Friday, December 07, 2007

The World's Longest Gameday Preview

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
When: Friday, December 7, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, 3WT Radio; FSN New York,

Media Notes:
Caps' Website
Devil Website
Washington Post
Washington Times
Newark Star-Ledger

We're trying something new today, kids.

In gameday previews past you've met some of your favorite (and least favorite) players and learned the deepest, darkest secrets of the teams you love to hate - but if you truly want to know your enemy, you need look no further than the fans. To get a better understanding of those strange creatures known as Devils fans, I asked some of my good friends to help me out by answering a few burning questions. By sheer coincidence, their answers make my workload considerably lighter this week...

Meet Schnookie and Pookie, sisters who share a brain, a love of all things Paulie Martin, and the most wonderfully insane sense of humor I've ever seen. Together they make up the dynamic duo between the hilarious Devils-centric blog, Interchangeable Parts. I know what you're thinking - dynamic and Devils are two words never before used in the same sentence. Shocked the hell out of me, too.

This is probably the longest post I'll ever do, but believe me - you won't want to skip over a single word, comma, or apostrophe.

Favorite Devil:
Schnookie - Jay Pandolfo
Pookie - This is a matter of much, much consternation for me, but Zach Parise has stolen my heart in a way no other Devil player has. My problem with this is that he's the classic "Trapper Keeper Cutie" player, in that he's totally the guy the teeny-bops would have plastered all over their lockers. The teeny-bops know it, the fans know it, the media knows it, and worst of all, he knows it. But he's also so much more talented than Devils skaters are supposed to be. (Also, whenever I'm feeling too ashamed of the fact that the best-looking best player on the team has -- though I've resisted for over a season -- become my favorite, I can fall back on my second favorite, Paulie Martin.) [Golden Gopher love is the best.]

Least favorite Devil:
Schnookie - Johnny Oduya.
Pookie - Cam Janssen. No question. He might go down in history as my least favorite Devil of all time.

Favorite Cap:
Schnookie - I'm cheap and easy -- Ovechkin.
Pookie - Alex Ovechkin, of course! He has 3 beers before every game!

Least favorite Cap
Schnookie - Out of loyalty to Marty, I gotta say Kolzig. (But despite my merciless taunting about him, I don't hate him or anything. Really. Entirely.)
Pookie - Olie. Sorry. I just find it so unseemly how easily he loses it during games. (Oh, and that whole Caps-goalies-winning-Marty's-awards thing is also a problem.) [I personally love how Olie loses it - it's totally part of his charm! Calm, cool, collected goalies are boring *cough*Marty*cough*]

Dainius Zubrus is...:
Schnookie - ...a 6'4" Sergei Brylin, and therefore, a perfect fit for the Devils. He's like the biggest "eff you, Gomez" signing Lou could possibly have found in this past summer's UFA crop. He could never score another goal and I would still love, love, love that we picked him up. [That's probably a good mindset to have...]
Pookie - ...a very good hockey player.
(psst Is anyone buying that? No? Okay then.) HOT! Dainius Zubrus is hot! Seriously though, he's a big-name free agent who signed for less money to play long-term with the Devils. How can I not love that? I had zero expectations for him to do anything but open up some space on the ice, so I'm thrilled with his play so far. Is he maddeningly more likely to miss an open net than score? Sure! But since we've had a player like that for years (Patty Elias, I'm looking at you) it's not a problem to have Zubie doing it too. (At least he doesn't do the epic whole-head eye roll that Patty's perfected.)

More tragic figure - Sid or Zach?
Schnookie - Sid is like the loneliest little wooden robot boy in the world, but at least he's every bit as talented as he thinks he is. So I have to give this one to Zach, but it's very nearly a dead heat.
Pookie - On the surface Sid seems much more tragic. Friendless, alone, nothing but a piece of meat. But if you look a little deeper, you'll find that Zach is actually far worse off. You see, Sid knows there is more to life than hockey; sure that "other than hockey" stuff is all based on being a good little piece of meat and making the most out of endorsement deals and shilling for the League powers that be. But Zach has never in his life been given any reason to believe that there is anything in life outside hockey. Rather, that there is anything in life outside of winning in hockey. When you see Sid give an interview after a bad loss he looks like he's sad that he let his teammates, coaches, management and fans down. When you see Zach give an interview after a loss -- any kind of loss -- he looks pissed that the world let him down for allowing his team to lose and a little bit shocked that such a thing could happen in the first place. (Also, in a goofy interview about gaming, the only thing Zach could think to do was brag that his older, barely-good-enough-to-be-a-minor-leaguer loser brother whom he idolizes is capable of getting 5 stars on Level Hard in Guitar Hero. That's just sad. Even Sid wouldn't stoop so low.)

