Thursday, July 5, 2007

Last Post

It's starting to become pretty clear to me that this is done. The main reason is that, for a while, I had nothing to do with hockey. I figured that once next season started, I'd come back to this. But when the free agent signings (Smytty as an Av is freaking me out) brought me back even sooner and I still couldn't find a way to write, I knew it was done. With college (UBC) a month and a half away, this is just another of many things ending right now, but I'll still miss writing here. It was a fun outlet for my obsession with hockey that helped me understand and appreciate it even more. Thank you to everyone who supported and read me for my extremely short run. It's nice to know that there are people even crazier about the game than me. Until I stop watching hockey for good (which, despite everything, won't happen any time soon) I'll be reading your blogs.
-Katie O'D
Last note: When I tell people that I'm going to school in Vancouver, they make some comment about the inevitability of becoming a Canucks fan. I want to say that doing so is, to me, roughly on the same level as hooking up with the creepiest guy at a party out of desperation, excusing his subsequent stalking as sweet and doting, marrying him after six months, and eventually becoming an alcoholic to block out the fact that he's spending all my money on some coked-out 19-year-old girl he's having an affair with. But I don't think they mean to insult me, so I just tell them that it's unlikely.
Go Bruins, Avs, and Oilers!

Friday, May 11, 2007


It's been so long since I last posted that I feel that I need to write something. Things have been a little off around here, and because of that hockey has gotten pushed into the background. Until everything stabilizes I'm going to have to take an official break. I can't imagine that it'll be too long, though.
Go Sharks!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Buffalo Wins, Vancouver Doesn't Lose: Round Two Update

Things aren't going as well this round. They're not going horribly- San Jose split the first games in Detroit, and Ottawa also got a road win- but they're definitely not great. I forgot how Buffalo plays, and that was a bad mistake. A while ago the Oilers played them, and I noted that "the Oilers would control play for a decent amount of time, then Buffalo would come down and get a point-blank chance". Even in the Islanders series, the same thing would happen. The Islanders would forecheck rabidly and keep the puck in the Sabres' zone for a while, but never get any real scoring chances. Then the Sabres would come down on a 2-1 or something and score. Buffalo's numbers aren't very intimidating- they let up more shots than they get, their team SV% is middle of the line, their special teams are bad, and they've got mediocre defensive numbers. The two things that stand out are that they have the best offense and the best overall record, and now I remember why. They're maddeningly opportunistic. I always thought of having a very skilled 4th line as a bad thing, at least in some ways. They have no toughness. But in reality it just means that the other team can't hide their worst de anywhere. It's what they did against the Oilers that one game, and it's how they win. The Rangers can control play for the entire game (like they did last game), but as soon as their weaker players step on the ice, the Sabres are gone. If the Rangers are going to beat them, they have to capitalize on the chances they get and be a little more wary of Buffalo's transition game. And if they don't beat them, I still believe that Ottawa, San Jose, or Anaheim will.

First though, they have to make it to the next round. The Sharks and Senators were on the road, meaning a split isn't terrible (though I thought Ottawa could take both games). The Ducks, however, are now in a little trouble. It's not fatal by any means for them to split, but they could have made it a whole lot easier on themselves by taking both games. It seems like Vancouver never wins any hockey games, but they never lose either. They remind me of Homer in the episode of The Simpsons where he takes up boxing, and his strategy is to take punches until his opponent gets tired enough to be pushed over. They're not scoring goals, or even trying it seems like, but somehow they're still winning. This last game was like every game in their series against Dallas. The troubling thing is that I thought the Ducks could avoid that.

Tonight they play again, and this afternoon the Rangers play the Sabres on their own ice. It doesn't even need to be said that this game is huge. I'm going to assume that the Rangers will win. If they dig a hole for themselves, it'll be in Game 4.

[Edit: I hate Sean Avery with the best of them but he is kicking ass in this game. That being said, the Rangers haven't scored yet, and it's only a matter of time before Buffalo goes against all momentum and reason and takes a lead.]
[Edit Again: Oh god...phew. Time for my heart to return to its normal rate. That was the best game I've seen so far in the playoffs.]

Western Conference
-Detroit 1, San Jose 1
Goals: 3-4
-Anaheim 1, Vancouver 1
Goals: 6-3
Eastern Conference
-Buffalo 2, Rangers 1
Goals: 9-6
-New Jersey 1, Ottawa 1
Goals: 7-7

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Western Conference Round 2

The Rangers have been getting a lot more support than I thought they would. I had to go against every instinct I had to pick them, so I figured I'd be alone, but the series isn't so one-sided after all. Woo!

Anyway, I'm finally getting around to these Western Conference picks. With the Vancouver win, I was 7-1 in the last round, which means I'm beating Paula by 3 series, Liz by 4, and am that much closer to $50. The little bet we have was another reason that I chose the Rangers- they were both definitely going with Buffalo, and I had enough of a cushion to take the risk. Onto the West.

-Detroit (1) vs. San Jose (5)
It'll be a fantastic series. Detroit is nearly unbeatable at home, but San Jose was second only to Buffalo on the road this season. The Sharks are more talented, while Detroit is smart and disciplined as all hell. Their regular season numbers are extremely close; San Jose scored 4 more goals, and Detroit let in 6 less. As far as special teams go, the Sharks had the league's second-best powerplay and 14th-best kill, while Detroit had the 21st-ranked powerplay and 6th-ranked kill. In the first round, the Sharks' powerplay fell to pieces and Detroit had trouble killing penalties. However, the Sharks improved their penalty kill against a good offense, while Detroit's powerplay didn't fare any better than it did during the regular season. A key will be goaltending. Hasek will be good, but Nabokov may be able to outmatch him if he's on. Whether he will be or not can decide the series.
Who Should Win: The Sharks. It could go either way easily, but the Sharks are my Stanley Cup pick, so I can't really go against them. Also, they're a balanced team that can potentially outplay their regular season numbers. Detroit seems to be as good as they're going to get.
Who I Want to Win: The Sharks, of course. That's the best part of this series. For me at least, it's good vs. evil.

-Anaheim (2) vs. Vancouver (3)
This series isn't so close. Vancouver prides themselves on not letting in goals, but the Ducks only let in one more than them this season. Anaheim just crushed a Minnesota team that had the best GA numbers in the league, as well as some legitimate forwards. Vancouver lets up more shots and gets less, they can't score, they don't have a powerplay, and they barely beat Dallas last round. Anaheim has a better shot ratio, can score like hell, has two of the best defensemen in the league, has a good powerplay that only got better against Minnesota (one of the best kills), can kill penalties equally well, and soundly beat the Wild. Vancouver may have Luongo, which is an advantage over anyone, but the Ducks' goalies are also good.
Who Should Win: Anaheim. Vancouver's small advantages are not enough to beat the Ducks.
Who I Want to Win: Anaheim, I guess. I don't like them but I can't root for the Canucks without getting physically ill. If San Jose wins, it'd be nice for them to only have to face Vancouver- if Detroit wins I want them to be punished. That's a wash; Anaheim it is.

There you go. I don't expect to have as much success in predicting this round, since the first round is always more clear-cut. I do, however, expect to win $50, and that's always a plus.

[Edit: I just realized that the two teams that keep playing "Shipping Up to Boston" are Detroit and Buffalo. They keep this up and I'm going to go Frank Costello on their ass. Also, I think the Buffalo fans were just laughing at the Sabres' powerplay.]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Eastern Conference Round 2

I've just been told that squirrels are nesting in our New Hampshire house. I feel the same way about those squirrels that I do about the Vancouver/Dallas series. They have to leave now. And Vancouver has to win, because if Dallas does then the Sharks have to face the Ducks. That would just be cruel. But whatever- I'm done waiting for the Western Conference to be ready. I'll just preview the Eastern Conference matchups for now.

