Saturday, May 2, 2009

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Thoughts

I've been enjoying the Bruins too much lately to write anything about them. There's not much to say, but there are a few things.
  • Dennis Wideman hasn't looked the same since missing a game with an undisclosed injury back in the beginning of the month. He's still one of our most solid defensemen, as he has been all year, but Wides hasn't shown the same offense and in the past few games has made mistakes that belong back in the 2007-2008 season. Since he missed that game I've been suspicious that the injury was never resolved completely, but that the Bruins couldn't afford another top defenseman going down. The reduced offense from Wides could also be a result of the pairings, as he's not going to be able to take many risks if he's paired with a rookie. If that rookie is Matt Hunwick, as it has been a lot, then he's often forced into being the more conservative partner. No matter what his problem is, the return of Andrew Ference will help it, whether it means Wides taking a game off or just being paired more appropriately. Andrew would be fantastic with Hunwick, and seeing as all the de but Chara have been struggling a bit lately, his return will help everyone.
  • I was at both the Toronto and the Carolina game. While David Krejci's phenomenal hat trick and the B's offensive explosion cancelled out the terrible feeling we all had when Marco Sturm was hurt again, nothing could ease our minds after Patrice went down, and the Garden had a strange feeling for the whole game. Patrice was just getting his form back, at least physically, and now he has another concussion. Even if he's not out for long, this could be a major mental setback for him.
  • Tim Thomas should have started the St. Louis game. This may be the first real complaint I've had with Julien's coaching all year. Keep it up, Claude. But start Timmy.
  • Jack Edwards' announcing has gotten increasingly ridiculous, likely because as the Bruins keep winning he gets increasingly enthusiastic. He also has a very obvious crush on David Krejci, but I think at this point we all do (this includes Blake Wheeler). Besides the entire Dallas brawl game, the following was my favorite Jack and Brick moment of the year:
Jack: Say, what do you call the five-hole when it closes? The five-not-hole?
Brick: [pause] A save.
  • The Bruins are making it look so very easy. It's a new and welcome experience to see the Bruins do things right. That's really all it is. They're playing in a way that leads to wins. Again, this is very new. I wish I could say more, such as going into detail about what they're doing right, but I'm in shock and all I think about is how they're now leading the league in goal differential. Over San Jose. The Bruins.
  • What the hell is up with the Canucks? They not only don't suck, but they've actually played well enough to bait and hook Mats Sundin. I had no idea they were playing this well, and I live in Vancouver. Those fans need to get a little more feisty, though I guess they've never had much to be feisty about. I know it's blasphemous to say anything negative about Trevor Linden, and I'm not bashing him, but the worship he gets from Canucks fans is like a normal person encountering some isolated tribe of people and being called a god because he has a wristwatch. Linden's a classy player deserving of respect, but only on a team with so little history or character would he be considered a legend.

In honor of going to the games, my friend and I made a soundtrack for this year's Bruins team. Here is a sample in case you want your holidays to be full of Boston cheer.
  • Aaron "AawkWard" Ward: "If You Want It To Be Good Girl" by the Backstreet Boys, because he thinks he's tough but is about as effective as Nick Carter.
  • Zdeno "Charizard" Chara: "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred. Just picture it.
  • Claude and Wides: "Our Song" by Taylor Swift, because we suspect they listen to it when they're alone together.
  • Andrew Ference: "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye. When he returns from injury it will become "Let's Get It On". The reason is his face. Yowza.
  • Shane "The Hman" Hnidy and Mark Stuart: "An Honest Mistake" by The Bravery, because they put in an honest effort and together come out only with honest mistakes.
  • Matt Hunwick: "Miss New Booty" by Bubba Sparxx
  • Jack Edwards and David "The Kretch" Krejci: "Cupid's Chokehold" by Gym Class Heroes, because it captures the nature of their love.
  • Manny Fernandez: "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee, because I refuse to believe he's not actually latino.
  • Michael Ryder: "Summer Love" by Justin Timberlake
  • PJ Axelsson: "Take on Me" by A-ha, because he is an awkward but loveable Swede.
  • Blake Wheeler and David Krejci ("Wheeler and the Kretch", also an excellent name for a sitcom): "U+Me=Us" by 2Gether, because I like their calculus.
  • Tim Thomas: "Rock Lobster" by B-52's, because he is inexplicable and all goalies look like crabs.
One more game til the holiday break. Hope both are merry!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Milan Lucic Makes the Habs Our Bitch

