Sunday, I was at the last regular season home game, and the Avalanche were losing, 2-0. At the second intermission, I went to the cupcake stand on the club level (yes, I know, fancy), and got a Red Velvet cupcake. My podcasting partner, Jay Vean, put out this tweet:
Eighteen seconds into the third period, Ryan O’Reilly scored. Then they scored again. The Avs would eventually lose in the shootout. But still, a cupcake and a comeback. I’ll take it.
So if you want to have a little fun (and contrary to what the internet will tell you, hockey should be fun) and it’s in your wheelhouse, come along for #CupcakeStrong. Get a cupcake, ready it up, and eat it when the team is down. Who knows, we could make some magic happen.
Note: I’m biased towards Red Velvet cupcakes, and will be having mini-cupcakes. You can do what you want.
The Avs are out of the playoffs. They were out before they even stepped foot on the ice at the beginning of the season. The playoffs start in less than an hour, and I have to pull for someone. Here are the teams I am hoping do well in the first round.
Chicago vs. Minnesota: Chicago
This is ‘the team that did well in the regular season’ vs. ‘the team that paid to do well’. Everything may reset at the start of the playoffs, but they dominated in the regular season, and earned my respect. And they are GENERALLY a pretty clean team. Go Blackhawks!
Detroit vs. Anaheim: Anaheim
I will NEVER root for the Red Wings. Go Ducks!
Vancouver vs. San Jose: San Jose
I will NEVER root for the Canucks. Go Sharks!
St. Louis vs Los Angeles: St. Louis
If the Kings hadn’t won it all last year, this would be a lot harder. I wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat Cup winner, but St. Louis has been through a lot. It’s time for them to have some success. Go Blues!
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh: New York Islanders
It’s time for the die-hard fans to get their due. They deserve it. Go Isles!
Ottawa vs. Montreal: Montreal
This is a tough one. I’d say I’m 51-49 in favor of Montreal. I just feel slightly more connected to them. Go Habs!
New York Rangers vs. Washington: Washington
I don’t care all that much about this series, but it’s usually a good match-up. I’m enjoying seeing Ovechkin stick it to his critics (including myself). Go Caps!
Toronto vs. Bruins: Toronto
In nearly every other matchup, I would have picked the Bruins (maybe not against the Islanders). Here, I want to see Toronto do well. If only Dion Phaneuf didn’t play for them. Oh well, no one is perfect. Go Leafs!
Think I should pull for someone else? The comments are open, try to sway me. Killing me with kindness is better than the other way around.
The NAHL Robertson Cup gamse are being held in Frisco, TX, and I happen to be here. There isn’t a lot to say about the games, mostly because I don’t know the teams or players well. But I did want to throw some photos up for you to enjoy.
The Robertson Cup format is a bit like the Memorial Cup of the CHL. 6 teams (5 division winners and the host city team) are invited, play a round robin, and the top 4 go to the semifinals. Those were today.
I will say that the first period of the first game (St. Louis Bandits vs. the Amarillo Bulls) was some of the hardest hitting hockey I have ever seen, while the overtime period of the last game (Texas Tornadoes vs. the Fairbanks Ice Dogs) was some of the sloppiest hockey I have ever seen. And the Tuesday final game should be a good time.
On to the photos:
This is what they are playing for. No, it’s’ not as pretty as the Stanley Cup (note some of the dents on the top), but it’s what they have, and it’s what they are playing for.
First up, some of the images from the St. Louis vs Amarillo game. The players for Amarillo had these blonde mohawks that looked…. douchy. I have no other way of describing it.
I didn’t have a favorite team, but between the mohawks and the fans constantly beating on the glass, I was pulling for St. Louis pretty early.
They used pucks and rings to make the most noise possible. This guy was double-fisting it.
Scary moment when a big check kept one of the Bulls players on the ice for a while. He eventually skated to the bench, and played a shift soon after, which drew heckling from the St. Louis bench.
St. Louis pulled it off, ending the Bulls season.
Lots of sad faces. Oh well, on to the next game.
I got very few pictures of the second game, as I was talking to a guy who played in the Federal Hockey League. And you don’t pass up a chance to find out how crazy that is. But the Tornado pulled off a surprise victory over Fairbanks in overtime.
