Friday, December 24, 2010

Steve Rushin on Hockey for Sports Illustrated

Been quite a while since I've posted to this blog (as online writing efforts have been directed here), but recently came across an excellent piece of hockey writing.

From the Sports Illustrated website (maybe just even the mobile version of SI based on the link), was "Hooked on Hockey Again" by Steve Rushin. He's a solid writer and while short, the piece captures some of the elements of tradition I find endearing as well around the game.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs - On To Round Two

Interesting stuff out of the first round of the playoffs. To whit...

Western Conference

#1 San Jose Sharks def. #8 Colorado Avalanche 4 games to 2
Very compelling series for me as a Sharks fan. Best way to describe it is I'm pleased as punch with how San Jose dealt with adversity (in the form of unlucky bounces and great Colorado goaltending) and kept plugging away. I am a bit nervous at how bad the team's presumed best player in Joe Thornton looked, but was thrilled to see Joe Pavelski play so well. To the end, I also think about the absolute monster goal he scored in OT of game 4 to knot up the series at 2. If Colorado takes that game, there's a lot of ways for them to win the series with a 3-1 lead. However, they didn't, he did, and the better team moved on.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks def. #7 Nashville Predators 4 games to 2
Not much to say... I think the better team won and while it's true that Nashville came within 20 seconds of taking a 3-2 series lead, I suspect Chicago would have still found a way to win in 7 games.

#3 Vancouver Canucks def. #6 Los Angeles Kings 4 games to 2
The Kings have a good young team and played pretty well, but similar to the Chicago series, the better of the two teams moved on.

#5 Detroit Red Wings def. #4 Phoenix Coyotes 4 games to 3
Differered from the other three Western Conference series in that it went the full 7 games, but similiar in that the more skilled and playoff tested team just proved too much for their opponent.

Eastern Conference

#8 Montreal Canadiens def. #1 Washington Capitals 4 games to 3
Wow, an 8 seed being down 3 games to 1 and coming back to win the series. Amazing stuff that gets perhaps less amazing when you consider they did it through crazy good goaltending from Jaroslav Halak. An average of 45 shots a game in these three with... 3 goals allowed, that's pretty good.

# 7 Philadelphia Flyers def. #2 New Jersey Devils 4 games to 1
The only one of the 8 series to end in less than 6 games... and pretty much everyone would have thought the winner of a short series here would be the Devils. Happy it wasn't though as I'm much more interested in watching the Flyers in round two than I would be New Jersey.

#6 Boston Bruins def. #3 Buffalo Sabres 4 games to 2
Great goaltending beats... great goaltending. Not much more to say as I didn't watch a lot of this one (and none of the Flyers-Devils series which didn't have any coverage on Versus), but I do like the idea of the Canadiens, Flyers and Bruins as steep in history teams advancing.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins def. #5 Ottawa Senators 4 games to 2
Very much like each of the 4 series in the West, the better team just proved too much for a pretty game opponent. Actually, the only Eastern series in which the higher seed (and presumably better team) wound up winning. Also, that Sidney Crosby... he's good.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vancouver Olympics Men's Hockey - All Done

Just for posterity's sake (because I liked writing and want to keep track of it)... linking here to a post I wrote after Canada won in OT against the U.S. in the Gold Medal hockey game...

Chip Kelly Oregon Ducks Piece from CNNSI

This of course isn't hockey-related, but I've posted football stuff on this blog previously so when I think about linking here to a story about my beloved Oregon Ducks football, I say "why the heck not?"

The Ducks have been very much in the news lately with multiple players arrested for various legal transgressions (and at least one already booted off the team)... and now there's news about the two most acclaimed current Duck players, Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James. James suspending for a game and (Heisman hopeful QB) Masoli for the entire season.

The extent of my knowledge about each case has been (and for the most part still is) limited to knowing that Masoli plead guilty to a charge of felony (reduced to a misdemeanor with his plea) burglary with the theft of a laptop and James plead guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge after an incident with an ex-girlfriend.

