30 November 2007

The Hockey Gods Love Me Again!

After two games against non-Central Division foes, I think I'm finally ready to watch hockey again. Okay, in all seriousness I missed the Preds and Jackets games because of work, but even so, when I turned on my TV this Tuesday and was met with the requisite shot of Kipper and his perpetual stoic yet quirky facial expressions, I just about yelped in joy. And uh, sorry HG, but it had nothing to do with the Flames specifically.

Thankfully, with a new, slightly-improved schedule having been approved, we will hopefully never have to sit through another month of "rivalry building" (Really? You think so? Because all it made me want was to never see those teams again.) inter-divisional play. And look, bore us less and we start winning again!

I'm quite a few days late on Tuesday's 5-3 win against the Flames, so I'll defer to Christy's recap at Winging it in Motown and just add a few highlights:

  • At the start of the game someone mentioned something about a player being "hemmed in down low". The speed at which my head jerked up to the TV screen was disgusting. Don't you judge me.
  • Jiri Hudler spent the whole game harassing Dion Phaneuf. This was hilarious to watch, as Phaneuf has 6 inches and 40 pounds on him, and it was remnant of watching someone try to shoo an annoying gnat buzzing around their head. Eventually Phaneuf took the bait and delivered a (clean but massive and probably much more than necessary for someone of that size) open-ice hit. Andreas Lilja answered the call, defended his teammate, and downed Phaneuf in record time - he's really starting to become a player you can appreciate more.
  • The goal scoring all game long was a joy to watch - almost every goal was something special. Pavel Datsyuk, who looks like he's really starting to get hot, scored a beauty just under the crossbar and then later slipped by three Flames to put in what was probably his prettiest of the season - I'm starting to think the "Houdini" nickname might catch on. He also got an assist, ending him up with a three point game. Hudler and Valtteri Filppula combined to score another beauty later on with a move that left me thinking they've been taking notes from the Datsyuk/Zetterberg team.
  • Kris Draper took an awkward hit that resulted in him leaving the game. The official word is a sprained knee, and that he'll be out 2-4 weeks, but the announcers also said he drove himself to the DMC - I'm not sure what that says, really.
Of course the fresher news is yesterday's 5-2 massacre of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Granted "massacre" might be a little strong for an end score of 5-2, but the Lightning looked weak all night long and were held to only one shot in the first period - so I'd say it flies. By the end the Lightning had managed 23 shots, but the Wings still dominated play for almost the entirety of the game. For a full recap, check out Matt's post at On the Wings. My notes are:
  • The game against the Flames was one of pretty goals - this one was of gorgeous passes that set up pretty goals. Chris Chelios started it off with a beautiful one to who scored to put the Wings on the board first. I know I've been a fan of the kid from the beginning, but the plays he's making and the numbers he's putting up in the still limited ice time he's getting are really starting to say something about him. Jiri HudlerAndreas Lilja, continuing his case to win me over, set up Tomas Kopecky later on with a pass that Daniels and Redmond continued to talk about for remainder of the game. It was great to see Kopy's goal, as well - his first of the season with a gorgeous shoulder-fake that Marc Denis completely bought into.
  • Unfortunately the game also brought about the end of Henrik Zetterberg's home point streak, which topped out at 27 games. The real unfortunate thing is that he nearly had an absolutely highlight-reel worthy goal off of another set of gorgeous passes, but he just barely clanged it off the post. Considering his record right now, I doubt he's too worried.
  • Aaron Downey once again looked good - not only is he tough, but he's intelligent. I was happy to see him avoid fighting Andre Roy despite the other's goading him all night long. The Wings were dominating and didn't need to give the Lightning any sort of momentum, and Downey knew it.
In other Wings news, they've taken a (sort of) cue from the Oilers and updated their roster page with a nice grid of roster shots linking to the separate players' pages. Nice work making what are probably the least ugly graphics you've come up with all year long, guys (seriously have you seen the wallpapers?), but what, couldn't afford the Edmonton Sears Portrait Studio method?

The next game will be this Saturday against Tracy and the Phoenix Coyotes. I'll be missing it for the first Bronco Hockey game of the year that I don't have to work, and I'm sad to be missing new 'Yote Bryzgalov's antics, but I'm sure our resident Coyotes HLoGger will update me...right?

(And how about Hemsky with a cute little empty netter against the Jackets the other day? Yay!)