The Devil we don't know but should:
Schnookie - I have to pick only one? Well, there's Rod Pelley, who is going to be the new John Madden when the old John Madden can no longer serve in his role as John Madden, but he's not much of a threat to score or anything (right now he's just a preternaturally calm presence on the PK). The guy Caps fans should look out for is whichever interchangeable D-man has just been reinserted to the lineup. We're carrying 8 defensemen right now, and Sutter's dressing 7 a night; he's rotating healthy-scratching the non-top-two guys, and lately whichever one has been sitting has been awesome as soon as he's given the chance to play again. Rachunek did it first, demonstrating in his return to the lineup an offensive dynamism that we'd never seen from him before, and Brookbank did it most recently, getting his first two career points on key assists in our 4-3 comeback against Boston.
Pookie - David Clarkson. He has the potential to be the new Randy McKay. He's a scrapper, a pest, a fighter and a yapper, but he's also shown he's got good hands and a huge heart.

The Devil we know but shouldn't:
Schnookie - If you'd asked this a few weeks ago I'd have had a long list that would have started in bold-face all-caps with Patty Elias and Brian Gionta. But they've both been scoring lately (since Patty got shifted to center), and in our last game the Patty/Gio/Zach line was an indomitable force. Right now, there isn't anyone on the team who's overrated.
Pookie - Thanks to Lou's strict policy of not promoting players over the team, we've ended up not having many overrated players (nor many players people have heard of at all!), but I guess in this case I'll answer Gionta. This seems to be a bit of an unfair answer, since he's had a few great games recently. Sutter put together a line of Parise-Elias-Gionta, and as of the last game they're officially on fire. However, I'm sticking by this answer solely on the strength of the fact that he's on the All-Star ballot but shouldn't be.

Ovechkin is breaking in one-on-one. The NJ defenseman I would HATE to see between him and Marty is...:
Schnookie - Johnny Oduya. He's a perfectly adequate fifth defenseman, but if he got stuck between Ovie and the net, he'd probably find a way to drop his stick in the farthest corner, and then opt to skate out to pick it up.
Pookie - Johnny Oduya. He is on a mission to set a new world record for Most Dropped Sticks in an NHL Season. He'd just drop his stick, Ovie would kick it into the corner and then, just as he's done in at least two games this season, Oduya would leave his position to retrieve the stick, leaving Marty all alone to...stop the puck without breaking a sweat. [We'll see about that last part, missy.]

Chico or Doc?
Schnookie - Doc! Doc's the best play-by-play man in sports, and he's the straw that stirs the drink with regards to the experience of watching the Devils on television.
Pookie - DOC! Doc is hands-down the best broadcaster in all of sports (and I've heard a lot of 'em, in a lot of sports). Chico... is Chico. I'll be very sad when he's gone, but I'll be devastated the day I have to watch a full Devils season without Doc.

Chico or Locker?
Schnookie - Dude, there is no question -- Chico.
Pookie - You know I love Locker, but I gotta go Chico. Chico is, after all, the one who said, "Marty looks like a mermaid out there! Except he's a man...wait, I know! He's like a male mermaid out there!"

Butter or margarine?
Schnookie - Butter. And lots of it. (Do people even eat margarine anymore?)
Pookie - Butter. I just recently found myself asking, upon seeing margarine as a Safeway Score and Win prize the other day, "Margarine still exists?"

The player I'd most like to punch is...:
Schnookie - Cam Janssen. His dirty hit on Kaberle was the turning point of the Devils season last year, and now he's threatening to get healthy enough to want back into the lineup one of these days. I am horrified at the thought of one of the actual competent hockey players we currently have on the roster losing his job to make room for him. (You thought I was going to say Sean Avery, didn't you? Well, I refuse to give him the satisfaction.) [Plus you'd have to wait in a very, very, VERY long line.]
Pookie - Daniel Alfredsson. He's slowly and very quietly turning out to be a gutless puke but no one seems to notice. Plus his face looks soft, so it won't hurt my hand.

