways. First up, there’s Marty Turco, who won us over completely with his charming mic’d up turn during last year’s All-Star Game. Who knew he could be so personable? And he blazed a trail by doing in-game play-by-play that made the way for Manny Legace’s star-making hilariousness during this season’s ASG, and Pretty Ricky’s magnificent slip-up when he declared over an open mic that he’d just “fucked up” his hip during the Superskills. On the other side of the coin is Chris Osgood, who, for some inexplicable reason, has prompted us for years to shout, “Yo yo yo! Ozzie in da house!” every time we see him on TV. Seriously, we have no idea why we do this. But look at this picture! He’s too cute for words! Advantage: Push, unless Hasek gets back in net. Then decided advantage Stars

Coaching:

This one’s a no-brainer. Dave Tippet is freakin’ adorable. Bored during the lock-out he took up motorcycle building to pass the time! Following the 8th longest game in NHL history he wrote on the dressing room white-board that every player had given “195%”! We’re fairly certain he spends his weekends volunteering at the animal shelter, delivering food to shut-ins, and planting flowers in downtrodden neighborhoods. Mike Babcock, on the other hand, is a monster. He once said IPB’s beloved Mike Commodore “never should have been drafted”. He held hockey fans everywhere hostage in 2003 with his overuse of the word “greasy”. We’d be surprised if he doesn’t spend his weekends releasing kittens into the wild to repopulate feral cat colonies, boxing in Meals on Wheels trucks, and planting invasive weeds on every corner. Advantage: Stars

Uniforms:

As Devils fans we have to salute the Red Wings for making as few changes to their uniform as was possible for this season of the Sexy Slimfit Look. The winged wheel is hands-down one of the greatest logos in all of sports, maybe even of all logo-dom. That logo alone more than makes up for the fact that the Wings wear red pants, which is almost always a terrible idea. The Stars, meanwhile, took the makeover opportunity and ran with it, completely revamping their look. Since the previous look included the mooterus and those dopey star ponchos, it should leave us without complaint. But… We’re just not sure about the “Dallas” baseball-style design. It’s a little too sparse for us. We’re not “sparse” people. Advantage: Red Wings

Mascots:

While both teams’ media guides might tell you they don’t actually have mascots, that’s a load of bunk. The only reason the Stars don’t have an official mascot is because they promoted him to co-GM after firing Doug Armstrong. And we’re not talking about Les Jackson! ZING! Meanwhile, Detroit acts like they’re all “too Original Six” for a mascot, but if Toronto, Montreal, Boston and Chicago can have them, then really all you’re doing by refusing to have a giant plush dude wearing team colors and running around your arena is aligning yourself with the Rangers. The Wings seem to be hedging their bets by having that insipid purple polystyrene octopus that descends from the rafters, a half-measure that fails worse than not trying at all. So the tale of the tape for the mascots in this series come down to the unofficial mascots Brett Hull and Octopussy — Advantage: Stars

Players We Love, In Spite Of Ourselves:

Remember how we mentioned earlier that we don’t really know anything about these teams? Yeah. That means we don’t know which guys we shouldn’t like. There’s really no “in spite of ourselves” when we say we’ve fallen in playoff love with Brenden Morrow, is there? Schnookie has strangely set her playoff goggles on Tomas Holmstrom, but really, that’s not really very “in spite of ourselves” either. We’re not sure if the problem is us, or if it’s that neither one of these teams is particularly ugsome if you don’t play in the Western Conference. Advantage: Push

Players Who Annoy The Living Crap Out Of Us:

Relevance is no issue here, as in one corner we have Darren McCarty, washed-up ex-grinder, and in the other we have Willa Ford, who we think was on some network reality show we don’t watch (if it ain’t ANTM, it’s a waste of airtime). Darren McCarty was the cherry on the sundae of the Wings-‘Lanche Turn The Clock Back To 1996 fiasco this post-season. ’96 was the first playoffs we watched as truly crazed hockey fans, but even then, when we were jumping on any and every bandwagon we could, we hated McCarty. Willa Ford reminds us why we’re glad we don’t care about celebrity gossip anymore. Advantage: Stars

Playoff History Against New Jersey:

Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Advantage: Push

City Claims To Fame:

In 2003 we packed up trusty Pando the Prius and headed out from Arizona to New Jersey. The best part of the drive, by far, went through North Texas. North Texas? Is stunningly beautiful. (The 80 mph speed limit is also beautiful.) The worst part of the drive, by far, went through Dallas. Our driving directions from AAA involved merging into the far left lane of an 8,000-lane highway and then taking an off-ramp on the right-hand side of the highway 10 feet later. We still have the white knuckles to show for it. After a long day of being in the car and after braving and barely surviving the famous Death Merge, we arrived at our hotel, desperate for room service. Gentle Reader, there was no room service. We dragged our sorry asses to the front desk and begged for directions to the foodstuffs that would require the least amount of driving on our parts. The concierge directed us to the one place that didn’t require getting back on the highway — some chain restaurant industrial park. Whatevs, said we, as long as there’s no death merge. In place of a death merge we got a series of shadowier and shadowier back service roads littered with billboards for strip clubs and gun shows. Now when we think of Dallas we think of the Famed Stripper-Gun-Show District. Good times, good times. The only time we’ve been to Detroit, we sat on the tarmac at the Detroit airport in a non-deplaning layover while waiting to fly to Vancouver for the ’98 All-Star Game. Advantage: Detroit

Conclusion:

This one’s almost too close to call, Gentle Reader. At first glance, it looks like a 3-3 tie, but if Hasek gets in net, the Stars eke out the win in the Tale of the Tape.

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Gentle Reader, we promised that as soon as the Rangers were out, we’d start diarizing again. Why did we need the Rangers to vacate the playoff premises before getting back in the saddle again? Because they were the only Atlantic Division team our schedules permitted us to diarize all eight regular-season games, and then had five playoff games to boot. We couldn’t handle it anymore. But sweet merciful Hockey Gods! The Rangers are gone! Thank you, Penguins, for finishing them off in OT today; we spent this evening enjoying a playoff goggle toast to a happy playoff future:

And now that we’re lightly toasted, we’re ready to enjoy the Stars/Sharks game in full diary form. Stay tuned during intermissions as we update.

Ahhh. There’s nothing better than settling in for a night of hockey on Blersus that we know will not feature any talking-up or highlights lauding a team we hate. It’s so freeing! Of course, less freeing is the highlights package setting us up for Game 6 of the Sharks goals from Game 5. The fact that they still haven’t given us an angle that conclusively proves Soupy’s “goal” actually went into the net has us highly doubtful. Pookie puts it best when she says, “I’m going to go to my grave believing that didn’t go in.” (To be fair, we’re fairly confident it did go in, since if it hadn’t, we’d be hearing about it, but really Blersus. Would it kill you to give us the overhead? It’s the principle of the thing.)
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