This being said, I had no huge opinion about each case except for how they both relate to my twin views I have about (1) athletes on the teams I follow and (2) what I want from said teams followed.

The first is that I recognize that because someone plays for "my team", it does not make them a good guy... some people are just plain bad guys (see: Phillips, Lawrence who played for the 49ers among other teams). Because they're on my team, I don't have to have any illusions that they're somehow a cut above any "riff-raff types who play on teams I don't root for".

The second view is in a way contradictory, but... not really. When I think about my fandom for a given team, it's great for me to think that "my guys" might win a Stanley Cup/World Series/BCS Title, but the more important thing to me is that I be entertained and happy when I'm paying attention.

Yes, part of being entertained is certainly having a good team that's headed towards a championship goal, but part is also my not feeling embarrassed about the guys who are on the field. It's one thing entirely to know that everyone I want to succeed isn't someone I personally admire, but would be another to think that someones skill level gives them a completely different set of rules than apply to the rest of the team (see: Phillips, Lawrence and his Nebraska Cornhusker playing time after a bevy of domestic violence episodes). Basically, all I ask of the players on teams I support is that they try hard, live up to (or exceed) abilities and don't embarrass me to cheer for them... basically, entertain me.

Back to the issue at hand with said Oregon Ducks... I'm certainly not saying Masoli and James are bad dudes, in fact they may be great upstanding guys, but am saying that they have to be held to the same standards that would apply to less skilled players... with those standards hopefully being ones that would cause the University or fans that cheer for it's teams to not be embarrassed. It's not that I cheer the suspension of either (with Masoli's of course having more impact), but I am happy that Athletic Director Mike Bellotti and Head Coach Chip Kelly (with I imagine the input of University President Richard Lariviere) made decisions that don't seem to simply pander to the talent and potential for success on the field.

All of this said... I agree completely with (and enjoyed reading) Andy Staples from his tongue in cheek titled "Coach's decision a head-turner" on CNNSI. Solid.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vancouver Olympics Men's Hockey - U.S. & Canada Advance

Not to take anything away from Finland's defeat of the Czech Republic or the Sweden-Slovakia game going on now, but man... those victories by first the U.S. and then Canada were interesting today.

The U.S. game stood out to me not because of the high number of American shots on goal (44) or yet another great game from Ryan Miller (this a 2-0 shutout), but because of the reckless abandon with with the U.S. players blocked shots. It seemed to be a "no, I want to get in front of this one" contest with every member of the team sacrificing their body to help get the win. Impressive stuff.


Speaking of impressive stuff... that Team Canada offensive really hit it's (fully anticipated) stride against Russia. Six goals against Evgeni Nabokov (who didn't have a good game) and one more against Ilya Bryzgalov should be enough to get the win, and it was to the tune of 7-3. While he may not get a lot of accolades from the game, Roberto Luongo deserves notice for his keeping Canada off the board during an early first period power play with probably five to six shots against him. If Russia scores early, perhaps their offense really starts rolling.

So... on to the Semifinals for both teams. The U.S. will face a Finland team led by goalie Mikka Kiprusoff and Canada either Slovakia or Sweden (a Gold Medal pick of more than a few people). Hopefully the Americans and Canadians both advance to what would be a highly anticipated (and hopefully shown live on NBC) Olympic Final.

The odds of the U.S. beating Canada twice in the same tournament wouldn't be good, but then... they don't have to be in order for it to still happen.

NBC U.S. Olympic Hockey West Coast Coverage

U.S. vs Switzerland today in the Men's Hockey Olympic quarterfinals... on NBC... TAPE DELAYED ON THE WEST COAST.

I learned from this story on Puck Daddy at Yahoo! Sports and then went out to the NBC website for this information (noted below):

Time (PT)

3:00p - 5:00p
NBC Bay Area
Daytime After posting a stunning 5-3 upset of Canada on Sunday, Ryan Miller and Team USA return to the ice to take on Switzerland for a spot in Hockey's semifinals.

