[Ed note: After a year of doggedly researching and documenting the panoply of awfulness that are the Washington Capitals' rival cities and teams, the PuckBuddys' physicians grew concerned, recommending they take a nice, quiet rest somewhere so they could forget temporarily about hockey and focus instead on finger paints and macaroni art. Helpfully, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr gave them just the right opportunity to lay down their burden.
Now, no longer able to keep them involuntarily committed, the Buddy's have returned to crash our net and empty the NHL's septic tanks that you, wisely, would rather not. Because that's just the sort of stand-up guys they are.
However, we caution they are still a bit on edge. So please, everyone...no sudden movements.]
The Scene: The pioneering urban anthropologist Ulf Hannerz once remarked “That which most repels us in other cultures is very often what lies buried and secret at the heart of our own.” Well, no he didn’t; I just made that up. But then again, I doubt that Ulf ever visited New Jersey.
Oh ho, you say, can an entire state truly be so bad? If scabies wanted to go on a holiday, it would visit Jersey. If the EPA listed lip gloss and Drakar Noir as hazardous wastes, the effluvia of glitter and reek oozing out of Jersey’s pores would require us to wall it off for one hundred years. If New Jersey didn’t exist, Alabama would have to rise up and invent the place from whole cloth, just so the rest of us would stop pointing and laughing at them. It’s exactly that bad. (John Carlson: love you, but we’re watching your hair closely.)
Thus our recommendation for full haz-mat suits for everyone on hand to welcome the New Jersey Devils this Saturday to Verizon. Which is not to say don’t go: despite their continuing habit of screwing things up for us, we like the way this game is shaping up for the Caps. Screamingly brilliant analysis follows.
The Morning Skate: Ugh, that last Devs game, amirite? Sure, that’s when we were still in our “1st Period OK/2nd Period SUCK/3rd Period PANIC” phase. Although not completely broken, the Caps have more often than not been snake-bit in the second; our last meeting with the Devs saw us 0-2 and charting up four penalties, giving smelly Patrik Elias (he not of the Big Boy Elias’) all the room he needed.
Neuvy was good (.914 Sv%) but breathing fossil Martin Brodeur was better (.929) as was the Dev’s defense as a whole. Thank heavens for Greenie’s long-distance blast in the third that tied us up. Oh wait, did I say thank heavens to Mike
Groin Green? Because I meant that it was his OT interference penalty that likely cost us the game. What Greenie giveth, Greenie taketh away, I supposeth.
Puck Drop: Like most teams, the Devils are out-shooting us, in regular play and earlier against us specifically. Despite that, we’re nearly even on goals for and those allowed, which suggests Coach Oates’ “system” is working better against the Devs than, say, the Pens. (And let us never speak of that again.) Here’s our take: tired offense and unusually sloppy defense will put the Devs behind early, a deficit they’ll struggle to erase without ultimate success. More Caps players other than Ward, Brower and Fehr will step into game. Fans will once again hail this as a sure sign the Capitals “are back.” We’re not sure what “back” means, but don’t expect this to be anything other than just one more game.
But srlsy, only a White House reporter would take one source as gospel for a story. So we tapped PuckBuddys’ Devils correspondent, and all around cute guy, Brian Marshall for his take on how this game will shape up. Brian:
Which Devils team will show up for Thursday’s game? The elite team that went 3-0 against the state of Pennsylvania in the last two weeks? Or the lackluster team that lost to the Canes, Islanders, and Senators? My guess is Coach Peter DeBoer is spending the two day layoff getting the Devils focused on Thursday’s game (especially since they face the Caps in back-to-back games – no chance of looking past them to the next game).
The rest was no doubt welcomed after playing 3 games in 3 and a half days over President’s Day Weekend. The Devils special teams have been less than special of late, the power play is an acceptable 15.3% (2 for 13) the last four games, but the penalty killers have been atrocious, giving up 6 goals in 14 chances (57.1% PK) in the same span. If the Devils take a couple of stupid penalties it could be curtains for the good guys wearing white.As for players to watch out for, Patrik Elias continues to play amazing hockey.
As of this writing, he’s 8th in the league in scoring (4G 15A) playing his more natural LW (he played C most of last year). On the other side of Elias’ line is David Clarkson, who’s tied for 4th in the league with 10 goals. And don’t forget about our Russian-Left-Wing-Who-Shoots-Right-Has-A-Contact-That-Runs-Until-Forever-And-Never-Seems-To-Leave-The-Ice-On-The-Power-Play, Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovy is continuing his remarkable transformation from “one-dimaneional goal scorer” to “workhorse all-situations player with explosive puck skills, and Marty Brodeur is still between the pipes for the Devils. He’s still pretty good. And don’t let him play the puck – he’ll kill you with his outlet passing just as easily as with his catching glove.
Like we said: Caps 4, Devs 2.
Who’s Hot, Who’s Not: Oh gosh, this is probably the reason we got into this whole farkakte blogging thing to start with. (Did you know that off all the dazzling writing and insights we’ve offered over the years, still the biggest search term to our site is “naked Ryan Kesler”? We’re hoping that just by writing that here RMNB’s SEO will sky-rocket.)
Our RMNB overlords likely hate this section, but every time they delete it we just go in and paste it back. So if you’re squeamish or hate Downton Abbey or are just questioning your ability to look at pretty people, skip to the end. Wait, not skip. Leap with masculinity.
- Capitals: The Ribeiro trade has never looked better (forget all that crap I said earlier, heh heh,) but Mike, bubeleh, a little more care with the hair will only increase your trade value. Troy “Wolf Eyes” Brower has been firing on all cylinders and Eric the Fehr and Jay Beagle have obviously run a can of Gumout through their systems in response. O Captain, you’re still our Captain, but please a little less fluffer-nuttering out there, K? Nicky, you’re more over-due than alimony. But our Caps hottie of the week crown goes to Joel Ward: shine on you crazy diamond. Runner up: Joey Crabb ain’t too bad, either.
- Devils: Oh, this is so much easier. As in – have you seen dese guise? We’ve seen more appealing faces on The Smoking Gun”s mug-shot hall of fame, and that includes the guys who sniff paint and end up with silver smears across their cheek. Which is not to say they’re not performing: Elias, Kovalchuk, Gionta and Ryan Carter will no doubt (ahem) be-devil us this game. On a numbers-only basis, David Clarkson would win this week’s tiara, but woof. Instead, the prize goes to Steve Bernier, a 6’3″ rasher of Canadian bacon who should probably be playing better, but still looks good out there.
The Take Away:
Every game lately has felt like an ordeal. “Arrgh, we do we stink so much?!” “Darn you, GMGM!” “OMG, the Caps actually won; we’re BACK!!!” Everyone needs a few fewer exclamation marks and a little more Xanax if we’re going to make it through these next two months. We’re overall an OK team with some great individual talents that seems to be struggling to make its round square peg fit into a pre-ordained round hole.
The Devils have had a history of tripping us up when we’re feeling our head in the clouds. So Caps: keep the skates on the ice and the eyes on the puck, and we should be good.
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