This is usually how my year goes:
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Dallas Stars (43-29-6, 5th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (44-27-8, 3rd in west)
I'm too lazy to write anything quality today, but maybe it's more than laziness keeping me from being productive. Maybe having Dallas in town has contaminated the local air quality.
Cough, cough, Turco sucks, cough, cough.
Prediction: I did see both Giguere and Getzlaf in Friday night's pre-game warm-ups, so I expect that both probably play tonight. Ducks 3, Sars 2. Goals by Bertuzzi, Pahlsson, and Weight.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
LA Kings (31-40-7, 29th in NHL) vs. Dallas Stars (42-29-6, 5th in West)
Friday, March 28, 2008
San Jose Sharks (46-21-10, 2nd in west) at Anaheim Ducks (44-26-8, 3rd in west)
I had a lot of fun Wednesday at the Kings game with Rudy, so much so that I've decided to go back to the Honda Center tonight for some more BoC fun, this time at the expense of the San Jose Sharks. I won't be in the same seats, but will be sporting the green shirt in 224 row R, thanks to a Red Wing buddy of mine who I suppose is advance-scouting the western competition. Stop by and say hi, if you dare.
It's a little bit lame that the Sharks have kept so far ahead in the Pacific race to end this season (the Ducks last year made it sporting and didn't clinch the Pacific until the final day last year), but I guess it works out for me and my alcohol-tempered stress levels. If the teams were neck-and-neck, I'd probably worry too much about the outcome, but as it stands, I don't think any game development will bother me particularly tonight. J.S. Giguere claims he's ready to play (somebody's feeling the Hiller pressure), but we'll see what Carlyle does. Part of me still wants to see a game out of J.S. Aubin.
Anyway, as part of our Kings-Ducks ultimate blogger experience, Rudy and I contributed (and I'm using that term in its loosest sense) to Finny & Connie's "I'm Not a Puck Bunny" podcast, speaking into some mystifying modern technology wired into an upside-down phone. Finny gave me the code to paste for the audio below—give it a listen (fair warning: if you're listening strictly for Earl and Rudy, we don't show up until the late 36-minute mark). She was also very apologetic that my closing "Heil Hiller" comment disappeared somewhere in the transfer process, but that's probably for the best. I've taken enough European heat (rightly so) for my Hiller/Hitler jokes in the past.
See if you can find the spot where I say "Oh, if it goes to a shootout, I guarantee the Kings win."
ON ANOTHER NOTE: Not often do readers comment on old posts, and I'm not normally one to direct attention when it happens, but the following was left on a nearly-year-old Brad May-bashing post last night, and it's too juicy not to share:
"I'm a lawyer in Phoenix trying to collect a judgment my client obtained against the 'gutless puke of a thug' Brad May when May, drunk, punched my client, a uniformed sheriff's deputy, at a Scottsdale, Arizona nightclub, in 2002.Wow. I don't really know anything about players' living or golfing habits, but I figure somebody might be able to help this guy out with some info, if you think it's a legit request. I will say it certainly sounds like a plausible story, but I've softened a lot on "Mayday" since that angry post, simply because he is one of the best Ducks in front of a microphone, as I shockingly learned on the championship DVD. I'm a sucker for player personality, and May's got it in spades. Still, Canadian residency is a lame excuse for punching then stiffing a cop (though I must say, I didn't know you could make $30k just by being punched).
May is dodging the judgment (only about $30,000), and claims to be a resident of Canada. Does anybody know if he actually lives in Anaheim? Does he still do his golf tournament in Phoenix? Any information on May's "residency" would be most appreciated.
Dan Treon email@example.com"
Mayday naysays payday.
So readers, what's your verdict? Guilty, or is it too suspect that evidence is being gathered in the comments of an 11-month-old BoC post? And if he is guilty, based on what little we know, what's a fair punishment?
Let's get this case settled BoC-style (lots of rhetoric and little substance).
Prediction: The last four Duck games have ended in 2-1 final scores, but I won't be swayed. Ducks 4, Sharks 2. (Insert goalie name here) has a stellar game; goals by Selanne, Bergeron, Pahlsson, and Mayday. Sleek manages to go a whole game without being interviewed or suckerpunched.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
...that's the way I like to... watch Kings hockey. Dan Taylor got called up on an emergency basis today in place of Dan Cloutier. Apparently Cloutier has strained his groin, probably from the TERRIBLE conditions on the Kings bus to Anaheim last night. Poor guy.
Taylor has been playing in Manchester most of the year, sporting a 2.40 GAA and a .920 SV%. He's only 21 and was expected to play in the ECHL most of the year but he got called up because of injuries and ended up playing really well. Still, I think Quick is probably the better goaltender for the Monarchs right now, so hopefully they won't miss Taylor as they head towards the playoffs.
I kind of doubt Taylor will see any action. He would ideally start tonight since Ersberg had a long night last night, but I'm not sure if he'll be ready to go because our game's in LA and he has to fly from Manchester. Sure would be nice to have an AHL team around here...
LA Kings (bleep) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (nobody cares)
7:30 PST, FSN Prime Ticket
Tampa Bay Lightning (68 points) vs. Washington Capitals (Ovechkin w/ 61 goals)
The Kings suck. Our shutdown line is Michal Handzus, Raitis Ivanans and Mark Ellis. Our second line center is Derek Armstrong.* We're not good. Help is on the way, however. The Kings' lesser known prospects have been putting on a show recently, so I thought I'd highlight that. Turn that frown upside down, sally, we're taking a tour of the minors! First up: the WHL.
*I want to nickname him "Dump;" one, because all he ever does is dump the puck, and two, because his presence on our second line makes me feel like someone is taking a dump on my brain.
The Kings dominated the Western Conference First All-Star team, with Kings' properties taking up half the roster. Oscar Moller, Thomas Hickey, and TJ Fast were all named to the team. Moller and Hickey were both relatively expected but Fast was a bit of a surprise. He's older than everyone else in the league (he's 20 and was picked in 2005), but it's still an accomplishment for him. Bud Holloway was not named to either team, despite leading his team in points and playing a solid all-round game; I think it's an anti-Bud conspiracy. He and Fast may move to the ECHL/AHL next year to continue their development, while I don't know with Hickey and Moller. They may stay in the WHL one more year (although they doesn't have much left to do except put on weight), or they may step onto the Kings. I have no idea. I probably shouldn't admit that.
