Saturday, April 28, 2007

Goodgamegoodgamegoodgamegoodgame.


Triple overtime last night at the old barn on Elgin Street.

Cinderella story.

Sudbury Wolves defeat Belleville in six to move on to the OHL final.

Sudbury is a fair sized city that has changed since my childhood. Once a hardrock mining town known for its moonscape (the vegetation burned by the sulphur coming from the mills), the city has reinvented itself. The mines are still there but the economy is based more on education (a new medical school just opened), service and tourism. Hard to believe. The black rock has been replaced by thousands of trees planted to reclaim the land. My hometown has come a long way.
Like so many Canadian cities and towns, the game of hockey is part of the community's blood and bones. And like many Canadian families the game runs through mine.
My father was a terrific hockey player as were his brothers. Growing up in Franz, a railway stop for the ACR north of Wawa, they spent their winters in the mythological Canadian fashion, playing hockey day and night on the frozen lake. Dad was a fan of Max Bentley and even when he was traded to the Leafs, his allegiance stuck with the Blackhawks. When he was a teenager, he was told scouts were coming to check he and his brother Gerald out - he was disappointed to learn that they were from Detroit, not Chicago.
My own childhood memories include watching Hockey Night in Canada with Dad, every Saturday night. Our neighbourhood, like every neighbourhood in the city, had a rink and a clubhouse. This was referred to as the playground. This is where we spent our evenings and weekends as boys. It was also the basis for hockey in the city. There was the "city" league, which played indoors only and was equivalent to AA hockey nowadays. Everyone else played on their neighbourhood teams, from whenever you started playing (my first year was as a five year old, when I was 17 I helped with a team that included a 3 year old) until juvenile (17/18 iirc) if you could scrape together a team at that age. Most of the games were outside, no matter the weather. Parents scraped the ice before the game and between periods if necessary. They stood on the snowbanks surrounding the rink, cheering us on while we huddled in our benches.
And no global warming back then. This was the seventies and early eighties. 30 below was a typical night in Sudbury from December until March 1. That's before the windchill, mind you.
Games were not cancelled due to weather. We did have a warm winter in '73 or so and as a result it was a rather abbreviated season. No ice.
Parents flooded the rink and kept it up. They manned the snack bar and barbeques during the weekend "carnivals". Every playground had one every winter. It included a mini tournament with three invited teams from around the city (usually a couple of patsies and then a rival to end up with at least a result in the final). And there was body contact too, by the way, all the way up the ladder.
And there were the Wolves. Sudbury won a Memorial Cup back in the 30s but did not join the OHL until 1972. They quickly put together a powerhouse team that in 75/76 went to the OHL finals. They fell short of a Memorial Cup berth, falling to the Toronto Marlies in Game 7 in OT on a goal by John Anderson. That Wolves team included Jim Bedard in goal, a D that included Randy Carlyle and Dave Farrish as well as local hero John Baby (the Wolves have always had local boys on their club) and a forwards corps that included Ron Duguay (another local boy), a sniper by the name of Rod Schutt who would play a few years with the Pens, a hardworking winger from Timmins, Hector Marini, who would win a Cup with the Islanders, play for the Devils in the Mickey Mouse years (he actually repped them at the All Star Game one year) and then lose an eye playing in the minors in 1985 and another local boy, rookie Mike Foligno. Finally there was a little centre from Toronto who scored 51 goals and was, along with Duguay and Schutt, one of the trio who drove the offence. For years I couldn't remember his name and then found him on their website last night - Bob Russell - he's the young man pictured up in the top left. Russell was drafted by the Kings but never played in the NHL. He was also drafted by, guess who, the Oilers, in the WHA draft. He played two years with them. LT, do you remember him? I can't recall a thing except when I was 8, he was the biggest star, bigger then Lafleur or Mikita (my favourite NHL player growing up) or Sittler. Growing up was about going to see the Wolves play or listening to Joe Bowen call their games on the radio.

That was the high water mark for the Wolves. Foligno became a star with them and he and Don Beaupre led a decent team in the late 70s. I remember when the Memorial Cup came to Sudbury (79 iirc) going to the games with Dad, a Christmas present. This was before the setup now where the local team gets a bye. The Wolves didn't even come close. Anyhow, Darryl Sittler was at a game, sitting in the stands (imagine that); I got his autograph but even then the bigger excitement was that Foligno and three of his teammates sat behind us. I got their autographs of course - Foligno was on his way to bigger and better things.