25 November 2007

What's this? Penguins win two in a row?

Let's hear it for 12th in the East! Woooo!

Anyhow, good game last night, and it was about time that the Pens got one of those, especially at home. Sure, the Thrashers might not have been backed by the goaltending brick craphouses like man the pipes in the rest of the Atlantic, but a win is a win.

Some thoughts:
-Fleury played well, although not exceedingly pressed throughout the game. He seemed to stand up more, and the defense were on most of the rebounds he gave up and cleared them out pretty well. Nice to finally see the goalie and defense work well together.
-The top line was hot all night, and it was nice to see Armstrong back up there with Crosby, working well and making plays. Funny how people have been trying to bring in hot wingers for Sidney all the time and he ends up playing well with Armstrong (as before) and Ryan Malone. -I'm not complaining, mind, but what the hell happened to Malone over the summer? If it's because he got married, Mrs. Malone, we love you.
-Speaking of the top line, what the heck was with Bob and Steigy and their dissertation on Crosby and Army's epic chemistry? They were on something last night, and even though the Pens win was great, listening to that pair was almost as amusing. Looking for a glove indeed. Thank heavens there wasn't any Hockey 101 (although they did put in 'hey look, they're cycling! Look!' for the audience).
-Gonchar is second in points in defensemen and not on the All-Star ballot? Wow. No doubt Whitney deserves it, but still a bit of a slight for someone playing such a good game.

Unrelated to the game, but I noticed that the Pens site has the recap and all the assorted goodies that go along with it (Therrien, Lange, Pix, etc...) all in one neat row. The sound is dead on my computer right now so I can't enjoy most of those, but still a nice, efficient move from the nhl designers.

Hopefully a full week off won't kill off any momentum that the Pens are building up with these two wins. Next game brings Dallas to the Igloo on Friday at 7:30pm. I will miss most of the game due to broomball, but hopefully I'll come back to good news (especially since my team isn't very good. We're the Oilers of broomball with half our defense out and sporadic scoring).

Go Pens.

22 November 2007

Don't Quit Your Day Job

It's no secret the right now the Toronto Maple Leafs look to be, well, on the road to another really awesome April/May...golf tournament. As thus, there seem to be rumblings among the organization that perhaps greener pastures await. Former Leaf goon (shh, don't tell him I said it) Tie Domi was first rumored to be appearing on TV, but current agitator Darcy Tucker was shortly after said to be making his acting debut as well. With both shows now having been aired, it falls to us to decide who has the more promising acting career and who shouldn't hang up their skates quite yet - I conveniently broke down the standings for you:

The Show:
One of the most important factors in the matter is, of course, the show each was featured on. You certainly can't tell me a guest-starring role on a primetime drama doesn't garner more attention that a two minute spot on an afternoon soap. So how do the pair's acting debuts stack up against each other?

Domi: Domi is featured in an episode of the (hilariously) crass Rent-A-Goalie, now in its second season. The half-hour show follows "Cake", as played by Christopher Bolton, a "recovered-from-everything" guy living in Toronto and running a rent-a-goalie service out of a cafe in Little Italy while trying to live by a particular Code of ethics that becomes particularly difficult when dealing with the rag-tag bunch of goalies he's collected. Occasionally ridiculous, always amusing, and oftentimes offensive - but a great time (if you're me, anyway).

Tucker: Tucker, meanwhile, picks up a spot on CBC's Little Mosque on the Prairie, another half hour sitcom focusing on the Muslim population of the fictional town of Mercy, Saskatchewan. The humor is much less crude, but the show itself is charming, and the pilot episode drew a surprising 2.1 million viewers.
Advantage: DRAW. Domi's got the quirkier, more fun show, but Tucker's definitely got the network advantage - CBC certainly draws more viewers.

The Role:
Okay, the premise of the show might be important, but what really matters more is the specific role each played, right? Both actors played themselves, but the episodes themselves put the two in some spectacular situations.
Domi: Episode 2 of Season 2, Domi Daze. Domi requires a goalie to play in his charity game, Cake supplies, somewhere along the line they throw down the gloves, two characters argue over the goon vs. enforcer archetype, and no less than two statues of Domi get built.