Another surprise was the selection of goaltender Linden Rowat to the Eastern Conference First All-Star team. Rowat, a 5th round pick last year, had a 2.68 GAA and a .904 SV% and led Regina (teehee) to the playoffs. I normally wouldn't think he was anything special, but since Dean Lombardi drafted him, I'm going to go ahead and congratulate Calgary on their new Vezina-winning goaltender. Just give him 6 years.
The Manchester Monarchs defeated the Portland (Maine) Pirates last night, winning by a score of 2-0. The Monarchs are on a 3-game winning streak and currently have a hold on the final playoff spot in their division. They are a very young team; AHL teams are allowed 5 "veterans" on the team and the Monarchs have none. They've managed to win in spite of that (and in spite of the fact that Dan Cloutier was their goalie for a while) and should hopefully make the playoffs.
I'm intrigued by 2 players on the team: Trevor Lewis and Marc-Andre Cliche. Lewis was drafted with the pick the Kings got for Pavol Demitra. He was projected as a 2nd line center not too long ago but has struggled to adjust to the AHL game. Still, he has a good all-round game and could hopefully slide into a stopper role for us. Cliche (20) was obtained in the Avery deal and is good friends with Jonathan Bernier. He is the holy grail of players, a Sammy Pahlsson type, and has played very well since returning from an injury. These 2 are probably the next in line behind Boyle and Purcell in terms of players who could one day have a significant impact on the Kings.
Prediction: None of those players are here yet. Kings lose, 3-2, with goals by Handzus and Frolov. (I don't know why we haven't been scoring; maybe it's because we have Kopitar, Frolov, and then pbbbbt.)
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
LA Kings (#1 in 4th liners!) @ Anaheim Ducks (#1 in gay!)
7:00 PST, FSN Prime Ticket (mute button recommended)
Allan Muir at SI.com has responded to Michael Farber's article in a defense of looking ahead past the season.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith has come down with an "injury" and is out for the season. Taking his place? Something named Karri Ramo. Guy? Girl? I have no idea.
Tampa is sitting at 68 points with 6 games remaining. The Kings? 66 points with 6 remaining. The Kings have the tougher schedule (we play in the best division while the Lightning play in the worst), but our goaltending has been kind of good lately. Brian Burke appears to be attempting to sabotage the Kings by playing J.S. Aubin tonight; hopefully he'll be motivated when he plays his old team. Besides, with a back-to-back against Phoenix tomorrow night, I wouldn't be surprised if the Kings countered with Dan Cloutier tonight. C'mon, Jean-Sebastian, I heard Blake said you were a terrible actor in that Amp commercial!
If you're curious:
The Lightning schedule is: vs. Washington, vs. Carolina, vs. Atlanta, @ Carolina, @ Washington, @ Atlanta.
The Kings schedule is: @Anaheim, vs. Phoenix, vs. Dallas, @ San Jose, vs. San Jose, vs. Anaheim.
Like Earl said, I'll probably be talking more about Kings' draft picks and the Monarchs in the near future, because the idea of writing about a team with Jeff Giuliano AND John Zeiler on it gives me hives. Stay tuned!
Prediction: Kings lose in a tight one, 4,602-4,599. It's the best game Aubin has played all season.
Edit: Wait, a Tuesday night game that ended 2-1 at the arena of the worst team in the league wasn't a breathtaking sight? Surely LA fans all suck and in no way have a real hockey culture.
Double Edit: kms2 has a nice article at SportsHubLA about the Ponda Center. SportsHubLA is a pretty good site; they have one of the guys from TrueBlueLA writing about the Dodgers and the Kamentzky brothers (who also write for the LA Times) writing about a bunch of different stuff. I recommend it.*
(*They can put that on their site for a hefty fee if they choose.)
Los Angeles Kings (30-40-6, 15th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (43-26-8, 3rd in west)
Pretty soon I'll get around to looking at Anaheim's prospective playoff matchups, and Rudy will start filling this blog with nonsense about some mythical Monarchs team, but for tonight, it's pride night at Honda Center. Two SoCal teams who've followed two separate sets of storylines since their opening pair of games in London get to meet up in Anaheim tonight, and neither team has a desperate need for wins.
And on top of it all, it's BoC blogger night, Row B Edition. There may be some impression that Rudy and I are great off-the-blog chums, but really I'll be meeting him for the second time ever tonight, and we'll be alternately cheering and crying next to the Anaheim penalty box. It's the seats that made PJ famous, so if you're in the house tonight and are feeling sociable, find a way to say hi. As usual, I'll be sporting the lucky green shirt.
I think tonight's game will also be attended by Finny, Cassie, CKim, and kms2, so there may be more bloggers than on-ice officials scattered throughout the arena.
As for the Ducks, who knows what lineup they'll be putting out there tonight? For sure Perry and Pronger are out, and Getzlaf and Giguere are both iffy. Who knows? If Carlyle plans on starting Hiller against the Sharks on Friday, maybe we'll even see Jean-Sebastien Aubin battling his former team. That'd be a hoot.
Prediction: Hopefully it's a fun one, and neither Rudy or I end up getting thrown out or quitting the blog. Ducks 4, Kings 3. Goals by Selanne, Kunitz, Pahlsson, and Ryan.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
He's failed as a parent. Doesn't his son know that when you're losing 7-1 you're supposed to whine like a bitch and demand to get traded, not go insane and fight the other goalie?
(I know, I'm late getting to this, but c'mon, it's funny!)
Monday, March 24, 2008
Michael Farber had a weird blurb in his article at SI.com today:
Meanwhile, an astute NHL observer of my acquaintance, a man young enough to stay up until the end of West Coast games, tells me that he heard a color commentator get apoplectic when Los Angeles Kings coach Marc Crawford had the temerity to pull his goaltender in an attempt to score a late, tying goal. According to our spy, the commentator sputtered that the woeful Kings should be trying to get a better draft position, not a point by forcing overtime.
In other words, the Kings should not have been trying to win. To use a word kicked around in the NBA this week by Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor in connection with the estimable Kevin Garnett, they should be in the "tank."