In the early 90s the Wolves had a nice run but never got over the hump. One year they had eight guys with over a point a game and two others just below it. They had a Dman with 121 points. Teams that had a ton of offensive talent but never won a thing. A lot of guys who were drafted but ended up in Europe (some of them still are). A lot of busts. Brandon Convery. Adam Bennett. Jamie Matthews. Zednek Nedved.Some guys who have pieced together careers in the NHL - Derek Armstrong being one. Steve Staios being another. A lot of Oiler connections besides Staios. Moreau was picked up for a playoff run for a kid Dman named Jay McKee. (Moreau was an offensive god in junior). Mike Peca was traded to Ottawa for a goalie for another failed run. Less happily for the Oilers both Jason Bonsignore and Barrie Moore were Wolves.

Going into Sudbury used to be intimidating. Tough crowd. More then once a ref has needed a police escort to get out of town. The most famous of these involved one of those early 90s teams. In a game seven in OT Sudbury scored but it was waved off. By every objective account it was a completely blown call, followed almost immediately by the Wolves losing on a goal that was blatantly illegal (again this is from people whose objectivity I trust). The ref barely escaped.

I have seen grown sober men, the calmest men I know outside the rink, throw popcorn and pop and garbage onto the ice in a rage. I have seen Howler, a stuffed wolf, come hurtling across the top of the rink after the Wolves score. (Howler went missing for a while, wolfnapped I believe). I remember being at a game against the Generals during the Lindros years and seeing Rick Cornaccia the Generals' coach, who had helmed a loaded WJC team to disaster that Christmas. My friend's son, thirteen at the time, said "Nice job over in Germany, Rick." or some such thing. I swear Cornaccia looked like he was going to cry and mumbled something about "jerk kids".

Yep, they start 'em young.

Even when I was in school I'd get back for a game or two when I was home, running out between periods for a beer at the dive bar across the street.

And now, all of these years later, they are back. The city is going wild. They've had a decent team in recent years and have done alright, winning a few playoff series. But this year looked to be a disappointment, finishing under 500 and facing a Mississauga team loaded for bear in the first round. Wolves took them in five, only to have to face arch rival Barrie, who finished 30 point up on them.

Sweep.

And now Belleville gone in six.

Mike Foligno is the coach and GM and his son Nick is one of the stars. Marc Staal captains the squad and the youngest Staal, the rookie Jared, won a game with an OT goal. There are a few local boys as there always are and most of the kids on this team will never make the NHL. Some won't get drafted and some will and most of those who will will end up in Europe or the minors or will just retire once they've figured they have to take a different path.

But last night they became part of history in a city that loves hockey, for better for worse, a city that exemplifies the best and yes the worst about hockey, just as every Canadian city and town does. Like Bob Russell and Hector Marini, guys like Matt Dias (who scored the winner) and the Danish goalie Sebastian Dahm and 20 year old undrafted sniper Kevin Baker (hello Switzerland!) will be remembered.

They now face the Plymouth Whalers, another tough mountain to climb, for a berth in the Memorial Cup.

Go Wolves Go!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fuck Around - LaForge, Les Lames and Round Deux