Tucker: Episode 5 of Season 2, Mercy Beet. Tucker endorses Mercy-made beet juice in a post-game interview, the town is thrown into an uproar as beet stocks soar, he is then absent for the rest of the episode until he holds yet another press conference at the end where it's revealed that he is now supporting a vile-sounding energy drink.
Advantage: DOMI. He gets upset over next to nothing, throws a bitchfit, fights a guy who seems a fair bit less adept at fighting who really does nothing wrong...so you know, basically he's Tie Domi. Tucker...drinks beet juice and gives stilted interviews about it. Um.

Don't lie, you know it's important.

Advantage: TUCKER. Please don't tell me you require an explanation. Hate him or love him, you can't argue his good looks - even Margee understands.

Fanbase is important!
Domi: Don Cherry explains Domi's popularity like this: "People love guys who give 100 per cent and will drop them every once and a while." He also states, "He was the most popular in Peterborough. He was the most popular in New York, Winnipeg and Toronto." I suppose that's saying a lot.

Tucker: He's the #10 most popular player on Facebook's Hockey Fan application.
Advantage: TUCKER. You don't argue with the Facebook masses.

The Big Scandal:
Every actor needs a good scandal or two under their belt - nothing else grabs attention as well. So how do these two match up?
Domi: Domi's latest and greatest scandal is of course the Belinda Stronach incident: accused of cheating on his wife Leanne who then filed for divorce. Supposedly he also threatened to leave his wife penniless if she hired a lawyer - classy!

Tucker: Tucker, on the other hand, recently got a bunch of attention after his scrums with Sean Avery over his allegations that he was incensed by Avery making comments about teammate Jason Blake's cancer condition.
Advantage: DOMI. Adultery beats out libel.

Of course the most important factor is....actual acting talent. Do either of them have any? You decide.

Domi: Those in Canada can check out the episode of Rent-A-Goalie here - for the rest of you, just imagine what you expect Tie Domi acting would be like...and you're probably pretty much right on.

Tucker: Tucker starts off, well...bad, and then it gets, well, a hell of a lot worse:

Advantage: DOMI. His acting was equally bad, but he at least got to spend half of the episode playing hockey and beating people up - which he does much better than either of them act.


While honestly I would be perfectly all right with never seeing either of them try to do any sort of acting ever again, I have to admit I'm happy with this verdict - Domi's retired and has nothing else to do anyway (although admittedly I'm not sure how many people will be particularly happy to see him all over their TV screens again), and Darcy, according to Cherry, is the "Leafs' best player" - and acting offers less chances for him to beat up Avery.

Either way, I think it really is safe to say neither will be on primetime again any time soon.

Oh...another divisional game? (Wings 3, Blues 0)

I missed most of the first period of yesterday's game due to some much-needed boot-shopping ( failed) since frostbite is a very real concern of mine in having to work the WMU/Temple game this Saturday. Come on, can't we just cancel it? They certainly aren't teams worth watching...

Fortunately for me, there wasn't too much to miss. It wasn't a boring game, but it wasn't the exciting matchup of last Sunday, either. Henrik Zetterberg headed off the scoring just 22 seconds into the period, while Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary contributed as well, which led to a shutout win for the Chris Osgood, his career 44th. The Blues' evening was riddled with penalties, and despite Manny Legace looking strong, could never really managed to turn the tide in their favor again. The Wings held them to a total of only 12 shots on goal.

Tomas Kopecky left the game with a shoulder injury, and won't be playing tonight, but the report is that it's minor (Kopy says "The doctor said it looks like it's just a muscle") and he would have sat this evening regardless.

The Wings play again tonight in Nashville, where Dominik Hasek, who despite starting the season off shaky (he says he knows he'll play better), will get the start against, presumably, Chris Mason and the struggling Preds. It's unfortunate for the Wings, who haven't had to play on Thanksgiving in several years, but it's great for Detroit fans who will have something to tune in to after dinner as the turkey-coma sets in. Osgood said he hoped his family would save him some leftovers, Kris Draper talked his wife into postponing the turkey a day, but griped about missing out on Thanksgiving football. Hasek made mention of spending the day playing football as well, and even Nick Lidstrom joined in:

"That's kind of different. We've been fortunate the last few years (not having to play). It's a good holiday to spend with the family, have a nice meal and watch football. But it'll be fun to play a game, too."
Well boys, unless you're really that into watching Jon Kitna get sacked and/or turn over the ball rather than give it to someone else two or three times a quarter, you aren't missing a whole lot. At least Valtteri Filppula doesn't have to worry - it's just another day to him. Asked about the Thanksgiving tradition, he replied, "I don't know the whole story," and then conceded, "I don't know any of it."