Sending the Fairbanks, AK fans home sad.
Also, I’m not a fan of this camera. Back to the other one tomorrow. And… more tomorrow.
I have stated that I am firmly in the bag for Boston. I want them to win, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Does that make me biased? Sure, why not. We’re all biased in one way or another. But what a game for both teams. You don’t get that kind of performance out of two crappy teams.
The problem with working a theater job is that you are often working when people want to be entertained. That’s happens to be the same time that hockey games usually are played. So tonight, while at work, I was keeping an eye on the NHL GameCenter app my iPad for game updates. This is how I watched the first two periods.
Not exactly the most insightful, so I thank all of you who updated on twitter as well. It allowed for more detail that the above graphic. I did get to watch the third period live, so here is what I saw.
– The battles along the boards were great. I felt like this defined the third period more than the play along the center.
– The Bruins were running around at times, in a way that looked like the San Jose Sharks. I do not mean that as a compliment. The Bruins were able to settle down after a bit, but if there’s a dangerous time for the Bruins, it’s when they start running around, chasing the play.
– That said, the Bruins also had a few moments where they looked more like the Red Wings, making short, quick passes that spread out the Canucks forwards when they were in their own zone. That didn’t seem the be the plan when they were in the neutral zone, but that could also be that the Canucks had better coverage. I saw the Canucks collapse around the Bruins forward crossing the blue line with the puck. Hit the line with a few more forwards, and let’s see what happens.
– After all the penalties in the first two periods, a no-hitter in the 3rd isn’t that unusual. But boy is it frustrating sometimes.
– The game winning goal:
Raffi Torres made the expected play, and did it well. Hanson made a good pass that Chara couldn’t cut off (and if he had, we would have seen overtime). But Ryan Kesler made that goal happen. If you watch Versus, you don’t get to see how important the secondary assist can be. But as Kesler skated into the zone, he could have been offside. If your skate is above the blue line when you skate into the zone, and not on the ice making physical contact with the blue line, you’re offside. Kesler was smart, keeping his skate down. Not what you want to do when you possible have a groin injury, but that’s how you win a hockey game. Being smart.
I did get to watch highlights on the NHL Network, so….:
– Alain Vigneault said Hamhuis’s injury is a mid-body injury, after being challenged for an answer he wasn’t going to give. Yes, he said it with a tongue firmly planted in his cheek. It was pretty funny.
– Claude Julien called the biting of Patrice Bergeron a “classless” move. Classless gets thrown around a lot in hockey, probably too much. It’s not a shocking statement these days, and usually ends up being nothing more than spilled ink on newsprint. It’s becoming a term that doesn’t hold much weight anymore. That said, you don’t bite people.
– Someone behind the NHL Network desk in Vancouver has a cutout of Oprah Winfrey with a Canucks jersey on. I think that’s supposed to get someone’s blood boiling. Whoever would get mad at something like that, stay away from me.
– Nice hair, Turco.
OK, that’s it for me for now. This isn’t going to be as easy a series as everyone thinks. If there is an underrated team here, it’s the Bruins. Don’t count them out. After all the celebrating, I don’t think Canucks fans will be.
This is day two of the Stanley Cup Finals Dead Blog Challenge. It’s not too late to join in. Just start writing. Details are here.
Along with the challenge, I’m posting things to help or inspire you to write. Because I sure need it sometimes, and I know other people do as well. Today, it’s a short but powerful tip from Justin Tadlock. Click to find out what it is. Part two is also worth your time. The link to that is under the first tip. Make with the clicky.
(quick grammar note: “Hamhuis’s” looks pretty weird up there, eh? But according to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, that’s what it’s supposed to look like. I’m going with it)
Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals is tonight (Final? Finals? Who cares?), and I’m still steeling myself for it. The previous rounds have been intense, and there is no reason for this round to be any different. Colorado have been firmly out of the playoffs this year since 2009 or so (it seems like it, anyways), and I’ve been cherry-picking who I want to win each round. A little Sharks love here, pulling for the Kings a bit there, maybe even some Capitals when things looked bleak. I will even admit I wanted the Coyotes to win a round, but only one or two. But one team has held firm in my heart this post season: the Boston Bruins.