Patrick LaForge has done what guys like him, guys like Richard Peddie and Gary Bettman, do. He has glossed over errors, deflected blame, covered his own ass and basically treated Oiler fans like morons, asking us to bend over as he gives it to us up the ass, all the while reaching into our wallets.
The best part of his missive was that part of the reason for the Oilers' failure this season was due to long road trips. I had forgotten how half of the teams in the NHL have no road games while the other half spend three days at a spa, being pampered by beautiful French nymphomaniacs, before they play their road game. They then return to said spa for three more days to unwind, before going home for their month long homestands.
The other truly ridiculous thing about his letter to the fans was his defence of Edmonton, as if Edmonton needed defending. Not sure when this myth began but LaForge sure is doing his best to propagate it. Lets review, shall we. The Oilers traded for Chris Pronger, who hated Edmonton so much that he immediately signed a five year contract. Of course Pronger did ask to be traded so that is one in the minus column but other then Spacek who likely took a look at the Oilers in the post Pronger era and decided that if he wanted to win then les Sabres would be a better bet (knowing full well that a team that had him in their top two was less likely to go far then a team with him in their bottom pairing), I beg to ask who turned down Oiler green last summer. We all know Peca and Samsonov were going elsewhere and the Oilers never took a second glance their way but LeGG wanted to stay and I would bet that Dvo would have signed as well if he was offered anything half decent.
Indeed playing in Edmonton is so horrible that Roloson and Pisani, as well as Sykora and Tjarnqvist, signed here last summer. Also Horcoff and Hemsky gave up UFA years to sign on and both Moreau and Staios also reupped during the season. And we all know that Smyth wanted to stay as well.
So based on one guy who asked out and another who probably made a wise choice for a veteran, suddenly Edmonton is the gulag. The problem is that instead of highlighting the fact that eight guys signed here and two, maybe three others who left, wanted to, LaForge chooses to deflect the blame from a management team that blew this season by playing this card. Its a handy one for EIG, no doubt. Can't sign big ticket UFAs - nobody wants to play here. Right.
Its a good money saver.
LaForge is your ugly saleman writ large. The type of guy who asks to have a meeting on the other side of town. Then while you're cooling your heels in some restaurant he, Cal Nichols and Joffrey Lupul have broken into your house. Cal drinks all your beer, smokes all your weed and leaves a note saying you should divorce your wife. LaForge backs up the truck, steals everything of value and takes a big crap on a plate and leaves a note saying he hopes you enjoy your chocolate cake and Lupul rapes the big fella, because if there's one thing he's good at, its fucking the dog.
Meanwhile down south the Flames have crapped out. Now I don't have the hate for the Flames that most Oiler fans do. Late to the party and all that - I guess I'll get drummed out of the union. I get more pleasure out of seeing big D go down, even if they are just a shadow of their former selves.
And I do feel bad for Fenwick and Peter and metrognome and the rest. This team was built to win and they should have won the division going away I think. And I know I'm not the only one to think that. Hindsight is 20/20 but Sutter added Stuart, Primeau, Conroy and Tanguay, all for Leopold, Kobasew and Ference. He had a couple of kids in Lombardi and Phaneuf who could contribute, an excellent keeper, a team that on paper anyhow, looked to be world beaters.
But something didn't mesh and if I was a Flames' fan I'd be mighty disappointed. Over half the D that carried these guys within one win of the Cup are gone and Warrener looks done. Hamrlik and Stuart are UFAs this summer and we all know what looms next season. I have no idea what Sutter is going to do - likely he will try and sign Stuart. If I were him I'd sign Kipper and Iginla now, ride them hard next year, and then deal with the cap by trading Iginla if I had too. Or maybe he'll trade Iggy this summer.
Expectations are a bitch - Oiler fans know that. If Lowe makes a few decent moves this summer he'll be golden if the team makes any noise next season. Look at Canuck fans - their season is a total success. Nobody expected this much of them.
I'll leave the serious post mortems to Matt but I would say there were issues with chemistry and with coaching. Can I prove it with numbers or anything more then saying it - no, I can't. And more to the point this team lacked what the Oilers lacked - guys who could handle the tough opposition both up front and on the back end. Again, I'll leave it to Fenwick to dissect what went wrong.
And so on to round two. Went six and two in round one but I think pretty well everyone did that or better. Only the stupid monkey took a powder. Poor monkey. Holds out for more bananas and now she's getting her name attached to spinning a wheel and having to service Domi and MaGuire whenever they happen to drop by the studio. I'd be flinging crap, let me tell you.
Not many surprises in round one and I went wrong in picking Calgary and the Pens to upset. Round two looks to be a little more dicey. I'd say Anaheim takes the Canucks who just cannot score. One thing to edge out Dallas, led in scoring by Mike Ribiero, but the Ducks have a little more up front and a little more on the backend as well. And I must be going soft because I actually felt good for Turco for shedding that playoff rep. Boy, am I becoming a pussy. Anyhow, Ducks in five.
Les Sabres should take the Rangers but it will be a tough test and thye definitely have to raise their level of play. Having said that it comes down to that depth once again - Sabres in six.
The tossups are Jersey-Ottawa and San Jose-Wings. I think Jersey is solid but beating a four man team is one thing. The Sens shut down a pretty potent squad in Pittsburgh and I think they can do the same here. Sens in six.
The Sharks are my pick to represent the West and I'm not straying from that. The Wings were excellent against the Flames but the Sharks beat a Preds squad that was loaded for bear. Again its depth that wins out in the end. The Sharks are big and fast and deep. they shut down the Preds and will do the same to the Wings. Six games again.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Moving On

Five series over quickly but three more are at least six and we could see all of them go seven.

Before the season I was figuring the Sharks as the team to beat and right now I'm thinking they are coming out of the West. They beat a damn good Preds team in five. They are big, fast and talented and have added some veterans and grit to the mix. We all know that if Roli doesn't stop Cheechoo in G3 last spring then that would have been it for the Oilers and then who knows what happens but its pretty possible these guys would be defending champions. Anyhow they moved Preissing in the summer and have added Mark Bell, Curtis Brown, Mike Grier, Craig Rivet and Bill Guerin. Add to that Carle, Vlasic, Clowe and Pavelski (who the hell scouts for these guys?) and you can see this team is going to be tough to beat.