-Buffalo (1) vs. NY Rangers (6)
I laughed when people started to call the Rangers a legitimate threat in the playoffs, but this series isn't looking how I thought it would. Buffalo has the better offense and, despite Jagr/Nylander/Shanahan, the better forwards overall, but the Rangers have the better defense (ranked 9th to Buffalo's 13th). It's not a big enough advantage to offset the disparity in goals scored, but Lundqvist might be. He posted a .939 SV% and 1.50 GAA against Atlanta, while Miller had a decent .918 SV% and 2.21 GAA against the Islanders. Both were improvements over their regular season numbers; Lundqvist more than Miller. When it comes to special teams, the Rangers own both categories. Buffalo had mediocre PP/PK numbers during the regular season, and while their penalty kill improved against the Islanders (who have a decent powerplay), their own powerplay got even worse. The Rangers, on the other hand, improved on their good regular season special teams. Part of this can be attributed to the awful special teams of the Thrashers, but part of it is the Rangers on a roll. Even if they're scoring and defending way above what they usually do, it still counts for something. If either team has momentum it's the Rangers.
Who Should Win: The Rangers. It's a pretty dumb choice, but it's not based entirely on the momentum thing (that would be really dumb). The Rangers have good enough regular season numbers to make an upset possible, and have been insane in the playoffs and the end of the season. Going on the assumption that they're going to play above their regular season numbers (though definitely not as far above as they did against Atlanta), that Buffalo isn't playing very far above their regular season numbers, and that Lundqvist will outduel Ryan Miller, the Rangers have a chance.
Who I Want to Win: Anyone but Buffalo.

-New Jersey (2) vs. Ottawa (4)
It's not defense vs. offense for New Jersey this round. Ottawa may have the second-best offense in the NHL, but they also have the 10th-ranked defense. That defense held up well against the good offense of Pittsburgh, averaging 22 shots against/game. This allowed Ray Emery, with a .909 SV%, to have a 2.01 GAA. Emery will be outplayed by Martin Brodeur, but not badly enough to lose the series. In the first round New Jersey faltered on defense, but found ways to score more than they had during the regular season. Ottawa, on the other hand, scored at about their regular season rate, but were better on defense than they had been. Both teams saw no change, relative to other teams, in their penalty kill, but both improved on the powerplay.
Who Should Win: Ottawa. They adjusted well to Pittsburgh, improving their defense while maintaining their scoring. New Jersey caved a bit to the strong offense of the Lightning, while taking advantage of their weaknesses enough to win. They have no weakness to exploit in this series, and if Ottawa can stifle the strength of their opponent like they did in the first round, they'll win just as neatly.
Who I Want to Win: New Jersey. Gionta hasn't grown. I also had lunch with a thoroughly embittered Thrashers fan, and through a crazed series of grumbles he convinced me to kind of not like Dany Heatley.

The lunch was actually before the Sox game yesterday. I got the tickets for my birthday and took Liz. They were decent seats- close enough to see the action well, but not quite close enough to do anything about Kevin Youkilis' facial hair. The four straight homeruns, the strangely amicable mood of the crowd, Daisuke pelting A-Rod and Jeter, and the first home sweep in 17 years made it a great game, but a couple of things made it especially memorable. First off, it was the first time that I ever paid attention to players' entrance music, and I have to say that I've been missing out. Youk played a Justin Timberlake song, Mike Lowell played "Ironman", Papi played "This Is Why I'm Hot", and Dustin Pedroia played a strange, smooth hip-hop beat, accented by chimes, that Liz nicknamed the "Get Naked for Dustin" music. This was also the first time I've ever seen Papelbon pitch in person. The way the crowd reacted when they realized he was coming in made his cheesy entrance song of "Wild Thing" seem almost fitting, and watching him stare down the batters literally gave me chills.

On another completely unrelated note- saw "Children of Men" and didn't like it. It tried to be gritty and emotional, but was too cliched and I just didn't buy it. I also saw "Hot Fuzz" and liked it a lot, but "Shaun of the Dead" was better. And if this movie-watching spree doesn't cool down, I'm going to burn out before the Sharks even make it to the Finals.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


It's my birthday and I'm 18! FUCK YEAH!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quiet In Words

I caught the Sharks/Preds game last night. It may have been the first full game I saw this whole postseason. It was a great, entertaining game, but I thought both teams had a lot of trouble handling the puck. The Sharks' were especially bad on the powerplay, going 0-6, but in part I credit Nashville's kill for that. They had one of the most agressive 5-3 kills I've ever seen. The Sharks had no idea what to do with it. Other than that, though, San Jose dominated, and especially after the first period. They got 41 shots to Nashville's 20 and only had 7 faceoffs in their own end (compared to 29 in the Preds' end). Vokoun was solid, though he never had to make any unbelievable saves and maybe could have stopped Clowe's goal. Anyway, it was a hard fought and encouraging win, not ruined by Versus no matter how hard they tried (informing us at one point that Patrick Marleau was a leader despite being "quiet in words").

A lot has been said about the Colby Armstrong hit on Patrick Eaves, but I think the consensus among hockey people is that it wasn't a dirty hit, and it really wasn't. I like Patrick Eaves (I even went against all proper etiquette and cheered for BC when he was there) but he didn't get elbowed or charged or blindsided or anything. A few Ottawa people let it go because of the hit Neil delivered on Chris Drury, but I don't think they're comparable at all. From what I remember, Neil came across the ice at Drury and threw an elbow into his head. You can't compare Armstrong's hit to that.

Not surprisingly, the highest-scoring series so far have been the Sens/Pens series (22 goals) and the Sharks/Preds series (20 goals). After them, however, is the Devils/Lightning series (18 goals). It's a little unexpected, but it helps to make sense of why the Devils are losing this series. They're not a team that wins high-scoring games and Tampa Bay is. I haven't caught any of these games so I'm not sure whether Brodeur is to blame, but his numbers aren't very good. He's let in 3 goals in every game, while only facing 26, 20, and 24 shots for a .871 SV%. New Jersey wasn't going to win this series by outscoring the Lightning- they were going to shut them down and trap the hell out of them. If they don't change the dymanic of this series from a high-scoring one to a low-scoring one, they're going to lose and have to watch painfully as the Sabres sweep the Lightning in the next round.

One interesting (and kind of scary) thing is that the lowest-scoring series is the Ducks/Wild one, with only 11 goals in 3 games. The fact that the Ducks are up in this series 3-0 is a serious testament to what a complete team they are. Minnesota is a team that wants a low-scoring series. It's how they play and where they thrive, and if they were playing a team that relied only on offense, they'd be winning right now. But Anaheim, with the defense and goaltending they have, is in no way one-dimensional. They can play a high-scoring series and win with the forwards they have, but they can also play a low-scoring series and win (possibly even sweep) with the defense they have. They were Liz's Cup pick (because she thinks Giguere is cute...) and I'm beginning to think more and more that she made the right choice, as painful as that is. I haven't given up on the Sharks, and if someone in the West is going to beat Anaheim it'll be them, but it won't be easy.

Tonight the Thrashers go to New York, down 2-0, for the first time this series. The Sens/Pens again face off in Pittsburgh and the Canucks and Stars try to finish a game in less than 4 hours. The Ducks can be the first team to end their series with a win in Minnesota tonight. Calgary hopes that maybe they won't lose quite so badly at home. I've stopped caring who wins that series, because the winner most likely won't make it too far anyway. If Calgary wins (ha) they'll have to face Anaheim, and if Detroit wins they'll most likely have to face either the Sharks or the Preds (unless they get lucky somehow pull Dallas). All of the series are starting to take shape, with the Sens/Pens and Sharks/Preds being the best and most entertaining so far. I can't see either series going less than 7 games, unless one team implodes (which isn't out of the question).

Unrelated movie note: Knowing it'll be out of theaters soon, I dragged a few people to see a late showing of Pan's Labyrinth in Davis Square (love that theater). It was brutal, gruesome, creepy, depressing, and one of the darkest movies I've ever seen, but I loved it. See it in theaters.