Speaking of Thanksgiving, and thus things to be thankful for, yesterday was two years to the date of the game in which Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench - he's no longer under contract with the Wings, after spending last year on long-term IR, but he's been given a job as the Wings' director of player development. I love to see things like that, it's great to see he organization taking care of their own. Also great to see is that he continues to hold out hope that someday he'll get to play again:
"I know right now nobody is going to risk their career to clear me so I can play in the NHL," Fischer said. "I know if that moment comes when I'm cleared to play, at my own risk or not, even being cleared would be such a tremendous achievement, going from no hope to some hope to actually being approved."
The character and positive outlook he's shown these past two years is remarkable, and I'd love nothing more than to see him get that chance - if anyone deserves it, it's Jiri Fischer.

20 November 2007

Penguins Update!

Penguins are 8-10-2.

Yeah, that's just about all that's different from the last time I updated (midterms and finals are killing me), are a few added numbers, and the same old situation: can't play 60 minutes, bad passing, lack of cohesive defense, breaking down between the pipes, sitting players, not sitting questionable players, the whole nine yards. I believe in Fleury, and anyone who's watched him in the last few games can see that he's doing better and trying to not get psyched-out when he lets in a goal, especially against the Islanders last time (standing up more, getting better rebound control, although not always, sticking tighter to the sides). Goalies are always the first targets when a team doesn't do as well as expected, and the Atlantic is a beast. The Rangers are on top with 25 (against the Pens and the Devils, who are sharing space in the basement at 18). That's only a 7 point difference. The Northeast has a spread of 17 between the Sens and the Sabres, and the Southeast comes in with a difference of 14 between the Canes and the Caps. The West side is closer, with all divisions ranging under 10 points from top to bottom. That makes the Atlantic the closest division in the East (the Central has a three-way tie of 22 for the bottom portion, and a difference of 7 points total), and all of the teams (as much as it pains me to say) are good teams. The top two at the moment, the Rangers and Flyers, have good goaltending, and for the Rangers, sometimes that's all that's kept them in the game. I hope Mr. Henrik gets some love letters in his locker for how well he's kept the Rangers' collective biscuits out of the fire. The Flyers, for the most part, are playing like they always have, hard, fast (well, faster than they used to), and have a good goalie to back them up. Probably one of the most improved teams in hockey from last year, and certainly from the East (then again, when you're so far down that you can't see daylight, anything is an improvement).

What about the rest? The Islanders are, again, backed by a solid goalie in Ricky DiPi, and the rest of the team isn't too bad either, although they don't seem to have any breakout areas at the moment (Isles fans, am I way out in left field on this?). The Devils, honestly, I haven't watched enough to tell where exactly they are failing at being the dominating pain in the ass they usually are, so I'll just go with pointing to Interchangeable Parts in the sidebar.

The Penguins? Well, I won't go over it again, that horse is dead and beaten into the ground, but it's neat to look at the teams in the Atlantic and think about their strong points...and one of the major factors are some just straight-out mean goaltending. The Pens have Fleury, who can be a beast (look at last season? 40-16-9, a GAA of 2.83 and a SV%.906. So far this season: 5-7-1, a GAA 3.47 and a save percentage of .893.), but they also have a strong offense to pick up (hopefully) the slack that Fleury might have while he's getting into his grove and getting better. For a comparison, Lundqvist pulled 37-22-8, a 2.34 GAA and .917 SV% last season. This season he is a disgusting 11-8-1 with a GAA of 1.79. Both goalies ended up in the playoffs, so time will tell.

Next game for the Pens is Wednesday against another great goaltender in New Jersey who just got his 500th win. Congrats, Brodeur! Hope we can keep you from 501.

Go Pens.

On a side note, our thoughts are with Pensblog Adam and his family. Our condolences.

18 November 2007

Michigan Strikes Back (Wings 5, Blue Jackets 4)

Osgood works on starting up another streak.

The Red Wings have never gone four games in a row without earning a point since Mike Babcock was appointed coach - and they kept that stat in place tonight with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets.

The game had a weird feel to it from the beginning - I think it was seeing the Wings in their home reds while being away at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. It started out a little worrisome, especially given the last few, when Chris Osgood, who got the start yet again tonight, let in a power play goal from Duvie Westcott. Considering the Blue Jackets' PP was 27th in the league going into tonight, this wasn't the best way to inspire confidence early on.

