While Derek was quasi-live blogging about last night's 4-1 Devils win over the Rangers at the Prudential Center, I was there after a long day of working and rushing out to the arena early to sell my extra seat to a fellow Devils fan. After getting into the arena, I went upstairs to leave my jacket at my seat - as I usually do when I get to a game super early so I don't have to walk around with it for an hour. Amazingly the two people who sit next to me were in their seat an hour before the game, so after saying hi and leaving my jacket I went downstairs to walk around and look for other friends who sit in the lower bowl during the pregame skate.
When the pregame skate was over I went back upstairs and then discovered some goofball had spilled beer and mustard all over the place, including on my jacket. At least the guy (a Ranger fan), who sat in my row last night owned up to it and offered to buy a drink but seeing as I was neither hungry or thirsty I passed and let it rest. Good thing I got back early enough to get a bunch of napkins to try and dry everything up. Thankfully that episode wasn't nearly as annoying as the one at the first Ranger-Devil game this year when I was literally shoved out of the way by another Ranger fan on the way to a bathroom stall after standing there for five minutes.
Ironically, last night there didn't appear to be as many Ranger fans there as have been in recent years. Perhaps their position in the standings (double-digit points up on everyone for the top seed in the East) had something to do with that, but other than one clown who sat a few rows in front of me with a Thachuk jersey and was attention-seeking all night, the fans around me weren't all that annoying. Other than the whole 'scream nonsense during the anthem because we know everyone else is quiet' crap during Arlette's latest Star-Spangled Banner performance.
Last year, I was a bit envious of my friend who bought Ranger-Devil tickets off me (when I had my 208 seats) to take her then-boyfriend after it turned out to be the 1-0 shutout game with a fantastic Ilya Kovalchuk breakaway goal against Henrik Lundqvist providing the game's only goal in a dominant Devils performance. After last night, I no longer have to be envious since Kovalchuk scored basically a carbon copy goal in the first minute of the game, complete with the same fist-pumping celebration by the boards. Most of the crowd was in a frenzy at that point, especially the guy next to me who came perilously close to losing his voice after five minutes!
That goal, and Ryan Carter's subsequent beatdown of mouthy Brandon Dubinsky set a tone for the night after Dubinsky's contreversial recent comments about David Clarkson didn't sit well with the Devils - neither did Dubinsky running players in the teams' last game at MSG and slashing Eric Boulton early last night. Ironically, after accusing Clarkson of only fighting players he's bigger than (not true), Dubinsky tried to take advantage of a guy who isn't known for fighting and got whomped, in fact being forced out of the game. While early speculation was that his hand got hurt, one look at the fight said that wasn't true since Dubinsky didn't actually land a punch. Later on it was revealed that it was in fact a nose issue.
After the early histrionics - which included a Cam Janssen fight with big John Scott - a fight coach Pete DeBoer later admitted he encouraged Janssen not to try (like Cam's going to listen to anyone telling him someone else is too big and strong?), the teams settled down into playing a hockey game. Unlike the teams' last contest, this one had more end-to-end action and more chances on net, in fact it took about thirty minutes for both teams to equal their shot totals from the last matchup at the Garden. Perhaps that was due to the fact the Rangers got the early goal then and the Devils got the early goal last night.
Despite all that however, I have to admit feeling 'here we go again' after the Rangers came out and dominated the first dozen or so minutes of the second period, eventually getting the tying goal through Derek Stepan. Like the teams' first two matchups at the Rock this year, it went to the third tied at 1. However, for a rare time this year it was the Devils who dominated the third - taking the lead when a Petr Sykora shot glanced off Clarkson's hip and past Lundqvist for the eventual winner - and not giving it up, in fact adding to it through a goal by Carter (looks like fighting inspired him to play his best game as a Devil) and an empty-netter from Patrik Elias late.