Western Conference
-Buffalo 2, Islanders 1
Goals: 9-6
-New Jersey 1, Tampa Bay 2
Goals: 9-9
-Atlanta 0, Rangers 2
Goals: 4-6
-Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1
Goals: 13-9
Eastern Conference
-Detroit 2, Calgary 0
Goals: 7-2
-Anaheim 3, Minnesota 0
Goals: 7-4
-Vancouver 2, Dallas 1
Goals: 7-7
-Nashville 1, San Jose 2
Goals: 10-10

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Game Twos

On Wednesday night I got a call from my uncle Mike, who wanted to cheer with someone about Dice-K striking out Ichiro. I was watching hockey, so we got to talking about that instead. He agreed that Anaheim and San Jose are nasty, that Buffalo sucks (though apparently they always used to get beaten by the Bruins, so he feels bad for them), and that the Penguins can surprise people this year. Just as he said that, Ottawa scored the second of its six goals. Surprise!

Last night the Pens were off, which was unfortunate. They were really awful last game and probably don't want to sit on that for an extra day. Still, I have confidence that they'll come out and play much better in their game today. They pretty much have to. It would help to get a win, but on an even smaller scale they just need to play better. If their defense is as bad as it was last game, they're going to have a hard time in this series.

I'm betting on the playoffs with Paula and Liz, except that none of us really know what we're doing. Basically we're picking the winners of each series for each round, and whoever wins the most series overall wins, plus there's a bonus for picking the Stanley Cup winner. I picked using the predictions up on this site. Paula just picked the higher-ranked team in every case but Pittsburgh (because she loves Malkin). Liz used such mathematical criteria as: "Flames, because I don't like the city of Detroit", "Canucks, because Texas shouldn't win a Stanley Cup", "Sharks, duh", "Lightning, because I still hate the Devils from 2003", and "Thrashers, just cause". Both Liz and I picked the Sharks in this series, but I also picked them as my Cup prediction, which is (one reason) why it sucks that Nashville is trying to kill them off one by one. First Cheechoo got knocked out with a nasty knee-on-knee hit (though the Nashville-based replay clearly shows that Hartnell's hit would have been a shoulder check had Cheechoo not thrown himself at Scott's knee in a spontaneous act of masochism), and then Bernier was taken out on a hit from behind by Raffi Torres. Granted, Cheechoo is back and Bernier might be fine, but it's still a little annoying, and especially since it's not Raffi doing the hitting. It's Alexander Radulov. I mean, he had an amazing goal in the first game of the series, but if even he's injuring people then Nashville's gameplan is clear. I'm not saying they're trying to be dirty, but they're definitely trying to be physical. It's playoff hockey, so I understand, but if they go after Patrick Marleau then I'll be less forgiving. (By the way, that was my biggest fear in the Oilers/Sharks series last year. After Raffi destroyed both Bernier and Michalek, I wondered if they should have Patrick switch jersey numbers with a teammate for a game or two. You know...just in case.)

Thursday morning I was sitting in school and, having missed some games the night before, decided to check the scores on my phone. When I saw that the scoring recap for the Canucks/Stars game went to "Period Seven", I figured ESPN had no idea what they were talking about an had mistaken hockey for cricket or something. Nope- there were four OTs. I really believe that this couldn't happen with any other series in the playoffs right now. It reminds me of the triple OT game between Winconsin and Cornell last year. Watching that game was painful because it didn't appear that either team would ever score. They were both defensive and focusing on not losing more than necessarily winning. If two teams in the playoffs were to do that, it would be these two. I don't think that Pittsburgh and Ottawa, for instance, could ever get that far into overtime without scoring a goal because they would be playing offense more than defense. That being said, I didn't watch any of the Canucks/Stars game and am only speculating.

The biggest surprise to me this far was the Islanders/Sabres game. While the Islanders lost solidly and didn't have a realistic chance of winning that game, they weren't as completely dominated as I thought they'd be, and I got the feeling that if DiPietro had been in it could have been closer. That's about as positive as I can get this far, but the Islanders were strangely easy to cheer for and I don't see them getting swept anymore.

Today all of the Eastern Conference teams play. After hours and hours of statistical analysis, I say that the Buffalo/Islanders and Ottawa/Pittsburgh games are closer, the Atlanta/Rangers game is a massacre, and Tampa Bay wins in a shootout. Go Sharks!

Western Conference
-Buffalo 1, Islanders 0
Goals: 4-1
-New Jersey 1, Tampa Bay 0
Goals: 5-3
-Atlanta 0, Rangers 1
Goals: 3-4
-Ottawa 1, Pittsburgh 0
Goals: 6-3
Eastern Conference
-Detroit 1, Calgary 0
Goals: 4-1
-Anaheim 2, Minnesota 0
Goals: 5-3
-Vancouver 1, Dallas 1
Goals: 5-6
-Nashville 1, San Jose 1
Goals: 9-7

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Anyone But Buffalo

Before I even look at the standings, I have to ask how the hell the Oilers won- did the one thing I needed them to do to partially redeem themselves- and the Avs lost. It's not worth getting flustered over, but Jesus Christ. Anyway here's the first round of the playoffs as I understand it:

Western Conference

-Detroit (1) vs. Calgary (8)
Season series: 2-2 each
All signs point to a Detroit win in this series. While they have identical GF this season, the Red Wings have an edge in GA (ranked 4th to Calgary's 10th). For Detroit, this comes from a solid defensive team, not just goaltending. Calgary averages 31 shots against per game; Detroit averages 25. For the Flames to win this series, they'll have to be rougher (both teams have nearly identical penalties drawn/taken), work harder, and take advantage of any and all mistakes or injuries that have happened or will happen. They also have to take all of their home games, because it is a bitch to get a win at the Joe.
Who Should Win: Detroit. There's that little voice in the back of my head telling me I'm an idiot for picking the Red Wings to win a playoff series, but I can't not pick them this time.
Who I Want to Win: Calgary. Basically it's the lesser of two evils. I'm always down for Canadians winning, and Detroit is one team that I absolutely refuse to cheer for under any circumstances. The other two are Vancouver and Buffalo. If any of them meet one another in a series I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and singing "lalalala" repeatedly until it's over.

-Anaheim (2) vs. Minnesota (7)
Season series: 2-1-1 Anaheim
Minnesota's strategy this year seems to be a suffocating defensive game+Gaborik/Demitra. The Ducks, however, have scary-consistent numbers. They have the 2nd-ranked powerplay and the 4th-ranked kill. They're ranked 4th at home and 5th on the road. They're 7th in GF and 7th in GA. Minnesota, on the other hand, is 2nd at home and 17th on the road, 1st in GA and 19th in GF (though they have good special teams). When Gaborik/Demitra are both healthy and clicking, they've got a little more offense going for them, but overall they're a mostly one-dimensional team. The one thing they have is that they always seem to win games when it feels like they lost. I can't count the number of times that the Avs or someone were playing the Wild, and we were dominating the game, and I'd look up at the score and realize that we were losing. Maybe they can win a series in which it feels like they lost?
Who Should Win: Anaheim. They've got experienced veterans, promising young guys, scoring, defense, they're physical, they're quick...I'd be shocked if they lost. Minnesota's good, but Anaheim might be the best team in the playoffs.
Who I Want to Win: Minnesota. I kind of like them, and despite the insane comments that were made about his wife, I still hate Pronger.

-Vancouver (3) vs. Dallas (6)
Season series: 2-1-1 each
I'll be surprised if this series doesn't suck. Two defense-first teams that no one really likes? Woohoo! But honestly, it should be extremely low-scoring with the 21st-ranked (Vancouver) and 22nd-ranked (Dallas) offenses going at it. The difference is that Dallas is a better defensive team overall, allowing 25 shots per game to Vancouver's 29, while Vancouver has Roberto Luongo.
Who Should Win: Vancouver. Everyone knows a good goalie is worth way more than a good defense in the playoffs. If the Sedins do anything in the scoring department, Vancouver should win. Plus they kick ass in OT with a 12-3 record (not including the shootout), and Dallas is probably the weakest Western Conference team.
Who I Want to Win: Dallas. Another lesser-of-two-evils scenario, and like I said before I just can't bring myself to root for Vancouver, even if it means rooting for Dallas. It doesn't matter. I won't be watching this series anyway.