What? I'm assuming he's talking about the game against San Jose last Tuesday. I know Jimmy didn't say that, so I'm assuming it was probably Drew Remenda saying that. I'm also assuming he was kidding, since he's Drew Remenda. If anything, wasn't it probably more a dig at how the Kings suck than anything else?
And I think we need to make a distinction between good tanking and bad tanking. Things like bringing up young players to get a look at them and putting players in unfamiliar roles (like Tom Preissing on the penalty kill) are examples of good tanking in my opinion because you're trying to make your team better in the future. Things like playing one goaltender over another or having your best players come down with "injuries" are examples of bad tanking because those don't really help your team short-term or long-term. Things like not pulling your goalie when you're down by 1 is ridiculous and no one would ever actually do that.
So far, the Kings have stayed on the good side of tanking, although that Labarbera injury seems fishy to me. Sure, we could be more competitive if Brian Boyle and Ted Purcell were up with the big club, but Dean Lombardi has made the argument that it's better for their development to lead Manchester to the playoffs and I agree with him. Are we going to force teams to possibly hinder a prospect's development just to make ourselves feel better about the competitiveness of the league? The NHL has already done some things to ensure tanking doesn't get out of hand (Draft Lottery); anything else is interfering with the business of running a club.
And I agree with Farber to a point about fans who cheer for their team to lose. Yeah, guys who get upset when the Kings win because it diminishes our chances to get Stamkos are douche bags, but their heart is in the right place. They're obviously upset their team is terrible and are dealing with it in their own way. Getting mad at them is like getting mad at someone for throwing their gear after losing a hockey game. I could never want the Kings to lose because my mood is too dependant on if they win or not. (That's not very good either.) If they do lose, though, I don't get too upset because I know rationally that the Kings as an organization can only benefit from it. The fan is going to be there long after these current players move on to another organization. They're allowed to look past any one season.
Update: Here's a hilarious anecdote from an NHL.com article about Jack Johnson and his relationship with Sidney Crosby:
Baseball was a horse of a different color, although Johnson was just as protective of Crosby on the diamond as he was on the ice. There was one game they were playing for Shattuck-Saint Mary’s when an opposing pitcher brushed Crosby back. Johnson didn’t appreciate it.“We were playing baseball together, and some pitcher threw pretty high on him,” Johnson said, fighting back laughter. “It almost hit him in the head. I got up to bat, and the first pitch came and I just dropped my bat and charged the mound and went after the pitcher. I didn’t play in any more baseball games that year.”
Hockey players are fucking crazy.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
"To the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
These simple words detail the requirements and the essence of the Lady Byng Trophy. Donated by Lady Byng (the original Puck Bunny) in 1925, the award long stood out as the pre-eminent prize in the world of hockey. Sadly, inexcusably, the award has fallen upon hard times as of late; instead of going to true heroes of the most honorable sport in the land, the award has instead gone to fearmongers and rabble rousers. It is not too late, however. We can return this illustrious award to its former glory. How? By awarding it to a man of great courage and conviction. A gentleman who has always played the game fairly and without malice. A man who is without question the greatest person who ever lived. A man named Alex Frolov.
Who is the man standing in the way of Alex Frolov's trophy? Pavol Datsyuk. (Boo! Hiss!) Please people, try to remain civil. Datsyuk has won the award the past 2 years, defiling this most honorable of awards with his foul stench. Oh yes, he seems decent enough, but look under the surface and you'll see he is the most unsportsmanlike of fellows.
They say Datsyuk is a gentleman, but do fellow NHLers and their fans like playing against them? How often have you heard someone say, "Man, I love playing the Detroit Red Wings!" Not very often, I'd bet. On the other hand, I hear people express how much they love playing the Kings all the time. I even heard one Montreal fan exclaim, "I wish we could play the Kings 82 times a season!" I assume this is because of their sportsmanship, led by the one and only Alex Frolov.
They say Datsyuk is a gentleman, but who leads the league in takeaways? That's right, Pavol Datsyuk. How gentlemanly is that? A true gentleman is someone like Alex Frolov, a man whose team always gives the other side a chance to score. That is how a true gentleman plays the game.
They say Datsyuk is a gentleman, but who is a known Russian? That's right, Datsyuk. "But wait," you might say, "isn't Frolov Russian as well?" Yes, but he's the good kind of Russian. You see, there are 2 kinds of Russians in this world:
1) The good kind of Russian, like Nikolai Gogol or Yakov Smirnov or the cooky scientist from The Saint
2) The bad kind of Russian, like Stalin or Ivan Drago or the evil military guy from The Saint
Do you people see the potential danger here? One minute, we're giving awards like the Lady Byng to people like Pavol Datsyuk; the next, we're eating Borscht and saluting our new Soviet overlords. Think it can't happen? That's what they always say right before it does.
They say Datsyuk is a gentleman, but his head is shaped like candy corn:
Compare that to Alex Frolov:
-Averaging a point a game
-Solid defensively (44 takeaways!)
-20 PIM on the season
-Never has a bad word to say about anyone (or anything)
NHL Writer's Association, you have a choice: you can stick with the status quo and yet again select Pavol Datsyuk, despite his obvious flaws and his oddly-shaped head. Or, you can do something unprecedented in the history of the NHL and give it to the person who best embodies the award like no other. Vote for liberty. Vote for hope. Vote for Alexander Frolov.
(But seriously, why the fuck not? He's more deserving than some cockfuck like Brad Richards.)
Anaheim Ducks (42-26-8, 3rd in west) at Phoenix Coyotes (36-33-6, 11th in west)
Well, like Rudy below, with last night's result against the Sharks, I'm not sure I'm overly concerned with Duck game outcomes from here on out; they don't all need to be wins. It certainly seems that upward mobility in the standings is out of the question, as is dropping out of the playoff picture completely; now it's just about getting enough points to not slide very far. I've always been less concerned with playoff seeding than I probably ought to be; the more crucial thing has always been playing well when the playoffs arrive. Let's put it this way: there's no comfortable seeds in the west. It's a deep conference, and any team is capable of a first-round win. Last year the Ducks won the cup as a 2nd seed, but they've had fantastic runs from the 6 and 7 spots.
So to me, the bigger question isn't: can the Ducks hold off Dallas & friends for the fourth seed and home ice? Rather, it is: can the Ducks start the playoffs with the best roster available?
