Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wellie wellie well...

  • The Sharks took Game 4 of the series tonight, on the heroics of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Milan Michalek and Evgeni Nabokov. For at least one game, these oft-maligned top guns shut some people up (Not me nor any of the growing members of the Fire Wilson brigade, mind you, but some people...).
  • The Stars powerplay might want to be a little bit more careful when #12 is lurking about.
  • This really hasn't been a gentle time for teams who keep coming up short despite hype and talent. The Flames were the Stanley Cup favorite du jour a couple years ago, but now their dominance can only be found in NHL '08. The NBA has its fair share too, as fatal flaws might finally bring the un-doing of great-but-not-good-enough teams in the Suns and Mavericks. It's odd that April 2008 might be the month when many once promising teams hit the Point of Exhaustion.
If the Sharks get knocked off, will that make Wilson the NHL's Avery Johnson?
  • In a couple weeks, will tonight's Sharks win feel more like the Game 4 win the Suns gained (an ultimately empty moral/literal victory) or the catalyst for a Boston Red Soxian epic comeback? I'm not sure yet, but like the SJ bloggers said, it wouldn't be out of character for the Sharks.
Jeremy Roenick might want to bloody a sock or two just in case...

Sharks Gameday: Quick & Painless

I don't think any of us have illusions about this Sharks team coming back from a 3-0 deficit but I've come to expect the unexpected with them. In the meantime, I've started to try and pick apart what went wrong here, and while I'll do a post-mortem once things are officially over, I don't think things are as bad as people think.

There are places where certain players regressed and certain needs must be addressed, but (and maybe I'm in the minority here) I truly think that the core of this team is still there. I am, however, 100% behind letting Ron Wilson go. There are two paths to take after Ron Wilson, but I'll save that for another post.

Jeremy Roenick had talked with the press about how the Sharks have had bounces go against them this series. JR, I love ya, but I'll tell you the same thing I wrote to Cory Sarich once he bitched about bounces: there's no such thing as luck, only what you make. And when you can't contain the down-low cycle of Brenden Morrow, you've got a problem.

One thing I will be very curious to see is the injury report. Considering how Joe Thornton was basically the only Sharks player trying during last year's playoffs, his listlessness is surprising. He's also not moving his feet well or using his lower body to protect the puck as well as he can, so I wonder if he's got a leg injury or something.

Well, here's hoping there are three more Gamedays to write for this series. But I doubt it.

We Just Did This

Guess how I feel about this article.

I Hope This Doesn't Interfere With His Vogue Internship

Sean Avery wants more attention. First he calls George Laraque a monkey, then he waves his hand in front of Mary Brodeur's face, and now he lacerates his spleen.

I wonder how many people will visit him in the hospital. My guess? 2. Maybe Jeremy Roenick will go visit him; he'll have plenty of free time in a few days.

Bright Side: Sharks on very long path to success

Yeah, yeah, Shark fans. I know it's been a rough three games, scoring first and watching the Stars deteriorate that lead. But take heart! All is not lost. There has been something very familiar about the Sharks' path this year, and I couldn't put my finger on it until last night. Winning a first round series in seven games, then on the brink of being swept in the second round; where had I seen that before?

Ah, that's right. The 1997 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, playing in their first postseason in franchise history, beat Phoenix in seven games before bowing out to the Red Wings in four. And guess who was their head coach? A fellow by the name of Ron Wilson.

So if the Sharks end up losing tonight, don't fret. Here's what you do. Fire Ron Wilson, citing philosophical differences (just point out his self-contradiction in declaring that the Sharks needed to "relax" and "play desperate" in game three). Hire a guy like Pierre Page to replace RW, and you're set.

By my bar-napkin math, the Sharks are only ten years, six head coaches, four general managers, and one massive jersey re-design away from duplicating Anaheim's path to the Stanley Cup. Assuming the Sharks can hold to the pattern, a decade's not that long to wait for a taste of Lord Stanley's glory, is it?

The light at the end of the tunnel?

Of course, if the Sharks win tonight, all bets are off. We shall see.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just in time

Tonight was a close one. I made a very un-clutch move and only Tivo'd the Stars-Sharks game according to its Guide listing of 6-9. This made the OT period just that much more agonizingly intense, since there was a voice in my head that kept screaming, "The end of this game lies beyond that invisible 9:00 p.m. barrier, dipshit."

Amazingly, Mattias Norstrom's OT GWG happened around about 8:59.99 p.m. or something, and I just managed to see the win for the Stars.

I don't have much to say since working late sapped my already limited Tivo-hockey guruship*, but I'll provide a few miscellaneous thoughts:

  • It's always interesting to hear what a jilted fan says about the playoffs. Earl Sleek brought up the question of this Round 2 being the worst ever, which is absolutely reasonable from an objective standpoint. The funny thing is, even though most of the series have lacked a certain level of drama I've been loving it simply because my favorite teams are winning and good is (mostly) prevailing over evil (aside from the obvious super villains in Philly).
It just goes to show you that perception is everything. Although I do admit there is a lack of drama, it's not like last year's playoffs was a pulse-pounding thrill ride either. (Only one Game 7 I believe, no Cinderella story of note...*yawn*)

Sleek loves the '07 playoffs for obvious Duck-related reasons and Stars fans think this year's playoffs could be called an edge-of-your-seat-thriller for the same, simple reasons. It's just interesting that perspective plays such a big role in a person's enjoyment of the playoffs (though any hockey fan will tell you that the NHL's postseason consistently destroys most other sports').

  • Bud Light should pay to get Brian Engblom a fuckin' haircut or something. Because that stupid "cold hard stats" thing always covers up the puck/puck carrier/one-third of the entire screen whenever they put that big obtrusive thing up at the start of the third period.
That has to be the worst bit of in-game advertising this side of Swedish Elite Leagues.

  • At this point, the Stars aren't just dancing with lady luck. They're unhooking her bra.
* - I'd like to blame fatigue for making up a lame word like guruship, but that's just what I do.

I Don't Recognize This Team

What is this team I have been watching for the last 3 games? It certainly is not the team I have been watching all season. Even during their inconsistent Round 1 you saw glimpses of brilliance. I don't recognize anyone in teal in this series. This series is pretty easy to figure out. Dallas forechecks the hell out of our D. Our D coughs it up and Dallas capitalizes. The odd thing is that the people making the errors are players I never thought would have problems. Grier looks in a daze making terrible decisions with the puck and in the defensive zone. Was I just seeing things or did he just let Ribeiro just skate around on the game winning goal in OT? Sure, Dallas is getting all the bounces, but you know what they say "you create your own luck." All during the third period and OT I never thought we were going to win. I can remember only once good scoring chance (Milan in OT) in the 3rd period or OT. The whole team is just skating around in a fog. You see Ron Wilson on the bench yelling "wake up" to the team but no reaction. It seems that this team has tuned him out and has no motivation to play for him or each other. I am just at a loss for words to describe this team.

Photo from Game 3

Game bad.

San Jose vs Dallas Game 2 photos

Here are a few photos from the Dallas Stars 5-2 win over San Jose in game 2. There are a few more photos and notes here.

Obviously This Is More Important Than The Playoffs

Lubomir Visnovsky did a Q & A with The Hockey News. My favorite part?

What’s your favorite thing to do in L.A. when you have a few days off?- Aden Rongve, Saskatoon, Sask.

A lot of the guys, myself included, have places near Manhattan Beach on the ocean, so I like to go there. I’ll go walking or biking, get energy from the sun – sometimes my girlfriend and I will go rollerblading.

I can't tell you how much joy I get out of the idea of Lubo out on the beach wearing rollerblades gives me. Do you think he wears tiny little shorts? I want to put him in my pocket and carry him around.

Oh man I bet he wears pads and a helmet too.