The Preds, on the other hand, get knocked out first round again and if this was ten years ago and Nashville was a major market you'd look at it as just another bump on the way towards becoming a contender and likely champion. Instead the talk from Eric Duhatschek is that with money being an issue there will likely be some slashing going on. Timmonen, Kariya and Hartnell are all UFAs as is Forsberg of course and its highly likely that all of them will be gone. That's a lot of talent to lose and while they have a lot of very good young players as well as solid vets like Arnott and Dumont, its possible that this may have been their best chance. Think of that. Crazy? This franchise is cash poor as it is and with no long playoff run this year that means no money and no excitement and if they take a step back next year, well, this may be the high water mark of a team that is on its way down the highway.

Which brings us to the Thrashers. While Don Waddell trumpets a 97 point season (hey Don, teams used to finish out of the playoffs with 90 points before the shootout - big frigging deal!) the truth is this is another team in trouble. Unlike Nashville which at least has a decent pipeline of young talent, the Thrashers look a lot like the Blue Jackets. Not a lot there and they gave up a lot to just get into the playoffs. Kovalchuk is a bum and there's nobody there who cares and it doesn't look like a long run is in the offing for these guys anytime soon. I'd say move them but it would make far more sense to just fold them.

The Rangers are interesting. I still don't take them seriously but the reality is Ottawa or Buffalo had better - they have a topnotch goaltender and enough firepower to make things interesting. Sweet how they pounded Atlanta.

The Islanders deserve credit - they gave les Sabres all they could handle - but I also think les Sabres may have been believing those press clippings. That Sabres depth will kill you every time though. Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford on the fourth line - Jesus.

I think we have seen the one team that might be able to handle the Sabres in the East and that's the Ottawas. That's the one series that has ended that I picked wrong and I got grief for my reasoning - the old Sens playoff rep was why I picked the Pens. To me everything pointed to a Sens win but I went against it - oh well. Marty Turco is another who seems to be proving that that playoff rep can be dumped. Alfie too. And then you have Alexei Yashin ...

All kidding aside the Sens look like the real deal and I think they can handle the Devils if that's who they face next.

And finally there are the Ducks - with them it all rests on getting scoring from the kids and they did. I'm not a Ducks fan but I'm not sorry to see Wild on Jack Lemaire go out early. I respect Lemaire as a great player and a terrific coach but rightly or wrongly to me he is the guy who killed hockey for about ten years - when the Devils won it with that godawful system it just opened the door for all of the other geniuses to copy them and that was it. Funny how it goes - everyone picked this series as well as the Sharks/Preds and Pens/Sens to go 7 and they were all done in ten days.

82 games to get there and then you're done in a week and a half.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Midget Leaves A Mark - Sens v. Pens


This has been a terrific first round so far. Although it looks like many of the series may end up being short ones the games have been close and there are a lot of great storylines. Unlike last season it doesn't look like a lot of upsets are in the offing. With tonight's action the Rangers have now swept the Thrashers, not a big surprise to anyone, I think, despite the third seed the Thrashers held. Les Sabres are up three games to one against the gritty Islanders. The Devils evened their series on Gomez' OT winner in the one series that looks like it may go seven. Out West the Sharks are up 3-1 in G4 as they look to go up three games to one on the Preds. The Ducks look to finish off the Wild in a bit of a surprise, not in their series lead, but in the fact that most called this to go six or seven. Similarily the Canucks have a chance to wrap up the Stars. Every game has been close and two have been decided in overtime but Luongo has been the difference. And the Flames are in another must win as they try to even up their series.

Meanwhile Ottawa will look to put away the Pens tomorrow night. This is one that most have picked to go seven and many, including me, picked the Pens to take it, for no better reason (in my case) that the Sens always seem to blow it. They may still but it doesn't look like it, this round anyway.

One of the interesting stories in this series and in the entire playoffs for that matter has been the emergence of Mike Comrie. Indeed CP today had a glowing story about "the fucking midget" as RiversQ has referred to him a few times, I believe.

Oiler fans have a burr about Comrie, maybe moreso then anyone else, and that includes Pronger. The hometown boy who got the big entry level contract and then got sent out of town as he held out for more big money. Few wept as Comrie became Anson Carter. When he joined the Sens midway through this season it marked his fourth team in six seasons and with free agency looming and the rep of being skilled but soft.

Now with the Sens poised to move on, let's take a look at Comrie's role, using Vic Ferrari's terrific tool to look at ES icetime. (Vic should look at getting royalties for this). Comrie is presently a plus 4 at ES with 2 goals and a beautiful assist on the gamewinner in G4, all of his points also being at ES.

In G1 Murray basically went power vs. power with the Alfredsson line getting the lion's share of icetime against Crosby. Alfie had 6.2 minutes against Sid with Phillips at 7.1 and Volchenkov at 7.5. Comrie's line was actually third in head to head icetime against Crosby, barely above that of the fourth line. He was at 1.9 v. Sid, 3.4 v. Malkin and 2.7 v. both Staal and Talbot.