-Nashville (4) vs. San Jose (5)
Season series: 2-1-1 Nashville
By far the Western matchup I'm looking forward to most. Despite their middle-ranking in the West, they're the 3rd and 5th-ranked teams in the league and could have easily been higher in the standings. Nashville is, record-wise, better than both Anaheim and Vancouver, meaning San Jose might have been better off dropping a few spots. Even still, I think the Sharks have the ability to be even better than they were during the regular season. Both teams are solid in both ends of the ice (Nashville is 4th in GF, 8th in GA; San Jose is 6th in GF and 6th in GA) and have two good goaltenders each. Scoring won't be a problem for either team, though- Nashville oozes offense, while San Jose will have two awesome lines centered by Thornton and Marleau.
The Sharks' powerplay is deadly, but will be facing the 3rd-ranked kill of the Predators. One disparity is that Nashville gets 28 shots/game, but lets up 31, while San Jose is more balanced at 29 for/26 against, but that doesn't mean too much, except that San Jose is a little better defensively.
Who Should Win: San Jose. It's close, but I like them in the playoffs this season. This series is awful- either team has a shot at the Stanley Cup this year, and that one of them has to be knocked out in the first round when some pretty weak Eastern teams will go on is painful.
Who I Want to Win: San Jose. I like both teams, and the Paul Kariya action figure staring at me from my desk (it was a gift) is making me feel a little guilty, but the Sharks might be my favorite team this postseason. It's not just because of Joe- I actually like Patrick Marleau more than him. Also, Scott Hannan reminds me of Dominic Monaghan, and I tend to automatically like people if they look familiar.

Eastern Conference
-Buffalo (1) vs. NY Islanders (8)
Season series: 3-1 Buffalo
The best offense in the NHL against a potentially DiPietro-less Islanders? Oh no. The Islanders are not good enough defensively (33 shots against/game) to make up for a second-string goaltender, and especially not against Buffalo. With Smytty (God bless his soul) as their best forward, they also have no shot in hell of outscoring the Sabres. In fact, there is nothing at all remarkable about the Islanders, statistic-wise, that would make me think they have a chance in this series.
Who Should Win: Buffalo.
The Sabres have the best road record in the NHL, meaning this could be over quickly.
Who I Want to Win: The Islanders. Despite the obvious Smytty factor, which is the only real reason I want to see the Islanders do well, I just really, really hate the Sabres. In fact, my motto for this year's playoffs is "Anyone But Buffalo", which is a lot catchier and more appropriate than my original motto, "I Will Make Sweet Sweet Love to the First Person to Give Daniel Briere a Concussion". Though the offer still stands.

-New Jersey (2) vs. Tampa Bay (7)
Season series: 2-1-1 Tampa Bay
It's defense versus offense, it's St. Louis and Lecavalier versus Brodeur, it's...not going to work for Tampa Bay. Like I said before, goaltending is huge in the playoffs, and Tampa Bay doesn't have any. They average a very respectable 27 shots against per game, yet they're 24th in the league in GA and have the 28th-ranked PK. Yeah, New Jersey themselves are 27th in GF, but at least they have a few forwards that can score for them if they need it. The Lightning have just terrible defensive numbers- too terrible to win any series.
Who Should Win: New Jersey. No way Tampa Bay is beating them- they're the worst team in the playoffs.
Who I Want to Win: New Jersey. I always hated them until Brian Gionta came into my life. Now I might even say I like them a bit. Should Gionta leave the Devils, that would change, but for now I don't mind them too much.

-Atlanta (3) vs. NY Rangers (6)
Season series: 3-1 Atlanta (with 2 OT wins)
Series like this make it even harder for me that the Avs missed the playoffs. Both teams have unbelievably mediocre numbers, particularly Atlanta. They're 14th at home, 14th on the road, 14th in GF, and 15th in GA. The only thing notable about them is that their powerplay (19th) and penalty kill (26th) are both pretty bad. The one thing they have going for them is a promising young goalie, which tend to miraculously become Conn Smythe-winners, in Kari Lehtonen. The Rangers, though, counter with Henrik Lundqvist, who is hot right now. It'll be him against a potent Atlanta offense.
Who Should Win: The Rangers. I don't really know why. Neither team is particularly scary, but the Rangers have slightly less mediocre numbers, and Lundqvist.
Who I Want to Win: The Rangers. I don't like either team, but I kind of like Petr Prucha. That he's the deciding factor shows how little I care about this series.

-Ottawa (4) vs. Pittsburgh (5)
Season series: 3-1 Pittsburgh (with 2 OT wins)
Like the Western Conference 4-vs-5 series, I'm excited for this one, but then again who isn't excited to see the Penguins this postseason? Both teams are great offensively and mediocre defensively, with the Senators having a slight edge in both areas. Pittsburgh has a strong powerplay; Ottawa's better on the kill. The Sens are nearly as good on the road as they are at home, but the Pens are better at home than them. It should be a thrilling and close series.
Who Should Win: Pittsburgh. They're all young and excited. You can say they're inexperienced, but does anyone really want the kind of postseason experience that the Sens have? Moreover, I trust Crosby to up his game, and if he does then the Pens win for sure.
[Edit: After spending way too much time looking at more numbers, I can't believe I picked Pittsburgh here. Ottawa was top-five in every way I ranked teams. Even still, I'm sticking with the Pens. If a team is going to pull an upset this season, it's going to be them.]
Who I Want to Win: Pittsburgh. I like Crosby, I like Malkin ("Shrek on ice" according to Paula), and I'm a Staal family fan. Plus, anyone that has a soul is rooting for the Penguins, and (surprisingly enough) I haven't sold mine off yet.

As you can tell, I'm excited for the playoffs. It's the only time of year that I can root for random teams nearly as enthusiastically as I root for my own. Like most Bruins fans I've talked to, I hope San Jose can win it all. And like most people who put a large, triple cappucinno-fueled amount of energy into making predictions, I hope I'm right.

*Disclaimer: I'm always wrong.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The End?

Not much has been going on in the hockey world, which is part of the reason why I haven't posted for a few days. But there's something now. Tonight might finally be the night that Calgary clinches the last playoff spot. Despite their inability to do so until now, there isn't much hope that the Oilers can beat them. If they drag it into overtime they have a shot, as the Flames suck there, but I can't see that happening. There are still too many "if"s to be fulfilled. Basically, if the Avs are going to make the playoffs, something incredible has to happen. I'm ready for it to happen, but not all that hopeful. As was pointed out, however, should the Oilers pull this off, Joe Sakic will die before he sees the Flames beat them on Sunday. Why am I still nervous about everything? It's over, right? Damnit.

I've heard (and I can't remember the article) that the Bruins are going to keep the same defensive corps that they have now for next year. This would be fine, except for two things: something with the defense is off, as they suck, and we have some prospects that seem primed for recall. I haven't seen much of them, but from what I hear it's about time that Mark Stuart and Matt Lashoff should get some big league time. As far as I'm concerned, it'd be better to do this sooner rather than later. If they can get time from the start of the season on, they'll be at least mildly trustworthy should the Bruins make the playoffs. Of course they'll be given a fair shot in training camp, but that's the way the Bruins should be leaning.

In other Bruins news, there's actually an article about Andrew Ference and his bike-riding ways. Apparently he's into saving the environment. My favorite part is that, in an article that paints him as a devoted, conscious, caring individual, he cites "If somebody slashes you, you slash them back twice as hard" as one of his most valuable lessons learned. Granted, it was about gaining respect, but it's still something I love about hockey.

Partially unrelated note: I've noticed that a lot of arenas are playing "Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys as their pump-up song. Unless they're planning on shipping the Bruins a few good players (which I'm entirely welcome to) they really have to stop that.

Completely unrelated note: I saw "Grindhouse" last night and absolutely loved it. Watching it, you can see just how much fun they had making those movies. It's not for everyone (I'm a Tarantino freak) and I'm sure it would have been better if I had any B-movie experience (especially for "Death Proof") but I still think everyone should go out and see it. Don't wait, either- it has to be seen in theaters.