If I ran the NHL I would...:
Schnookie - Abolish the shootout and go back to having ties.
Pookie - 1. Make sure every television broadcast on every channel on satellite and cable was broadcast in HD. 2. Ensure suspensions were meted out consistently and fairly. 3. Create a Competition Committee constructed entirely of fans who would veto changes made before they're instituted.

Prettiest Devil:
Schnookie - I have to pick just one? This is a staggeringly pretty lineup, and this is a tough call. It comes down to Zach Parise, David Clarkson or Travis Zajac. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Pookie - David Clarkson (with Zach Parise a very, very close second).

Ugliest Devil:
Schnookie - Pickin's are slim when you're looking for ugly Devils these days. It's really pretty indisputably Colin White.
Pookie - We're actually a pretty darn good looking team for the first time in years. The Hockey Gods clearly are taking pity on us for having Bobby Holik on the team for so many years. But if forced to choose, I'd go with Colin White. Boyfriend's got the second ugliest tattoo I've ever seen. [Which begs the question...what's the ugliest one??]

Worse uniforms - Islanders or Panthers?
Schnookie - Islanders. By a mile. They're just a hodgepodge of all these different uniform-design elements, like the design team had a last-minute brainstorming session before pitching the concept to the team, and just went with every idea they could come up with.
Pookie - Gosh, that's a really, really tough one. While the piping on the Panthers jerseys (I won't call those monstrosities "sweaters") is awful, I'm going to go with the Isles just on the strength of those obnoxious orange color blocks on the sleeves.

The "forbidden trapezoid" rule is...:
Schnookie - Asinine. What kind of sports league decides to limit the creativity and evolution of a dynamic element of the flow of its game? I understand the idea that reducing how much a goalie can handle puck means he can't function as the "third defenseman" in stymieing attacking offenses. But what about the fact that allowing goaltenders to handle the puck as much as they want to also means they function as a "third puck-moving defenseman" who can hasten his team's defense-to-offense turnaround? And how about the way that, as it became essential for goalies to participate in playing the puck beyond just the area surrounding the net, more and more guys who were really bad at puck-handling were creating scoring chances against themselves? It was a stupid, short-sighted rule change, and I still don't see what value it's added to the game. (Furthermore, Devils fans can't help but feel like their team has been persecuted with this rule. Really, if Marty had -- heaven forbid -- ended up playing his career in Toronto or New York, would the NHL have ever considered that goalies handling pucks in the corners could be anything but a good thing?)
Pookie - A travesty. The only reason it was put into place was to stifle Marty Brodeur. What League goes out of its way to hinder the game of one of the most creative players to ever play his position? Marty's ability to control games by stick-handling was revolutionizing goaltending, forcing other goalies to adopt it as part of their game. This trend was only creating more offense, either by providing a competent stick-handling goalie the opportunity to quickly pass the puck up to his skaters, or by providing less competent stick-handling goalies the opportunity to bungle the puck terribly which 99% of the team lead directly to the other team getting a good scoring chance. The only explanation for why the NHL put this rule into place was to put a lid on Brodeur's talent. This is a travesty.
[As you can tell, this is a hot-button topic. I hate it, too, but I'm not going to lie - I wish the rule had been around in Hextall's day.]

Favorite chant/taunt:
Schnookie - I'm a purist, so I'm always happy with the "Rangers suck!" chants. I like it best when inserted (all rhythmically, "The Rangers Suck!") into the Chicken Dance.
Pookie - "Rangers suck", of course! Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than hearing the whistle that signals the beginning of the "duh duh duh da-duh -- Rangers suck!" group sing-along, but I'm also fond of "If you know the Rangers suck, clap you hands" and inserting "the Rangers suck" into the Chicken Dance. While I personally feel "Rangers suck" is a universal thing, if I happen to be at a Rangers-free event, I'll settle for being the classless goon that I am by adding a hearty "sucks" to the announcement of every name on the opposing team's starting line-up.