In G2 Murray stuck with power vs. power. Alfie was at 6.1 with Phillips at 9.8 and Volchenkov at 10.3. Comrie got slightly more icetime at 2.5 with 3.9 v Malkin, 3.3 v. Talbot and 2.9 v Staal.

Its in G3 where things begin to get really interesting. Therrien looks to get Crosby away from Alfredsson who gets 4.6 v. Crosby. Comrie gets 3.9 v. Crosby, double his ES minutes in G1. He also is on for 6.7 v. Malkin who is now playing some with Crosby and only 1.4 v.both Talbot and Staal. While Therien gets Sid away from Alfie, Murray manages to get Philips out for 9.5 and Volchenkov for 10.8 when Crosby is on the ice, more total then G2 and G1.

And then in G4 Therrien goes pretty well full out power versus power. He has the last change but it looks like maybe he figures Crosby can outscore or at least keep Alfie to evens. Alfie is out for a whopping 8.8 v Sid, a series high, and Phillips clocks in at 14.2 while Volchenkov is at 14.8.

Alfredsson's line is kept off the scoresheet at ES but so is Crosby - a sawoff. Staal scores the lone goal for the Pens, ironically against the Alfredsson line - its Redden and Meszaros on D.

Comrie only gets 2.1 against Sid, 1.6 against Malkin and 3.4 versus Staal but 7.9 versus Talbot. He sets up the winner while out against Staal and Roberts.

So the erstwhile Oiler who wanted to be paid like a first line centre seems to have found a place as a second line winger. He is playing with two pretty good hockey players in Pete Schaeffer and Mike Fisher but he's doing his job at both ends of the rink and went after Talbot in G1 and then fought Colby Armstrong in G4. And as we can see, while he is not getting a ton of icetime against Crosby he is not getting completely sheltered from him and he is getting out there against some of the other serious weapons the Pens have.

Its early and a small sample size but like another former Oiler who has found a niche, Dan Cleary, he may have finally figured out how he is going to succeed in this league.

It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow night. Will Therrien try and keep Crosby away from Alfredsson or will he have them go head to head, hoping that Crosby (who has been great imo) will outscore the big line or the PP clicks or, maybe, just maybe, someone other then Robeerts and Staal does something offensively. With Murray having last change I think that this may be it for the Pens.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lames, Sean Avery and Floaters


After a slow start to the season the Flames roared back into contention - I remember saying back in early December or so that I figured they were the team to beat out of the West. Then they added Conroy and Stuart and Wayne Primeau, only subtracting Ference from their roster, and I figured they were golden for sure. On paper they had a roster that could match with pretty well anybody.

You wonder what Darryl Sutter is thinking right now? Loaded this team for bear and now they are down 2-0 and while they have been lights out at home they still have to win one in Detroit and that sure doesn't look likely. Without Kiprusoff this team would have been run out of the rink both games. Which might make Sutter's decision next year (Kipper or Iggy?) a lot easier then you'd think. And what of Jim Playfair? He might end up like Wayne Cashman or Trottier - highly touted assistants who waited for their turn for years, only to bomb out immediately.

Datsyuk is working pretty hard to erase that label of playoff failure, huh? And anyone who has seen the first two games of the Sens/Pens who thinks Alfredsson is a problem come playoff time hopefully moves him to the Oilers this summer if the Sens fall short again. He has been terrific. Spezza too.

On the other hand ... I remember when the Sens acquired Heatley and I have to admit I had seen little of the guy to that point but the hype surrounding him before his car accident made it sound like he was the second coming of Brendan Shanahan or Cam Neely. I haven't seen it and for a guy who has scored fifty goals two years in a row now, I have to think I can't remember a guy with those numbers who just seems to have so little impact on a game. Reminiscent of Mike Bullard, your classic floater from days of yore, who also somehow managed to score fifty goals one season. We all know that it will be Alfredsson or Redden or Murray (or all three) who take the fall if the Sens fall short but this guy is the luckiest guy in the world playing with Jason Spezza. He looks like Joffrey Lupul out there.

And careless with his stick as well which drives me nuts.

You know you're in trouble when Mike Comrie is showing more jam then you. Comrie has looked good and fighting Armstrong in G2 and challenging Talbot in G1 is surely making some GMS take notice. And playing with Fisher and Schaeffer its not like he's seeing the really soft minutes either.

Having said all that if the Sens do fall short (and in this round) and Roberts again is a big factor you have to think that Muckler's head will roll. The guy was available, wanted to go to Ottawa and was a Sens killer for years and Muckler figured, what, the price was too much? The Sens should be up 2-0, sure, but this is the way it always goes with them. They should be up and they're just not getting the breaks and next thing you know they're in game seven and then they are done. Better to just not put yourself into that position, no?