Right now I'm eager to see the first-round matchups for the playoffs. As soon as that's solidified, I'll pick who I want to and think will win each round. The end of the season can't come soon enough.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Bruins Rnt Guna Win

With their loss to the Penguins, the Bruins are officially eliminated from the playoffs, and at the moment they're losing 2-0 to the Thrashers. Liz and her friend John are at the game. Earlier today I went out to lunch with her and she tried to convince me to go. Other than the fact that I was wearing bright pink-and-purple plaid pajama pants (I was only planning on dropping the tickets off), I just didn't have it in me to go to another game. Barring a miracle (read: kickass seats), the Penguins game will be the last one I'll go to in a while. By the time the season starts next year, I'll be away at college, and because the nearest places I applied were in Toronto and Minnesota, home games will be rare. It's strange to think about.

Eric Frede is saying right now that the Garden is "lacking energy" during this game. On that note, the best part of the Penguins game had nothing to do with the game itself (outside of Kessel's goal). It was when they showed a Cam Neely montage. It started with big hits and various scenes of him screaming at someone, spitting blood with every word, then moved on to show some of his better goals. Everyone in the building, including all players on both benches, were completely captivated by it. If only the Bruins took more than entertainment from that, we wouldn't hate them so much.

You have to look at the other side of things, though. Tim Thomas has been the only person who has looked like he cared for the whole season. When the rest of the team sucked and was barely skating, he kept them in the game and never gave up. To show our appreciation, we gave him the 7th Player Award. Then he let in a soft goal, and people started booing him. Infuriated, I started in on a loud, obscenity-laden rant about how angry I was and how much people suck, which caused the booers in my section to quiet down (I don't think I intimidated them so much as there were children around and they anxiously wanted me to stop). These were probably the same people that, seeing that the Bruins would show your text message on the jumbotron, texted them "the bruins r guna win" when they were down 3-2. Sigh.

After the game I went home, but Paula stayed after with a couple of people to wait for the players (don't even ask). They met Andrew Ference, who was apparently very nice, friendly, and dorky. She mentioned the video that I showed her when he was first traded here in which he talked about DDR and Guitar Hero, and he enthusiastically replied that they used to have intense Guitar Hero battles up in Calgary. He gave some guy his stick, then went into the parking lot. He then came out on a bicycle and rode away into the night. With the effort he's put in on the ice, him calling out Dave Lewis, and his apparent dorkiness, he's well on his way to becoming my favorite Bruin.

With the Flames' insane play as of late, the Avs playoff hopes are all but over. It feels awful to admit it before they're mathematically eliminated, but I'm not hoping much anymore. That being said, I'm still watching, and I'm still pissed off that Marek Svatos is on the fourth line. The fact that he deserves better, though I believe it, can be argued against. But what I think most people can agree is that he's much more useful in a scoring role. His biggest contribution will be his offense, so he should be given the opportunity to score. I know he's been given that opportunity, but later in the year he showed flashes of being able to sustain his production. If you're not going to put him on the top two lines, at least put him with Tyler Arnason again and give him a chance, for these last few games, to show that he can contribute somehow.

The Bruins just lost in the last 20 seconds to the Thrashers. I've heard from a few people that they're not going to fire Dave Lewis. That would be a huge mistake. Even my crazy grandmother knows he's bad, and she's my version of Bill Simmon's mother- if she knows something, clearly it's big news. Except that she's also completely insane. One time, her electricity bill was about $5 higher than she thought it should be, and, assuming the man who lives beneath her was stealing it, unplugged every appliance in her apartment to catch him. That woman knows Dave Lewis isn't doing his job. He should take a page from MacT. I cringed reading what he made the guys do. That means he's doing his job.

Unrelated to hockey, the Phoenix FSN station, which broadcast the Avs game the other night, had commercials running for The Eric Byrnes Show, which nearly gave me seizures. Outside of anyone on the Yankees, he's my least favorite baseball player. The animosity stems back to the 2003 ALDS against the A's, and has in no way dimimshed since then. I loathe Eric Byrnes maybe as much as Daniel Briere, though Eric Byrnes is actually an asshole. I can't believe that people like the guy.

Edit: Wicked Bruins Fan has a nice Dave-Lewis bashing post up. Hating him is my new favorite hobby, though I'm afraid it could get out of hand. Oh well. Obsession is a young man's game, eh?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Joe Sakic...yee

It's been a few days between posts, but for good reason. I had figured my throat hurt because I was "cheering so loud for the hopeless Bruins that my voice [was] still partly gone". Turns out I was about to become deathly ill. I tried to write a post after the first Avs game against Vancouver, but all I managed before I passed out on the couch was "Joe Sakic...yee." After that it just seemed smarter to wait.

But I'm better now; watching the New Jersey-Buffalo game, snacking on perfectly burnt popcorn, wondering what the mathematical chance is that not one of my three teams would make the playoffs (about 10% by my probably inaccurate calculations). I'm not saying the Avs are out of it. If they sweep the head-to-head games, they'll only be 3 points back. And if Calgary loses just two more games than the Avs do in their other games, then the Avs will be in. So I'm not saying they're out- I'm just saying that it's a lot of "ifs". The most important factor in them making the playoffs, in my mind, was their ability to match Calgary's record against other teams for the remaining games. Not so hard- that is, before they failed to beat the Oilers and the Flames went 4-0. They needed to match the Flames' 8 points; instead, the Avs only got 5 themselves and dropped back 3 more. It's not impossible, but it's worse than we expected. The Avs announcers couldn't even hide this, having the following exchange.
Guy One (I don't know who said what): So if the Avs lose this, they'll be seven points back. What did we...uh...what had we hoped for before?
Guy Two: (after a long pause) I think we were looking for four.
Guy One: Right, so...we're not quite there.
Awkward, disappointed, disenchanted- what happened to my stress-free, winning Avs? Their confidence is diminishing (though I still have faith that Joe Sakic can stop that) and the first Oilers' game was the last time a point came easy. I'm not criticizing their win over Vancouver, mainly because I still have clawmarks in my arm. During the action I spent my time hugging my legs to my chest, bug-eyed and muttering anxiously. Once a commercial came, I would relax a little, realize that the new tissue box was half gone, wonder if the last powerplay made my temperature go up and try not to fall asleep. That was a huge, very appreciated win. But the second game was a different story. Even in my worst state I would have questioned why Quenneville valued defense over offense against the Canucks, matching Sakic's line with the Sedins'. In the first game, he seemed to want the Stastny-Hejduk lovefest line out against them, which didn't work in stopping them at all. But the Avs won, because the Avs have the ability to win higher-scoring games. Those are the kind of games that they want to create. Instead of looking at the Canucks as 3rd in GA and feeling the need to match them defensively, why not play to your strength and exploit their 23rd-ranked offense? Even scoring two goals would have won the second game. They're a one-dimensional team. Granted, they're damn good at that dimension, but you don't want to play into it. Quenneville should have let Sakic and his line, which had been the hot scoring line, run free, rather than chaining them to defense and hoping that the Stastny-Hejduk lovefest would, in fact, be a lovefest again. The lovefest never happened, the Avs never scored, and, as defensively fantastic as Wojtek Wolski was, they lost.

Still, I have confidence in Quenneville, and faith that he'll let the Avs score some goals and be the Avs again. I don't know why I trust him, but I do. It's probably because he just looks so much like a coach.The gray hair, complete-face frown, and phenomenal moustache- he pulls off the Grumpy Old Coach look flawlessly. One can trust Grumpy Old Coach. He'll never let a player slip through the cracks effort-wise. He'll never get flustered by new situations. He'll give Paul Stastny extra ice time because he uses a wooden stick like they used to do "back in the day". He's ornery.

Craig MacTavish, on the other hand, takes a different angle. He's Intellectual Coach.Well-managed hair, brow often furrowed in thought, and of course classy glasses are more his game. He's put thought into his plan and will outsmart the other guy for sure. True? Doesn't matter. Those are the glasses of a competent man.

Yeah, it's shallow, but let's look at the flip side.
He pulls off no angles- bizarre Hitler moustache, bad glasses, not properly grumpy, not convincingly intellectual. Nothing. He is at best a figment of my imagination, and at worst someone who really looks that ridiculous. You'd think this wouldn't actually matter, until you hear someone question his ability and in the same breath say he looks like a cartoon character. It's strange, stupid, and somewhat merited. He's a cartoon character that hasn't done any good here. He's probably done more harm. He's like a negative coach.