Last season, the first game of the season to be broadcast nationally was the Bruins vs. the Capitals. At the time, I said I liked the balance of the Bruins, while I liked the forwards on the Caps. And take a look at what happened this year:
The Capitals got more defensive, which solved a few of their problems, but not all.
The Bruins performed some surgery, cutting out what wasn’t working, and retaining what did work.
A huge factor for the Bruins this year was goaltender Tim Thomas, who is my odds on favorite for winning the Vezina this year. If he doesn’t win, something is rotten in Denmark. He’s one of those players that is hard to dislike, unless you were playing against him this season. Last season was a different story, as he struggled in the latter half of the season, and Tuukka Rask easily claimed the starting job. I think I said it before, but I was in Boston for four weeks last season, and Bruins fans were worried. They thought Thomas was washed up, and that GM Peter Chiarelli had made a terrible mistake in signing him to a long term deal. I told those fans to wait and see what next season brought. You didn’t go from winning a Vezina to choking out of the league like that. A little off-season hip surgery, and Timmy is back. And I couldn’t be happier.
(as an aside, I told those fans cautiously to wait, because in the back of my mind, I was thinking about Dave Anderchuk and that he wasn’t picked up by anyone after the lockout. That wouldn’t be that weird, had he not been the first guy to lift the Stanley Cup the last time it had been handed out. In other words, there are no guarantees.)
I mean, I really, REALLY like Tim Thomas. Just look at his play:
I’ve written about my love for Thomas before, and make no apologies for it. I wish he had stayed in the Quebec Nordiques system (they drafted him in 1994, in the 9th round (217th overall)), if only so he could possibly be an Avalanche goalie today, but it’s been better for him that he is where he is, obviously. The way the Avalanche have gone through goalies since the lockout, they are looking to only draft netminders with the last Kleenex.
But Houston, We Have a Problem:
And yet, the Vancouver Canucks are the favorite team in this year’s finals. And I can understand why. They have flash and shine, they are playing like a very complete team, and they look unstoppable. They’ve faltered in the past in these playoffs, but that all looks behind them. The Canucks look like a really good hockey team, which is a problem for me:
I do not like the Vancouver Canucks.
Hey, I’m a Colorado Avalanche fan. It still boggles my mind when people are shocked to find this out. But as an Avs fan, I am contractually obligated to not be a fan of the Canucks. They don’t inspire the kind of loathing in me that the Detroit Red Wings do, but they are still there in my top three most disliked teams. The Steve Moore incident has something to do with it, but even though Todd Bertuzzi has moved on to the Wings (thanks you, Todd), there are other factors. Although Roberto Luongo is a bit underrated sometimes in my opinion, I feel like he earns the label with his on ice dramatics. The Sedins are good players, yet I get sick of them being treated like they are possible clones of Sidney Crosby. Raffi Torres is closer to Dion Phaneuf than anyone else, and boy, am I sick to death of the entitlement that seems to follow this team around.
No other division rival comes close to the way I dislike the Canucks. The Flames were a lot worse with Dion Phaneuf, but they still earn some dislike. The Oilers are the Oilers, and hard to really hate. And the Minnesota Wild are like the Earth in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: mostly harmless. Oh, one of your players scored the last goal on Patrick Roy? Yeah, we’ll take him off your hands for a few years.
The only real conundrum here is that I have friends that are pulling for the Canucks with all their soul. I can’t get behind them on this, but I want them to be happy as well. Something has to give.
I have to get right with the idea that the Vancouver Canucks will probably, one day, win a Stanley Cup. The Red Wings won the Cup a few years ago, and the world didn’t end (even though I was prepared). Considering some of the other goofy teams that have won one, a team as committed as the Canucks are will win it one day. It’s going to happen, and the sooner I accept that, the better off I will be.
I just hope it isn’t this year.
This post is the first in my Stanley Cup Finals Dead Blog Challenge, designed to kickstart myself, and hopefully you as well, into writing more on your blog. If you’ve been lagging behind on your posting, and want to do something about it, check out the challenge here.
As part of the challenge, I will also provide something to help you with your writing, in one way or another. Today’s is from Merlin Mann, who I will refer to and link to a lot in these. Go watch his talk, How to Blog. It’s a little long, and you have to get around some of Mr. Mann’s quirks, but there are some real gems in there. As a blogger, you are doing yourself a disservice by not watching it. And hey, it’s quicker than reading a book on blogging, eh?
