Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ray Emery blows


Come on, what did you think this post was going to be about?

He's got a playoff GAA under 2.00, and he's leading in both wins and shutouts. What the hell else do you want from the guy?

The Sens are mightier than Aaron Ward.

And, yeah, I know Aaron Ward isn't playing, but he's been on my shitlist, I had a pun to complete, and he's about all the Sens are mightier than these days.

Especially the formerly mighty Ducks.

By the way, I considered a few others:

Oh, No, Canada!
Duck, Duck, Goose Egg
Filibusted (get it? cause they are Senators)

(sigh)

I'll tell you people, this hockey writing for no money is TAXING.

If there's any good news for the Senators, it's that they're getting dominated in one goal games, instead of blowouts. They get a lucky bounce or two, and who knows what happens in overtime. Still, the odds that the lucky bounce happens anywhere in front of Giguere seems long.

The goal Emery let in wasn't terrible, but looked a little more like the kind of goal that you don't blame him for if it goes in after two overtimes. And when he mishandles the puck, it gives the Ducks confidence and they press harder. The Senators played a great first period and tried to match the Ducks hit for hit, which is admirable, but as its turning out, if the Senators want to truly match the Ducks, guys like Tom Preissing, Antoine Vermette, Mike Comrie and Dean McCammond need to start not only shooting more, but heading to the net hard, taking the lumps and maybe even pressing them shorthanded.

When the Senators pressed the Sabres shorthanded it worked like a charm.

Where'd that game go?

Either way, it looks like Canadians will finally be getting their prime time Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night, and it's up to the Senators to determine if they'll enjoy it. It's NBC the rest of the way for all of us here in the United States which means it's time to start guessing what idiotic thing they're going to rename "Versus" this off-season.

I'll guess the "And" network, or perhaps simply "@"

Oh, and Monday? Don Cherry returns to American television, as part of an "announcer exchange program." In exchange, The CBC gets Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, some cash and a few draft picks.

Oh, sorry- I mean, Brett Hull.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Ducks are Lame

OK, here's why I hate the Ducks, in easy-to-digest (and more importantly, easy-to-write) bulleted list form:

  • I don't like it when a team loads up on superstars. Having Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger on the same power play is a little much, wouldn't you say? I mean, come on. And of course:


  • I don't like that Scott Niedermayer left the Devils for the Ducks, just so he could play with his brother. And what I don't like about that is that a) it's an unimpeachable reason to leave a team, and b) it has resulted in no Scott Niedermayer on the Devils. By the way, it's at least good to see that while the sweater has changed, the passionless, robotic demeanor has not. Hey, Scotty, you're finally playing with li'l Robby just like you wanted...crack a smile, for Christ's sake.


  • I don't like the way they gave Niedermayer the C just for signing. He's got no history with the team, no proven leadership abilities (even when in Jersey)...he's just scary talented. But fitness for the captaincy is something that's demonstrated on AND off the ice, and to make that decision before you even get to know a guy is lame. The Rangers did the same thing with Jagr. This is not a sales contest, and the C is not a Cadillac El Dorado. Lame.


  • I don't like J.S. Giguere. I think he's a mediocre goalie with an irritatingly dated nickname and more padding than Alberto Gonzalez's resume. Seriously, I haven't seen shoulders that bulky since The Golden Girls. The fact he won the Conn Smythe over Marty Brodeur (or ANY Devil) in 2003 is laughable.

  • Only he ain't laughin'.

  • I don't like that they think they're no longer the MIGHTY Ducks. Guys, you're not fooling anyone. The ghost of Joshua Jackson still haunts that dressing room, and we all know it.


So there you have it. Go Sens Go, I guess. Frankly, I haven't been this enthusiastic about picking a side since the '04 presidential election.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Not bad, game one.

Nice job out there.

The 2007 Stanley Cup final is underway, and despite an overwhelming sensation of
"I don't give a crap who wins" emotions on my end, the Ducks and Sens put on a pretty good show.

Some thoughts:

1)Ray Emery didn't make "That save."

You know, the save that all goaltenders need to make in the playoffs?

The one that makes your jaw drop, lifts you out of your seat and say "Holy shit, did he get that one!?"

And I'm not saying that you need a game full of them, and I'm not saying either that he played poorly. But from an inspirational perspective, when you factor in his shaky puckhandling, the Senators are not exactly progressing into game two with a ton of confidence that their goaltender is going give them a chance to win if they only put two in the net during regulation. Granted, expecting to win if you only put two in the net in regulation is a bad strategy, but having a guy between the pipes who makes you feel like you can provides quite a boost.

2) For all the talk about speed in the new NHL, it seems to be that the way to generate offense is to finish one's checks. Anaheim got at least one goal by hitting hard on the forecheck and generating turnovers, and another one when a defender couldn't knock Neidermeyer off the puck behind the net. Translation: slowing people down by hitting them is as important as speeding up your own play. If they skate fast, you gotta hit faster. And that's fun to watch.

3) Two of the worst "new rules" in the NHL are limiting the play of goalies outside that parallelegram and expanding the offensive zone.

Emery's shaky giveaway last night, along with Hasek's in the Conference Finals (remember that diving save Lidstrom made?) have shown that as many exciting scoring chances can be created by a goaltender mishandling the puck as are denied by playing it well. The rule that goalies can't go in the corner was created, plain and simple, because Brodeur was good at it. That punishes talent, instead of rewarding skill. How many more chances would the Ducks have if Emery was allowed to play the puck in the corner and gave it away? An interesting question.