I don't know what they put in the Bruins' water, but I want to thank whoever did it (my guess: Tim Thomas). It's hard to articulate quite how happy the B's 6-1 win over Montreal made me, mostly because I'm not used to the Bruins making me happy. Seeing as the last time they made the Stanley Cup finals was right around my first birthday, I've only ever known the terrible, disappointing, lackluster Bruins that seemed to suck the life out of any player unlucky enough to be stuck in the black and gold. Not that I'm bitter about this. No, everyone is bitter about this.
That being said, how quickly was all of it forgiven in last year's playoffs? My mantra for...well, my entire life, has been "I hate the Bruins", but after a few wins in a losing series we're suddenly on good terms again. There are many, many people in Boston who didn't even bother hating them- they gave up, instead just waiting for them to be good again. Even they're coming back, though we're all tentative. When the team blew a 2-0 lead to lose to the Leafs on October 23, I assumed they had just been leading us on, and this was the inevitable let down. I defaulted to hating them again. Since then they've won 8 of 9 games, which...exceeded expectations? That's not the Bruins I know and hate.
You can argue that a lot of things brought about this change- good coaching, better trades, actually spending money on players- but all of those will go back to one major difference: these Bruins care. Just a few years ago, Tim Thomas was the only player on the team willing to do anything to win. This year, everything just clicked, sparked by Milan Lucic and his violently passionate play. The players are oozing with character, from Lucic down to the fourth line, to Andrew Ference on the blue line, and all the way back to Thomas. And that's the difference. Maybe it's due to more than just Milan, but all of the reasons that the Bruins lead the division go back to the fact that they look like a real team. They've not only made other teams look bad in terms of execution, but also in terms of heart, causing every announcer to comment on how "flat" their opponents look. Yes, they're on a hot streak right now, but it's hard to be cautious about falling for this team. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to do so, and I'm not holding back. Hopefully the city of Boston feels the same way, because if they get passionate about hockey again, it'll be nearly impossible for the Bruins to stop caring.

Quick notes
  • Andrew Ference (officially my favorite Bruin) injured himself on a blocked shot and won't be traveling with the team on this upcoming trip. In his press conference, Claude Julien made it clear he's a few choked up cries of "Why?!" away from being as upset about this as I am. I have to say, Julien has really impressed me this year handling players, in that it's been exactly how I would. Rabidly praising Ference whenever possible? Rewarding Petteri "Angry Finn" Nokelainan for his effectiveness and work ethic? Finally limiting Aaron Ward's ice time? Yes sir.
  • Andy Brickley and Jack Edwards (who I'm convinced is on some kind of uppers) were wondering what the whole thing with Milan and Mike Komisarek was about. I've been told that last year Komisarek made fun of Milan for having a hunchback. Can't be sure whether this started it or was just another chapter, but we can be sure that it was a big, big mistake on Komisarek's part, and also that Milan is well on his way to being a Boston legend. Maybe the best part of the video of the event is Phil Kessel laughing to himself at the end as Milan has his psychotic episode (or as Edwards called it, "boyish enthusiasm").
  • Remember to vote Milan, Ference, and, of course, Tim Thomas into the All-Star Game.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tim Thomas

I was lucky enough to go to the Bruins/Cancucks game in Vancouver a few weeks ago. The win was nice, but it was a typical 1-0 game in that not much actually happened. Even Milan Lucic couldn't start something, though not for lack of effort (damn Bieksa). Tim Thomas was legitimately terrifying for the whole game, making me think that maybe people were right about his value as a goaltender. Looking back, though, the only thing in the entire game that made me stand up and cheer was his amazing save in the third period, and this is completely ignoring the fact that it was his second shutout in two nights. If he had let in a single goal in either game the Bruins may not have won.
It's nerve-wracking to watch him sometimes, but not only is he the biggest reason the Bruins have won any games in the past few years, he's also very often the only interesting thing on the ice. We love Tim Thomas, and he is an All-Star. Vote Timmy!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