(photo was crowdsourced from Twitter, created by @KeithDotson. Thanks, Keith!)
For all the teasing and ribbing, all the bile and anger the fans have thrown, and all the pucks he has collected, Chris Pronger has been something no other player in the Stanley Cup Finals has consistently been: effective. Big hits and big elbows, the occasional post whistle jab mixed in with good positioning and minimizing the effectiveness of the top line from the Chicago Blackhawks, Pronger has been the focus of the Finals in a way usually reserved for Pittsburgh Penguins first round draft picks.
The focus on Pronger has been a boon to his teammates, who are almost invisible after the focus shift when number 20 takes to the ice. When it isn’t the media talking about the match ups, or the fans booing him for every puck possession, it’s the lines of the Blackhawks and when they play that are most affected by his presence. Pronger is owning the finals in a way only a goalie making up for the lackluster play of his team can.
Surprisingly ineffective has been Dustin Byfuglien. While everyone was waiting for Byfuglien to break out of his slump, Pronger was owning the head to head match up with a mixture of skill and pest-like antagonizing. It was the match up everyone was expecting and looking forward to, and it was being dominated by Chris Pronger.
That was, until game five.
Byfuglien finally found his game, along with the rest of his teammates, when Coach Quenneville finally returned to his own style and split up the lines, making the Flyers choose who they should match their defensemen against. That the split hadn’t occurred earlier in the series was shocking to anyone who has seen Coach Q behind the bench for a season.
Byfuglien came out swinging in game five, with two goals and two assists, but it was the big hit that had everyone talking.
Chatting with Jason Cohen on Twitter last night, I started to realize what it was about the hit that made it so significant. Jason wasn’t too impressed by the hit, and I can’t say that I blame him. The hit itself was fun to watch, but not exactly damaging. I’m sure the fans at the United Center didn’t want to see Pronger get up too quickly from the hit. But what the hit wasn’t in it’s violence, it certainly made up for in it’s significance.
Until then, Chris Pronger was a character, a villain who enjoyed playing the role. Not to diminish his effectiveness, but he was surrounded by a certain mythology we have seen before. He was unhittable, an unmovable force to be reckoned with. Much of that mythology had been earned from his previous play.
I liken it to Batman, the DC Comics character. Half of the reason Batman has the upper hand is the fear he instills in the bad guys he fights simply from being who he is. The mask, the darkness, his reputation, it all serves a purpose. He talks about it in the movies and everyone who writes the character references it at some point. It’s his most important tool. He wouldn’t be nearly as effective if he wore a jogging suit and went by the name Larry.
The impact of that hit took away the myth that was surrounding Pronger, and made him look more human. After game five, simply stepping on the ice will not be enough. Pronger will have to earn that mythology back. The post game quotes said it all. This was a person who was looking to scoop his reputation back up into his arms, carry it back to the hotel, and try to nurse it back to health. It was a hit that could have a lasting impact on the series. It’s something a team can rally behind.
Or, to put it another way, this quote from Iron Man 2, spoken by Mickey Rourke, sums things up nicely.
I don’t have a lot to say about tonight’s game between the Blackhawks and the Canucks, other than it was a great time, and an amazing atmosphere for a game. I got some audio from the opening of the game, but I’m not sure if it’s usable, since the people around me were going ape-s#!+ the entire time. This is a city that loves their hockey team, which wasn’t the case a few short years ago.
My seats were great for watching a hockey game, but not so great for taking pictures. This game, though, I was more interested in the game than getting pictures from it. Still, I did get a few.
The United Center is big and imposing form the outside.
This is not this man’s real hair:
The UC is big. Really big.
Warm-ups. It’s always weird when a player is looking in your general direction when you are taking their picture:
The crowd goes wild:
They gave us red towels to waive for the game, but some of them didn’t make it home with their owners after the third Blackhawks goal:
Really, there isn’t a lot to say. You watched the game, right? The short handed goal, the Canuck players bouncing off Byfuglien, it was all it looked like on TV and more.
The Blackhawks would like to remind you that there are only 11 wins until the cup can be theirs.