Fortunately the Wings got some timely help from Aaron Downey who looked great again tonight. I'm a big fan of the kid - he's a good player and excellent at getting under opponents' skin and drawing penalties without getting too hotheaded and creating problems. He managed to get Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire called for roughing, which led to Jody Shelley taking a delay of game penalty for deliberately knocking the net off its moorings. The Wings took immediate advantage of this 5 on 3 - Nick Lidstrom scored fifteen seconds in, and then set up Tomas Holmstrom to score again on the continued PP. Later in the game Downey was asked if he'd fight with Shelley and he remarked "I'd rather leave him on the ice." True to his word, Shelley tried to start something and Downey backed off and headed back to the bench smiling.

With 43 seconds left in the period, the Jackets ended up with their own two minute 5 on 3. The Wings killed it off to end the period, but fell prey early in the second to a shot from former Wings Sergei Fedorov who, Redmond remarks, has to like playing the Wings far better at home without the jeers from the crowd. The Wings killed off the rest of the penalty and directly after Val Filppula fed Brett Lebda a nice shot that went in to put the Wings up again.

A whistle after the goal, the Jackets pulled goalie Leclaire and put in Frederick Norrena - FSN Detroit marvels over this for five or so minutes, since Leclaire remains on the bench talking to Hitchcock in full gear, and then resumes his place in net a few minutes later. As it turns it, it seems like a technique Hitchcock uses when he wants to talk to the goalie, but it perplexed Redmond for quite a while.

After another couple penalties, Rick Nash rounded out the scoring for the period, getting one past Osgood on yet another 5 on 3. The Wings went back to the lockerroom where Lebda was interviewed - he promised the Wings would be looking to "try to make bounce for ourselves" in the third.

Period three started off slow, but with around six minutes left a good forechecking effort by Columbus led to a pretty flip in goal by Nikolai Zherdev who, despite falling far short of expectations last season and in training camp has come out strong and looked great so far this year. He definitely made his presence known tonight and had several great plays and scoring chances. The big line fought back, however, with a highlight reel-worthy goal from Henrik Zetterberg to Pavel Datsyuk, who played the puck between Jan Hejda's legs and stepped around him to tap it in from a difficult angle to tie the game up again with four minutes left to play, proving that he is the superior #13. Columbus had a nice flurry of shots at the end of the third, but Osgood stood strong.

The OT was some of the best hockey I've seen played all season and by far the best OT effort. Both teams nearly gave me heart attacks, and both goalies robbed the opposition multiple times. Most notably the 13s were at it again; Datsyuk nearly ended the game but unfortunately couldn't get the puck up high enough and Zherdev had a great chance on a semi 2 on 1 but Osgood gets his glove on it. Johan Franzen, Dan Fritsche and Rostislav Klesla all nearly scored as well before the five minutes were up. Before the end of the period there was a really great shot of Leclaire bouncing to the music playing in the arena.

Reminiscent of a particular Wings/Jackets game last season that went to extra shooters and eventually resulted in Sergei Fedorov scoring the gamewinner, the shootout was almost as exciting as the OT. Datsyuk (who took a shot straight on) and Jiri Hudler (who, as I predicted, notched a top shelf right backhander, his usual) scored for the Wings, while Zherdev and Nash scored for the Jackets before Franzen won in by scoring while David Vyborny missed. Fedorov did take a shot for the Jackets, but he was stopped by Osgood this time.

The Wings' next game is this Wednesday; another division matchup against the Blues. I'm getting as sick of seeing the same teams as you are, but if it promises to be as good a game as tonight's I'll gear myself up.

ATTN: (Wings 3, Blackhawks 5)

I dislike Chicago.

And I'm burning that darn free hat.

Unfortunately (or very fortunately, as I was to find out) I spent the evening working not only with Athletic Facilities, but also in the (totally non-proverbial) penalty box as the Time Out Coordinator for Comcast at tonight's WMU/Notre Dame CCHA game so I missed out on another thrashing of the Wings by the Hawks. Seems like it was a busy weekend for everyone - I don't even have a link for you to anything but the dismal scoresheet yet.

In the meantime, in case you're in the west Michigan area and want to catch my sixty minutes of fame, Comcast's local sports channel is reshowing tonight's WMU game on Monday afternoon at 3:30!