4:00p - 7:00p

Men's Hockey After losing to Team USA, 5-3, on Sunday, Sidney Crosby and Canada bounced back with an 8-2 win over Germany on Tuesday. Now Crosby and the home-ice favorites take on Alexander Ovechkin and Russsia for a spot in the semifinal round.

7:00p - 9:30p

Men's Hockey In the day's third elimination game, Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic square off against Finland for a spot in the semifinal round.

9:30p - 11:30p
Men's Hockey The fourth and final semifinal spot is on the line in the day's last win-or-go-home contest. Sweden and Slovakia square off live as Olympic Hockey continues.


US game being aired at 3:00PST after it's already completed and then the Canada game at 4:00PST. Yea, I'm sure for those hockey fans without DVRs, they wouldn't want to see both the US and Canada game... right.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Projected Olympic Hockey Tournament Matchups

Wondering about potential quarterfinal matchups for the Men's Olympic Hockey, I went out onto my good friend the Internet and found this detailed bracket at On the Forecheck... which I came across at From the Rink.

Here's the upshot as of right now with Sweden having a (presumably) commanding 3-0 lead in their game against Finland (assuming everything is correct on the aforementioned sites and I have no reason to think it's not)...

Big assumption: nothing shocking (you know, shocking to the level of say... the US beating Canada today) happens in the Playoff Qualifier games that will happen Tuesday and precede the Wednesday quarterfinal games.

NoonPST - U.S. vs Switzerland: the U.S. would certainly be favored, but as the San Jose Sharks found out last year... Jonas Hiller can play well in net, and in this case, it would be for Switzerland rather than the Anaheim Ducks.

4:30PST - Russia vs Canada: Uhhh... that sounds like a good game, and in a quarterfinal! Here's to not expecting to see Martin Brodeur back in net.

7:00 or 9:00PST - Sweden vs Slovokia

7:00 or 9:00PST - Czech Republic vs Finland

Winners of these games would then meet in the Friday semifinals... which might look like this:

NoonPST - U.S. vs Czech/Finland winner

6:30PST - Sweden vs Canada/Russia winner

Wow, that one game today make a world of difference for both the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. with a very advantageous draw going forward and Canada with... the exactly opposite.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Video of Building a Backyard Rink

Came across this video a few days ago linked from a post on Puck Daddy at Yahoo! Sports and while I found the time-lapse photographs to be a bit difficult on the eyes to watch, I sure did love the result at the latter part of the video...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Myth of Money in the Bank Goaltenders

As we're at around the 2/3 mark of the regular season, it's about that time to hone in on the favorite reason that fans think their respective teams won't win the Stanley Cup this year... goaltending.

Unless someone is a fan of the New Jersey Devils (with Martin Brodeur in net), Vancouver Canucks (Roberto Luongo tending goal) or Buffalo Sabres (where Ryan Miller is having an MVP caliber year), people should be afraid of their goaltending... but there's not much to be done about it.

Reality is goaltending is a crapshoot... you can have an excellent goalie, but you really don't know how anyone is going to perform in the playoffs until they're upon us. Additionally, there's that whole thing about how you've got to win four series to take the Cup... a long time for any goalie to play at a top level.

One interesting thing I've seen lately is criticism of the Blackhawks goaltending going into the playoffs... with statements of late from Jeremy Roenick and now a Ross McKeon piece for Yahoo! Sports. Reality, though, is the Blackhawks have the 2nd lowest goals against average in the league.

Someone can say that's it's not guarenteed that either Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi are going to be able to perform at the level needed throughout the playoffs, but how can fans of any team (including even the Devils, Canucks or Sabres) feel that elite level playoff goaltending is guaranteed?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

NHL on NBC - Expanding the Game... Or Not

Here's an interesting question to ponder... what exactly is the point of NBC broadcasting NHL games (as the first post-Winter Classic game of the year was shown today between Detroit and Chicago)?

Is it to cater to dedicated hockey fans? Well, me thinks these folk get their fix of the game through either their local team coverage (unless of course they live in Phoenix or some other city where many local team games aren't televised) NHL Center Ice, NHL Network or Versus (unless of course, they have Direct TV).