Last night Giguere pulled up lame with back spasms before the game, and was a surprise non-starter, throwing rookie Jonas Hiller to the bloodthirsty Sharks. This is pretty significant as each of the last two playoff years, Giguere has similarly been a surprise no-show for the postseason opener. Fortunately, the Ducks had a crazy Russian in reserve both those years (one whom they'll be visiting tonight) that was capable of dominating a series. It will probably be Giguere's decision when he returns, but hopefully he can sense that there's not a terrible rush for regular season wins. What's really critical is that he is game-ready for the first game of the postseason, wherever it is.
This principle can somewhat apply to any of Anaheim's major players--Niedermayer, Pahlsson, Selanne, or Getzlaf--there's no need now to be overextending those players in a quest for a higher fourth seed. Pronger, I guess fortunately, is having his jaw rested through league enforcement. Now perhaps Giguere can keep him company a few games before they return saved up for the postseason.
Political aside: I'm never one for presidential politics. I'm cynical and lazy about the voting process, and don't much care for anyone who passes for a legitimate candidate. Still, I am willing to reconsider, if only they'd address my issues:
Independent-voting Ducks fans in swing states, order yours today!
Prediction: Hiller was really encouraging with his surprise-start 41 saves last night; he was shaky in his first minute, but after that surrendered only a 5-on-3 goal in a game where'd you'd think "only one?". Should Giguere pull his usual G1 crap in a few weeks, I'm already feeling better about that potential Bryzgalovless scenario. As for offense, generating zero shots in the 3rd period looks worse on paper than it did on the ice, but I think that'll help spark the Ducks' forwards tonight. Ducks 4, Coyotes 2. Goals by Kunitz, Huskins, Pahlsson, and Bertuzzi.
LA Kings (gadzooks) @ Dallas Stars (42-28-5, 3rd in Pacific)
12:00 PST, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
The Kings are currently in last place in the NHL with 64 points. The next closest team in Tampa Bay, who have 2 more points but have played 1 less game. It's in the Kings' best interest to finish 1st overall, since they're chance of getting the 1st overall pick is about 2.5x higher than if they finish 2nd. Still, getting any of the top picks should guarantee us an excellent player, so it could be argued that it's not a huge deal where we end up.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars are in 5th place in the Western Conference with 89 points. Their 1st round draft pick (which the Kings own) is currently 25th, but they are close to finishing in the 22-23 area if they continue slumping like they have lately. This would give the Kings a better chance to acquire Dean Lombardi's "Coveted Prospect That No One Has Ever Heard Of;" or, it could be used in a trade. Some, however, argue that once you get into that area of the draft the scouting is more important than the pick location, and I kind of agree with that.
Now, to the crucial decision for today's game: who should I want to win? The Stars, which would bring the Kings closer to the first overall pick and sweet, juicy Stamkos? Or the Kings, both to satisfy my need for schaudenfrude and also to get the Kings a better late-round draft pick? I honestly don't know so I'm asking you.
(Oh yeah, and Kyle Calder is out for the season with a broken finger so the Kings called up John Zeiler. WHOOPEE.)
Prediction: I guarantee this game goes to overtime.
Edit: I looked at Brad Winchester's Yahoo! profile to see if he'd been playing lately (I wanted to see if there was someone Ivanans could fight) and I saw this:
It made me feel bad for Brad Winchester's dad. (I assume his name is "Bud" or "Colt" or something similarly awesome.) Still, Brad's last name is Winchester, so he's got that going for him.
(By the way, Ovechkin needs 3 goals to tie Luc's record, 4 to break it. He has 6 games to go.)
Friday, March 21, 2008
Anaheim Ducks (42-25-8, 3rd in west) at San Jose Sharks (44-21-9, 2nd in west)
PJ invades my post with a dubious picture. Can't trust those Sharks fans one bit.
The Sharks come into this one on a 14-game point streak (13-0-1), in which they've picked up one less point than the Ducks earned on their "record"-tying 16-game point streak (12-0-4) to start last season. I took a glance over the stats, and here's two stunning tidbits about the Sharks' streak:
(1) They have been outshooting their opponents like crazy, by a total margin of 457 - 330. In half the games they outshot their opponent by 10 shots or more.San Jose is earning wins 5-on-5, by the looks of things, and that should be a sign for Sharks optimism; special teams should naturally improve, I think. That couldn't be said too much during Anaheim's streak.
(2) They are winning despite their special teams, not because of them. Over the streak, the Sharks have 10 power play goals for and 10 power play goals against (PP 17.5%, PK 80.4%). For comparison, when the Ducks went on their binge last year, they utilized a 20.9% PP and an 89.1% PK, and produced half a power-play goal more per game than their opponents.
I can't knock Anaheim's chances tonight, though. The Ducks have managed 15 wins in their last 19 games, four wins coming without the services of Chris Pronger. It's not all roses, certainly, but Giguere is playing Vezina-caliber hockey, and the two Niedermayers have really been playing phenomenally. One thing to watch for tonight will be Sammy Pahlsson and Joe Thornton. Jumbo Joe has but 1 goal and a -2 in five games against Pahlsson; Thornton's only multi-point effort against the Ducks this season came the one time Sammy was out of the lineup.
So what it boils down to is this: A Battle of California for the ages. Two teams that have been virtually neck-and-neck since the lockout, both now stockpiling wins at an alarming rate. They're about to collide for the first time in more than two months, and I can't wait.
It's deserving of its own version of "State Rape", don't you think?
My cousin snapped his neck trying to do this.
For anyone who's confused how we got to this level of geographic disdain: Minnesota (the debut), the Buffaslug, Minny's Revenge (guest artist PJ), New York's Big Apple, and recently the Battle of Ontario.
Prediction: The last time Selanne faced the Sharks, his former coach Ron Wilson challenged Teemu's stickblade in overtime, and Finns never forget. Ducks win 3-2 to make my Good Friday great. Goals by Selanne x2 and Pahlsson.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Well, this season's basically over. Jack Johnson broke his foot and is out for the rest of the season. (Lousy Marleau, I'll kill you!) I'm not sure if the Kings are going to call any one up from Manchester that will actually play (both Joe Piskula and Richard Petiot are hurt right now), so I guess Jon Klemm will move back to defense and... fuck... Brian Willsie will dress. Just to give you an idea of what our lines will be like:
Jesus. When I do my off-season preview, 5 of these guys will not be on my hopeful team. Maybe 6. In the meantime, here's A Handy Guide for Beginners: Dealing With Another Lost Season by Kevin Schultz, AKA the guy from Barry Melrose Rocks. I prefer steps #1 and #2, with a heavy dose of #6. You can't do #6, though; I don't need the competition.