14 November 2007

Guess that's why the call it the Blues (Wings 3, Blues 4)

Well, the division is certainly getting a little more interesting.

The Wings dropped a second divisional game straight last night, despite coming out strong and taking a two goal lead in the first period, neither of which made St. Louis' Manny Legace look spectacular. The Blues, unfortunately, stormed back in the second with a string of four goals, three of which came in a three minute timespan, and two of which can be attributed to rookie David Perron, who looked exceptional when I saw him on Friday, and only continued to impress yesterday night.

The Wings put up a good fight, pulled Dominik Hasek in favor of the still hot Chris Osgood, who has so far looked to be the better goalie this season, and mounted a strong comeback bid, but despite the efforts of players like Valtteri Filppula, who notched a timely goal to keep the Wings in the game, and Jiri Hudler, who was playing extremely confidently and who was absolutely stoned by Legace at least twice. Unfortunately it wasn't enough, and the last of the Wings' remaining streaks was put to an end - Henrik Zetterberg's, at seventeen straight games with a point.

For a good player-specific recap and some interesting (and not so exciting) statistics, head over to On the Wings. While the game didn't end great, it was a good effort, and no one's got any cause to be worried yet. At the very least save that for Saturday, in the case that the Blackhawks manage to stomp all over us yet again.

Team Bonding

Outside of the two losses, the Wings have had plenty going on lately. First, on Monday the team canceled practice...and went bowling. The original intent was to go skeet-shooting, but the weather was disagreeable, so bowling it was. The team broke into teams based mostly on line pairings, and the group of Brett Lebda, Chris Chelios, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Samuelsson, and Johan Franzen came away with the victory. It was Jiri Hudler, however, who nabbed the high score for the day with 183. Huds claimed it was "natural luck," but Cleary insisted it was a fluke, and Maltby (who had the day's high score average-wise, with just under 180) had plenty to say himself:

"I choked in my last game," Maltby said. "I missed a spare on the ninth frame and then the 10th frame I left three pins up.

"I guess the first game where he bowled 183," Maltby said, "he had four strikes in a row, so sometimes when you don't know what you're doing, that's when you succeed."

Then on Tuesday, the team plane, the Red Bird 2, got stuck in the mud leaving the St. Louis airport yesterday when it slid off the runway and its right tires sank into the mud, leaving the plane unable to dislodge. Fox has a video of the plane's status - the latest update of which is that crews are still trying to determine how to safely get the plane back onto the pavement.

12 November 2007

Filling Seats and Taking Names

I've missed a few games, I know - but his time my absence has an excuse!

This weekend I made my way down to Chicago a little earlier than the Wings did, forgoing the piles of work I have to do and making it into town for the Blackhawks/Blues game on Friday. A few years back it would have been hard to get that excited about a match up between these two teams, but the game was almost as high-energy and exciting as what I've gotten used to seeing from the Wings. Even with former Wing Manny Legace stoning them more times than I could count in the first period, the Hawks', led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and backstopped by Patrick Lalime, who certainly looks to be recovering from what have not been spectacular seasons, pulled off the win and it looked at points almost effortless.

The most impressive thing about the game, though, was the crowd. I took in a game at the United Center last April, and I saw firsthand how true the rumors were about how dead the place was:

April 1st, 2007 - for an even more depressing view, try this.

I wasn't sure what to expect on Friday - it was a division matchup and far earlier than the season than last year's game, when it was clear neither of the teams playing would be making the postseason, so my expectations were higher than before, but it certainly wasn't what I saw when we got there. The seats weren't packed, but they were full, and impressively so. During play, the formerly dead crowd that only managed to scatter a few lame cheers after a goal or a nice hit got a full-bodied "Let's go Hawks" cheer going a number of times and jumped to their feet for every goal (the stadium, apparently anticipating this, has started serving cups of beer with lids - no joke, I saw a woman drinking hers from a straw).

November 12, 2007

The best part of the whole evening was when they announced that finally, with the passing of Bill Wirtz, this Sunday's Blackhawks/Wings game would be televised locally, the crowd absolutely erupted, stood, and gave the announcement a standing ovation until play resumed. I'm far from a Blackhawks fan (especially right this second), but it was an amazing moment for an Original Six city in which hockey was taking its last gasping breaths not even a season ago.