Also, the Kings signed Alec Martinez from Miami of Ohio to an entry-level deal. I think at this point I'd be more interested in watching Manchester next year than the Kings. He's 6'1" and can move the puck (can you build an entire line-up with only offensive defensemen?), so we might see him for a little bit next year.

(Also, how much bullshit is it that his school is called Miami of Ohio and it's located in Oxford, OH? There must be more than a few confused British people wandering around that campus.)

Sharks Gameday: Turning Points

Is this the beginning of the end or just another step into the "We overcome adversity" marathon? If you're looking at stats, it's going to point to the former -- something like 15% of teams that lose the first two games at home wind up coming back to win.

Stats, of course, don't really mean much as things can change with one bad bounce or one strong shift. Still, we've been tootin' the same horn here for several years now. It's funny how the one Ron Wilson team that actually skated the way we wanted them to -- a fast transition and forecheck that attacked in waves -- was probably his least-skilled team: the 2003-2004 season. That year, before getting pounded into submission by Calgary, the Sharks looked like they exploded out of cannons every night.

As Gary Coleman would say in his infomercials, though, the past is the past. The focus is on this series and what little life span it has left. Let's review what has plagued the Sharks since last Friday night:

-Bad coverage down low. Letting Brendon Morrow and Mike Ribiero run rampant isn't good, even when you're limiting the Stars shots on goal.
-Poor transition. Yep, when you get that puck, everyone's supposed to skate hard the other way to drive the defenders away and create space for the puck carrier. Want to see a team that did that effectively? Check out tape of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. That team was one of the best transition squads I'd seen in a long time.
-No crease crashers. Notice how with every shot that Dallas takes, they've got 2-3 guys jumping in front of Evgeni Nabokov. That ain't happening the other way. On the power play, you've typically got your two point men, Joe Thornton on the half boards, Patrick Marleau down by the end boards, and someone else in the high slot. Why does it seem that every other power play manages to have at least one body screening in front instead of 20-30 feet in front of the crease?

I'll give the Stars credit for taking advantage of their opportunities. However, despite this quote from Marty Turco, I don't think the Sharks have especially tested him that hard:

“For me, the complete understanding of what I need to do for this hockey club has come to me,” Turco said in San Jose, where the Sharks threw everything they had in his direction and it still wasn’t enough.

Perimeter shots and few rebound chances aren't "everything they had" despite the shot totals. I have no problem losing to anyone as long as the right combination of smarts and effort were employed. I do believe the Sharks as a whole are trying, they're just not trying the right way when they've faced adversity (at least with Dallas). Flailing about and trying to saucer pass through all five Dallas players isn't going to work.

Once again, that's what is most frustrating about this team. They show flashes of being so much better, then they collectively fall asleep for entire games. Or in the case of Game 2, do all right for about half the game, then start to fall into their defensive shell rather than forecheck and keep the pace going.

Ron Wilson's a smart tactician even though he's not a good motivator. From an X's and O's standpoint, he can probably figure out a way to bust Dallas' trap. Can he motivate the Sharks to effectively execute this even when they face adversity? I don't know, but nobody said this was going to be easy.

Summoning the power of AquaJoe

Sleek, now that the Sharks sit at the same point the Ducks did after two games with the Stars, how did you cope with the disappointment?

Simple. Just think about last year's cup. That eases the pain.

Seriously, though, I don't know myself what to make of these Sharks; I'm as stunned as anybody that the same things that plagued the Ducks (inability to kill power plays or crappy play when trailing) seem to have afflicted the Sharks too. San Jose has definitely played better than Anaheim through two (they've led in each game), but that's hollow -- at the end of two they're still in the same hole.

Now the Ducks did take game three by scoring on four of their first eight shots, but that seems like an unrepeatable feat, especially against a Stars squad that will be determined not to make the same mistakes again. Still, if the Sharks want to advance they'll need to win four of five, and that means it's time for Jumbo Joe to summon his Aquaman powers and wordlessly command these Sharks.

Or something like that. He'll need to outshine the trio of Stars centers (Ribiero, Modano, and Richards), and force the Stars to refocus their game on his shifts. If he can do that, then I think the rest of the Sharks forwards benefit and this can become a series again. Here's the simple key: offense. The Ducks managed two wins by putting four pucks past Turco; when the number is two or less goals-against and the Stars have won six times.

One way or another, we'll probably be talking about Joe Thornton tomorrow. If it's in a glowing light, then maybe the Sharks have a chance. If not, well, the unfortunate "choker" labeling will continue, and die-hard Shark fans will have a fairly sleepless summer.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Stars toughest opponent: the Sharks or hubris?

From the sound of some Stars fans, you'd think that the Sharks never even showed up to this series and that NBC/Versus might as well make their reservations in Dallas and Detroit. It's amazing how a couple wins make people forget that the magic 8 ball picked the Stars in Game 1 (seriously, that was a pretty weak game) and that they were trailing heading into the third period of Game 2.

No doubt about it, the Stars are hungrier, which is weird since the Sharks are supposed to be like, the lions of the sea right? Seriously, San Jose should change their team name to something cuddlier. Why not a rather fitting swap of mascots with Anaheim?

All kidding aside, this series is far from over. At their best, the Sharks are a frightening blend of high end talent, solid character checking guys and (a sometimes) Vezina caliber goaltender. Considering their past playoff heart breaks, the Stars are the last team to think that their farts freshen the air like Febreze.

That being said, whattagame for the 'ol $5 Shake, eh? Bet he won't hear any chipmunk teeth jokes for at least .5 minutes after that impressive performance...

PS: If anyone knows where to find a good clip of the brilliant Zubov to Modano goal I would be grateful. The best I could find was part of a video recap on ESPN.com. Figured YouTube would have been all over this one (perhaps I simply need to hone my YouTubing...)


Dustin Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan both contributed goals in a 5-1 ass-kicking over the infernal Swedes. The game was a tune-up for the US squad before the World Championships kick off. As an avowed nationalist and Norwegian descendant, I applaud this win. O'Sullivan's goal was assisted by Kessel and Mueller, which I guess means he's playing on the top line? Yeah, why not. Brown was assisted by Nathan Gerbe, also known as, "Hey, look at that little guy on Boston College! Hahaha!"

The Swedes will probably regroup and should still be competitive at the World Championships. I contacted one player for a comment and he said only, "Ordy bordy!" Apparently that means something in Swede.

(Is calling someone from Sweden a "Swede" considered derogatory? I sure hope so.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

1,000 Words

(Mike's note: I usually leave the cartooning up to Sleek, but this image just stuck with me.)

What's a picture worth?

Update: Some people have wondered what the true meaning of this cartoon is. Well, I'm not blaming the league or officials or anything like that. All I'm saying is that the Sharks are making the same mistake over and over -- getting a lead, then playing a defensive shell that always fails, then panicking and forcing bad plays. Perhaps a more apt cartoon would be to make the Sharks as Lucy pulling the Stanley Cup away from the fans who believed the tease once again.

What the Hell is Going on?

As Mike and I walked back after the game, we tried to explain to each other what had just happened. Whose to blame? The D-men?, the coach?, the refs?, global warming?. There is no simple answer. Dallas is sitting back waiting for us to make a mistake and capitalizing. Ron Wilson might blame it on Dallas lulling us to asleep but they are basically beating us at our own game. They own the corners and Morrow/Ribeiro are not even being touched. Where are the adjustments? Whose job is it to make those adjustments? the players? the coaches? So many questions, not many answers. It doesn't help that the atmosphere in the arena is one of a preseason game. I expected a slight letdown after the excitement of game 7, but the players seem to be taking a cue from the fans and not playing with desperation. The concourses between period used to be packed with fans (mostly bandwagon) but these last two games have been clear of slow moving bandwagon fans. The seat next to me has even been empty for both games.