This is a hunch, but it really seems to me that there have been a lot fewer clearcut breakaways in the league this season (Hey Forechecker, do they keep stats on this?) When you consider that they legalized the two line pass, this can't have been the intended result, and if you think a shootout is exciting, it pales next to a penalty shot. With less breakaways, there are also fewer chances for penalty shots. What has happened is, by extending the offensive zone, they have made the defender's decision to stay home much easier. Where it used to be that a player like a Kris Draper, PJ Axelsson or Brian Rolston might take a chance at a timing play to knock the puck out of the zone and spring a breakaway, the larger zone means that even if they time it right, there is no guarantee that the puck will leave the zone, and if it doesn't, the momentum it took to make that daring play would almost certainly move them so far out of position that the offensive player can create an easy odd man play down low. So what do defenders do now? Box up. clog up the slot with bodies and block shots, so much so that a new set play in the NHL has been to miss the net intentionally with a point shot, hoping for a lucky carom off the boards. And that's not a skill play, that's knob hockey.

4) Also, for you Canadians out there looking for a friendly bar to catch a hockey game in New York, I had a good time at St. Marks Ale House last night. There were about 30 Senators fans, many wearing colors and even three Ducks fans, which is pretty good for anywhere outside of Anaheim. You could tell that two of them were exceptionally passionate, Southern California hockey fans as they looked up from their chess game several times to chant "USA USA!" I talked to a few Sens fans who were there, and apparently that bar has been a bit of a Canadian playoff hockey hangout since the Oilers made their run last year. I went with my pal Eric, and despite the crappy bar food (we were treated to one carrot and one piece of celery with our tiny wings), the attitude of the fans was fun, with some good cheering, lots of people into the game, and for the first time in my tenure in New York I actually saw a Yankees game get turned off so they could put hockey on. It wasn't in High Definition, mainly because one can't get Versus HD ANYWHERE in New York City, at least that I've found, but why quibble? At least they didn't break it off to show horse racing at any point. According to the fans I talked to, the bar has finally started to realize that they have a potential recurring business with hockey fans, but so far, haven't done much to cater to it. It's turned into a decent hockey bar not so much because the locals did anything to make it so, but mostly because a bunch of desperate Canadians found an empty building with some potential and decided to take it over.

You know, sort of like what happened with the Nashville Predators.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Talked to my Dad the other night.

He was in a mood.

I was talking to him, I mentioned the Ducks, a team he was unaware existed, and it kind of set him off.

"The Ducks?" That's a hockey team now?

My Dad grew up in Massachusetts and was a Bruins fan through the Ferny Flaman years, the Bobby Orr years, the Don Cherry years, and the Ray Bourque years. He is also one of those hockey fans who has kind of slipped away from the game, a combination of the Bruins management being awful, the team sucking for over a decade, the NHL being marketed about as well as a child's lemonade stand, and the Red Sox and Patriots winning a lot. Still, it makes you wonder, how could the NHL lose a guy like my dad? He was in full on rant, as I pondered the question.

"I mean, what kind of world are we living in that the goddamn DUCKS are a better hockey team than the Boston Brui-


*************************************************************************************
URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT-URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT-URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT
*************************************************************************************
THANKS TO A CONTRACT SIGNED LAST SUMMER BY THE NHL, BLOG POSTS ON "AMERICAN HOCKEY FAN DOT COM" THAT GO OVER AN ALLOTED AMOUNT OF TIME WILL BE FINISHED OVER ON THE WEBLOG OF THE VERSUS TELEVISION NETWORK, (IF YOU CAN FIND IT.) WE CUT NOW TO LIVE BLOG COVERAGE OF THE AFTERMATH OF PREAKNESS STAKES. GO FUCK YOURSELVES, HOCKEY FANS.

*************************************************************************************
URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT-URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT-URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT
*************************************************************************************


Preakness Winner Curlin Heads Home A Classic Winner; Street Sense, Hard Spun Emerge From Race In Fine Order

Baltimore, 05-20-07
CURLIN – Just under 12 hours after winning
the Preakness, the Smart Strike colt – healthy, but showing signs of being a bit weary - was on his way early Sunday morning to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.

Asmussen watched as Curlin left the Preakness Stakes barn at 6 a.m. and was walked onto a van to be taken to Baltimore-Washington International Airport for the flight to Kentucky.

“He looked good as he was loaded on the trailer, but he definitely knows he ran (Saturday),” Asmussen said.

Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense ran past Curlin at the top of the stretch of the Preakness and appeared to be on his way to victory when Curlin rallied again under jockey Robby Albarado. Curlin surged in the final few yards and beat Street Sense by a head while matching the stakes record of 1:53.46 for the 1-3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Curlin picked up his fourth victory in five lifetime starts with a performance that Asmussen said was the most stressful of the colt’s short career.

“I think that was obvious from the race,” Asmussen said. “He had to dig down deep and find more.”

While Asmussen did not commit to going on to the Belmont Stakes or the Travers at Saratoga, he said Curlin is headed to racing’s marquee events.

“This is the stage this horse deserves and those are the caliber of races he is intended for,” Asmussen said. “It will all be up to him physically, but that is the stage that he deserves to be on. Our job is to make sure he is prepared for it.”

Curlin had a troubled trip in the Derby, but showed interest in the later stages of the race and was able to finish third. Asmussen and his staff quickly realized that Curlin was fresh and could handle the quick turnaround from the Derby to the Preakness.

