Bubba and I went to the Devils-Rangers game on Sunday, our first game together since January. Aside from the obvious – Devils beat the Rangers for the first and only time this season, Devils snap a 7-game losing streak against the Blue Meanies, Elias wins the game in fine style – there were a ton of little things that made the afternoon great. Most of all, though, the entire past season is not prelude to the playoffs, it’s more like the safety video on the airplane. It’s there, you have to acknowledge it, but now that it’s over the real fun begins. What happened between October and March – the highlights, the lowlights, the wonderful goals and the defensive breakdowns of Tacoma Narrows Bridge proportions is literally ancient history. It’s the second season, and we watched the Devils lay down the smelly hockey glove for a first-round brawl.
Highlights from Sunday’s trip to the Rock:
We visited Bubba’s jersey hanging outside of Section 121, in person, and got a good laugh. If you look through the men’s room sign you can spot the little snowman on the sleeve. It seemed appropriate for the quantity of bathroom humor that we enjoy.
The Devils proved they can win in the clutch. Playoff hockey is about momentum: how often does a 6- or 7-seed make it deep into May while the top seeds are done in one? Sunday’s win was required and proved more than two points in the standings.
The defense was better — not great, perhaps a bit above good — but definitely better. And “Swedish Vish” decided to gap up at the most opportune times. I hope he keeps it up through the first few Rangers games, because….
Jagr skates like my friend Goggles. We call him “Goggles” because he never looks up to pass, and hasn’t seen the inside of his defensive zone since he was in high school. We saw Jagr camped on the Devils blue line or cherry picking in the neutral zone enough to question his stamina. They shouldn’t count time on ice if you’re standing in the far blue line wondering what happened to your long, flowing hair.
Gomez showed some signs of his true playoff form, namely, bad passes in large quantities. With only 16 goals on the season (vs 13 in his last season in the proper uniform), Gomez cost the Rangers about half a million dollars a goal. Think about it: you could have Scott Gomez score you a goal, or buy a nice 4-bedroom house for the same money. When the pressure is on, he folds like a tourist in the Taj card room – at the wrong time and when the stakes are higher than he thought.
As we left the Rock on Sunday, hoarse, cheering, immune to the unseasonably cold April weather, and entering our second season of joy, we had one more reason to celebrate: the Devils won every game that Bubba and I attended this year. A perfect record, for the first time since we bought a slice of season tickets in 1999 and began cheering for some kid named Elias who had a wicked wrist shot. And now we face a horrible quandry: we wore our almost-matching Elias jerseys (Czech and Russian Superleague) to every game, and the Devils delivered in every one of those games. The Devils would like us to wear red, but second season or not, I can’t counter superstition and tradition. Elias style trumps the marketing department, in Trump style and standing up under pressure.