Pop quiz, hot shot. You're the Kings coach. There is 1:40 left in the game. Your team is down, 2-1, but has had fairly constant pressure on the Sharks goaltender for the last 5 minutes. Your top line of Brown-Kopitar-O'Sullivan has been on the ice for the last minute and they're looking to change. You have 3 options:
1) Keep them out there. They're your top line and the game's almost over.
2) Put Frolov-Armstrong-Cammy out on the ice. They've been your best line all night.
3) Put Ivanans-Handzus-Frolov out there. ????????????????????????????????????????????
What do you do? WHAT do you do???
(If you said #3, congratulations! You're an idiot/Marc Crawford!)
Prediction: Kings lose, 5-2. Goals by Frolov and Cammalleri. Lousy bums.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Anaheim Ducks (41-25-8, 3rd in west) at Dallas Stars (42-27-5, 4th in west)
Ah, finally, it's the Pacific stretch! According to my internet image search, nothing says Ducks-Stars like:
Ah, Disney, you movie-making geniuses.
Hmm, maybe not. Perhaps this is better:
Luke, I am your feather.
Sorry, to start so cheesy; I'll try to make up for it with a little Pacific Division excitement that's been brewing for a little while. Here's the Pacific Division's record in two month segments:
Sept-Nov: 58-53-13 (.520), -0.15 goal differential, -0.39 shot differential
Dec-Jan: 74-55-10 (.568), +0.12 goal differential, +0.58 shot differential
Feb-Mar (before last night): 57-36-10 (.602), +0.26 goal differential, +1.01 shot differential
Certainly the five teams have taken five different paths this year, but generally speaking, the Pacific's been getting better and better as the season's progressed.
Prediction: The way the Sharks have been winning, one has to wonder what's the best strategy for the Ducks and Stars; is it worth going all-out to try to catch them? Certainly 4th seed is covetable, but maybe whoever loses tonight's game might consider taking a fall down to the sixth spot, as probably the Northwest leader will have fewer points than the Pacific runner-up. This strategy may appeal to the two teams differently, though. The last time the Ducks were 6th seed, they won a G7 in Calgary; the last time the Stars were 6th seed, they lost a G7 in Vancouver. Ducks 4, Stars 2. Goals by Selanne, Schneider, Pahlsson, and Kunitz.
[Update] A liveblog of the game from a Dallas perspective is available from Untypical Girls. Thanks to Jen for the link.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
-Can we get a shot clock out there or something? The Sharks had like 45 minutes of possession time.
-I guess Dan Cloutier played okay. I was kind of hoping he was shelled so everyone would boo him and then he could blame his poor play on the tepidness of LA tap water. And Dan, talking shit to Jody Shelley doesn't make you tough because we both know Shelley could never actually get to you. If I go to the zoo and tell the alligators to blow me, does that make me tough? No, it makes me hilarious.
-The Kings outshot the Sharks, but the Sharks were in control of that game. The Kings are masters of the too little, too late offensive explosion.
-I don't watch too many Sharks games but I get the feeling Johnathan Cheechoo thinks he's some kind of superstar because he scored 56 goals once. He kept faking and trying crazy moves without realizing he's not really that good at it. Or is that just how he skates?
-Great, Jack Johnson's hurt. Is it too late to become a fan of cricket? I look good in white. Maybe Jai Alai, that looks cool.
-Hmm, so Brian Campbell and Joe Thornton are both unmarried, in their late-20s, were "good friends" when they were kids, and are now living together? Plus, Thornton now has a well-groomed beard? Know where I'm going with this? You should, I'm laying it on pretty thick.
-Lubo played better tonight and showed a little more verve than he usually has this season. If he and Marcel Goc had a conversation I would overdose on Adorable.
-Holy fuck was that Rapid Fire thing with Heidi Androl and Anze Kopitar uncomfortable. "The best meal..." "... is... mashed potatoes... and a nice juicy steak." Riveting!
-Kevin Dallman and Peter Harrold were our 3rd defensive unit. We're horrible.
LA Kings (irk) vs. San Jose Sharks (42-21-9, 2nd in West)
7:30 PST, FSN West
The Kings unveiled a new ECHL affiliate yesterday: the Ontario (CA) Reign. Oy. Here's the logo:
I guess it looks pretty cool (I like how they went with a dragon instead of a lion), and I like the colors more than the Kings' colors, but "Reign?" That's retarded. I wouldn't cheer for a team that had that name. What the hell is a player called?
"Hey, what team are you on?"
"Oh, I'm a Reign-eer... a Reignite... I'm on the Reign."
"Like water from the sky?"
"No, like a King's reign. You see, we're an affiliate of the Kings so-
"-Get the hell away from me."
Whatever, at least they don't have that ridiculous alliteration thing like the Manchester Monarchs and the Reading Royals. I'll keep an eye on Bush League Factor (a fantastic site if you've never read it) to see what he thinks about the new logo.
We'll also have to keep an eye on how the Reign pull in California, what with there already being 2 NHL teams in the region. I guess Southern California is like 24 million, so we can handle another team; right, San Diego Gulls? Uh, guys? Oh, wait...
(Also called "I almost wrote a whole post without talking about Pronger!")
1. Battle of California gets challenged.
Hoo boy, I may have gone and screwed us over in a bit of a blog bet. Six sports blogs will each be submitting an NCAA college basketball bracket into a machine, and whoever wins will get authorship of all the losers' blogs for a 24-hour stretch.
Here's the problem: I know almost nothing about college basketball; I pride myself in that ignorance. Other than hockey, the only sport I marginally follow is Ninja Warrior, and I'm pretty shaky there. As such, I managed to talk it down from 5 brackets per blog to just one bracket per blog, figuring that would increase our chance of an upset and hoping that one of our merry cast of writers had some clue towards bracket-busting. Still, we're going to get creamed. Here's the opposition BoC is up against, and my one-minute-glance summary of why they'll beat us. Where appropriate, I linked to their pre-gloat post of how excited they are to murder us BoCers (in most cases, not very).