“He came out of the race unlike any of my other previous Derby starters,” Asmussen said. “With the possibility of running him back in two weeks, if you’re going to run one, he was the one you wanted to run.”

By Sunday morning, Asmussen, who scrapped a plan to return home Saturday night, had seen video of Curlin’s run in the Preakness.

“He wasn’t away as clean as we were hoping for,” Asmussen said. “He was off the bridle early. Personally, I was worried about a replay of the Derby. Robby got him in position. Street Sense, and he’s an excellent horse, kind of got the jump on him. He dug down deep and found more and is a deserving winner of a classic.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the horse or for the horse. It’s just a grand stage for everybody to see what everybody involved with the horse believed all along.”

From his vantage point, Asmussen couldn’t be sure whether Curlin would be able to catch Street Sense.

“I watched the race from well up the racetrack, pretty close to the starting gate,” Asmussen said. “As they came around the turn Robby was having to navigate him. The horse drifts out a bit and he was having to guide him quite a bit. So you knew that wherever he was in the stretch and was able to go back to his right lead that he’d be able to find more. How much more, obviously, was in question. I didn’t feel that he was done, but whether it would be enough or not was the question to be asked at that point.”

As a record crowd of 121,263 people at Pimlico roared, Curlin and Street Sense turned in a classic battle to the wire.

“The last three-sixteenths goes in 18 (seconds) and change,” Asmussen said. “Covering that much ground, they both came home extremely well.”

The Preakness was Asmussen’s first victory in an American classic race and turned out to be a well-timed personal milestone.

“I’m extremely proud that my family was able to enjoy it with me,” he said. “It’s a very special feeling, having my parents being able to be here. My father’s mother passed away this week. It prioritizes what family means to you, for them to be a part of a very special moment for me.



STREET SENSE – The Preakness runner-up flew back to Churchill Downs early Sunday morning before trainer Carl Nafzger and wife Wanda began their long car ride back to Kentucky.

“He’s good; he’s already home,” Nafzger said by phone shortly after 11 a.m. “There won’t be a decision on the Belmont until Mr. Tafel and I have a meeting. That will probably take place two or three days or maybe a week. Right now, I don’t think we probably will. There’s not really any reason to go there right now. These three horses ran their guts out the last two races. I don’t know what Curlin’s gonna do and I don’t know what Hard Spun’s gonna do.”

Street Sense appeared destined to be on his way to the Belmont with a chance to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed in 1978, but Curlin nailed him in the final stride to win by a head and end the dream of the Kentucky Derby winner’s camp.

“This was one of the Preaknesses to remember,” said Nafzger, who also finished second with Derby winner Unbridled in the 1990 Preakness. “It was a spectacular race. Winning isn’t everything in this game. That was a field of very nice horses. You don’t want anybody to get beat, but there’s got to be a winner. I thought Curlin ran an unbelievable race, but you’ve got to remember Asmussen ain’t never won the Derby. I have twice. He got a Preakness.”



HARD SPUN – Trainer Larry Jones reported that his third-place finisher in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes emerged from the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown in good order.

“Everything looks good. He ate well, his legs are cold. He’s seems like he’s OK. He’s tired, but he came out of the race OK,” said Jones, Sunday morning before putting his colt on a van bound for Delaware Park.

Hard Spun took over the lead leaving the backstretch and showed the nine-horse field into the stretch before being passed by eventual winner Curlin and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

“We got beat by two really good horses who tied the stakes record (1:53.46) in order to do it. We’re disappointed because we wanted to win, but I’m disappointed that I had two thirds at Delaware (Saturday). I wanted those horses to win, too,” Jones said.

“But we sure don’t have anything to be ashamed of. When you run third in one of the classics, you’ve got to be happy. It wasn’t our day, but we don’t know if we’ll get a day. But Carl and Steve are both very nice guys, and I’m sure if all three go to Belmont, they’re going to feel sorry for him and let me have one.”

Jones said the Belmont is a distinct possibility for his colt’s future, depending on how he bounces back from his Preakness effort in the next week.

“When we saw (1:09 4/5) for three quarters, it started to look like we were in a dangerous situation,” said Jones of Saturday’s fast fraction Hard Spun had put on the board while wresting a two-length lead from early pace-duelers Xchanger and Flying First Class.

Jones said the way the race set up put Hard Spun and jockey Mario Pino in a tough spot, with C P West and jockey Edgar Prado making their presence felt along the backstretch.

“We had schooled the horse eating dirt, and as soon as we’d tip him out from behind the horses and show him racetrack, we’d sort of gun him to go. So, I think it probably was what the horse may have been thinking with Mario (Saturday). He said he knew those horses were going to stop. He could tell they were starting to slow down, and he didn’t want to take a chance of Edgar race-riding him up to a blocked spot,” he said.

“As soon as he tipped him out to make sure that he had a place to go when Edgar comes, I think the horse just took off on him, the way he talked. He said he took all the hold on him that he could without starting to fight with him.”

Hard Spun, who finished a solid second behind Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby, is the first Triple Crown campaigner of Jones’ career, which took a decided upturn when Fox Hill Farm’s Richard Porter transferred Hard Spun to his stable shortly after the Western Kentucky native ventured to Delaware Park for the first time last year.

“The chances of getting the second one are far greater than getting the first one. It’s like making a million dollars. It’s making the first million is the hardest; the other million comes around a lot easier,” Jones said. “That’s kind of the way it is with these classic horses. You’ve got to get there with the first, before anyone’s going to give you a shot.”