As I got home and turned on the end of the basketball playoffs, one of the announcers was making a point about the Detroit Pistons that I feel explains the Sharks present situation. "They are like the kid in school who doesn't study and gets "B's". If he studies and works hard he is an "A" student but feels a lot of times that his "B" effort is enough. As shown in game 5 and game 7 of the Calgary series, when the Sharks work hard, they are unstoppable. On the flip side is game 6. Someone needs to motivate the Sharks to bring their "A" game every night. They need to work hard and their talent will take over.

A few Game 2 observations

  • Game 2 was a more watchable game, even if sloppiness provided the entertainment.
The Milan Michalek goal was a defensive breakdown followed by an overly aggressive move by Marty Turco, although you cannot expect (only hope) that your goalie can make a miraculous save in that kind of situation. That wasn't the case here, as Michalek seems to be a bigger threat in this series (obviously).

The Sharks were guilty of just as many, if not more, bad mistakes.

Mike Ribeiro scored a goal off of Evgeni Nabokov's skate, a play that made me say "San Jose better start treating him like he's Joe Thornton and completely smother him." Ribeiro had a lot of danger on his stick in this game.

  • The Brad Richards goal, not to mention being involved in all 4 of the Stars third period goals, shows that his quality playoff skills translate to the Western Conference. He was an absolute difference maker.
  • Brian Campbell is looking better than he did in the first round, but I cannot help but mutter "is someone really going to spend $6 million per year on this guy?" when I watch him play. This is the same thing people will be wondering when they watch Dan hockey-playing-not-film-directing Boyle. Seriously, quality offensive defensemen are almost as overpaid as NFL 1st round draft picks these days.
  • I try not to bitch too much about officiating because it's always such a no-win situation, but the back-to-back Modano and Ehrhoff penalties were among the worst I've seen in a while. It's hard to call games fairly, but those calls altered the landscape of that game - and late penalties have been playing God with quite a few close, late games lately. What can be done to find a happy compromise?
  • The one positive that came from the bad penalties was the Zubov to Modano goal, which was both beautiful and nostalgia inducing. Not bad.
  • This series is flat out weird. Are the Sharks the most mind boggling team in the NHL this year or is it just me?
  • OhmyGod, I forgot the Sharks employ Brian "don't call me Bobby" Boucher! I miss his brickwall helmet. Can you believe this guy owns the all-time NHL shutout streak????
  • Going 2-0 on the road twice in a row in the playoffs is quite the accomplishment and you've got to think that some demons are being exorcised. If nothing else, the win allowed Razor Reaugh to say the Stars were "swimming around in their birthday suits" at the Shark tank. You gotta love Razor.
  • Game 3 should be a heart attack of a game. It's going to take some testes for the Sharks to come back. So, what do you think Nabby? More of the same or Boyz 2 Men?

Playoff Beard Thread '08: The (non)story of beards in '08 in one photo

Edit: This just hasn't been a good year for playoff beards. Good playoff year. Bad for beards.

Watching Steve Ott's team-leading beard got me to thinking: I'm doing a piss-poor job tracking playoff beards. So, from now on I'll be on a much more persistent beard watch, but I need your collective help.

Let me know if there any especially powerful beards as these playoffs go along as well as if there's any notable beard-related articles.

I think this year's seen a decline in beards what with the youthful Pittsburgh Penguins/Montreal Canadiens and the tragic loss of Lightningbeard Scott Niedermayer. Still, I know that Sidney Crosby is going all out and is working on sort of a molester mustache number, so there are definitely some stories to watch this year.

No Niedermayer; no Commodore; hell...no Al Gore. But we must persevere.

OH, the playoff story of the year has to be Jaromir Jagr's legendary "mo-tee" monstrosity (pictured alongside the MVB of '07, Scott Niedermayer. Photo credit goes to the boys at PensBlog, btw.)

Sharks Gameday: Just a Few Things

I think I got most of the vital stuff out of my system yesterday, but here are just a few more nuggets as we prepare for tonight's game:

-I'm guessing that Patrick Marleau will have a hell of a game. The old Patty used to shrink in the face of criticism, but the one we've seen since about mid-January seems to have learned that the best way to respond is with strong play. Unless we switcheroo back to the bad doppleganger, Marleau should look markedly improved over Friday night -- and stay in shooting lanes.

-A few weeks ago, one of my friends commented about how he hated watching Stars games on Center Ice because they were also lulling him to sleep. That's the same thing Ron Wilson said in his post-game on Friday, and it's one thing that he will probably be hammering home before they take the ice tonight.

-As we've seen in pretty much every series, the officiating is wildly inconsistent. Mike Keenan played the "call them out in the press" routine and it seemingly worked for a few games. Now Ron Wilson is calling Marty Turco a diver in hopes of avoiding any similar Craig Rivet-goalie interference calls. We'll see what happens, but there has been precedent about the refs responding to media criticism. Personally, I hate that, and I wish the damn refs would just adhere to the Regular Season Game 1 standard that they've been preaching.

-I don't see the need to dress Jody Shelley, but I'd scratch Marcel Goc for Curtis Brown, just so he can get that veteran savvy in there against a squad that's not as direct to guard against as Calgary. I'm sure Goc would have an interesting blog entry about it, something along the lines of, "Coach wants Brownie in today. I will support my team. The end."

Go Sharks.

Update 12:02 PM: I forgot to mention that Sergei Zubov is a gameday decision tonight. Take that for what you will.

What's More Boring?

Yesterday was a watershed day in the world of sport, with all 4 major sports in action. Still, I can't help but be depressed at the state of sport in America today. I mean, the hockey was awesome (Carey Price LOL), but I was overall left unfulfilled. The problem is, with the exception of hockey, no other sport is actually entertaining. Here are the three most boring things in sport:

A) The NFL Draft. I mean seriously, between Chris Berman's retarded ramblings and Mel Kiper's ridiculous hair (although I enjoy the daggers Kiper puts into Todd McShay after McShay completely destroys a Kiper opinion), this has to be the shittiest thing on TV, right?

What I'd rather watch:
Matt Schulze in anything ever. ("Hmmm, I like him.")

B) A baseball game. I love Vin Scully, but a mallet couldn't knock me out more effectively than the sound of his voice. I mean seriously, who can actually watch an entire baseball game? It's okay if you're actually doing something constructive with it on in the background, but man alive is it boring.

What I'd rather watch:
That scene with Kathie Bates in About Schmidt (you know which one... ugh...)

C) An NBA playoff game. Now, it's not so boring in and of itself, it's the fabricated passion that bothers me. You'll see some asshole drive the lane, get brushed, immediately fall to the ground holding his pussy, and that's supposed to be entertaining? Sasha Vujacic disgraced Anze Kopitar and the nation of Slovenia today when he took an elbow to the head and fell like someone dropped a bag of hammers on his head. Honestly, who thinks these guys are real competitors?

What I'd rather watch:
A marathon of Small Wonder... although, I'd probably prefer that over most anything.

(God damn do I wish the Kings were good.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Same old complaints

Last night was one of the weirdest playoff games I'd seen in a long, long time. Was it just me or did it seem like neither team realized that this was a playoff game rather than a ho-hum January regular-season game? There just seemed to be a complete lack of consistent passion on both sides other than the odd hit here or there.

For what it's worth, the Sharks pulled their same ol' crap that's plagued them all season: lack of crisp, effective passing; good positional D that limits shots followed by a complete bonehead play that gives up a goal; and no one crashing the net or screening the goalie.

It was good to see Milan Michalek use his speed, and his goal was well deserved. Other than that, it's not like players necessarily had bad games, but no one really had a good game.