The Play in California (multi-author, multi-sport) -- These guys started up this contest, and they're sure to beat us. Plus, any blog that claims to be "weak on hockey" has to be super-strong on college basketball. We're toast.
Gossip on Sports (single author, multi-sport)--I knew we lost this one just looking at the categories. Jodie's written about every sport, including cricket and cycling! Damn! There's bound to be a lot of bracket-savvy there.
The Sports Lounge (single author, multi-sport)--Hoo boy, this guy has written more about this bracket than I have ever written about basketball. This guy could probably beat me straight up with half of his picks blank.
Bears Necessity (single author, single sport)--A college football blog, from the looks of things, and doesn't seem too concerned about the hoops side of things, but you can never be too careful with these collegiate sports: they're always talking. We're doomed.
Apples and Moustaches (multi-author, multi-sport)--I say "multi-sport" very loosely. I caught a football and a baseball reference, but really this blog's charm can be found in its subtitle: "Because nothing says 'What the fuck' like an apple with a moustache." With cockiness like that, we're ruined.
So essentially, I am playing Maggie the Monkey to the cast of experts, and hoping that my Monkey-like ignorance can help me cruise to a stunning victory. I've filled out a bracket with all favorites, and it's up to commenters to help rig it into something presentable. Feel free to throw any upset tips you like, please, and maybe we'll luck our way into fifth place. Lookin' forward to my day off.
2. Battle of California gets recognized.
"Dear Earl, our editors recently reviewed your blog and have given it an 8.5 score (out of 10) in the Sports/Hockey category of Blogged.com. This is quite an achievement!"
Well, if you say so. First way you can spot that this formula-driven list is bogus, though: we're one spot up on Mirtle (even if it is alphabetical at that point). There's voting buttons available, so it's probably the last time you'll see that.
3. New blog alerts.
Being such a "great" blog, I'm always happy to link to some new golden-state-devoted hockey blogs (and actually, if there's any I'm missing in the sidebar, I'm all ears). Two that have caught my eye lately are MaverikHockey and We Bleed Teal.
MaverikHockey is a Ducks-based blog that's been around all season, but I'm sort of internet-blind and didn't discover it until recently. Maverik has a lot of good material and a nice chat feature that we enjoyed after losing a shootout to Phoenix. Sorry I'm delinquent in linking, but welcome aboard.
We Bleed Teal is a new entrant for the Sharks, from BoC commenter Mr. Plank who just couldn't sit around while Rudy and Earl cross-posted the Sharks into afterthought status. I'd worry about that blog title, though. Blood isn't naturally teal, you know, and you may have just made Chris Pronger curious. Speaking of which...
4. Oh yeah, and Pronger.
One of my Canuck buddies, who went with me to G1 of the VAN series, sent me a link to an entirely new angle, likely taken from a fan's camera. I think it's definitely worth a look:
I'm expecting a re-ruling by Colin Campbell any day now.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Here are a few photos from the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 OT shootout win over the Sharks on Sunday, sorry for the poles in one photo but I thought it would be a different look at the shootout. More photos here.
Had a long discussion with an usher about Dwayne Roloson's style of play in the first period vs his play against the Sharks in the playoffs, and about Edmonton's chances of leapfrogging Phoenix, Nashville and Vancouver. We were directly behind Matheiu Garon, who was banished to the island where visiting goaltenders watch the game. I should have added that the Kings failure to sign Garon was a Pacific Division mistake second only to Anaheim's early Christmas present to Phoenix in Ilya Bryzgalomite.
The Sharks first period against Edmonton was an impressive one, 19 shots on goal and several quality scoring chances. The second period I was at ice level and San Jose came out flying. Within a minute there was a pile of bodies around the Edmonton crease, and an Oiler defenseman tried to push the net off its moorings to regain their composure. The power play unit of Marleau-Thornton-Cheechoo-Campbell-Pavelski could possibly be the best 5-man unit the Sharks have ever iced. Quick, hard passes down low by the forwards, and great puck movement up top by the defenseman created a lot of room for players to get open, but there were not enough point shots on net. More point shots will create more rebounds and more havoc, and the Sharks will start putting up the power play numbers again.
The Edmonton penalty kill was a force in the third period. Three horrible penalties taken in the latter half of the period, a tripping call on Gilbert, a hooking call on Stoll, and a delay of game call on Roloson. A determined effort from a very quick Edmonton penalty kill unit deserves credit for keeping the Sharks off the board. Roloson stoned Joe Thornton on a 2-on-0 in overtime, and then quickly hugged the post to shut down a hard shot from Brian Campbell, who tossed his stick after the play.
Fernando Pisani scored the decisive shootout goal for the Oilers, he froze Nabokov on his forehand, and then took it backhand and lifted it over Nabokov's stick 5-hole. The Edmonton Oilers announcers called the move before he took the shot. Graphic on Versus said that the Oilers are 15-3 in the shootout this year. Tale of tape on this game is about as close as it gets, both teams were only able to score on 5-on-3 power plays, and 3 rounds of the shootout were not enough to decide a winner.
The 11-game winning streak is over for the Sharks, but the points streak is alive and well at 12 games. Prediction tomorrow against Los Angeles: Sharks general manager announces the surprise signing of 68-year old former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka Tuesday morning, and the Ditka-Sharks shut out the Kings 24-0.
The Sharks winning streak is over thanks to fellow blogger and friend Mike Chen......oh yeah, outstanding goal tending my Roloson helped also. I think the streak was 4-5 games in when I realized that the Sharks had not lost since I had last blogged......and getting that Campbell guy didn't hurt either. Being the superstitious person that I am, I decided to leave things status quo until they lost. Of course my biggest mistake was mentioning this to Mike who decided to screw up the winning mojo and post a blog avoiding the topic....kinda. But what can you say, being down 11 pts in the standings and all of a sudden you look up and we have a small lead in the standings in the race for the #2 seed with games in hand. Dallas and Anaheim play this week and who do you root for? Just don't go into OT.