C P WEST – Trainer Nick Zito was packing up for the trip back to New York shortly after 8 a.m. on Sunday, still more than pleased with his colt’s fourth-place finish and ready to reward him with a rest. Zito said the son of Came Home will bypass the Belmont Stakes.

“He came out of it very good,” said the Hall of Fame conditioner. “He’s a different type of horse. He shouldn’t be a Belmont Stakes horse right now. We took a giant step with a horse that just ran two races (this year), one a mile race. He didn’t even have a two-turn race before a classic race like the Preakness.”

Zito said the next target in terms of major stakes for C P West would be the Travers at Saratoga on Aug.. 25.

“Everything we hoped would happen happened,” Zito said. “Street Sense beat us bad in the Juvenile, but he beat everybody bad in the Juvenile. I wanted to see how much he improved and if he could stay with these horses, and he did. Now we should handle him correctly. Running him a mile and a half wouldn’t be correctly.”


CIRCULAR QUAY, KING OF THE ROXY – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s two Preakness runners arrived “no worse for the wear” back at his Belmont Park barn shortly after 9:30 a.m., according to assistant trainer Tristan Barry.

Both horses finished off the board, leaving the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer with a lifetime 0-for-28 record in Triple Crown events.

Barry said Pletcher gave no indication about his future plans with Circular Quay, who was fifth in the Preakness and sixth in the Kentucky Derby or sixth-place Preakness finisher King of the Roxy. He indicated on Saturday that both would likely get some rest before their next starts.

Pletcher had much more success with his two 3-year-old fillies during the first two legs of the Triple Crown, winning both the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with Rags to Riches and the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan with Panty Raid. Pletcher has not ruled out the possibility of Rags to Riches against males, possibly in the Belmont Stakes.

Another Pletcher 3-year-old, Soaring By, was one of the favorites in Sunday’s Peter Pan at Belmont Park, considered a significant prep for the Belmont Stakes.



MINT SLEWLEP – Trainer Robbie Bailes said Sunday morning he was happy with the manner in which Mint Slewlep came out of his seventh-place finish in the Preakness Stakes.

“He’s doing well,” said Bailes, who vanned Marshall Dowell’s Mint Slewlep back to his Bowie Training Center headquarters Saturday night.

Bailes has no immediate plans for the son of Slew City Slew, who was bumped off stride shortly after the start of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“We’ll sit back for seven or eight days and talk it over with Mr. Dowell to see what’s the best way to get him back (on track),” Bailes said.



XCHANGER – Trainer Mark Shuman knew Xchanger was in trouble when he saw the early fractions his eighth-place finisher had set while being pressed by Flying First Class during the early going of the Preakness Stakes.

“Nobody goes 1:09 and change and has a shot of finishing up,” said Shuman, who vanned his Preakness starter back to his Fair Hill Training Center barn Saturday night. “We didn’t give a fair shot by going that fast early.”

Shuman, who reported that his colt came out of his effort in good order, said it would be 30 days before he would decide where Xchanger will race next.

“There are so many races for 3-year-olds, we’ll have a lot of options,” he said.



FLYING FIRST CLASS – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his colt were back in Kentucky before noon on Sunday. Lukas said the colt came out of the race fine.

After Flying First Class dominated the field in the Derby Trial on April 28, Lukas decided to try the Preakness and see if the colt could carry his speed around two turns. That plan did not work out, though, when Flying First Class and Xchanger dueled through fast early fractions before Flying First Class tired and finished last in the nine-horse Preakness field.

“We’ll just stay under a mile now for the rest of his career. That little experiment is over,” Lukas said by telephone. “We’ll just point for the better sprint races and see if we can’t get him to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Along the way, Lukas said the colt might run in races like the King’s Bishop at Saratoga.

During the week leading up to the Preakness, Lukas touted Curlin and Street Sense, who finished a head apart at the finish of the race.

“That they’re the two best horses is pretty obvious,” Lukas said.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fuck Is What I'm Feeling!

American Hockey Fan and the Sabres: as one rises, so the other falls. I'm not looking to assign blame or justify Buffalo's actions, and I'm certainly not suggesting that there's some sort of universal balance of fortune and loss that must be maintained between the blog and the buffalo, but I'm just saying, or questioning, nay, gently whispering, into Ritch's ear: "YOU COULDN'T HAVE WAITED THREE FRIGGING MORE DAYS TO LAUNCH THE NEW BLOG? WAS THE NEED FOR SALMON HEADERS SO GREAT THAT THEY HAD TO BE BROUGHT TO THE WORLD AT THE EXPENSE OF THE HAPPINESS OF FIFTY PERCENT OF THE CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BLOG? HMMMM?"


But perhaps I'm feeling a tad emotional.


We lost. We're out. Buffalo has once again taken my faith and happiness, fashioned it into a sort of makeshift sort of table, and bent me over it. I should be used to this feeling, or at the very least have seen it coming--the first three games of this series weren't exactly the Braveheart speech--but here I went and got all hopeful and excited, buying Sabres wear, betting money, talking smack to....well, Ritch, because there aren't really any Senators fans around, and because it's practically instinctual at this point, for both of us. And now, now I find myself right alongside him in the gutter, begging for scraps, albeit in a cleaner and more aesthtically-pleasing gutter, as at least my Cup-less team has the advantage of not having fallen as far from grace.