2008-2009 Predicted Standings

Eastern Conference
  1. Montreal
  2. Washington
  3. NY Rangers
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Buffalo
  6. Tampa Bay
  7. Boston
  8. Philadelphia
  9. Ottawa
  10. New Jersey
  11. Carolina
  12. Florida
  13. NY Islanders
  14. Atlanta
  15. Toronto
Western Conference
  1. Detroit
  2. San Jose
  3. Calgary
  4. Anaheim
  5. Dallas
  6. Colorado
  7. Chicago
  8. Edmonton
  9. Columbus
  10. Minnesota
  11. Phoenix
  12. St. Louis
  13. Nashville
  14. Vancouver
  15. Los Angeles
I won't go into too much detail about my methodology (highly scientific, much too complicated), but I will explain a few things.
  • I've been waiting a while for New Jersey's success to disintegrate, and clearly I'm pegging this as the year. In all likelihoods they'll sneak into the playoffs yet again, losing in the first round to a far, far superior team, but what little glimmer of hope I have that the Devils will fail is all I need.
  • Maybe it's because I've only ever predicted the playoffs, where goaltending is huge, but starting goalies were a pretty big factor in these picks. Ottawa and Columbus's skaters, for instance, are of vastly different quality, but vastly different qualities of goaltenders puts them both at 9th.
  • The possibility of trades was never considered with any team. Unless they're done early in the season, I don't believe they dramatically alter a team's position in the standings.
  • Personal biases were considered with pretty much every team. For instance, I claim goaltending is a huge factor, yet the only reason I put the Canucks as high as 14th is that the Kings are too disasterous to be anything but dead last. This is because I live in Vancouver.
Here's hoping the Bruins and Avs bump themselves up, and that someone bumps off both first place teams.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Shaughnessy's Remarks Are Sad

I usually read mainstream sports articles only for recaps, quotes from players, or other bits of information I need. Especially with the writers we have covering the Red Sox in Boston, anything outside of that feels like a gossip column- sensationalist, idiotic, unimportant and self-important fluff. Ninety percent of the time, it's not even worth getting upset about.

Then there's the other ten percent. His name is Dan Shaughnessy.
Those air sickness bags come in handy sometimes. Flying coast to coast, you cram into your coach seat (like John Glenn in Mercury 1), open the paper to read Manny Ramírez's latest remarks, and you need the barf bag before you're over Kansas.
Quick show of hands here. Which person do you feel worse for- Shaughnessy for being stuck in a coach seat (from the sound of it, literally), or his seatmate for being stuck next to Shaughnessy? We can only hope that the poor guy had a soft spot for nauseas panderers, or at least that he had some way to entertain himself.

But this article ("Ramirez's remarks are sad") isn't about Dan Shaugnessy's numerous personal hardships, or about getting back at Manny for hating on the Boston sports media. It's about the fans, who should be enraged at the unbelievably pompous way Manny has taken them for granted.
We know what he thinks of you. He thinks all you Sox fans are losers who need to get a life. You just care too darn much. It doesn't matter how much love you showered on his head. You bothered him with all that caring.
It's a horrifically disrespectful, completely unwarranted, and almost painfully delusional thing to say. For Shaughnessy, that is, because Manny didn't actually say that. He said this.
"It's just a different atmosphere. The fans in Boston got your back no matter what, but I'm talking about the people who write all this bull because it means so much to them. If your happiness depends on Boston winning or losing, you have to get a life."
This was quoted in Shaughnessy's article. It was his "favorite part of the rant". If he expects to pull off that sort of blatant misrepresentation, it should be clear to Sox fans who really thinks they're losers. I know- it isn't worth getting upset over something so crassly manipulative, and even hypocritical to respond so cruelly. But in this article, Shaughnessy almost perfectly demonstrates what's so wrong about most sports writers. They don't care about sports.

A fan is someone who wants their team to win. They watch the game from their team's perspective. They root for offense when their team is batting and defense when their team is fielding. They always see calls in their team's favor, however irrationally. They love players that help their team win and hate players that help their team lose. Behind all of that there's a passion that causes them emotional trauma and ecstasy but can never be extinguished or satisfied.

A good sports writer is someone whose writing is relatable to fans, not because he also has to fly coach, or is also overweight, or also failed either history or math in high school (there was no Mercury 1), but because he is also driven by that same passion. I don't know what Shaughnessy's driven by (greed, fame, totally distorted self-image), but I don't really care. He said all he needs to when he tried to prove why Manny was actually talking about the fans.
He's right about some of this. There certainly are people in Boston whose happiness is connected to the Sox' fortunes. But it's not the "people who write this bull." Trust me when I tell you that Sox wins and losses have zero bearing on my happiness.
Real fans of the Red Sox shouldn't be reading someone who admits to not caring about the team (someone who would be happier with the Sox losing if it gave him something to write about), and maybe real fans don't. CHB is pretty universally hated by anyone even mildly familiar with Boston sports media, and it'd be nice to think that at least these people are intelligent enough to form their own opinions on issues surrounding the team. But there's no denying that a mass exists that lets itself and its passion for their team be poisoned by all the negativity we're being bombarded with.