One interesting take from last night's game. If anyone saw the Sharks TV broadcast there was an interesting point in the game where Randy and Drew discussed the Pronger suspension. Randy mentioned he thought the penalty was light and it deserved more. To my surprise Drew had the opposite view. He explained he thought it deserved no suspension and that he was just trying to extricate his leg from Kesler's leg lock. This was the first time that I noticed a little tension in the broadcast as the fun-loving duo turned a little testy. Randy continued that he thought Pronger was a "bully" and needed to be punished. Drew countered with Pronger being a tough hard-nosed player and a major component of his team winning the Stanley Cup. Hard to argue that last point but anyone who saw the clip, knows that Pronger did that on purpose. 8 games compared to Simon getting 30? I think the answer is somewhere in between.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
This is one of the strongest Stars teams in years, at least if their defense can get somewhat healthy, but if they draw the Ducks (they would if the playoffs started today) then it could be yet another ball breaking first round bed crapping.
The playoffs are almost upon us and things haven't really been looking particularly swell for the Stars since Brad Richards' ridiculous 5 point debut.
But as difficult as that would be to watch, remember Stars fans, it could be worse (see: above).
Which all-time Stars YouTube moment is more embarrassing, the Ribeiro Emmy Award winning performance or...this?
Ouch. You gotta love how Ferraro just buries Stefan. Not surprisingly, Stefan's floating around somewhere in Europe, hoping those fans are too poor to afford access to YouTube and the Internet.
But, hey, chin up. It could ALWAYS be worse.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
St. Louis Blues (29-31-11, 14th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (40-25-8, 4th in west)
Damn, I had to change the text from his last two suspensions.
So the verdict is in: 8 games for Stompy. As such, the Ducks will be playing the next eight without either of its CPs: Corey Perry, a victim of Jose Theodore’s skateblade, and Chris Pronger, a victim of his own. I guess this can be the reaction post: Was it enough? Too much? Dead on?
Schedule-wise, that will mean Stompy will be eligible to return on April 6, the last game of the Ducks’ season. Three full weeks for Pronger to repent his sins, heal his jaw, and focus his anger for the playoffs. I have to say, even had Pronger been able to play, I’m not sure catching the Sharks for the Pacific lead was feasible, not at the rate they’re winning, so I think (sadly for the haters) that this works out pretty well for the Ducks. Carlyle still has the sixsome of Niedermayer – Beauchemin - Schneider - O’Donnell – Huskins - Bergeron to rely on, which I think is more than fine.
Up front without Perry, it’s going to be up to guys like Getzlaf, Selanne, and Kunitz that will have to consistently produce points, and Weight and Bertuzzi must do their best to not suck. Bobby Ryan’s been shelved on the fourth line in favor of Marchant, but I think he’s gotta step up and get in the offensive mix. I can be patient so long as Marchant does his best Perry impersonation (3 straight games with the opening goal, all of typical nonsense Marchant variety), but I’m not sure how long this lucky streak can last. Maybe it can hold out until St. Patrick’s Day.
I totally forgot that the Ducks were playing today; I misread the schedule and thought they were playing tomorrow. It’s an easy mistake for a Ducks fan to make, as this will be the 2nd Saturday night regular-season game in Anaheim in the last two seasons—they hosted the Avs on a Saturday last season, too.
Let's get lucky, Ducks!
Side story: I asked my dad, who’s twice as Irish as I am, what his plans were for St. Patty’s Day, and his response cracked me up. “I’m not usually that social on St. Patrick’s Day, or on New Year’s Eve, for that matter. Too many amateurs.”
Prediction: Ducks have won their last eight games at home, and their last four games without Pronger. I think when Pronger got suspended last playoffs, it helped the Ducks get an “us vs. the world” mentality that really helped them overcome; let’s hope they find that again. Ducks 5, Blues 3, in Anaheim’s last non-Pacific game of the season (can I mention again that I love the schedule this year?). Goals by Marchant (can he dare do it again?), Bergeron, Pahlsson, and Selanne x2.
...why there's been a lack of content about a certain sports team in the Bay Area during a certain record-setting win streak, well, there's a simple explanation.
Hypothetically speaking, if some bloggers covering, say, Sheffield FC in the UK's Premier League noticed that their favorite soccer team was going on a franchise-record tear while they hadn't been blogging, what should said bloggers do? If said bloggers were extremely superstitious and believed in things such as jersey curses, the best thing to do would be to NOT muck up the mojo at the time, especially if said team had spent the first half of the season with their heads up their collective arses.
Put it together from there. I'm not getting any more specific, but it's not because I'm superstitious or anything. I'm not even labeling this post with a team. Everything here is purely, purely hypothetical.
You can, however, read what I think about Mr. Pronger's magically stomping skate blade.
Friday, March 14, 2008
In the 50th comment of last post, Scarlett Ice’s Sherry posed this question, in response to my comment that Pronger’s forthcoming suspension (expected tomorrow) was the result of “nice whining.”
So as fans of the game, why shouldn't we whine about it? Isn't that part of what blogging is about?Sherry, believe me, I've been whining all day, just in my own cynical way. And frankly, I’m really impressed that the NHL could be this swayed by pretty much the internet alone (I don't think the Canucks did or said anything, did they?). Score one for the web opinionists, especially if the overnight swing goes from 0 to 10 games for Pronger's stomp. Because frankly, while there was a clearer YouTube offered today, I have to say that I didn't see anything particularly new. It was certainly focused and to a degree more compelling, but it still left me with the possibilities I saw yesterday. At best, he’s freeing his foot, and at worst, he hopes Kesler never skates on two legs again, and it’s tough for me to expertly decide. But I don’t want to get into that debate here—keep those Pronger-opinion comments in the post below.
This post is to marvel at the power of a united hockey internet. While the unveiled video may offer an official excuse for Colin Campbell to change his position, I’m not falling for that explanation. Instead, I’m going to associate every one of these new suspended games to the growing power of the internet outcry, and it’s a pretty special thing to see. Journalists, message-boarders, bloggers, and commenters all chimed in very strongly with a loud cry for justice, and wow it seems to be getting results. The league seems to be listening. Even if tonight’s decision goes against everything I’ve personally been preaching, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud of the hockey internet as I am tonight. It’s just fascinating to see a cumulative voice of the fan make change in an often-stubborn league.
Congratulations, hockey internet. You may have just become a force tonight, and I’m glad to be around to see it.