As for the experience of watching the game, I can recommend no better person to share defeat with than Jack Kukoda himself, whose silent, deadened stare for a full seven minutes following the winning goal reminded me that while I might attempt suicide that evening, he would almost certainly succeed. He even makes sure that his beer is dressed appropriately:


It was a good game to watch through the end, despite NBC's pandering to the ever-important equestrian market, but fortunately, the adrenaline pulsing through my veins imbued me with an almost owllike sense of vision, and whatever blurry 8-bit graphics Versus was throwing at me became crystal clear; also, I found I could briefly hear conversations behind closed doors 30-35 blocks away. Luckily, my heart has room for only one emotion, and at the time, it was white-hot hatred for the refs and their anti-Sabre stance, which had only recently replaced "thirst".




And so now that nothing can ever come to any good, I have to muddle through the days until the Cup itself, when I'll be rooting for....To Be Named Later. Though my allegiance still lies with Buffalo, I can't NOT watch the Cup, and if the Buffalo Cope has taught me anything over the years, it's that one must plow onward and pick another temporary team, lay down some money at an OTB of questionable morals, and fake it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ducks and Wings game 5 puck drop.

Well, the game is just starting, and the two prominent sponsors of the NHL on NBC are Verizon Vcast, who are fond of telling me I'm such a pussy that I "wouldn't make it in the NHL," and the Marines, who'd be happy to have me.

That's a nice one-two advertorial punch, no?

"So- are you too much of a Mary to get into a hot tub in the New Jersey Devils locker room? Well then, why not give Falujah a whirl?"

Unfinished Buisness:


Image from the May 16th entry of the excellent Bflo blog , who did a great job covering the Sabres (and their fans) through an extraordinary, yet ultimately disheartening season. It looks like Kevin and the gang are taking the day off, and I can't say I blame them.

It really seemed like the Sabres year.

What a kick in the guts.

I'm guessing the only guy who feels worse than a Buffalo fan today is named Zdeno Chara.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Check out the new duds!


Hi all, and welcome to the new and improved AmericanHockeyFan.com!

You'll need to re-adjust your bookmarks as the redirect from americanhockeyfan.blogspot.com ain't gonna last forever, and we'd love to have you all back.

So c'mon in, put your stick by the door, and leave your hockey bag out in the garage, that thing stinks to high heaven.

http://www.AmericanHockeyFan.com

Bookmark it NOW, and come back often.

We will still be your daily source for such infotaining posts like:

What to watch in Manhattan when all three hockey channels are showing the same Devils/Rangers game!

Humorous (yet terribly wrong) Stanley Cup Predictions from 2006!

Borderline racist indictments of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization!

Who would win in a fight between Tie Domi and a Lion!

And of course, the everpopular:
Candle in the Wind, an interpretive dance as performed by Bill McCreary, Rob Schick, Kerry Fraser, Greg Kimmerly, Pierre Champoux and Paul Stewart

Of course, Ben Jack and Jen will continue to post as well.

I hope.

Now- anybody know how a brother can get some press credentials to the Stanley Cup Finals?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good game last night.

In fact, it was the perfect game to sum up the Sabres, both in the regular season, and the postseason.

a) They played great, had a fast start (5th fastest in NHL playoff history) and played a dominating first period. They did this all the time in the regular season.

b) With a period and a half to play and a three goal cushion, they relaxed a little on the puck battles down low, and paid the price. They have done this all throughout the postseason.

They managed to hold on due to great play by Miller and a sense of desperation that once again kicked in during the third period, but what this series has come down to is whether the Buffalo Sabres can play a full 60 minutes.

They could afford to only play for half the game against the weaker Islanders and even the Rangers, who almost burned them for it. But they can't do that against the Senators. Their third goal was a softy on Emery, and the second goal was on a 5 on 3 power play, and if they didn't score it, would have constituted a devastating mental defeat to an already crippled power play.

The only chance they have to stay alive is to play three complete games. If they can't, they'll be giving Maple Leaf Fans a full week to debate whether the Senators are Canadian enough to actually root for them in the finals.

Over in the West, I think somebody needs to start recognizing the class and discipline of the Detroit Red Wings. Nobody is more in favor of a good old time hockey type scrap than me, but to look at the play of Detroit in the playoffs is to see what turning the other cheek can do for you.

Like they did in their first round series with the Flames, they didn't rise to the bait when they were playing with the lead and the cheap shots started. That's a hard thing to do, and rather extraordinary for a team with Todd Bertuzzi on it, something that should be considered when the final book on Bertuzzi is written.

When Holmstrom got run by Pronger and Rob Neidermeyer, they didn't respond like hotheads, and that was a situation where no one in the league would have been surprised at all if they had. It was Pronger's elbows that cracked Holmstrom's head open, and there was no call.

Sure, he was suspended after the fact, but at the time, absolutely no one would have been surprised if there weren't some Red Wings skating around out there hoping to see a big number 25 with his head facing the boards. And who knows? Maybe if it was a tie game at that point, or the Wings were losing, they would have reacted differently.

But, in the situation they were in as a team, when the hit on Holmstrom came, they had a commanding lead on enemy ice, Holmstrom took his stitches, came back for the third like a motherfucking hockey player and the Wings took another step towards their fourth Stanley Cup in ten years.

That shows three things: toughness, smarts and class.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thomas Holmstrom's head is filled with candy.

I mean, if it isn't, why do people keep trying to break it open?

Two different cuts from a vicious double hit from Pronger and the other Niedermeyer, and he's back on the ice for the third period?

Then he gets his helmet knocked off AGAIN?