The thing is, both teams know that they can win on the road (look at the regular-season record), so losing Game 1 isn't that big of a deal. If the Sharks play to their potential (hey, I've never typed that sentence this season), they could easily string together two or three wins in a row. What are we going to get? Well, that's always an adventure.

Once again, I'm going to play "If I was Ron Wilson" and offer some suggestions as to where I think Game 2 should go:

-The power play is static. Move your feet and rotate to create time and space, then take shots and try to get rebounds and screens. Nothing's going to happen if you just dribble the puck on the half-boards for five seconds.

-Crisp, clean decisions. Watch the Detroit Red Wings move the puck on the power play -- the puck moves back and forth quickly before a crisp one-timer. That's not happening here; instead, you get a Sharks player holding on the puck, looking for something, then running out of options and firing a shot that will easily be blocked. That ain't working.

-Crash the net. My usual complaint.

-Soft dumps. Hard dumps get to Marty Turco; do a soft dump or lob it in, then generate speed to chase it down and forecheck hard.

-Aggressive penalty kill. Playing a passive box is killing the Sharks. Be smart positionally, but be aggressive to take away time and space without leaving yourself out of position for a defensive breakdown. Otherwise, you spend two minutes praying that the puck bounces off something.

You know, even though the Sharks led in shots, they still weren't quality shots. Just a lot of stuff from the perimeter and no rebounds. You're going to need to get ugly goals like Jonathan Cheechoo's shovel shot.

The Sharks are guilty yet again of waiting for the perfect pass. That'll work if you're moving around and getting open, but Dallas is too smart defensively to allow passing lanes if forwards are static. For example, when Joe Thornton set up behind the net, he basically had no options other than to dump the puck back to the point. With just a little bit more of smart positioning (think Brett Hull sliding into open ice), the Sharks can get more scoring chances. Even if Joe passes it off to a lower-percentage angle, the shot will have a better chance of getting through and someone in the crease can possibly put in a rebound.

We'll see what happens next, but if nothing else, let's at least have an entertaining game, ok guys?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sharks - Stars preview

Mike Chen's two pieces (seriously, read the history bit and not just for the spectacular Bruce Campbell reference) supersede anything I'll write about this series. He absolutely covered a lot of the bases.

One bit of old school Dallas Stars bad blood I felt should also be mentioned (along with the evil Marchment stuff) is the Stars' former feud with Jeremy Roenick. JR had two notable checks on Mike Modano one of which Darryl Sydor went as far to call it a cheap shot.

Roenick also gave Mikey Mo a concussion as a member of Phoenix Coyotes.

Naturally, in the pre-Cowardly Breaking of Necks Days, retribution came soon enough when Derian Hatcher destroyed JR in a hit laced with good old fashioned vengeance. (I believe I turned 15 on that day...little did I know that one of my "gifts" was Roenick getting his jaw broken)

Moving on, a few things about the series coming up:

I'd be reluctant to rush Sergei Zubov into this series if he's not able to move well enough. You'd hate to see the physically imposing Sharks forwards get breaks simply because smokin' Sergei cannot skate well enough.

The Sharks are a much scarier team offensively, as they proved by absolutely destroying Calgary in Game 7. That was truly a gaudy display of their power. They outshot the Flames savagely and knocked Kipper out of the game (even if that decision was made by goalie swapping moron Mike Keenan).

The good news is that the Stars are playing well. Both teams have similar strengths: strong, experienced goaltending; plenty of scoring options and a commitment to team defense.

If the Stars are going to win, it's going to be based on stellar play from their top forwards (Ribeiro, Richards and Morrow) and the momentum crushing puck handling abilities of Marty Turco.

For a 6-game series, the Stars won somewhat easily. The Sharks are going to be a much bigger challenge, amazingly, than the defending Cup champions (or should we just call them the x-champs?). It just shows you how phenomenal the Western Conference is this year.

Sharks Gameday: These Guys Again?

As if seeing the Dallas Stars eight times already wasn't bad enough, we're in for at least another four, potentially another seven. Yup, that means that when it's all said and done, the Sharks and Stars may have played each other 15 times -- about half of those with Brian Campbell and Brad Richards in the lineup (including playoffs), and half without.

For what it's worth, the visiting team won the majority of the time during the season series, but that doesn't mean too much right now.

I haven't seen too much of the Stars lately because a lot of the start times interfered with Sharks games, but I did chat with Earl Sleek about the Ducks/Stars series. For what it's worth, Sleek thought the Sharks had the tools to do what Anaheim didn't: generate speed through the neutral zone and break past Dallas' defense with waves of speedy forwards.

Now, this begs the question: did Dallas play awesome in defeating Anaheim or did Anaheim play crappy in totally collapsing to Dallas? Chicken or the egg, but I think it's key when presenting initial analysis of the series. The other question is whether or not Anaheim's play was a factor in making Stephane Robidas look awesome or if Robidas found another gear for the first time in his career.

It sounds like Sergei Zubov will be back soon, and that will give a boost to the depleted Dallas blueline, though Philippe Boucher will be out for a while. Even if Zubov returns, the good news is that he won't be in game shape for a while. I mean, you don't just recover from sports hernia surgery and have your skating legs. Zubov's game is based on crisp passing, skating, and smart passing, but if your legs won't work in conjunction with the rest of your body, your timing will be off. If and when Zubov plays, the smartest tactic will be to use Calgary's strategy of dump the puck in and use the forechecker to punish Zubov rather than trying to retrieve the puck.

If you look at comparisons between the teams in terms of stats, you'll see a mirror image. Both teams have had secondary scoring step up at key teams and both have had pretty good output from star players. The critical thing right now is for San Jose's penalty kill to resolve whatever head-up-its-ass situation it was having and go back to being the #1 PK unit in the league because the Dallas power play is so hot right now.

Well, no one said it was going to be easy. Kudos to Dallas for playing well after such an awful finish to the season, but hopefully they'll revert back to their March form starting tonight. Go Sharks.

Shameless plug time: if you're a newer Sharks fan, you may not remember the Sharks/Stars battles of yesteryear, so here's my primer on FoxSports to catch up.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

There's just no honor online

It'd be nice to have a Stars-Sharks preview up, but I got off work at 10 p.m. and am unable to put together a steady stream of thoughts (so instead I'll direct my energy to things I don't need to think about: Joe Thornton and NHL 08).

For the record, I'm half-drunk.

Now that we have that out of the way, a few things I need to say:

  • After spending a week or so on X-Box Live with NHL '08 I have a lot of complaints, but let me keep it simple. I'm a Pittsburgh Penguins fan at heart, but seriously, there are just under 30 teams in the NHL. Does every fucking person have to use the Penguins? Seriously. It's getting fucking old. *That being said, playing online is the video game version of discovering fire. So, really, this is a minor complaint.*
  • Of all the things I've ever posted on the BoC, calling Joe Thornton an underachiever is easily the last thing I ever thought would be received with ridicule/hatred. Especially since the same people who threw a shitfit over this flippant comment are the same people who make fun of Marty Turco for imploding in the playoffs after he posted three shutouts in a single series.
According to NHL.com, Joe Thornton managed a totally respectable and in no way questionable 45 points in 64 career playoff games with a -11. In other words, you can fill at least three 7-game series with the games where he didn't score a single point. Not to mention the fact that he barely ever hits anyone anymore, even though he's fucking huge. Do those stats deny the fact that he's great? No, but it sure doesn't fucking say he's awesome (in the playoffs, at least).

Still, it's pretty unfair to place such unreasonable expectations on a Hart Trophy winner who is paid more than $7 million per year.


  • Oddly enough, the interesting thing about the Stars-Sharks series is that I can't see Dallas shutting Big Bird down. Expect at least some sort of preview tomorrow, although a fuller, thicker version might have to wait until the weekend...