Still, I have to maintain a little smugness around the whole StompGate affair (it is after all my main character flaw):
- It's a good thing this sort of internet swaying power wasn't available last spring, else the Red Wings or the Senators could have extended a Pronger suspension and won that cup. That is, if they had shown any ability to win against a Prongerless Ducks team when given the chance.
- Losing Pronger will certainly hurt the team's short-term chance for good seeding, but it won't be the worst thing to get his jaw rested up for the playoffs. I'm surprised he rushed back from the cracked jaw so urgently, to tell the truth, especially with the team's acquisition of MA Bergeron. I suspect it has something to do his sense of obligation about wearing that "C", which seems oddly honorable.
- And hey, this may just give Pronger enough time to put a second post up on his blog, and maybe he can start a little internet squabble of his own.
Earl has a post that's far more interesting below
LA Kings (flub) @ Minnesota Wild (37-26-8, 6th in West)
5:00 PST, 1150 AM
Patrick O'Sullivan: 72 games, 19 G, 26 A, 20 PIM. 23 years old.
Trevor Lewis: 61 games, 8 G, 13 A, 33 PIM (in the AHL). 19 years old.
Pavol Demitra: 58 games, 16 G, 28 A, 20 PIM. 34 years old.
It's insane that Patty might outscore Pavol this season.* Minnesota fans, how has Demitra worked out for you?
*I know, Demitra has been hurt this season, but he's hurt every season.
Here's Wayne Simmonds, the surprise 2nd-round draft pick from last year:
The guy Simmonds pummeled? That's Robert Bortuzzo, a prospect for the Penguins. (Nice spear, asshole.) He's 6'4", 205. Wayne Simmonds, my new favorite player? Might be!
Marcel Goc has another amazing post up. Read it to find out about whom he said this:
He has a weak brain.
He'd be scarier if he didn't look like Franz Kafka.
Prediction: Kings win, 3-2. I think the Kings are like 7-1 when I predict them to lose, so I'm not going to mess with that. (I want a good draft pick.) Hat trick by O'Sullivan, who will have that same damn look on his face the whole time.
Ah, Pronger, you magnificent bastard, you certainly have a way of pissing off the world, don't you? Fans and imaginations everywhere have chastised the NHL's soft policy on "suspending Chris Pronger", apparently for not having the same level of YouTube clairvoyance as your average Pronger-hater. Whether or not Pronger intended to sidestep or stomp a fallen Ryan Kesler, none of that can be answered on the video without a major dose of assumption ("Well, if you know that Chris Pronger always tries to hurt everyone, then it's conclusive"). While I know that sort of assumption is fine for Pronger-haters, it's certainly not good enough for the league's disciplinarian to act on, especially for a high-profile player like Pronger. Pronger doesn't even have a history of stomping; his suspensions in Anaheim have been about elbowing puck-carriers.
As Bob McKenzie notes, there's just not enough evidence in the video to suspend Pronger, just enough to suspect him. Still, there is whine across North America for Pronger's justice, so what's Colin Campbell to do? He could (and probably will) avoid the issue, but if he wanted to, he could take preventative action so that Pronger couldn't be off-camera on the ice again. Have a press conference where it's announced that Pronger will be on constant surveillance, so that any future suspendable brutality that "Pronger's always getting away with" won't be missed again. It's a win-win-win-win (assuming I somehow win too).
Gathering evidence for a suspension, one elbow at a time.
Note: The cloud-koopa technology shown here might not be available for several years, and the camera-on-a-fishing-pole idea might be ill-conceived. But the general concept still works.
Dedicate a camera to stay on Pronger for an entire game, no matter what city he's in, and allow overly agitated Pronger-haters to subscribe to that broadcast. Concerned "stomping watchdogs" can subscribe to these live feeds on a pay-per-view basis, and if they feel there's something suspension-worthy to report, they can call 1-800-TELL-ON-PRONGER and tattle with high-definition video evidence to a very sympathetic answering machine. All proceeds will help fund the cloning of Ryan Kesler's endangered leg.
ProngerCam--it may not appease the haters, but it's at least an active response to their bloodlust--yay or nay?
Thursday, March 13, 2008
[SLEEK EDIT 3/14: for whatever reason, the original YouTube has been taken down in lieu of some new footage (unavailable yesterday when Rudy posted this). I've gone ahead and replaced yesterday's version with the more current one.]
Look, I loathe Chris Pronger, but he did not "stomp" on Ryan Kesler. Kesler hits him, falls down, and his legs get wrapped around Pronger's foot. Pronger tries to get his foot out, loses his balance, and puts his foot down to regain it. His foot lands on Kesler's leg. I've had the exact same thing happen to me playing hockey. I feel like I'm crazy; am I the only one who sees this?
You know what I actually said during the last game? "Man, I'd rather see John Zeiler out there." That's terrifying.
Jonathan Bernier won QMJHL defensive player of the week, going 2-1 with a 1.34 GAA and a .955 SV%. He's playing on a very young team in Lewiston, Maine (and people say he was upset that he got sent back to Juniors) but he's been playing excellent hockey lately. We haven't forgotten about you, Jonathan.
Another Junior player that's been playing excellent hockey is Bud Holloway. He's playing with Thomas Hickey on the Seattle Thunderbirds and has 77 points in 67 games. Holloway has the reputation for being a good all-around player but one who lacks the scoring touch needed to play in the NHL. If he can prove his new found ability isn't a fluke, I can see him becoming a solid contributor on 1 of the bottom 2 lines. Plus, if he makes it we can play him with Oscar Moller and Ted Purcell and have a "Guys with old man names" line. In fact, they can pair up with Tom (Hickey) and Jack (Johnson) on defense. We'd be George Carlin's favorite team!
It didn't go well the last 2 times the Kings played the Nashville Predators. First, Mike Cammalleri did something to his ribs and missed 19 games; then, the Kings lost 7-0. Hopefully they can reverse the bad karma and pull out a win tonight. The Kings aren't going to make the playoffs or anything, but if we can stand as a fan base and say to another: "Haha, you missed the playoffs because you didn't beat us," well, then I think we can chalk this season up as a success.
Prediction: Kings lose, 5-4. The top 2 lines end up +4 while the bottom lines finish -5.