I'm surprised Chris Simpson didn't get a shot in during the postgame interview.

Jesus, I love this game.

Oh, and in the East, am I crazy for not ruling Buffalo out?

I mean, yeah- they need to win four in a row.

That's really hard to do.

Only been done twice before in hockey.

Still, this season, regular season and playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres have won four games in a row eight times.

EIGHT TIMES!

And, yeah, Ottawa is good, but I'm just saying- this team has been down a lot, and have come back.

Over and over again.

They've done it all year.

Add that to the fact that game one was a hell of a lot closer than the score indicated, they tied the game in heroic fashion in game two and got a bad bounce in the 2nd OT, and in game three if Briere scores that goal in the first 40 seconds, it's anybody's game.

All I'm saying is, everybody's coronating Ottawa, but the Sabres aren't dead, and they could have easily won any one of those games. If they pull their heads out of their asses on the power play, it's not inconceivable that they could win four in a row.

Coming into this, would anyone have been shocked if Buffalo swept?

I'm not saying that they WILL come back and win, but shit, if anybody could have a shot to pull this off- it's them.

I mean, fuck-

8 times?

The Sabres have won four games in a row 8 times.

Just sayin'

8 times.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's not the size of the man in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the man.

That being said, a good big man will beat a good little man every single time.

And that's what happened last night in Ottawa.

I didn't expect to see this.

Still, if there was one team in the NHL that could come back from a 3-0 deficit, it's the Buffalo Sabres.

All year, every game, this team has come back from the dead, over and over again.

It's right around this time of year that legends start showing their stripes, and if somebody in Buffalo doesn't step up, we're looking at Daniel Alfredsson, Conn Smythe winner. And you know why? Cause he's doing what he does, and is ALSO playing great defense,hitting, and forechecking.

I'm only saying that because a penalty killing unit can't be an MVP.

You can't ask any more from Ryan Miller, so it's not on him, and we have yet to see Buffalo play a complete game in these playoffs. I'm sure they have one in them, but do they have four?

In case there are any Sabres out there are wondering how to stage a comeback, here's a hint:

don't overthink it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hey Luggage Express!

How about this?

If I agree to um, use you guys to ship my luggage someplace- instead of, you know, BRINGING IT WITH ME ON MY TRIP, will you stop subjecting me to NBC and Versus announcers opening every single game of the Stanley Cup playoffs by saying what sounds like "call 866 SHITBAG!"

Seriously.

Knock it off, already.

I know, it's "1 866 ship bag," or whatever, but it certainly doesn't sound that way especially when your mind is all amped up for the start of a playoff hockey game.

Let's put it this way- if I were Major League Baseball, and a company called "Below.com" or something, that was good at, oh I don't know, giving me an insurance estimate that was below my normal rate, I might suggest that if our announcers had to say the phone number out loud while children were watching, maybe it should be something besides"1- 866 BELOW ME."

Say it out loud if you're confused.

Just for kicks, I just dialed "1 866 Shitbag" and when a woman picked up, I asked if they were a luggage company. She sounded nice, and told me I had dialed a private residence, and confirmed that it was a toll free number. As she didn't seem to be a shitbag, I didn't have the courage to ask if she had intentionally picked that word as her home phone number.

Come to think of it, if anybody was the shitbag in that scenario, it was me.

Too bad the number's taken.

Would've been a sweet AHF hotline.

Protecting the moneymaker


It's no secret that I'm against helmets as a whole--for several million in salary a year, I expect to see actual pieces of skull on the ice at least once a season--but if we're playing by the rules this post-season, or at least pretending to (cough, Rangers, cough), we might as well gussy them up a bit. The masks currently seeing face time:

Dominik Hasek


I’d imagine being a Detroit Red Wing, you don’t have much of a choice in what you put on your helmet, which is just fine by a world-weary Dominik Hasek, for whom the act of switching teams/helmets/countries brings a comforting familiarity, almost like the annual replacing of one’s bicuspids. I can’t really knock the stylized wheel, them being an original six, and I’ve never really wondered what it would look like if an angel and a tire fucked, but if there’s a city where that sort of philosophical question gets asked, I’m sure it’s Detroit.


Ray Emery


While I’m happy to see that Ray Emery’s narcissism is not so all-encompassing that he is in fact capable of acknowledging another human being’s worth, I’m not in the least bit surprised to see that this other human being is Mike Tyson. I understand that there are some other principles at play here, Ray Emery being the only/one of the few black men playing hockey today, and I’m not saying indelibly inking Martin Luther King Jr.’s image on the back of his head would have been the right way to go, but couldn’t he have at least gone with Muhammad Ali, or someone who is actually still physically able to beat up Marty Biron?

Also, how psyched was the guy who runs the t-shirt spray-art cart in the Ottawa mall when Ray Emery came stumbling up with a “special job”? I’ll bet he treated himself to an extra Mrs. Field’s that day.


Ryan Miller


Though NHL regulations force him to wear your run-of-the-mill plastic helmet to protect against something called “head trauma”—cry me a river—when he’s practicing or just playing a pickup game with the numerous children born of his superseed, Ryan Miller typically prefers to wear this, the mask he’s made out of the leathery remains of other NHL goaltenders. Wondering where Roman Cechmanek got off to? He’s protecting Miller’s chiseled cheekbones from the cold winter bite.

(also, it was hard to find a clear photo of Miller’s mask, I assume because he’s in a constant , quasar-like state of motion.)