Now I Have a Reason to Dislike Vancouver

(Didn't think I could get enough material for 3 posts in 1 day about a team that hasn't been playing for 3 weeks? Well, you thought wrong!)

So Vancouver hired former agent Mike Gillis to run their professional hockey team. Why should we, as Kings fans, care? Well, for 2 reasons:

1) He was Mike Cammalleri's agent. Hmm, I wonder who it was that convinced Cammalleri that he was worth $6 milion a year and almost torpedoed the Kings.

2) We now have an inexperienced GM with probably little experience in talent evaluation in charge of a team that has a plethora of defensemen but is in need of offensive help. We also have a player that could use a change of scenery and is a former client of said inexperienced GM. See where I'm going here? You should, it's pretty obvious.

Let me be the first to congratulate Willie Mitchell/Luc Bourdon on joining the Los Angeles Kings. Good luck in Vancouver, Cammy.

More Kings News

-Alex Frolov was screwed over once again, losing out on the nomination for the Lady Byng to the villainous Pavel Datsyuk, the perverse Martin St. Louis, and the flagitious Jason Pominville.* I already called bullshit on this so I won't repeat myself, but I'd like to say that I'm curious how people vote for the Lady Byng. Do they go to the stats sheet, see who averaged a point a game and then look for guys without high penalty totals? Or do they talk to the players on their beat and try to find out who the nice guys in the league are? I can't imagine someone actually agonizing over who to vote for; I'm assuming they just throw darts at a board.

*Thesaurus.com, baby.

-I'm officially cheering for the Sharks in the 2nd round. If the Stars lose, the Kings will pick #23 in the 1st round with Dallas' pick; if they win, the best the Kings can pick is 27. Go Thornton! Go Nabokov! Go Roe- okay, fuck Jeremy Roenick, but go everyone else. Oh, and sorry Matty.

-I wasn't going to post this earlier because it's just a rumor and I didn't think it was legitimate, but then I figured, "Who am I, James Bernstein?" So here you go, courtesy of Kingspipeline.com:

Thomas Hickey has been in LA getting some sort of surgery. None of the guys know for sure what the surgery is on but it does not have anything to do with the concussions at seasons end. Three of the guys I talk with all believe it is some sort of foot or ankle injury. This would explain why it took so long for Hickey to get back on the ice after he was cleared from his concussion.

If this is true, good thing he's getting taken care of it now. Hickey's one of my guys to watch at training camp; I think he could potentially jump over the plethora of 23 year-old defensemen the Kings have to grab maybe a 5 or 6 spot next year. Either that or he's going to be a complete bust and we'll all curse Dean Lombardi's name for not taking Jakub Voracek, Karl Alzner or Sam Gagner. Either way.

-ESPN.com rated teams in terms of fan happiness in a completely scientific and in no way arbitrary way and the Ducks finished 1st. That makes sense: from my experience, retarded people are usually very happy all the time. The Kings finished 29th, proving that we can't finish dead last in anything.

Sharks-Flames Game 7 photos

Here are a few photos from the Sharks 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames in game 7 for Battle of California, a few more are up here.

First photo is fourth line center Marcel Goc skating out of the Sharks head pre-game. It was his first start of the series, and he played very well. 4-for-5 on faceoffs, 7:04 of ice time, head coach Ron Wilson complimented the line after the game for bringing much needed energy on several shifts. Second photo Nabokov, Flames only put 22 shots on goal in game 7. Third photo is Jeremy Roenick's power play goal. He followed his initial shot and then hammered home a rebound up high on a sharp angle. Fourth photo, not very sharp but noticed that every player was using the same stick. Fifth photo you can see Joe Thornton celebrating his first period goal. In the front row is local radio host Ralph Barbieri celebrating with his Shark-hat wearing son.

Building That Kings Tradition

The Manchester Monarchs got swept in the first round of the AHL playoffs by the Providence Bruins. They lost 3 of those games in overtime, which, for a Kings fan, brings back painful memories of the '93 finals. (My brother heard that and put a blanket over his head while whispering, "The horror," over and over again.) Losing 3 games in overtime seems like bad luck to me, so I guess it's not too bad. Plus, the Monarchs were losing their leading goal scorer, Brian "Millionaire" Boyle, who was out with a knee injury.

Doesn't Brian Boyle look like Joe Millionaire?

The biggest disappointment was Ted Purcell, who tallied 3 points (all assists) in 4 games and ended up -9. Peter Harrold had 1 assist and was -8. Both guys will probably be on the Kings next season. Basically, what I'm trying to imply is that we're not making the playoffs next year.

On the plus side, Jonathan Bernier played 3 games and had a respectable .908 Sv%. Also, personal hero Marc-Andre Cliche had an assist and ended up only -1, which means he did a good job shutting down the other team's top player. (God I want that kid in LA next year.) Also, last year's 2nd round pick, Oscar Moller, had an assist on a beautiful play in game 4. He signed an entry-level deal with LA, but he'll probably be headed back to the WHL next year because Canadian Junior teams are more concerned with their profits than with helping player's development. He should be in the AHL next year. Oh well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Can't Believe This Is An Issue

Last night, Alex Ovechkin made a beautiful play in the waning minutes of regulation. He had the puck in the slot and Marty Biron came out to face the shot. Instead of shooting the puck (which would have been saved since there wasn't a screen and Biron was ready for it), Ovechkin faked the shot and slid the puck to Sergei Fedorov, who was WIDE OPEN and would have scored if he had gotten any part of the puck. However, Fedorov wasn't ready for the pass and missed it. Still, Ovechkin was right to pass the puck and it would be foolish to blame him for not shooting, right? I mean, only an idiot would do something like that.

Good thing we all know better.

(By the way: Ovechkin has 47 assists on the season. The reason for this is that he knows when to shoot and when to pass. This was a time to pass. Still, I look forward to 5 years from now when people reference this game as an example of Ovechkin's un-clutchness.)

Time to Exhale

That was the sentiment of 17,496 fans as the final seconds ticked down last night. Mike has done a good job of describing the scene on the ice so I will concentrate on everything else. I can't imagine how the players were feeling before game 7 as I was nervous, anxious, and full of anxiety. The national anthems were played instrumental and during the Star Spangled Banner the crowd spontaneously started singing out loud. There were several rows of Calgary fans scattered throughout the arena. From my vantage point, they were respectful and took all the shit that drunk bandwagon Sharks fans threw at them. As much as I appreciate all the support from around the city, but "where are you guys during the season?" but that is a rant that I have been on before. Some couple in front of me even had the gall to yell to their friends that they will meet up after the 1st quarter..are you F'ing kidding me. But I digress.

My first game 7 experience was exhilerating and the walk back to the car is always a blast with cars honking, people yelling and towels waving. Usually I have to temper my excitement by saying under my breath "this is only the 1st round people" but even I gave into the excitement and joined the mob mentality. I even went home and watched the game again to see if I missed anything. Nolan: you kicked that goal in you bastard.

Bring on Dallas...the fun continues Friday

This is not gloating (except to Cory Sarich)

I'll put up a Sharks/Stars preview in the coming days, and my only real analysis for what happened in Game 7 is that the Sharks actually came to play. What I mean by that is:

-Evgeni Nabokov was huge when he needed to be.
-In general, the defense contained Calgary well.
-Joe Thornton looked more like his usual self, controlling the boards and the puck with his usual confidence.
-Patrick Marleau, though scoreless, worked harder than I think I've ever seen him, causing a few great scoring chances with his speed, killing penalties, and killing time off the clock with work down in Calgary's zone that frankly I never thought I'd see from the guy. One Calgary reporter said that Patty only had one good game, but I disagree; other than Game 6, which was awful in every facet, I couldn't question Patty's effort or intensity the entire series. Had he had some bounces go his way (see below for more on bounces), he could have easily had another 3 or 4 points this series.
-Brian Campbell, while still not looking great, had one awesome shift where he guarded Jarome Iginla almost like a basketball play. For that play, Iginla's back was mostly to Campbell as Soupy basically boxed him out and forced Iginla to back up.
-Jeremy Roenick. 'Nuff said from this JR fanboy.
-Great efforts by young guys like Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi, both creating plays and working hard on the forecheck.
-Hell, even Milan Michalek looked like he woke up and actually used his speed.