Professional sports aren't all hugs and sunshine and unicorns, and I'm neither defending Manny nor claiming anything he says actually makes sense. But I've let it go. That's the result a lot of people want from this situation, and soon. Manny puts it well.
"Just let me be happy someplace else."
Yeah, he's still talking about it, but Shaughnessy isn't exactly convincing with his "give it up, Manny" routine. He's the one still reporting it, "reluctantly" or not. The Sox are in the playoffs. We just won our first game against the best team in the league. We get to look at Jacoby Ellsbury almost every day. And Manny is having a good time, too. Instead of letting us be happy, Shaughnessy fabricates insults to incite the rage of Boston fans, and while he may be the worst with this, it's not just him. I'm just tired of the hyenas that cover the team I love, and I wish there were more of those writers whose passion is their team and not their ego.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Avs Season Preview

Goaltenders: Peter Budaj, Andrew Raycroft

Defensemen: Adam Foote, J-M Liles, Scott Hannan, Ruslan Salei, Jordan Leopold, Brett Clark, Kyle Cumiskey, Daniel Tjarnqvist

Forwards: Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny, Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, Tyler Arnason, Ian Laperriere, Ben Guite, Darcy Tucket, David Jones, TJ Hensick, Scott Parker, Cody McLeod, Cody McCormick

Before we get started on this, I have to admit that it takes effort to feel good about this season in Colorado. Lined up side-by-side with the Bruins, the Avs don't seem to be in very bad shape. Their goaltending situation isn't that much worse, their offense isn't that much thinner, and there's no one in their division that strikes immediate fear in my heart. It just seems worse because of the way last season went. Usually the Bruins are the ones with the potential they never live up to and the Avs are the powerhouse that deservingly has our faith. While the roles aren't reversed exactly, they have switched a bit. To overcome the holes in their lineups, both of them have to come together as a team and work for it. For once, that sounds more like the Bruins. It's funny what one season can do.
Anyway, here's how the Avs are looking going into 2008-2009.

Stopping Goals
There's reason to be nervous about the goaltending situation on the Avs. With Jose Theodore gone, they're relying entirely on Peter Budaj. He's shown in the past that he can thrive in a starter's role, but he's never had to do it for the entire season. If he hits a rough patch, Andrew Raycroft isn't exactly the rock they need to pick up the pieces. God knows Boodz can come through, but if he doesn't then the season is lost. Gulp.
The defense is another story. Wow. Can I just say wow and leave it at that? Where's the weak link? There's not a guy in our top six that would be out of place in a top pairing. Barring injury, the Avs defense can make up for a lot of weaknesses at both ends of the ice.
In last year's playoffs, the Avs were most (or only) effective when the forwards were very aggressive defensively. The defensemen can- and need to- play their minds out, but if the forwards slack off in their own zone, they'll be spending most of the game there.

Scoring Goals
I'm curious to see how the offense will shape up. It can actually end up looking pretty good if the right people have good years, such as Marek Svatos. If he plays like a top-sixer, they'll have two solid lines, one excellent checking line, and an energy line that can fill in the gaps (I'd like to see Jones and Hensick there). However, if any of the top six forwards are injured or go through serious slumps, there aren't really any good replacements for them. Considering who's on the top two lines, this makes me very nervous.
Like the forwards have to play well defensively, the defensemen have to play well offensively. There's no way the power play can be as terrible as it was last year, and while most of that will have to do with coaching, it will also hinge on players like J-M Liles, Jordan Leopold, and Ruslan Salei. The Avs should use their speed and smart defensemen to dominate teams on the transition. If your players alone can't put the other team on their heels, then your plays should.

That's really the key to the Avs this year- playing more cohesively. They have the heart players to spark the effort, but they need a coach that can focus it. It's also vital that Boodz comes up big, that no one on the top two lines is injured or slumping for an extended period of time, that the defense plays phenomenally in all three zones, and that special teams are at least good enough not to cost them games. If they do all that, they can be a pretty solid playoff team. There's a lot to be optimistic about, but there's even more that can go wrong, and for the first time in a while it seems more likely than not that it will.
Add to Technorati Favorites