Ironically Carter's goal was one of my funniest player proving me wrong moments ever since I was exacerbated at him over squandering a glorious one-on-one chance with Lundqvist in the second and missing an open man early in the third. Eventually I came to sigh and say out loud 'Carter, you have no hockey sense either'...of course moments later he did score. My only more ironic moment of egg on my face was when I was beyond frustrated with Brian Rolston his first season back and screamed at the top of my lungs, 'Act like you care!' in Game 7 against the Canes. A few seconds later, he did score what should have been the winning goal of the series, if not for the fatal final eighty seconds.
In the end, all's well that ends well last night, at least on this side of the river. People like Brian Boyle and Brad Richards (is he actually on the Rangers?) admitting their effort level didn't match ours sounds like Devil quotes from a few years ago when the Rangers beat us eleven out of thirteen games. I've been hard on some of Martin Brodeur's recent performances against the Rangers, but this season he finally has matched his rival in blue and white save for save, only allowing two goals in his last three games against the Blueshirts. Additionally, Brodeur and Lundqvist's stats in the head-to-head series are practially equal this season, and the Devils now hold a 3-2 edge on the East's first-place team with one matchup left later this month at the Garden.
Before the game, both Devil and Ranger fans at least had one thing in common - being excited for (or dreading) the arrival of season ticket and playoff invoices, as both fanbases got their bills for the upcoming playoffs and 2012-13 season tickets. Thankfully, my tickets didn't go up a penny this year although not everyone in the $22 seats was as lucky. Apparently my row was the cutoff point before the next few rows down, which did go up to $24. One couple I know who sit on the other side of the building in the $28 section told me theirs went up to $30, and I know the upper bowl went up a dollar, from $29 to $30 I believe. By contrast, there's only one section of MSG that's below $47 for a season ticket price next year, presumably the last few rows of the upper corners which is at $29 a game. Their $47 seats in the top bowl come out to around twice of what I pay for my balcony seats (even without having the three preseason games next year during their renovation).
While season tickets were by and large good news, playoff invoices on the other hand got marked up dramatically this year from the first few years at the Rock, as my seats are at $46 and $53 in the first two rounds, respectively - basically ruling out anyone else from coming with me for the playoffs this year. I remember first-round prices being $15-20-25 during our three years in the playoffs while I was in the corner, but even my old section's gone up to $35 and $45 for the first two rounds. Evidently the Devils are gambling on us facing the Rangers, Flyers or Penguins in the playoffs (all of which are very possible) because if we do wind up facing the Jets or Panthers, it'll be very tough to fill the seats at whatever face value winds up being - despite the fact that all ten of the Devils' home playoff games at the Rock have been sellouts so far.
Even those prices aren't a patch on Ranger playoff costs, which are supposedly $75-95-115-190 respectively for the four rounds of the playoffs in the uppermost level of the building. Honestly looking at the Ranger prices makes me a bit relieved the Devils don't sell out every game. After all, if our demand was as high as it is in NY or a Canadian city, our prices would assuredly be much higher than they are, even in a non-NY market. Essentially there are some good parts to only selling out so-called event games. Derek's given chapter and verse how he finally had to give up his 411 seats because costs just got to be too much. I had to give up my 208 seasons for other reasons, seats I would have been happy to keep before I finally decided to 'upgrade' to 120.
Whatever disagreements I may have with the Devils' pricing structure in other areas of the building - having $22 seats right behind the net with season ticket extras like a $200 food and beverage card, access to a team practice/autograph session and the team awards dinner, in addition to other potential prizes like a suite for a game - is something I am appreciative of. Though I do still miss some of the people in 208, I at least get to see the guy I sat with and his dad in the hall during most games, since we both walk the concourse during intermissions. Plus, I'm getting to like the people around me in 120 more, although there are still a few goofballs that I have to tune out.
Among the other sth incentives were if you pay in full you get entered into drawings to win 'dream' prizes, like doubling your season tickets (for free), a trip to a road game, a suite with pizza, etc. Last night was the first drawing for the earlybirds like me and it was a double your season tickets prize. As one Ranger fan in the building wryly observed over on HF Boards, "the Devils double your season tickets, the Rangers double your season ticket prices".