Warms my heart to see the Thrashers down two but what the hell is the deal with Sean Avery? He's showing what has been rumoured for quite a while - he's a good hockey player - but how does he get under a team's skin so much that they do what the Thrashers did at the end of G2? Nice to see that punk Kovalchuk make an ass of himself though, not that he needs a lot of help. He's one guy I would enjoy seeing getting a career ending injury, preferably a severely lacerated testicle or something fun like that.

Avery is going to cash in big time this summer.

And if you're planning on making a playoff run would you just avoid picking up Keith Tkachuk? I know he's a good player but at some point you have to wonder if he is ever going to have any playoff success? The guy is a jinx. Of course he strikes me as an A1 arsehole so hopefully he signs on in Atlanta - he and Kovalchuk are made for each other. Maybe we can get a 2 for 1 on the aforementioned ball ripping.

So the Lames are down 2-0 and the Wild have to win tonight or they're done and the Canucks, who have been badly outplayed for much of their two games, have to try and steal one tonight or I have a feeling that they may go down and quickly.

We're at the point in a lot of these series where we're going to find out if we're going to have much of a series. I'm thinking we might see a couple of teams go out a lot earlier then we thought (and you may not lump the Isles in that group now that DiPietro is back). The Lames and Wild on Jack Lemaire being the two prime candidates. Being down 2-0 going home is not insurmountable (see Oilers/Sharks last spring) but you basically have no margin for error - a hot goalie or a couple of bad breaks puts you down 3-1 going back on the road. Not insurmountable but pretty well (see Oilers/Canes last spring).

Friday, April 13, 2007

First Impressions - Jarmoe Poo Poo!

Just getting ready to put Jack to bed last night but first we caught the beginning of the Flames/Wings tilt. The boy loves the hockey. He has his little Oilers' stick and isn't afraid to use it. He and the dog caught sight of a corn flake that was lying under the table the other day and both went for it. We had to get out the mop to clean up the blood and teeth after that collision. Elbows and stick high going into the corner.

Game comes on and he points at the screen - "DADA!"

Then "JARMOE POO POO!"

Start of night three of the playoffs and boy, its something. Sharks and Preds are in a war. Radulov has scored again and then has been tossed for driving Bernier into the boards from behind. Cheechoo is playing but is hobbled. He went down in G1 and then Hannan limped off and you could see it all going down the toilet for the Sharks, even with their depth but then Hannan came back and now Cheechoo is playing as well.

The Preds kill the major, including a minute two men short and then Dumont scores shorthanded and the crowd is roaring and at every stoppage there's a scrum. Preds PK reminds me of the Oilers last year, in all the lanes and active sticks while the Sharks look for the pretty play.

Both teams so deep that unless the winner is devastated by injuries its hard to see anyone out West standing up to them. Anaheim and Detroit are both very good but both of these teams throw three lines plus and its hard to withstand the onslaught. How do you hide Perry and Getzlaf when your opponent has three lines that can score? Who does Pahlsson shut down?

And both teams, like les Sabres and the Ottawas are young and loaded. A few more years of this coming, maybe?

I get a St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. "DADA! JARMOE POO POO!" Everytime I get a beer. "DADA! Chees" (raises glass)

Dumont again. Hmm, could the Oilers have picked him up?

Every year is the same. Game one and everyone goes crazy. Either elation or panic. One game, even two games (remember Oilers/Sharks?) doesn't mean so much to me. Obviously its better to get your split on the road or to be up two (duh!) but this talk that the Ottawas are different this year because of their admittedly dynamite performance the other night. Heard this before. Lets see what happens tomorrow. But the Ottawas did look good, no doubt.

Les Sabres had a perfect game, a win but tight enough to keep them honest. My Sabres' fan buddy hopes that if it comes down to it they choose Drury over Briere. He loves the dynamic Briere but Drury scores and checks and does it all. He's the better player and will likely get less. Anyhow, Sabres' fourth line includes Connolly and Stafford and you think of, say, Reasoner, Stortini and Petersen facing these guys and its not a fair fight. What a team.

In other news Atlanta goes down, to my delight, and what do you know but Tampa's goaltending costs them G1 against the Devils. I hate the Devils.

Without Kipper the Flames are down by seven or eight easily and Datsyuk scores three himself in about a five minute span in the second. It appears someone feels they have something to prove. What makes me laugh is how the media seems to paint the picture that the Wings' loss of Bertuzzi being equal to the loss of Reghyr. Without Reghyr the Flames are done. I think the Wings likely could win the series without Bertuzzi even playing a game. It should be interesting to see how desperate the Flames come out and whether or not they can get that split. The Wings, like the Sens, appeared to quiet those playoff demons for one night at least.