I don't know if it was mentioned on the TV broadcast, but from where I was sitting, it looked like Jonathan Cheechoo wasn't on the bench for the last 10 minutes of the period. I'm guessing that he might have gone in for some minor repairs and Ron Wilson was playing it safe since his team was rolling by that time. Hopefully, he'll be 100% come Friday.

Cheechew told me he thinks the problem with Brian Campbell may be a wrist injury. He suggests this only after noticing that Campbell protected one arm during a goal celebration. If that's true, that explains a ton.

As for the Flames, I am absolutely relieved that I won't have to see Dion Phaneuf or Jarome Iginla until next season. With those two guys going apeshit every shift, I can't imagine how scary Calgary would be if their defense and secondary scoring actually woke up.

Now, I know when you lose an emotional series, there's usually some denial and whining going on. Here's a great stupid quote from one Cory Sarich:

"The third one goes right to Roenick, where no one even has a chance to put a stick on him. It's frustrating when you think you're doing a good job and you end up with a couple going in your net on, I won't say . . . yes, I will say it -- questionable bounces."

Ok, now I've heard of questionable calls by the officials and questionable plays made by players who weren't thinking straight, but I've never heard of anyone complaining about questionable bounces. I mean, isn't the whole idea behind a bounce in sports is that they're unpredictable and can go other way? Like if a puck goes in off Jarome Iginla's leg (as it has during this series) or if the puck lands by Jeremy Roenick? That's just sports. It's not affected by anyone's judgment, be it the official or someone on the ice -- it's just the puck hitting something and landing in a certain place, whether good or bad for your team.

Mr. Sarich, I leave you with a little nugget of wisdom from Carl Jung: There's no such thing as luck, only what you make. I suggest you think about that while you're checking out the golf course.

Cartoon Lessons from Spade: How to cope with Playoff Stress

Sleek, Duck, Spade

I know I said I was taking a week off posting (and I intend on following through with that now), but I neglected to post the awesome cartoon Spade sent me for use after the Stars series was over. He was of course hopeful that it would be used in victory, but I assured him that a drinking theme works for losing as well.

What's particularly impressive is that Spade met me only for a brief minute during a G2 intermission, and we were both pretty drunk. Still, he managed to capture my general tallness, my need for a haircut, and my maniacal "I'm going to kill you" facial expressions. Spade himself I think is well drawn, though when I met him I found it's tough to take your eyes off the impressive Jagr landing strip.

So cheers, Ducks fans. Winning or losing, sometimes it's all about coping.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A day that seemed straight out of NHL 94

I'll leave the real analysis to the SJ bloggers, but few days of NHL hockey truly made me think of video games (and made me old-time nostalgic) quite like the couple of Game 7s we had tonight.

Due to bad TiVo planning I only saw the OT GWG in Capitals - Flyers. But that was enough to see what might be the most NHL 08-like goal I've ever seen. Seriously, watch the replay of that goal.

Does that not remind you of one of those agonizing rebound goals...when your goalie just sits there like a doofus while your opponent scores a bullshit goal? Huet's head was just flat out frozen in the wrong direction like bad AI. (It even had Bill Clement's voice...seriously)

If that wasn't enough to make you think of hockey video games, the Sharks - Flames game was dominated by the penultimate hockey video game god, Jeremy Roenick. Can you believe he had 2 goals and 2 assists?!!!?!?!?

Say what you want about JR, but the guy's friggin' money. Going into this season, if someone told you that Roenick and Curtis Joseph would have weighed heavily in a huge playoff game, I would have said "Classic Sports doesn't count."

Stars - Sharks should be entertaining as hell. Preview(s?) coming soon...

It's About Time

You know when you have a good joke that you tell someone, but they didn't really hear you or they didn't get it, and then you try to explain it to them but it wasn't really that great and they just kinda say, "Oh... good one," and then you wished you'd never said anything at all? This is one of those. I wanted to put it up yesterday, but I thought you guys would talk about Anaheim so I stayed out of the way. Then I waited today out of deference for San Jose. Now it's old news and none of you probably care anyway, but dammit, I want to talk about this:

Bill Simmons' hockey post from Monday demonstrates why I wish he'd never write about hockey. It's full of all the usual stupid stuff [expansion killed hockey, the sport used to be blue-collar (there's always a vague slam on Europeans in this)], but it basically boils down to this:

"I used to like hockey because the Bruins were GOOD.

"Then I stopped liking hockey because the Bruins were BAD.

"Now I like the Bruins because they are GOOD AGAIN."

The part that bothers me the most about Bill Simmons is that he constantly talks about how much sports (and teams) mean to him, but you know it's all bullshit. He loved the Bruins that he cried so hard he got a bloody nose, but then he has no qualms about tossing them aside once they hit incompetence? He brags about how he has been to every Celtics game this season, but last year he wrote about how he's starting to fall for the Clippers (who just so happened to be better than the Celtics last season)? I guess he really is the voice of the fan; after all, most fans are complete fucking idiots.

Oh, and Boston sucks.

(Of course, I waited to post this and then Eric McErlain beat me to it over at The Fanhouse. Dammit.)

Sharks Gameday: Do or Do Not

It's Game 7, and really, what else is there that's left to say? I think every angle's already been covered. There's the good (Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov), the bad (Brian Campbell, Milan Michalek), and the putrid (Game 6). In between, you've got hit-and-miss performances from Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, as well as the entire Sharks defense.

The funny thing about Game 7s is that one team can completely dominate but a single bounce can do them in. You can look at percentages and trends and hot streaks and all that other stuff, but it really won't amount to much. Anyone remember Colorado and Patrick Roy imploding against Detroit a few years ago?

So where do we go from here? Logic tells me that based on the Sharks talent and their ability to bounce back from crap performances so far, they will win. Of course, the problem with this team is that they don't follow patterns and they aren't predictable. I think having Jeremy Roenick back in the lineup (Ron Wilson already said that he was going to play) should help put some spark back in the lineup, but you just never know when the tentative bug could strike.

All I can say is this (in my best Yoda voice): Do...or do not. There is no try.

Go Sharks.

Ducks Offday—Stage Seven: Closure

Round One, Game Seven: Unnecessary
(DAL wins series 4-2, JavaGeek ‘odds’: DAL 100%)

Ack, my favorite picture to show when the Ducks go through painful times. Anyway, here's some post-mortem thoughts on the dead Ducks:

If you ask me what fundamentally went wrong with the Ducks in Round One, it was the inability to cope when the Stars broke a tie. It was like clockwork: five times the Stars took a one-goal lead, and five times they were able to score the next goal as well. Compare this to last year: in 21 games, the Ducks’ opponents were able to score a tie-breaking goal 15 times, but were able to score the next goal only four times. Instead of trying to tie the game with extra offense, this year’s Ducks tended to sit on their heels and surrender even more chances, and even though Giguere battled pretty well, there simply weren’t enough pucks headed the other way.

Full credit to the Dallas Stars: they executed a gameplan that seemed designed to dismantle the cup champs, one that fully took advantage of Anaheim’s forechecking tendencies. Whenever the Ducks would dump and chase, the Stars created a small perimeter around the forechecker(s), and whenever the puck would come loose, it came straight to a Dallas stick and started going the other direction. Three other impressive aspects to the Stars:

(a) shot-blocking: very rarely did Anaheim get any shots from its blueliners, to the point where by G6 they weren’t even attempting many.