So... that would say that this zero rights fee paying arrangement between NBC and the NHL is for the purpose of reaching out to the casual fan. What's the best time to broadcast to that casual sports loving and male demographic skewing fan base? Why, during the exact same time that the NFL Conference Semifinals are on! I guess the league and NBC figured that the casual hockey fan would have no interest in the NFL playoffs... similar to the way coverage of puppies playing is broadcast on Animal Planet opposite the Super Bowl.

And for those few casual fans who happen across the hockey game, here's a great way to draw them in... show highlights of the game as the play is going on live, have the announcer say that a goal was scored and... keep showing the original highlight for a while longer prior to coverage of the not-shown live goal.

Nice. Reminds me of how a few years ago NBC cut away from overtime of a Stanley Cup Playoff game to start in on Preakness pre-race coverage.

Really a great way to grow the sport... or not.

Good Goal - Terrible D - Hilarious Commentary

Wow, such a great highlight... on multiple levels.

Saw this from the blog post "Video: Defense is hard to come by in the ECHL" on Puck Daddy at Yahoo! Sports.

As the title indicates, the defense is laughable, but frankly, so is the commentary on the second go-round (that being the "Goal of the Night from Cialis"... which provides additional mirth) of the highlight below. Love when announcers chat with one another as if they forgot they're on camera.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

U.S. Wins 2010 World Junior Championship

Man, what a game that was a few days ago between the U.S. and Canada for the World Junior Championships Gold Medal.

As happened during their New Year's Eve opening round game, Canada came back from a two goal 3rd period deficit to reach overtime. This time it was different result...

From his CNNSI piece "Character is golden for Team USA in World Junior Championship", Alan Muir wrote of both the magnitude of the win for the U.S. (their first... and Canada's first non-gold in the tournament since 2004) and how the game played itself out tactically.

Keeping in mind that it's the players on the ice who win or loss, two coaches decisions factored heavily into the outcome. The first was from US Coach Dean Blais who replaced Mike Lee with Jack Campbell in goal for U.S. once Canada scored to make the score 3-3. The second was from Canada Coach Willie Desjardins who replaced starting goalie Jake Allen with Martin Jones once the U.S. pulled out to a 5-3 lead.

The U.S. certainly deserved the win, but it earlier action from Desjardins may well have made the difference. This is conjecture, though, as it played out as it did and the U.S. was victorious. Reminds me in a way of how people don't talk a lot about the decision by Soviet Union Coach Viktor Tikhonov to pull Vladislav Tretiak in their 1980 Olympic Gold Medal game vs the U.S. He did... and the Miracle on Ice then followed.

Lots of lots of additional World Junior Championship coverage included a large video library can be found on the TSN World Juniors microsite.

Next year the tournament is in Buffalo and hopefully the U.S. fans can provide the same support for the home team that the Canadians showed. Course, Toronto is pretty close to Buffalo...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gilbert Arenas Indefinite Suspension

Obviously this isn't a hockey related post, but I'm just saying... if I was Gilbert Arenas and had apparently broken Washington DC laws and NBA rules by bring guns (unloaded) into the locker room, I wouldn't then do this...

Apparently league commissioner David Stern is of my mind on this... quote below from the Yahoo! Sports story "Breaking news: Gilbert Arenas suspended indefinitely."

"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."

Also, very interesting quote then put out by the Wizards organization (from the same Yahoo! story)...

"We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas. Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert's recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert's behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin's leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pond Hockey Movie

Watched the documentary movie Pond Hockey on NHL Network the other day and found it to be well done and interesting.

It was split roughly 50/50 between interviews with hockey people and coverage of the US Pond Hockey Championships held annually in Minnesota.

The hockey folk included Wayne Gretzky, Neal Broten and Jack Falla (the late hockey writer that I previously posted about)... and I posted here about the aforementioned pond hockey tournament.

This said, Pond Hockey the movie was a cool look at this side of the game and below is a trailer from the movie website...