Jean-S├ębastien Giguere


It’s hard for me to make out exactly what Jiggy’s helmet depicts, and since there seems to be a dearth of Jean-Sebastien Giguere fansites on the internet—quel horreur—my only guess is that those branching bronchioles represent the niggling doubts in his mind, the ones that say “The Anaheim Ducks are in the conference finals? Seriously?”

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I would just like to say-


If the NHL can't market a Buffalo/Wings Stanley Cup final, well, I give up.

I know, it's not a sure thing, but c'mon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How the hell would he know?

This from an AP story, found on ESPN, the worldwide leader in Budweiser "Hot Seats:"

MOSCOW, Russia -- Europe's best club will challenge an NHL team next year in the Victoria Cup.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said Tuesday the winner of the European Champions Cup will participate in the new tournament, which will also include an unidentified NHL team and at least one other European club.

IIHF president Rene Fasel said he hoped to get a team "with some history" for the inaugural tournament, which is scheduled for September 2008. The other European team could come from the tournament's host city.

Eventually, the IIHF aims for Stanley Cup champions facing their European counterparts each year.

"It will be good to see how both leagues stand up against each other," Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash said.

But Nash was concerned about extending the NHL season, which is much longer than the European season.

"It can take a toll on your body," Nash said.


Wow.

Rick Nash is concerned about a longer season?

By the way, an "extended season" for Rick Nash is 80 games, a lofty game count he's managed to complete exactly once in four NHL seasons.

I'll tell you, if this new tournament is tough enough to take a toll on Rick Nash's body, it must be at least as strenuous as opening a really tough jar of mayonnaise, or operating a three-hole punch.

Christ.

Also, not to harp on it too much, but when you have a quote about someone wanting a team with "some history," it's best not to type the words "Columbus" "Blue" and "Jackets" at a proximity any closer than four words apart. You know what has more history than the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Jackets.

As in, the garment.

Just for fun, I just hit the Blue Jackets site on Wikipedia, (so you can take it or leave it) and found this:

The term "Blue Jacket" is a reference to the uniform of the Union army in the American Civil War, to which the state of Ohio provided a large number of soldiers. A third team logo featuring a Union soldier hat and custom Union soldier paintings on goalie Pascal Leclaire's helmet supports this as the team's official explanation of the name. The Blue Jackets also use a jumbo-tron graphic that shows Union Soldiers morphing into Blue Jackets hockey players.


The Civil War lasted from 1861-1865, five years.

The Columbus Blue Jackets were founded in the year 2000, and have never made the playoffs. What this means is, if members of the Columbus Blue Jackets had actually fought for the Union during the Civil War, well, let's just say that nowadays, they might have had a considerably easier time keeping Anson Carter's contract under the salary cap.

San Jose/Detroit wrap up.

I gotta tell you, the NHL has been doing a great job of making it's highlights available on Youtube.

Check out this great package of last night's game:



Chris Chelios, by the way, is older than Michael Caine.

Monday, May 07, 2007

How about those Rangers?

Well, the Eastern Conference finals are set up, and I'm sorry to see the Rangers go, if only because it means the most fun series of the tournament is now over.

The Rangers have nothing to be ashamed of, played a terrific game six, and it was nice to see the salute to the fans at the end of it all. Ultimately, the better team won, and I'm kind of glad about it, seeing Brendan Shanahan was starting to look like Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away. I'm all for a playoff beard, but Jesus Christ. If the Rangers woulda pulled it out, fans showing up for game three of the Ottawa series would have seen a toothless, shaggy lunatic lurching around the parking lot, giving the Braveheart speech to a bloody volleyball.

And while I'm praising the Rangers, who were not expected to do very well, and did, it makes sense to also praise the Sabres, who were expected to play great, and also did. I have a hard time imagining that Ottawa is going to fare any better than the Rangers did, seeing as the Sabres have now proven that they can play through stifling defense as well as a more open run-and-gun style of game. Add the fact that Ray Emery, while no slouch, is the weakest goaltender in the entire tournament, and it looks good for the Sabres.

It also bears mentioning that Buffalo has had a final second, incredible, game saving, series defining moment in each of their first two series, and those are the kinds of things that championships are built on.

The first was Miller's fantastic rolling save in the final moments of the Islander series, and the second was Chris Drury's astounding goal in game 5 of the Rangers series, allowing them to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Seeing him celebrate that goal, literally carrying his teammates on his shoulders as he did, was extraordinary. For a great look at it, check out this great fan footage taken from behind the Ranger bench.

Awesome.



And here's the save:



That save, and that goal were as great as any other single play in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs, including Bobby Orr's flying goal, Matteau sending the Devils home in 1994, and fuck it, Bruce Shoebottom's goal for the Boston Bruins in their 1988 playoff run.

Jesus that was a great goal.

People threw their shoes to celebrate.


I can't find the goal, but here's Shoe taking on the Sabres in those same playoffs. Hats off to the announcers in this one- it's true, Bruce Shoebottom would "scare you in a coffee shop."



Shoebottom, by the way, is the only player I know of to both score a goal in an Stanley Cup playoff game, and also be carried off the ice of a minor league playoff game after being pepper sprayed and subdued by anywhere from 2 to 5 policemen.
Attaboy, Shoe.

Attaboy.

Birth of an American Hockey Fan, Finally: It's a Girl!