(b) power play efficiency: the Stars were very mobile and very adept at finding the uncovered shooter—they scored more than half their series goals on the power play, taking advantage of Anaheim’s tendency to overcommit to a puck carrier.

(c) attacking the blueline: unlike the Ducks, who often got the puck deep just to relieve pressure, the Stars attacked the Ducks’ blueline with purpose, either carrying it in or smartly putting it in a retrievable corner.

Some other quick notes:

  • Sorry, Duck fans, but I’m not going to harp on refereeing. I thought the refs did as well as expected in this series, probably better. Generally, I don’t approve of referee-bashing; probably 99% of complaints about “biased referees” come from even more biased fans. Sure, it would have been nice to get a phantom power play in the 3rd period of an elimination game, but teams that wait for referees to win games for them often find themselves golfing.

  • Marty Turco may now have the playoff monkey off his back, but I don't think he had to steal any games; pretty much the series was won in front of him. It's a bit ironic, but I think he had a gutsier first round performance last year.

  • The one Star that impressed me the most? Mike Ribiero, but mainly because of the perception I had of the guy. When you hear a guy get called "heartless" and "gutless" enough times, it's kind of shocking when you see him play with heart and guts. I think his weasely goal in G5 was the best goal of the series.

  • As for who this Duck fan will be rooting for the rest of the playoffs, here’s my perspective: Until they're out, I’ll squarely be in the Sharks’ corner (hope it’s not the kiss of death). Failing that, my general bias will be to root for any team from the west to beat any team from the east.

  • I was tempted to title my elimination post with the same gimmick I used the last time the Ducks were eliminated, but that joke's only good once every hundred years. Even though it was a joke post title, did anyone predict the Ducks would win the 2007 cup before May 27, 2006? My best prediction to date.

  • It's kind of crazy that the western teams that have advanced thus far are Detroit, Dallas, and Colorado. What is this, the 1990s?

  • Looking forward, I guess there’s some pretty important questions for the Ducks to answer this summer. Here’s a quick run-through of them, in the order of importance in my mind. Feel free to offer your thoughts or priorities in the comments:

    1. Is Scott Niedermayer going to retire, and if not, can the Ducks find a trade partner to take Mathieu Schneider off the payroll?

    2. How much will Corey Perry sign for, and for how long?

    3. Is Teemu Selanne going to play another year? If not, when's the retirement ceremony?

    4. Is there any truth to the rumors of Brian Burke pursuing a GM position in Toronto or Vancouver?

    5. What does the future hold for Jonas Hiller?
In the end, this bitter first-round pill wasn't that hard to swallow; such is the grace period effect of a franchise's first cup. I'm sure the postseason will be more stressful the next go-round. I'll have some Anaheim player grades and evaluations a bit later, but as has been my post-playoff tradition for two years now, I'm going to take a full week off from posting to catch my breath for a bit. For the next week, I'll just be a BoC reader/commenter, just to see how the other half lives. Let's hope the Ducks have an eventless seven days.

Mike, I'm bumping up your G7 post. Have a great week, everyone. Go Sharks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Stars and Round Two: Reunited and it feels so good

• On the same day that Danica Patrick got the victory monkey off her hot little back, the Stars made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

In that time, Chris Pronger came and went from the Edmonton Oilers. The NHL instituted a salary cap and left ESPN because of a horrific lockout. The Stanley Cup champions now include a team from Florida, California and frickin' North Carolina. Also, Britney Spears went absolutely, 100% batshit crazy. My oh my how times have changed…

Stu Barnes happened to score his 10th playoff GWG. Now, I’m not going to say that makes him better than Joe Thornton.

But hot damn if #14 isn’t the closest thing the Stars have to Chris Drury.

• The Stars managed to do this without Sergei Zubov. This is something that they’re going to have to get used to, especially if Zubov ages worse than Elizabeth Taylor (by the way, I heard a rumor that he smokes about a pack of cigarettes during each intermission. If this is true, prepare to award Zubov 1,000 cool points).

• The Stars absolutely earned this series win, Marty Turco might just be regaining his University of Michigan-era crunch time swagger and Brad Richards justified his existence. You cannot ask for much more than that.

• Rudy Kelly wonders why the Stars are so successful and there are many reasons why. But if pressed for one thing that stands out about the Stars it’s that they have a collective competence that few teams can match. There aren’t many players who make me cringe when they have the puck. On the other end, the gap between Selanne's line and the Ducks' second best option is Zdeno Chara big.

Naturally, certain players excel at different things, but there really aren’t many “take away from the table” type guys on the Stars. Stu Barnes and Steve Ott are checking forwards who are beginning to demand some serious D attention; Brad Richards, Mike Modano and Mike Ribeiro provide the Stars with crucial creativity; Mattias Norstrom, Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas sneak up on you with their unexpectedly impressive D skills.

And then opposing teams have to deal with the ball breaking effectiveness of Marty Turco’s puck handling skills.

Perhaps the BoC needs a “get to know the Stars” special. Because these guys are good.

  • I think I've stumbled on a solid nickname for Brad Richards: the $5 shake. As you may remember from "Pulp Fiction," Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) orders the questionably priced shake and John Travolta is understandably skeptical. Although no shake could be worth $5, Travolta ultimately admitted that it was a "damn good shake." But not worth $5.
Richards clearly is the $5 shake. I think my work here is done...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Silver Lining, Anaheim Edition

Hey, Ducks fans. Tough break, huh? I honestly thought you guys would win fairly easily against Dallas, but it looks like the Stars has a little magic left in them yet.* I know the last thing you want to read is gloating from Kings fan (I'll try to keep it to a minimum), but I thought I'd try to cheer you up. Here's why it's a good thing you guys lost.

*Seriously, how the fuck are they good? They have Turco, Zubov and shit. They lose their 2nd best defenseman and get better??? I suspect that Dave Tippett may just be a wizard.

1) It repudiates your "style" of play. Now, I'm not talking about your actual style of play (the one built on 2 scoring lines and a shutdown line), I'm talking about the one made up by idiots and commentators. (But I repeat myself! See what I did there?) This cult that has been built up around Anaheim was getting ridiculous. The Ducks didn't win the Stanley Cup because they fought a lot. They won because they had great goaltending and Sammy Pahlsson. Still, normally reasonable people argued that this was the cause of Anaheim's success and it led to ridiculous sights like Minnesota's infamous Boogaard-Fedoruk-Simon line. People who argued that the Ducks won their Stanley Cup because George Parros fought a lot probably feel like idiots right now, and I'm fucking glad for that.

2) You didn't lose because Selanne and Niedermayer took time off. Those 2 guys were the best 2 players on the ice in that series. Selanne was particularly fucking amazing. Honestly, I was surprised; I don't remember him playing that well since the Paul Kariya days. And honestly, I'm a little saddened that the Ducks lost so early just because we now miss out on Scott Niedermayer's epic beard.

Anyway, now you know that those 2 can still play and you can count on them if they want to come back next year. If those 2 come back you only have to fix 1 thing...

3) You need secondary scoring. The trade of Andy MacDonald really hurt you guys. He hasn't been that great with St. Louis but he and Selanne really clicked for some reason. Why is this supposed to make you feel better? Because I think it's relatively easy to fix. Maxim Afinogenov could probably be had for the Edmonton first-round pick and he would fit perfectly with Selanne. Put Kunitz on that line, Ryan with Getzlaf, and you're set! Of course, maybe you're a Ducks fan who feels the team is fatally flawed. No worries, sugar tits...

