For those of you who don't follow hockey - last night, my New Jersey Devils broke my heart.
And now a quick break to ameliorate the pain:
Craig Ferguson - simply the best host in late night. Seriously, how many people just have the TV on as Letterman ends, and then this comes out without any explanation whatsoever? Ferguson rules. Back to the pain.
Since moving back to New Jersey, I've been able to follow the Devils during the regular season. When I lived in Michigan or North Carolina, I didn't buy the Center Ice TV package and I could not get MSG+ - so my fandom was limited to the rare national Devils game or trying to watch them over the internet during the playoffs. But now that I'm back, I can watch the regular season games and get into a rhythm with the roster and their ups and downs.
This year, I followed them especially closely as I felt that they had a chance to go all the way. I watched as buy viagra online pharmacy buy amoxicillin phentermine Marty Brodeur went down with a torn bicep for a few months. I watched as they floundered without him. I watched as they found their way and began to turn the season around. I watched as they marched through the league and got within a few points of Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference. I watched as they fumbled in the last souple of weeks fo the regular season. And I watched as they played one of the best series I have ever seen - Devils vs. Hurricanes, first round, 2009 NHL Playoffs.
The first game, the Devils won handily. Then the Canes tied it up in Game 2 with an overtime goal to steal a win in NJ. For game 3, the Devils went to Carolina and won in the second overtime game of the series. Wait... it gets better. In game 4, the Canes won on a goal with 0.2 seconds left. The series was tied again.
Game 5 was back in NJ, and the Devils and Brodeur won in a goaltending masterpiece 1-0. Brodeur and Cam Ward stopped a combined 86 shots. That was an unbelieveable 4 game stretch of 1 goal games - 3 of which were decided literally in the last second.
In Game 6, the Canes were facing elimination but the fought hard and crushed the Devils, setting up a rarity: Game 7.
Last night the Devils played great hockey for the first 58 minutes. The were leading 3-2 after shutting down the Canes vaunted Power Play, including killing a 5-on-3 for 60 seconds. Deirdre and I were counting down the seconds until the Devils could move on to Round 2.
(A quick aside: It has always been my contention that the best win in all of sports is the Stanley Cup countdown. When you hold a small lead in hockey, every second that passes without the other team scoring is its own miracle. Starting at around 10 minutes left, you start the countdown. Every time the puck is cleared you cheer. Every time you cheer, you are 30 seconds closer to winning, so you cheer louder. You start looking around, "Is this really happening?" The pressure builds and builds until you start to realize it is happening. There is no better win in sports. It's better than the walk-off homer, the buzzer-beater, the OT goal and maybe even the fade to the left corner of the end zone.)
Then, with 100 seconds left, I sensed trouble. The Devils were playing scared and defensive, which is always bad sign. I tell Deirdre, "they're not clearing it, they're not clearing it, this shift has gone on way too long, somebody's gonna make a mistake!"
At the 1:20 mark, the Devils made a mistake. The Hurricanes scored to tie up Game 7. Stomach punch. A sure victory is now back up in the air. Okay, well, they'll get it back together in overtime and try it again.
And then with :31.7 seconds left, Staal scores for the Canes - and the Devils have gone from sure victory to sure defeat in 48 seconds. Kick to the balls. The fans are in stunned silence. The Arena empties. Fans throw their towels on the ice. I can't breathe.
That was a once-in-a-decade loss. The only losses I can compare it to in my lifetime are Giants-Vikings in the 1997 Wild Card game and the Giants-Rams 1989 Divisional Round game. In order to compare, it has to be a playoff loss that comes crushingly at the end of a game my team was winning.
The Rams loss was crushing because that may have been the best Giants team of the '86-'90 period. The Rams scored a field goal with 3:01 left to tie it, and then scored only 1:06 into OT. The Giants were stunned as Flipper Anderson caught the touchdown and kept running right into the tunnel and into their locker room. I think there was a pseudo-BS pass intereference call right before that too, which left the defense stunned.
The Vikings loss was horrible because the Giants were leading by 9 points with 90 seconds to go in the game. 9 POINTS! Even more ludicrous was that Denny Green punted with around 2 minutes left down 9 points. What? How do you punt with 2 minutes left, down by two scores and win? To top it off, the Giants lost the onsides kick when the ball bounced in and out of Chris Calloway's hands. Calloway had been our best receiver and was known for his hands. 9 POINTS!
At least those two losses were eventually righted. The 1990 Giants won the Super Bowl, and in 2000, the Giants humiliated the Vikings and Denny Green 41-0 in the NFC Championship game. (And one near miss on this list - the Game 7 OT loss to the Rangers in the 1994 Conference Finals was rectified the next year with the Devils winning the Cup in 1995. Also, I had to listen to that one on the radio, so it didn't hurt as much without seeing it.) How long do I have to wait for the Canes to suck it?
I want the Canes to suck it now. Make the pain go away.