So no matter how many times NESN and the rest mention that the Bruins had a hard "no puck" practice, I'm not buying into Lewis. Just like no matter how the B's fare against Ottawa (win), I'd still rather watch the Oilers (loss), and no matter how much I hate the Bruins I'll still go watch them play. I'm going tomorrow with Paula to my aunt and uncle's season ticket seats, which have a great view of the game itself. I ran into them at the last game. Or rather, they saw me decided it would be hilarious to come up behind me as I was walking and whisper in my ear "Baby, you are so hot" to freak me out. My family is completely insane. Oh well, they've got good seats for watching Sidney Crosby. Gotta love them.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Andrew Ference to Coach Bruins Next Year

Wicked Bruins Fan highlighted a Boston Herald article in which Andrew Ference suggests what we've all been thinking lately- Dave Lewis isn't coaching the Bruins right. This is a team that has all of the right components. Their defense and offense is talented and capable. Their goaltender isn't considered a star, but he's been the only good thing this year. Yet they suck, and in all the ways that leave the coach accountable. The Bruins have fallen apart in the third period, giving up leads and losing games too many times for it to be a coincidence. Lewis is supposed to be a defense-first coach (Brad Boyes even complained, once traded, that he had been held back by Lewis's coaching style), but the Bruins are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They are 28th in the league in goals against, only ahead of Washington and Philadelphia. Tim Thomas can't be blamed for this. The B's have averaged 34 shots against per game, which is worse than both Washington and Philadelphia. Thomas is 34th in GAA, 21st in SV%, and 5th in total saves, and 3rd in saves/60 minutes. Clearly not superstar numbers, but anyone who watched Thomas this year
he's been the biggest victim of the Bruins' awful defensive play. Lewis' system doesn't work. I went to the painful Montreal game with Paula. Between dodging beer cups, cheering so loud for the hopeless Bruins that my voice is still partly gone, and trying to figure out if the section of Habs fans behind us was chanting in English or French, we noticed that the Bruins suck. More specifically, Paula pointed out, that they were poorly coached. She said that their dump-and-chase-only style of play was "like high school hockey" and that Lewis needed to be harder on them, which is the point Ference makes. He says that some players aren't working their hardest, and suggests that:
“Sometimes it takes calling people on it. . . . If it’s just leading by example, that’s great. But sometimes it takes a little harsher criticism and some brutal honesty.”
Nothing gives me less confidence in a coach than when a player says they aren't brutal enough. I would rather have players complain that the coach is a crazed Nazi who threatens their families when they don't play well than one that's too lax. If Lewis is a coach who stifles players' offensive abilities without holding them accountable so as to make a team captained by Zdeno Chara the 28th-best defensive team in the NHL, why is he still here? I don't know who would replace him, but I think at this point anyone might be better, though my mom's completely serious suggestion of Andy Brickley might not be the answer.

In other news, Tom Gilbert has given me a good idea about how to deal with this Oilers' season. Of all the teams to break their losing streak against, it had to be the Avs. I only caught part of the game, but of course it was the part in the second period where the Oilers tied up the score. The Avs got a point out of the game, but the knowledge that they only got a point against the Oilers might be more damaging to their psyche than anything else. I'm praying that they can recover from this without any further damage, and also for a Chicago win tomorrow, though I don't know if I see that happening when Calgary just beat Detroit and Nashville. There's nothing to do but wait and see at this point. The good news is that Marek Svatos scored (and might finally get put back with Arnason, which I'm convinced will help) and that the Avs still have Joe Sakic. With him there I give them the benefit of the doubt, but the outcome of tomorrow night's game against Vancouver is huge. Win, we're still in it. Lose...well, even Joe might have trouble helping them if they lose.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pregaming and "Not Mentioning" the Playoff Push: Avs vs Oilers

To say that the Avs should win this game is an understatement. The Oilers are still missing Stoll, Moreau, Reasoner, Hemsky, Hejda, Gilbert, Roy, and Tjarnqvist. Steve Staios is out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury that's probably needed repair since it first happened in November. The only non-rookies on the blueline are Jason Smith and (technically) Matt Greene. It's barely even worth saying that this "winless streak" has happened for a reason. It's not bad luck. It's not something they're going to shake off and move on from. The Oilers aren't good enough, especially on defense. With scoring like the Avs have, of course they should win this game. It would be embarrassing if they didn't.

Even more than they should win this game, they have to win this game. It's almost stupid to look at the Oilers as a legitimate threat to spoil this for the Avs, but I've watched the Bruins struggle against Philadelphia enough to not dismiss anyone. Those games were the most soul-crushing, as they all but killed my belief in the B's. The Avs have to be able to win "easy" games like this, because if they don't, how are we supposed to believe that they can win any of their remaining games against legitimate teams? Or make the playoffs?

The Avs can't falter. They have ten games left. Calgary has nine. Looking at these games, there are three things the Avs have to do to make the playoffs:
  1. Beat bad teams (Edmonton and Phoenix).
  2. Fare at least as well as the Flames against good teams (Vancouver, Minnesota, Nashville).
  3. Get enough points in their two head-to-head games against the Flames ("enough" depends on the other results).
One should be a given. If either team loses games they should win, it's going to put them in a tough position. The Avs, for instance, have one more easy game than the Flames- they play the Oilers twice and Phoenix once, while Calgary plays the Oilers and Chicago once each. If all else is equal and they win all of their easy games, the Avs can make up the remaining four points by sweeping the head-to-head games. If they lose even one of the easy games, they'll be in a tough position. Likewise, if they Flames lose one of those games (a little help here, Oilers?) then the Avs can overtake them with a sweep.

This is all going on the condition that the other games yield equal results, which most likely won't happen. The Avs play Vancouver three times, Minnesota, and Nashville. The Flames play Vancouver, Minnesota twice, Nashville, and San Jose. These are pretty even schedules, though Colorado has fared better against their opponents (8-5-2) than Calgary has (5-9-3). In fairness, Calgary has had the most success (3-1-2) against Minnesota, who they play twice, and the Avs haven't exactly dominated Vancouver, outscoring them 15-12 and posting a 3-2 record in five games. All in all, I'm not too concerned with the past, because it doesn't really matter if the Avs beat Nashville in November if they can't beat them now. They have an equal number of games against good teams, and as far as I'm concerned an equal opportunity to get points. The outcome of these games might be the most important factor of the three. Sure, the head-to-head games will affect the outcome, but they'll be meaningless if one team falls off a cliff and the other excels. There are four points that can change hands there, while any number of things can come of the games remaining against other teams.

So what's going to happen? I have no idea. None. I've looked everywhere and I can't figure out, logically, what should happen. I've looked at Avs stats, Flames stats, stats of all the teams they have to play, stats of the Avs and Flames vs these teams, stats of the Avs vs [team] vs the Flames vs [team]...still nothing. Honestly, it's been torturing me. The only edge I can find is that the Avs are playing well, have a game in hand, have a better record this season against these opponents, and are captained by a god. The Flames, though, are still six points up, starting Kipper, and don't have my luck going against them. I still get the sinking feeling that, now that I've written all this after swearing not to mention anything, and now that everyone's all excited, the Avs are going to lose to Phoenix or the Oilers, the Flames will go on a winning streak, and this will all be for nothing. But I have a little more faith in them than that. They're not the goddamn Bruins. They can reinforce that by beating the Oilers tonight.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bright and Shiny

I'm not going to mention the playoffs. I'm not going to say a word about the Avs and how they're only 4 points back now. I'm going to avoid talking about the two games left against the Flames, and, for that matter, two games left against the Oilers when the Flames only have one. I'm just not going to mention anything, because as soon as I acknowledge all of this, there will be some sort of terrible accident that wipes out almost the whole team and forces them to start Mark Rycroft, Ossi Vaananen, Toby Petersen, and two kids from juniors. No, what am I talking about? I kind of like Ossi Vaananen. He'd be killed off for sure.