4) Edmonton did you a favor. Look ahead to 2011: you have Getzlaf, Kunitz, and Giguere all locked up. You'll probably have Pronger, Perry, Hiller, and Ryan locked up as well. Trade Schneider for some thing, draft wisely this year and you'll be all set to challenge for another Cup in 4 years. Meanwhile, Edmonton fans will be arguing that Penner's career-high 30 goal season was totally worth those 3 picks.

5) Francois Beauchemin isn't that good. Okay, this won't really make you feel better, but I just though it had to be said.

So buck up, pussies. You're not doomed, and you'll probably be pretty good next year. Besides, it could be worse: you could be a Kings fan.

What a Waste of Time

Tonight was the epitome of the Sharks season. The story was there to be written. The Sarich hit on Marleau was to be the turning point of the season. From that point on the Sharks grow up and win the Cup...oops! Coming off their most impressive performance of the post-season, the Sharks looked like they could throw their sticks on the ice and win this in 6. There was no passion and no energy shown. Earlier in the day I was watching the Wings/Preds game 6. The Wings showed what you should do to an inferior opponent. At the end of that game I wondering to myself. "Come on boys, that is how you close someone out." Again, watching the Ducks/Stars I saw the desperation the Stars played with knowing they didn't want to go to a game 7. Instead the Sharks flew to Calgary and played like "well if we win, great, otherwise we have game 7 in our barn." The inconsistency they have shown all season was there again tonight with no passion and energy.

-Campbell is playing like he has 2 broken arms. He was fumbling passes all night long. He was not alone as the Sharks were once again playing hand gernade hockey.

-Michalek has continued his disappearing act. Tonight was the ultimate as he led a 3 on 1 break only to stick handle the puck into the corner. Even Randy and Drew were speechless after that one. It felt like their was 5 mins of dead air after that play.

I am curious to see the stats on scoring chances as we had very few. Same old story, Sharks have more talent, yet their opponents are working harder and it shows.

It will be fun (but nerve racking) on Tuesday to have our first ever home game 7. If you believe in the Big Mo, you have to think Calgary has the advantage. The pressure is on the Sharks as they are the pre-playoffs Cup favorites so the Flames should be loose. They know they can win in the Shark Tank and the Sharks have to play like they did on Thursday.

Will both the Sharks and Ducks lose in the 1st round? What will become of BOC if that would to happen? I hate to find out......

NHL Video Portal, Washington Capitals ISO-Cam and Stanley Cup All Access show

Above is an isolation ice-level video highlight from the NHL Video Portal during the Washington Capitals Philadelphia Flyers series. The NHL has ISO-cam video clips up of the Capitals, Flyers, Red Wings (no audio), Blackhawks,
Rangers (no audio), and Penguins. Which crowd sounds the best?

Also on the portal, the half hour Cisco 2008 Stanley Cup All Access video show with Don Le Greca and E.J. Hradek is worth a look. Solid analysis, althought the schedule is still a little sporadic and the comments are mostly East Coast centric. Instead of opinion, more X's and O's, matchups or video scouting segments would be well received. They can always pry Earl away from AOL for his editorial cartoons.

Here is a video segment on official Ducks blogger Mike V, skateboard hockey looks kind of cool. Los Angeles Kings contributor Heidi Androl also located a Montreal Canadiens fan hangout in Redondo Beach. Nothing up on the portal from the Sharks yet. Rumor has it a certain Sharks blog might be doing an investigative article on local beer, and the hockey fans who drink it.

The Official Thousandth Post

Well hot damn. Mike Chen thought he had hit the benchmark a week and a half ago, but this is officially Battle of California's 1,000th post. Thanks and congrats to Mike, PJ, James, Rudy, and Cheechew for all their contributions, and all the lost souls on the internet who have stopped by.

I wonder what the future holds for the next thousand posts. Predictions / suggestions are welcome.

Uuuuge Game. 'UGE!

The Stars need to do whatever they can to avoid a Game 7 in Anaheim, so we're bringing out the big guns:

The Ghost of Joe Nieuwendyk

The Mystical Ed Belfour FUBU jersey

...and Ken Hitchcock's moustache.

Ball Game.

Ducks Gameday—Stage Six: Survival

Round One, Game Six: (4) Anaheim Ducks at (5) Dallas Stars
(DAL leads series 3-2, JavaGeek ‘odds’: DAL 77%)

The Grim Reaper of Elimination! Run, Duckie, Run!

I have a theory about overcoming 3-1 series deficits. Generally speaking, in order for a team to come back it needs to:
  • win a game it deserves to win,
  • win a game it deserves to tie, and
  • win a game it deserves to lose.
Friday night the Ducks won a game they deserved to win, so now it's time to get lucky.

There's good signs and bad signs for tonight. The good: in Anaheim's franchise history, it has never lost a Game Six (5-0, outscoring opponents 18-11). The bad: game results so far in this series mirror the tables-turned version of the 2003 DAL-ANA series (except this time, there's a lot less overtime), which would mean the series ends tonight.

So pour yourself a drink, load a bowl if you're 4/20 motivated, and hang on. Let's see if the Ducks can again escape the jaws of elimination.

Prediction: This pattern to this series has been simple: when the Ducks have led, they've won; when the Ducks have trailed, they've lost. Ducks 3, Stars 2. Goals by Weight and Pahlsson x2.

Go Ducks.

Sharks Gameday: Let's Finish This

I'm not terribly keen about the idea of going to Game 7, not just because that would mean that Calgary would have the opportunity to win the series, but also because of the physical pounding that the Sharks have been taking. For the past few games, they've done a decent job of pushing back, but that doesn't heal hurting bodies; time does, and by winning Game 6, it buys the guys a little more time to heal those bumps and bruises.

There's no status update yet on Kyle McLaren, and really, I don't even know why he's seeing ice time. He's obviously hurt and is a pylon out there, so I don't care what his "veteran presence" means, it's hampering the team. That, and he just kinda sucks now and he's been kinda sucky for more than a season now.

Ron Wilson was explaining his idea about dressing essentially 10 forwards: mix and match combos so that the Flames would always be guessing when Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau would hit the ice -- and whether or not they'd be skating together. I like that idea, but I really don't see the point of intentionally dressing a useless body on the blueline to have an excuse for mixed line combos. I mean, really Ron, you can do that regardless, and McLaren's only a liability out there.

So, if it's up to me, I'd basically alternate my top two lines as:



I don't really see the point about putting Ryane Clowe on Thornton's line right now. He's working well with Joe Pavelski, and Jonathan Cheechoo's getting hot at the right time . Remember, he's a ridiculously streaky scorer. I know he spent some time with Pavelski last game, I just think his game is better suited for Thornton if they're both on. If Cheech is becoming a viable threat again, maybe that'll get the Calgary D to back off Thornton just a little bit. Devin Setoguchi's got speed and tenacity and that might help create some space too.

Really, though, it feels like the forward group's coming together and I'm not too worried about them. What does scare the crap out of me, though, is this defense. Brian Campbell's taking baby steps to becoming good again, but he still looks like a shell of his regular-season self. There are still too many defensive breakdowns, and it's coming down to the team resigning to the fact that (to quote Dan Patrick) they can't really stop Jarome Iginla or Dion Phaneuf, they can only hope to contain them.

Contain those two, keep the struggling Calgary supporting cast quiet, and have the forwards keep doing what they're doing. Push hard for 60 minutes, combine passion and skill, and we'll be heading to the second round.

I'm cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

OT: Celebrity Look-A-Likes

This post is off-topic but it has been bothering me:

Kyle Korver does not look like Ashton Kutcher.

Yeah, they have the same hair, but that's it. Who does Kyle Korver look like? This guy:

Similarly, Khalil Greene does not look like Owen Wilson.

They both have stupid blonde hair, but that's it. Who does Khalil Greene look like? This guy:

Please update your files accordingly.

(Playoff commentary at it's finest, folks.)