Thursday, June 7, 2012

No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender

What was that line that New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen taught us?

"We learned more from a three-period hockey game than we ever learned in school."

Uh, not exactly. More like...

Well, we made a promise
we swore we'd always remember:
No retreat, baby, no surrender.
Blood brothers on a summer's night
with a vow to defend:
No retreat, baby, no surrender!


If you gotta down, don't go down without a fight. Go down with all flags flying and all guns blazing, and take a few of the enemy down with you.

Last night, the Devils didn't show a lot of skill -- their 40-year-old goalie aside -- but they showed some heart.

In the first 239 minutes of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals -- including overtime -- the Devils scored 2 goals. In the last 12 minutes, they've scored 3.

With a little over 8 minutes left in regulation, a scoreless tie was broken when David Clarkson sent a fantastic pass over to Patrik Elias, who backhanded it past Conn Smythe Trophy favorite Jonathan Quick. One-nil to the Jersey Boys... our first lead of the Finals.

The lead lasted exactly one minute. Clarkson smacked Kings captain Dustin Brown into the boards, and was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding. Drew Doughty -- a defenseman -- capitalized and tied the game.

It was at this point that the Kings' fans decided to get cute again. During Game 3, they held up cardboard masks of the guidos and guidettes of Jersey Shore. Never mind that Snooki is from Ulster County, New York; The Situation, Vinny and Angelina are all from Staten Island, which, contrary to its apparent geographic location and other traits, is NOT in New Jersey; J-Woww is from Long Island; Ronnie is from The Bronx; and Pauly D is from Rhode Island. The only ones from New Jersey are Sammi Sweetheart (Hazlet, which is, to be fair, in Monmouth County and not that far from the Shore) and Deena the Walking Holiday (New Egypt, Burlington County, which is closer to Philly than to New York City or the Shroe). And as bad as they can be at times, I'll put their intellectual firepower against the airheads of L.A.'s The Hills any day.

When the Kings tied Game 4, the L.A. fans started the chant that's just as stupid as when Ranger fans do it: "Marrrrrrrr-tyyyyyyyy!"

When the Kings began play in 1967, they had Terry Sawchuk for that first season. At times in the 1970s, Rogie Vachon was damn good. And Jacques Plante and Patrick Roy were opponents of the Kings. So while Kings fans have done more in these last 2 games to prove they're idiots than they'd done in the franchise's preceding 45 years of existence, it's not quite fair to say that L.A. fans have never seen a goalie as good as Martin Brodeur.

But then, Quick has been this good for 2 months. Brodeur's been doing the business for 18 years.

Or, to put it another way, since the last time L.A. fans knew that hockey existed, since ol' what's his name was playing for them. You know, Number 99. The man who became an owner in Phoenix and betrayed the players during the 2004-05 lockout.

Which brings me to the subject of Adam Henrique, the most honorable player ever to come out of Brantford, Ontario. Henrique was Kid Clutch again, scoring with 4:31 left on the clock, and put the Kings' first-ever Stanley Cup clinching party on hold.

The Devils' defense kept the Kings penned down to the point where Quick could not be pulled for the extra skater until 50 seconds were left, and Ilya Kovalchuk finally showed up, putting in an empty-netter with 20 seconds left. (For those of you who are Ranger fans, the clock read "19:40.")

Devils 3, Kings 1. We live to fight another day.

I looked it up: In their 5 Stanley Cup Finals to date, counting last night, when the Devils score at least 2 goals, they are 16-2. Both losses coming to the Anaheim Ducks in 2003, one of them in overtime.

When the Devils fail to get at least 2 goals in a Finals game, they are 0-10. No 1-0 wins. A 1-0 loss (in triple overtime to the Dallas Stars in 2000, before winning it in the next game, 2-1 in double overtime), but no 1-0 wins.

Game 5 is Saturday night at the Prudential Center. We avoided the ignominious fate of a sweep. Now let's see if we can prevent them from clinching in our house.

I'm still under no illusions. Coming back from 3 games to 0 has been done only twice in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and only once in the Finals: The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings almost reversed it in 1945, but the Leafs regained the momentum and won Game 7. The other example is the New York Islanders, doing it to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1975 Quarterfinals (as the round was known at the time), and nearly doing it again in the Semifinals before the Philadelphia Flyers sucked it up and won Game 7.

But you never know. If the Yankees falling victim to baseball's first example of it happening in 2004 is the price I had to pay for the Devils getting to do it in 2012, I can live with that.

If not, and I still have to live with that 2004 debacle, well, Sox fans can still kiss my 27 rings.

The highway's jammed with broken heroes
on a last chance power drive.
Everybodys out on the run tonight...


And there's one more place to hide. Then another? Then another?

*

The Mets lost again last night, a day after blowing three leads in Washington against the Nationals, causing the New York Post to put up the back page headline "D.C. COMICS." "Clowns" would have been more appropriate.

But the Yankees continued to get timely hits and good pitching, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-1. Mark Teixeira hit his 10th home run of the season in the 2nd inning, so I think we can say the annual hitting slump to start a Yankee first baseman's season (a tradition going back to Donnie Regular Season Baseball) is over. Robinson Cano homered in the 4th, his 9th. And the Yankees scored 2 more in the 8th, on a single by Raul Ibanez and back-to-back doubles by Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez.

Meanwhile, Ivan Nova was Supernova again, tossing 8 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 1 walk, advancing his record to 7-2. Rafael Soriano pitched the 9th for his 8th save. Alex Cobb was the losing pitcher for the Strays, falling to 2-2.

The Yankees remain half a game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, even in the loss column. The Rays are now 1 game back, the Toronto Blue Jays 2 and the Boston Red Sox 4. All 5 teams in the Division remain .500 or better.

Elimination numbers: O's 106, Rays 105, Jays 104, Sox 102.

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