Liquid detergent or powder?
Schnookie - HA! Like I do my own laundry! (Pookie does it for me.) (And I cook for her, so it's not like I'm a total freeloader!)
Pookie - Liquid Tide HE, no bleach. With a nice addition of some April Fresh Downy. Safeway Score and Win can send me a lifetime supply of both.

Flyers or Rangers?
Schnookie - What kind of question is this? Whom do I hate more? Rangers. With the passion of a thousand white-hot suns. Don't get me wrong, now -- I definitely hate the Flyers, but just not the same way I hate the Rangers.
Pookie - Excuse me? Is this some kind of Capitals humor? Well it's not funny! [Actually, Capitals humor is saying "of COURSE we'll make the playoffs this year!" - don't worry, you're new. You'll learn to recognize it.] Seriously though, Flyers. I hate the organization through and through, but I'm capable of looking beyond that to not intrinsically hate every player in the line-up. The Rangers, however? I hate every single, eensy-weensy, itty-bitty thing about them. The fact is, the Devils hate the Rangers so much it goes beyond the fans and the players -- both Marty and Lou admitted to the media that beating the Rangers in 2006 was more satisfying than winning the Cup would have been.

Three things I can't live without:
Schnookie - TiVo, Center Ice and wireless internet access.
Pookie - Center Ice, TiVo, the Interwebs [Seriously, we really can't tell you're sisters.]

Hockey was better before...:
Schnookie - The unbalanced schedule.
Pookie - The shoot-out. I don't know who decided we can't handle ties. The NFL has ties and no one seems to care, and yet we're stuck with hard-fought battles of intensity being settled with a super-skills competition. It's insulting.

Hockey is better now because...:
Schnookie - We have a long stretch of normal scheduling before having to go back to "all division, all the time".
Pookie - There are so many good, young players making the NHL an exciting league to watch. We don't have to sit and listen to the media whine and moan about how things were better when Gretzky and Lemiuex were still playing because we've got Sid, Ovie, Heatley, Nash, Getzlaf, Parise, et al.

When the Devils winning streak finally ends I will:
a) stand and applaud a fine run
b) throw something at the TV
c) drink myself into a stupor
d) call CapsChick and curse out her team
Schnookie - Probably D. I mean, really, can this go on forever? And our next game is against the Rangers, so if we're going to have that inevitable "all the bad habits that haven't been biting you in the ass finally do" let-down game, I'd rather it be against a sad-sack team like Washington than the Rangers. Oh, did I say "sad-sack" out loud? My bad. :P [Yeah, we're in a fight.] (But seriously, I'm the world's most pessimistic fan. I assume my team is losing every game.)
Pookie - e) Declare the team dead to me, announce that the entire line-up can't play hockey to save their lives, wonder aloud why I waste my time on them... and then immediately and eagerly check the schedule to see when they play next. [Cheater.]

CapsChick is...:
Schnookie - The greatest woman to ever breathe. [Check is in the mail, my dear...]
Pookie - Brilliant, witty, and wonderful except that whole Caps thing. But we can work on that. [Yes. I will work on not being so brilliant, witty and wonderful. Good suggestion!!]

Special thanks to the IPB ladies for their insights, witty and intelligent as always (if not occasionally a little misguided). Now, Caps fans - feel free to fire back at some of those little digs hidden throughout...anyone think after eight straight wins the Devils and their fans may be getting a little cocky? Hmm?

All photos courtesy of Getty/AP


Pookie said...

[Actually, Capitals humor is saying "of COURSE we'll make the playoffs this year!" - don't worry, you're new. You'll learn to recognize it.]

Aw, that's not funny -- that's sad! Just kidding. It's funny. Sorry.

Seriously, your editorializing cracked me up this morning! I'm trying to brush up on my trash talk for tonight! (Although, seriously, the Devils aren't winning this one.)

CapsChick said...

:^::::::: Well, you're off to a good start on that trash-talking thing. Nothing more intimidating than a "yeah, we suck" comment... ;)

As for the editorializing, you didn't think I'd let you two have the last word, did you?? I may be lazy but I'm not stupid. (Although, seriously, the Caps aren't winning this one.)

Pookie said...

(Although, seriously, the Caps aren't winning this one.)

Are we going to be the first people in the history of the internet to fight that our respective teams are more likely to lose? :)