The Avs continue to be a bright light in a bleak NHL. They're the goal scorers, the streak getters, the hangover curers, and the little Slovakian puck stoppers. What else is there? The Oilers finally got a point, but that's a bad thing at this point. The Bruins nearly caused me to crash my car Saturday when my friend's boyfriend called to bitch about the fact that they were losing 6-0 in the second period (the last time I had checked the score it was 1-0). Of course I'm going to be thankful that the Avs aren't trying to kill me.

For anyone who missed the game last night, it was insane; one of those games in which you have no idea what's going on or what will happen next. Both teams are lethal offensively, so to counter that both teams played great defensively. The Sharks refused the Avs any control of the puck in their zone when they were up, and used their awesome breakout to quickly transition the other way. The Avs forwards backchecked like hell, and because of it the Sharks had little time to make anything happen. Unlike Nabokov, who kept the Sharks in the game, Peter Budaj didn't play his best, but it was good enough to get the OT win. J-M Liles looked like himself for the first time since his injury. Milan Hejduk has solidified my belief that he can score from anywhere in the offensive zone with his OT goal. Tyler Arnason decided to play hockey tonight. I correctly predicted that Andrew Brunette would score, which is very likely the first time I've correctly predicted a goal scorer all year. This is all great. The best thing, though?

Marek Svatos is back!...again. Yes, before he was just on a vacation from his usual level of play, while this time he was injured, but he was back in both senses tonight. I missed his return in the game before this, but I imagine it wasn't impressive as he appeared to play with the fourth line and started there tonight. I couldn't understand why they didn't put him with Arnason again, to the point where I came up with the idea for a program where fans can text the coach, and if their idea is good then it actually gets through. This was a serious idea. That's how flustered I was, and conversely that's how ecstatic I was when they finally did put Marek with Arnason. Marek had an absolutely terrifying game, and I mean that in every way possible. He was terrifying to the other team, as he was working as hard as a person can work, forcing turnovers, and creating chances. He was terrifying to his team as he was also turning the puck over himself and had a few scary moments defensively. He was personally scaring the crap out of me because he was speeding around, throwing checks, and playing recklessly, all of which are dangerous. I didn't want him to get hurt again, as he was finally playing like himself. The Altitude announcer even pointed it out, saying, "This is the Marek Svatos that we know- he's so determined and tenacious in the offensive zone." More than that, he was dynamic. When he was on the ice, you knew, and when he had the puck exciting things happened (good or bad). That's Marek Svatos; that's why he's one of my favorite players. If he's really back this time (and I think this is actually the third or fourth time I've said he's back this year), it doesn't matter about the playoffs. Next year we'll be fine.

You know that's a lie, but maybe it'll bring them good luck. God, I need to shake this superstitious complex I have. Getting out of Boston will help. Having a hockey team win something will kill it for sure. But I'm not saying anything about the playoffs.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'm for the Bruins; but then, what do I know? I'm a bear. I suck the heads off of fish!

Uh...I was kind of right. Kind of. Sorry, I'm struggling to grasp this. Usually whatever I say will be important ends up being insignificant and whoever I say will play well then gets eaten by the zamboni. But the Bruins game went roughly as I expected, besides the fact that I said the Caps would win, which is meaningless because I'll always bet against the Bruins. Savvy (3 assists) and Patrice (goal and an assist) both played very well. Tim Thomas survived again, and made 31 saves to boot. The Bruins powerplay completely dominated the Caps, scoring all three goals with the man advantage (one was a 5-3). ChariWard was massively incompetent and Ovechkin embarrassed them plenty of times. I was surprised at how good he is. He's tenacious, extremely fast, tough, has good vision, and wants the puck more than anyone else on the ice. I was at a game against the Caps in November, and remember being very unimpressed with Ovechkin. I couldn't even tell when he was on the ice. Curious, I went back and checked to see who they had matched up against him then. They had Axelsson healthy, which makes a difference, but that was also during the timespan when they had Andrew Alberts paired up with Chara, and those two were out with Ovechkin on every shift. This got me thinking- why didn't they have Alberts facing Ovechkin a little more? The reason Chara kept getting brutally owned was because Alex would fly by him to the outside or catch the big guy in transition. Despite being 6-4, Alberts is a very good skater with pretty quick feet. I'm not saying he could beat Ovechkin in a foot race, but I doubt he'd look as bad against him as Chara did. I've also gotten over the weird dynamics between Alberts and Ference on the ice, because I realized it makes sense to send Ference flying around to get the puck and make breakout passes while Alberts stands in front of the net and punishes people. Yes, I'm rationalizing because I like Alberts. But it does make sense.

There were two things I thought about mentioning in my pregame, but decided against because I figured they'd be irrelevant. The first was that Kolzig has the ability to play fantastic, and that the Bruins have bad enough luck to catch him on a good day. Since he was returning from injury, I counted this out, but shouldn't have. He single-handedly fought off the Bruins through the first two periods, letting in the first goal with a minute and a half left in the second. Overall, he only allowed powerplay goals. The other thing was that if the Bruins could only get to OT, they'd probably win. While both teams had a 4-2 record in OT, the Bruins were 8-3 in shootouts while the Caps were 1-10. Again I figured it wasn't worth mentioning, but the game did end up going into a shooutout, and the Bruins won thanks to goals from Patrice and Phil Kessel. Kessel hasn't produced much in the last few games, but he's been great and helped get Savvy going again. I've always believed that energy is contagious, and because of this putting Kessel with Savvy is genius. He flies around, forechecks hard, and creates turnovers. Every time he works hard and makes something happen, you can see Savvy and Kobasew pick it up as well. Their line has been electric lately, and I credit Kessel with that.

The Oilers surprised me, only losing 2-1 to Minnesota, though I suspect it had more to do with Minnesota not playing well than the Oilers being legitimate. They hustled, of course, but they really just don't have NHL players. Their only goal scorer was Robert Nilsson, called up due to "emergency conditions". I'm pretty sure that once everyone, or most everyone, gets healthy again, then they'll break the losing streak against some crappy team. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) that won't be for a while. I've gotten over it. At first I was horrified by the losing, but now my expectations are so low that I'm pleased whenever they get a shot, which really makes the games more enjoyable. Screw standards. I can't afford those when a 21-year-old Czech kid is leading the team in ice time (no offense, Laddy).

Quick notes
  • The Bruins just finished playing ex-B Milan Jurcina, and now they move onto New York where they play ex-B Michael Nylander. Nylander was one of those rare players that came into Boston and played above our expectations. He was basically the Bruins' version of Orlando Cabrera, except that the Bruins didn't win. That's the Bruins' version of everything. I'm giving this game to the Rangers.
  • The one encouraging thing I would look at in the Bruins' play last game, if I were still concerned with the playoffs, would be that they sucked for the first two periods, to the point where you could hear the crowd grumble and Andy Brickley had to admit, "The natives are getting a little restless here as they're a bit disappointed...well, no, not a bit. A lot disappointed in the way things are going so far." Everyone expected them to continue to suck, but they came back out and tied the score before two minutes had elapsed in the third. They usually don't do that.
  • The Oilers play the Blue tonight. I find that the more I watch, the more I'm rooting for them in the "race to the bottom", too. I would have a hard time with doing that if I recognized any players on the ice, but without half the roster (especially Horc) it's pretty easy. Still, maybe they could score a few goals to make themselves feel better? Or make me feel better? Or because that's the objective in hockey? Anyway, this game goes to the Blues.
  • The Avs play Phoenix tonight. Thank god. Besides the Bruins and Oilers, I'm wicked stressed out about college stuff. I got a couple of acceptances back from schools, but none of my top choices yet. I've never been so nervous in my life. If there's one thing that will always calm me down and make me happy, it's Joe Sakic. The rest of the Avs are just a nice little bonus (though I'd love to have Marek and Karlis back, as they make me happy, too). What the hell- I'm saying the Avs will win.
  • Despite rocking my green shirt, green rings, green bracelets, green nano, green coffee mug, and green purse, it's not the most festive of days because of the snow that randomly hit. Two days ago I was wearing a t-shirt; this morning I was shoveling, and now there's too much snow to run outside so I'm forced to go to the gym (which I hate). Bluh.
  • On another completely irrelevant note, I saw "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" last night and loved it. It was ridiculous in the most entertaining way, sort of like "The Boondock Saints". Except where "The Boondock Saints" was serious, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" was hilarious. I forgot how much I loved watching movies- I used to do it a lot more. Anyway, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pregaming: B's vs Caps

The Bruins should beat the Capitals tonight, but this in no way means they will. There seems to be almost no correlation between how good their opponent is and how well they fare. It's not that they always lose to bad teams and always beat good teams, because that would be a pattern. The Bruins strive to be an enigma, and they succeed wildly. They just don't make sense.