There's an ad for the new Natalie Portman movie. "DADA! NATALIE PORTMAN IS SMOKING!!! JARMOE POOPOO!"

Right on.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hockeyists From the West


Like Torres, my primary emotion now that the Oilers' season is done is relief, although in his case I would think shame might fit the bill better. For he and most of his teammates.
Anyhow its now Stanley time. We all know the NHL would be better served by having a 70 game schedule and the playoffs starting in early March and ending in May but of course the genius of those who run the NHL is that they never do anything intelligent. So instead the tournament now runs into the later part of June. With a number of teams from the south in the running this season it should make for terrific ice conditions for the league's showcase. And, of course, come summer, the idea of sitting in front of the TV certainly trumps any enthusiasm for sitting on a patio, going to the park or engaging in any outdoor activities.
Last spring almost killed me. Jack was six months old when the playoffs started and not a great sleeper. Couple that with the Oilers' deep run and when I woke up on June 20th I was pretty well an exhausted husk. This season I will follow the playoffs with interest. I always do. Without the personal investment, however, it should make for a spring with a little more sleep and a little lest angst (although certainly a duller one).
So, remembering your Cup Champs from 100 years ago, those "hockeyists from the West", the Kenora Thistles, lets take a quick look at the opening round. Last season I was exactly one under .500 in my predictions so I figure with a shootout I'd likely be about a 95 point team. Not bad.
Prince of Wales
In my mind, this is the weaker conference. Unlike last year where I looked at both conferences and figured all but a couple of teams could win the Cup, I can't really see a lot of true contenders coming out of the East. I think that Buffalo is the class of the conference, followed closely by Ottawa. Jersey and the Pens are in the next tier. I can't see any of the remaining four winning at all and I can't see Jersey or the Pens winning the Cup either. Having said that if Buffalo falters then this conference is anyone's to win.
Les Sabres/Islanders - The Isles snuck in and good for them and if DiPietro was available then I would think they might have an outside chance at a miracle but they have an AHL goalie (his success this week notwithstanding), a top D pair of Brendan Witt and Sean Hill and a go to offensive guy who has never succeeded in the playoffs. Buffalo is completely healthy, except for Gaustad, deep at every position and on a mission. I love Ted Nolan and Smytty, obviously, but unless Ryan Miller goes down, I can't see the Isles winning more then a game. Sabres in five.
Devils/Lightning - I hate the Devils, always have, and I think they're not winning a thing this spring unless Brodeur turns into Patrick Roy, circa 1993. They are a good team but not a great one. Good draw for them however as Tampa's goaltending is again suspect. Can't win with bad goaltending. Devils in five, maybe six.
Thrashers/Rangers - Don't like the Thrashers either. Kovalchuk is a punk, first of all. And so is Tkachuk for that matter. My worst nightmare would be an Atlanta/Nashville final. Anyhow, unlike Carolina last year and Tampa the year before, Atlanta is actually not very good. Not very deep anywhere and a lot of guys untried in the second season. Coming out of a division with two poor teams, a Canes' team that never found its stride and a Tampa team which was inconsistent and, as noted, had poor goaltending, does not impress me. Rangers in six.
Sens/Pens - Marquee matchup of the first round and its a shame one of these teams goes out early. Every year I figure the Sens will have figured it out and every year they fuck it up. This year it all comes down to one guy. Heatley. One of only two fifty goal scorers this season, if he disappears like he did last year, then the Sens are done. If he plays like a star, then they go through. Look at this team and they and Buffalo should be there in the end. It goes against everything I hope for the Ottawas and believe about young teams but I think they go down early again - Pens in seven. And more scapegoats for the Sens this summer - Redden, Alfredsson, Muckler and Murray this time.
Clarence Campbell
The West is crazy. Any of these teams could go all the way and it would be no surprise. I think the Sabres and maybe the Senators could match up against a Western club but other then that I think its a Western Conference title this season.
Wings/Flames - The sexy and easy upset pick is the Flames over the Wings and, sorry Chief, I have to go with it. The reasoning - the Wings are a good matchup for the Flames, the Wings once again have an inflated point total due to their division, the Wings have some injury concerns. Actually it is that last point that is the killer. Zetterberg is skating again but a back injury is a nasty one to have. And Kronwall is out. Add to this that the Flames actually have a lot going on up front this year and I think they take it in six. One win in the first two in Detroit will do it.
Ducks/Wild - MacT describes the Wild as a team that you play and you feel like you're totally in control and then you look up and you're down 2-1 late in the third. Bad draw for the Ducks, I think. Wild always seem to find a way to get it done. However, having said that, if Pronger shuts down Gaborik, and I cannot see why not, then the Ducks will win. I don't think they have the offence or the goaltending to go all the way but I think they do get by Wild on Jack Lemaire. Ducks in seven.
Canucks/Stars - A roll of the dice here. Dallas has a hard time scoring goals and the Canucks have four Dmen who can shut it down, plus Luongo and home ice. They will get enough offence from the Sedins and their supporting cast to sneak by. Canucks in seven.
Preds/Sharks - Again, a roll of the dice. I picked the Sharks to win the Conference and, iirc, the Cup at the beginning of the year. I'm still not sure about their D but they are bigger and deeper up front then they were last year and if Roli does not make that save on Cheechoo they were likely in the Finals at least last spring. The Preds have a few concerns up front with injuries. I think the Sharks eat the Preds' young D alive. Sharks in six.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Like Getting Your Nuts Cut Off