Of course, my excitement for the city and the team crashed and burned spectacularly after yesterday's game (even despite my rookie Jiri Hudler notching his fourth in six games and Tomas Kopecky putting on a nice show in a fight against Pat Sharp) - what is it about the Blackhawks that just kills us? Is it you, Robert Lang? Stop being spiteful! Was it me? Should I never have tried on that free hat? (And can I tell you all how much I'm really starting to hate those two kids?) There goes, once again, the chance to set a franchise record of 10 straight wins (a chance we've had three years in a row now, and never quite made it to), as well as Chris Osgood's 20-game win streak - but at least Henrik Zetterberg continued his own streak, now at 17 games with a point.

Let's hope they come out with a better effort this Tuesday against the Blues - another team who have looked much more formidable, this season, than in the past. I, for one, am happy not to have to see the Hawks again...until this Saturday.

05 November 2007

Oh, Alberta

The Wings picked up two more victories over in the northwest this past week - and I slacked marvelously and am only mentioning them now.

I watched them take on the Oilers and wasn't sure if I should cheer or not for Valtteri Filppula's winning goal with 25 seconds left. I didn't take notes on the game because I wanted to watch my two favorite Western Conference teams without analyzing it (sometimes you just have to watch a game for fun, you know?), so I don't remember too many details. What does stick out is hearing that Ales Hemsky was hit three times in his last visit to the Joe (Um, boys, are we going to have to have a Talk?).

On Thursday they beat up the Flames, which I only saw the highlights of, as I was at the Grand Rapids Griffins game watching the Rochester Amerks smoke them. My friend was kind enough to let me turn on Sportsnet at her apartment afterward so I could check the scores, and I was happy to see Jiri Hudler notch another goal. It's too bad he's been demoted to the fourth line now that Johan Franzen's back.

The Griffins, meanwhile, lost their Thursday night game, thus bringing my record of seeing the AHL team I'm cheering for win to 0-5. Newsflash: Don't bring me to games to help cheer on your team. While the outcome wasn't so great, the game itself was a fun one, complete with some goals, some Ty Conklinesque goalie antics, and even a couple fights. The most important bits of knowledge to come from the evening, however, are:

  • Kyle Quincey makes spectacular faces. He also thinks I'm a nut job for making it my goal to capture as many of these as I could, but folks, when you literally look right at me with this expression, you're asking for it.
  • Jonathan Ericsson: the cuter, taller, less annoying, more defensey (do not question my made up words) version of Briere?
Forgive the linking to a Facebook album, but if you're interested in any of the rest of the pictures for the evening, you can check them out here. The game added to the Griffins' extremely puzzling record of 5-5...with every win coming on the road and every loss but one coming at home.

The Wings take on the Predators, and a fellow Central Division team, for the first time Wednesday, starting at 7:30. Meanwhile check out these Wings-related links:
  • Matt speaks more on the Hudler/Franzen situation. It seems Jiri can't get a break, despite his new strong work ethic and the fact that he's producing at least as regularly as some others.
  • Dave defends Detroit after Yahoo Sports' Ross McKeon takes the liberty of reassigning the banner of "Hockeytown" to...Minnesota. Not to beat a dead horse, but the insinuations that Hockeytown is dead just because every single game isn't selling out are getting a little ridiculous.
  • Christy has a thought-provoking take on an appalling opinion piece belittling the contributions of bloggers to the world of sports. Wow, seriously? I'm far from claiming I'm the world's best and most provocative writer, but I promise I've found glaring errors in places that are supposed to be far more "professional" than my little corner of the internet. The most offensive bit?
"Journalism employs trained professionals. We actually have to go to school for this stuff. We take our jobs seriously. There are rules and standards that we are beholden to. There are ethics involved. We actually talk to, in person, the people we write about."

I don't even know where to begin.

Okay folks, time to brave the wind and stormy weather - in the meantime, GO WINGS.

04 November 2007

Last night's loss brought to you by the New York Islanders

Is there something in the air? Are the Pens just trying to make us feel more at home by blowing leads and losing by one? Of course, it's early, and it's just two games, but really...what a disheartening loss, especially when the Pens played so hard (what a kill by the guys when Crosby was in the box for four).