Cigars and whiskey to all three of you that have followed my four month journey from nascent fan to the Hockey Goliath that types before you now. When Ritch and Ben first approached me back in January with the opportunity to expose my ignorance and open myself up for heckling from random strangers for no pay whatsoever, I thought, well, I'd be a fool not to jump on this. It's been a long and winding road, but I'd like to think the universe has rewarded my devotion to the sport with its own slow whistle, bringing my now-beloved Sabres to the Eastern Conference finals.

Yes, that is what I'm saying. I, Jen Adams, personally brought the Buffalo Sabres to the conference finals. You're welcome.

That's not to say that I don't have a certain amount of gratitude towards Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier, for taking care of the day-to-day mundanities, and for striking a blow for schoolgirl-named men everywhere. Shoutouts also go to the fine folks that have contributed to Wikipedia's hockey slang page, without which the word "Howitzer" would never have made it into my everyday vernacular, and to sportsman extraordinaire the Earl, who, through the measured use of beer and whiskey, patiently watched the seasons change under a relentless barrage of naive-yet-earnest-yet-still-highly-fucking-annoying questions of the "Why is the sky blue?" variety.

And, of course, special thanks to Jack, Ben, and especially Ritch, whose unfailing devotion to that abusive husband he calls a team made me realize that it's not always, or apparently since 1990, the team itself that matters, it's the love of the sport. But that might be the Finals talking.

I'll still keep writing on the site, at least until Ritch finally cracks and changes the password, but from now on, it'll be as a full-fledged Fan, which means I'm 100% open to people wishing to point out my mistakes and call me the kinds of names that aren't applicable to people of Ritch, Ben, and Jack's genitalic persuasion. I would expect nothing less.

Birthing Status: Go Sabres, baby.

Friday, May 04, 2007

1000 words.


AP Photo

So, am I the only Bruins fan-


-who keeps hoping that every time the guys from Versus interview Vancouver assistant coach Rick Bowness on the bench that he will be struck in the face by an errant puck?

For those who don't know, during Bowness' mildly successful season as Head Coach of the '91-'92 Boston Bruins, a puck flew onto the Bruin bench, and hit Bowness right in the face.

It was pretty awesome.

For at least a week after, he appeared behind the bench with a swollen face (even more than usual) and a huge, ugly shiner. For Bruins fans, spoiled by two recent Stanley Cup finals appearances (and not wild about Bowness's performance) it was a rather ugly reminder that Rick didn't seem to be paying too much attention to what was happening on the ice. At an awards dinner later, he was awarded a gift from his players, a helmet with full face mask.

He was replaced after the end of the playoffs, a loss in the third round, which back in those salad days, was considered a huge disappointment.

Interestingly enough, the bench reporter who was interviewing Bowness last night was Billy Jaffe, not Bob Beers, another behind the glass guy for Versus, who I recognized as the career up-and-down from the minors guy who actually played for Bowness's Bruins for about 30 games in the 1991-92 Bruins campaign.

He was immediatley embraced by the Beantown faithful, more for his last name than his play on the ice. Beers only got five assists that season, but you have to admit, hearing a PA announcer say "assisted by Beers" would be entertaining. You know, for 30 games or so.

So here's the question-

Why wasn't Beers the guy interviewing Bowness?

My guess is they're afraid he'd show up for the interview with a full helmet and face mask for his former head coach.

I know I would have.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A disagreement, of sorts


What. The. Fuck.

In deference to last night’s Ranger-Sabres game, I’m not even going to dignify the bullshit second goal call with any sort of pithy, urbane phrasing. I’m not going to dredge up the phrase “in the crease”, I’m not going to blabber about conspiracies or reverse conspiracies like a whiny little Beech (C, WSH) (Come on people, I’m hurting). I’m just going to state it, plainly and simply:

That was a goal.

Or, if you want to be grammatically incorrect about it, as most Rangers fans do:

That was not not a goal.

I knew it. Lundqvist knew it. The commentators knew it. The refs knew it. The only one who didn’t immediately know it was Daniel Briere himself, and that’s only because he’d been summarily ground facefirst into the ice by a Rangers caveman after making the shot. As soon as they showed the video, mankind knew it. And yet, somehow, no goal.

Who was running the replay room? Brett Hull? There’s not a doubt in my mind that if this had gone down on Buffalo territory, there would have been justice. I was too busy lipreading Lindy Ruff following the call (my skills are a tad rusty - who is this Buck character he kept referring to?), but I suspect if they’d miked up any one of the Rangers fans near the replay booth during that interminable call to Toronto, the words “stab” and “kick your ass as you walk to your car on 36th street” would have made more than a cameo appearance. There’s home ice advantage, then there’s home threat advantage.

The real question here is, how can we be relying on one, grainy 30f/s camera angle to decide the playoff fate of a team? There’s higher quality security footage for the cash register at the nacho stand. Why was it possible for me to get biblically intimate with Brendan Shanahan’s missing incisor not five minutes before, yet no one was able to train more than one camera on the actual goal itself? Why can I count every last ginger hair in that sorry thing that Marek Malik is calling a playoff beard, yet the goal footage looks like claymation? This is Madison Square Garden, and the best we can get is one overhead shot, deemed inconclusive because the goalie’s glove got in the way? Did the Versus best boy or key grip not account for the fact that some portion of the goal space would, at some point, be occupied by actual goalie? Why not just cut the one camera out altogether, and we can just sit around the transistor radio and listen to Brian Engblom tell us what happened?

Whatever. I’m over it. More hockey for me. And Jagr, I’d start doubling up on the padding, if I were you. Lindy Ruff didn’t look like he was interested in settling things amicably.