With every game since the beginning of March a 3-0 loss (or so it seems), I cannot remember a drearier stretch of hockey. Ever. On win in nineteen games, and that one a Bettman Special on top of everything. Unbelieveable. The only good thing from all this is that the Oilers have sunk to fourth last, finally getting passed by the Caps and Hawks. So they have an outside shot at the #1 pick or could put a package together to move up. Picks are no guarantee of course but I'd rather be in the top five then somewhere down around eleven or twelve.

Interesting to note this week in the papers - Lupul downplaying his horrendous plus/minus (means nothing don't you know?). Then Mac T calling Lupul and Torres out by name for their "absence" and the fact that thet have contibuted nothing at either end of the rink for quite a while now. The fact that he basically exonerated Horcoff and Hemsky in his next points due to the fact that both are apparently in rough shape leads one to believe that there are at least two players who may have played themselves out of next year's plans (you may throw Sykora into that mix too). Mac T has three more years on his contract - who do you think is going to win this tug of war. Lupul's possible exile may be the best news to come out of this miserable month.

Watched the Isles set up a Leaks/Habs matchup on Saturday Night for that last playoff spot (although the Islanders themselves still have a shot at it). Wait for the hype Saturday night. Can they both lose? Of course as we know you never can tell but I can't see any of these guys having a shot against Les Sabres - famous last words, huh? Smytty scored a Smytty goal and was Smytty and well, goddamn it ...

And the Sens and Penguins had a nice little war going on. Sens are already in postseason form apparently. After the highlights the announcer intoning that they just couldn't cash in their opportunities.

Highlights of the Flames and Sharks and maybe its only me but Phaneuf reminds me of Ulf Samuelsson more and more. Borderline hits. Turtling. Trashtalking. I was a big fan of Phaneuf coming up but they showed a half dozen highlights of him last night and it was all the same garbage.

Big news today in the Journal - seven pages on line as Cal Nichols reveals the real reason Pronger left Edmonton. Naw, it was his wife after all. Just confirming what we knew all along.

Anyhow Easter is here which means the Exclaim Cup, three days of hockey, some great music and, hopefully, a title for Capsule Music. Mudcrutch has asked me to run a musician or two so I'll do my best - I once had Dave Bidini chasing me around his own zone, screaming obscentities at me. True story. Should be great though. Hockey. Music. All with a homerotic subtext that has become so apparent that, as one of our players remarked last week, it is no longer subtext but rather the overwhelming theme of the proceedings.

Oh well. When in Greece ...

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ten Ways To Spend Your 2.3 Million Dollars


2.3 million dollars will buy you a lot.
836363 cans of Guinness from the LCBO.
Or 306666 pints of Guinness from McCarthys (generous tip included).
1654676 sausage mcmuffins.
6 and a half houses in Toronto.
230000 dinners for two at Bibiche Bistro, including 2 glasses of red wine, 2 Creemores, tax and tip.
65714 visits to the rub and tug.
Jan Hejda, Patrick Thoresen, Tom Gilbert (with 300K to spare)
Jason Smith's contract this year (with 400K to spare)
Jay Bouwmeester (with 200K to spare)
Sydney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin (with 500K plus to spare, maybe for Gilbert or Thoresen again)
Or it could be the Cap hit the Oilers are taking this year and the next two for Joffrey Lupul.
16 goals and 12 assists. Nearly the worst plus minus in the league.
I mean there is that tremendous effort he brings shift to shift, game in and game out. You can't really beat him for the intangibles he brings to the table.
So I guess its money well spent after all.
Addendum - interesting note over at Mirtle's - one of the top ten players in the league in differential between goals against for his club between when he is on the ice and when he is off the ice is your man Patrick Thoresen.