Not only was it the Islanders that won, but that win was brought to you by none other than Al Arbour, a coach who did great things for the Islanders (and so, I say congratulations on your win and the final game coached, Arbour), but which many Penguins fans would like to trip as he walked out to his shiny beamer last night. This was not helped by the fact that Center Ice brought us the lovely New York feed, and therefore mentioned, about twenty times, how super duper wonderful and fitting it was to come from behind on the Penguins and win. They also brought us highlights of the infamous '93 Islanders playoff win against the Pens. Thanks, FSN.

I freely admit that I am not very good with stats, but this got me thinking: are the Islanders really our worst playoff enemy? Sure, most of the teams in the Eastern Conference don't like each other for a myriad of reasons, but where does playoff angst factor into it all?

Since the divisions were reorganized in '74/'75 that put the Pens into the Norris, then Patrick, all the way up to the Atlantic, the Penguins have lost to the Islanders, Flyers, and surprisingly, Leafs, the most, with three losses each. Closely after that are the Devils and Bruins, with two a piece, leaving the Caps, Habs, Panthers, and Blues with one.

Now, I know that I wasn't around in '75 to hate on the Islanders for bumping the Pens out of the playoffs, so what about after the Cups?

Of the big three (Philly, Toronto and the Isles), only Philly showed a strong carry-over with two playoff kills (both losses of 4-2) in '97 and 2000. New Jersey is also at that mark with hardcore smackdowns of the Pens in '95 and 2001 (both harsh losses of 4-1). The Islanders show up once post-Cup in 1993, going all the way to game 7 in the division finals for the aforementioned loss. Other losses of mention? Washington's only win over the Pens in the postseason was in '94. The Rangers have never beaten the Penguins in April.

On paper it would seem that the Penguins' postseason enemies are Philly and New Jersey (and if the Leafs ever get back to the playoffs), but what about the actual games themselves? The Islanders made a relatively small impact on the post-Cup era playoff statistics, but that loss in '93 was a big one to a team and fan base that was hoping to pull 3 straight Cups. New Jersey has just always been brutal in the playoffs against the Pens (hmm...4-1 losses, sound familiar, Ottawa?), but both losses to the Flyers were emotional and exciting events with the loss of Mario in '97 and an amazing OT round in 2000 (3rd longest in NHL history).

One last thought: for both '91 and '92, the Pens stomped on the Rangers, then the Bruins, in the 2nd and Conference Finals respectively, before winning the Cup. Is that the missing key to the Penguins success, the need to win over the Rangers and the Bruins like some demented decoder ring?

The Pens play the Devils on Monday (while I'm at work, of course) at 'The Rock' in Jersey. 7 pm.
Go Pens.

01 November 2007

Well, that could have gone better

No recap from me, but I did want to share some thoughts. Take them with a grain of salt, I am a fan, not an analyst. I watch and talk about hockey because I love it, not because I'm an expert or know a great deal. These people are probably a better bet for stats and facts.


-While I miss Fleury's toxic yellow landmarks in goal, Sabourin looked pretty good tonight, if still a bit unsure of where he needed to be in the net.

-I was really happy with the first period, the Pens had good momentum, nice, crisp passes, and a good drive to get into the Avalanche's end. Are they doing more passing/receiving drills or was the ice just really nice in Colorado?

-Poor Talbot, getting smushed into the boards earlier this week and now having to skate off the ice after getting a puck to the face. He batted away a puck as he glided towards the bench to show his dedication.

-Pens power play is 3rd in the league? Really?

-Malone looked good, it's a real shame that his play didn't end up scoring a goal in the second, by his hand or the rebound that Sidney got. What a save by Theodore, though.

-Were there a lot of giveaways/turnovers in the neutral zone by the Pens tonight?

-The Avs announcers had some great stats tonight, such as the Avalanche going 6-0 at home and that the last (and please correct me if I get this wrong) 12 out of 16 Art Ross trophies were handed out to Penguins (Lemieux, Jagr and Crosby). The last one before Sidney was, naturally, Jagr, who landed it in 2001. He hasn't won it again since leaving Pittsburgh. Other fun Art Ross facts? For two decades it was Gretzky, Lemieux, or Jagr. Sick.

I'm sure I'm leaving out a whole load of things (Sidney being crazy, penalties, the 'what if' on the uncalled out of play puck that could have led to a nice power play opportunity) but it's 12 and I'm beat. Great game to watch, though!

The next game comes on Saturday against the Islanders at their house. The Pens aren't home again until next Wednesday when they finally meet up with the Flyers. Should be a great game then.

Go Pens.