“Hey, how about I make this the entirety of About Last Night …:
“What a pice of s—?”
My pressbox neighbour, Arpon Basu, thought that just about summed things up.
Basu is lucky. He writes for NHL.com, which means his story can focus on the Devils.
Anyone trying to write about the Canadiens is doomed to … well, trying to pick it up by the clean end.
“I have one word for this game,” said Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated.
Imagine, Farber added, if this were the first live hockey game you’d ever attended. And you’d laid out $100-plus for a ticket.
Basu, Farber and I got in for free, of course.
And the customers got what they paid for when they saw “New Jersey Devils” printed on their tickets.
Chris Stevenson, who writes hockey for the Sun chain, described what we saw as “pre-2003” hockey.
Vintage stuff, before the lockout and before the rule changes that opened hockey up and made it a more pleasing spectator sport.
Someone forgot to tell Jacques Lemaire, who forgot to tell Pat Burns, who forgot to tell Larry Robinson, who forgot to tell Claude Julien, who forgot to tell Brent Sutter.
John MacLean, the latest Devils coach, played for Lemaire. So did Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta.
The style involves an aggressive forecheck, neutral zone trapping, clogging up the passing lanes … doing everything to slow the world’s fastest game to a somnambulant crawl.
For the final nine minutes of the first period, NEITHER TEAM had a shot on goal. The Bell Centre crowd was lulled into surly near-silence, erupting only to boo hapless referee Stéphane Auger.
Ilya Kovalchuk earned his ridiculous salary playing 21 minutes, during which one of the game’s most dynamic players had one shot and no hits. Welcome to New Jersey, Ilya. Let’s get to work on turning you into John Madden.
It’s anti-hockey – not fun to watch, but the success of the Devils suggests it’s effective.
And it helps to have a goaltender who’ll be in the Hall of Fame a New Jersey nanosecond after he becomes eligible.
That was Martin F. Brodeur’s ninth shutout against the Canadiens. It seems like more.
In addition to stopping 29 shots – most from the perimeter, many right at him – Brodeur suckered Gionta, his old teammate, into two penalties.
Martin F.’s current teammates ensured the Canadiens would generate no speed on their breakouts and little sustained pressure in the Devils’ zone. By the third period, Jacques Martin had shuffled his lines – Mike Cammalleri with Gomez and Gionta, Lars Eller with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn – but nothing clicked.
• Cammalleri, Gionta and P.K. Subban had 17 of the Canadiens’ 29 shots – eight by the Captain.
• Josh Gorges and Hal Gill were each minus-3.
• Alexandre Picard played a solid 15:46, had three hits and wasn’t on for any GA.
• Carey Price faced only 20 shots but made more spectacular saves than Martin F.
• Eller was involved and on the puck all night in 10:25.
• Subban’s 24 minutes were high for both teams.
• Andy Greene had eight of NJ’s 21 blocked shots. Roman Hamrlik had four of the Canadiens’ 14.
The Canadiens’ power-play took another 0-for. It’s been blanked in five of the six games the team has played and is 1-for-20 on the season.
Martin calls his PP “a work in progress” – and we’d better hope progress progresses when Andrei Markov returns, because if this team fires blanks with the man advantage all season …
Like Devils hockey, that just doesn’t bear thinking about.