But, though it gives me a horrible feeling to say it, they really, really should beat the Capitals, for a number of reasons, such as...
  1. Both Patrice and Savvy are playing well. Especially in Savvy's case, the team only plays well when they do. They tend to take turns being good, so to have them both going at once is a huge boost for the offense. They're both players who create success for their linemates, meaning even without Glen Murray the Bruins can have two solid lines.
  2. Tim Thomas hasn't died off yet, despite our defense's best efforts.
  3. Speaking of the de, the Alberts/Ference tandem has played well. They have their limitations, but they've been the closest thing to consistent on the Boston blue line. Also, Wideman doesn't suck. All positive for the B's.
  4. As mediocre as the Bruins have played recently, the Caps have played much worse. They're on an 8-game losing streak. That's Oilers-bad.
  5. The Caps are better than LA on the road. That's it. Even the Flames have a better road record.
  6. The Bruins have an overall special teams advantage. Their 11th-ranked powerplay should be able to score on the Caps' 21st-ranked kill, and their 16th-ranked kill should be able to stop the Caps' 20th-ranked powerplay.
  7. The Caps are one of three teams who are actually worse defensively than the Bruins.
  8. It's Kolzig's first game since returning from a knee injury.
Of course, there are always reasons why the Bruins can lose, too.
  1. They'll send out Chara and Ward to fend off Alex Ovechkin, and that won't work. Those two have been awful lately. Paula has started calling them "ChariWard" (like the pokemon thing named "Charizard") as they are "a huge firebreathing dragon of failure".
  2. PJ Axelsson won't be there to help them out on defense as his wrist is broken.
  3. Even though the Bruins allow fewer goals, the two teams have almost identical shots for/against numbers. This can be a good thing if the B's decide to tip the scale in their favor (they're 14-6-2 when outshooting their opponents) but there's no reason to think that they'll do that. They've been outshot twice as many times as they themselves have outshot their opponent.
So basically, they have a lot working to their advantage, but one very important thing working against them: they're the Bruins. I'm giving this one to the Caps.

Way out west, it's a different story. There's not really a good reason that the Oilers should beat the Wild. Not only do the Oilers have their own 8-game losing streak, but Minnesota has gone 5-1-2 in their last 8. Not only are the Oilers almost completely depleted of players who have all four limbs working, but Minnesota is only missing Wes Walz. Not only have nearly all the Oilers players struggled recently, but the right players are getting hot for Minnesota. I see almost no reason to even watch the game. I'm going to, of course, but there's no good reason.

Oh well. St. Patrick's Day is in two days, meaning I'll forget all of this very soon. Liz wants me to go to Southie with her to celebrate, but I don't want to die, so I'm staying in Winchester with Eliza. This holiday was made for us two. I mean, Eliza Mac and Katie O'D, the Bostonians who can put on a wicked Irish accent? Psh. We own St. Paddy's Day, though I'm guessing that we'll be sick of the accents before the day is done. Again, oh well.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Stanley's Cup

It's really bad that I keep getting flashbacks to this whenever I watch the Oilers play. Even tonight, when they only lost 3-0 (WITH an empty netter), I still looked at the Sharks and their fans cheering and thought, "Come on, guys. You're playing against peewees here."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Since I've Been Loving You

Going into today's game against the Flyers, the Bruins were 6 points out of a playoff spot, with 2 games in hand on Carolina. This was a more desperate situation than they've been in lately, even more so because they're playing Detroit tomorrow afternoon. Going by the numbers, it would have been reasonable to say that if they Bruins didn't win this game, they'd have a tough time making the playoffs. I didn't go by the numbers, but before the game I told myself that if they didn't beat the Flyers outright today, I would have to stop believing that they have a chance of making the playoffs. It wasn't because getting one or no points makes the playoffs impossible, but more because if they can't beat Philadelphia when they're in dire need of the points, there's nothing to make me think that they can win enough to catch any current playoff team. They had to win this game to keep my faith.

And they didn't. The Bruins lost to the Flyers, and not even in overtime. Moreover, they got beaten by the Flyers. They sucked. Sure, there were some positives. Patrice was noticeable on a few plays after being invisible since he came back from injury. Wideman wasn't useless for the whole game and actually scored a goal. Jeremy Reich absolutely clobbered Darren Reid in their fight. Savvy decided to care again and, having a little chemistry with Kessel and Bochenski, played a good game. But this isn't the beginning of the year anymore, and it's not good enough to have some positive things going on if we're still losing to the Flyers in regulation. Overall, they didn't play well enough to win when they really needed to. Most of the Bruins were useless today, and even those that were good at times were useless more often than not. Outside of the Savvy-Kessel-Bochenski line, the forwards got very little going offensively. The de couldn't keep anyone in check on the other end of the ice, except maybe Ference and Alberts, who still weren't anywhere near perfect. Chara and Ward are supposed to be our shut-down line, but they were brutal. For a good example of how this game went, watch Mike Richards' game winning goal. Chara skated the puck out from behind our net and, with two Flyers nearby, lost an edge and went crashing down to the ice. Dmitry Afanasenkov came up with the puck and skated in on Ward with Richards. In a 2-1 close to the net, Ward did exactly what he shouldn't have done- he left his feet. Afanasenkov took an extra stride or two and simply passed around Ward's helpless body to Richards, who took a whack at it and forced Joey MacDonald to make a great save. But Bochenski (putting in a good effort to get back on such short notice) accidentally knocked the puck in the net, putting the Flyers up for good. At this point I had to leave the room to watch the game alone, after muttering things like "Ward never sucked this much for Carolina" and "If they lose this game I'm going to start killing people". Keep in mind this was before the Bruins gave up a shorthanded goal to Scottie Upshall. You don't want to know what kind of things I said after that.

After the shortie, NESN went to commercial saying, " Scottie Upshall tries to stick a dagger in their hearts." I thought, after I finished twitching, that it was a good analogy. Upshall metaphorically stabbed us, and for the rest of the game we were metaphorically bleeding to death. This is what it feels like to be a Bruins fan. Actually, it's also a good representation of what it feels like to be an Oilers fan right now, except that the Bruins keep dragging me back in and refusing to let me die. With the Oilers right now we're just waiting for the end to come. At least with the Avs I'm still in a good place. With the current winning streak, everyone's suddenly speculating about them making the playoffs, but I stubbornly refuse to. I'm happy right now. They're winning and playing well and I'm enjoying every second of it (except when it was against the Bruins). I don't want to start stressing out and counting points and filling up pieces of paper with reasons why they might possibly maybe make the playoffs if everyone else starts to suck. Come on; they're 8 points back of Calgary and have played one more game. I'm not being pessimistic when I say that it's a tough hill to climb. The Oilers might not win another game this year and the Bruins are trying to kill me. Is it too much to ask for a stress-freeteam that actually wins games? They score goals, which I've already explained makes me happy. On one end, they have Joe Sakic, who is maybe as close to perfect as they come. On the other end, they've got a great group of young talent coming along, from the rookie tandem of Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski to the slightly older Marek Svatos (humor me- he'll return) and J-M Liles. The B's and Oilers are going to make me lose my worried mind. The Avs I thank for keeping me sane.

Quick notes
  • In addition to being stabbed in the heart and slowly bleeding to death, being an Oilers fan is apparently also like watching the innards being squeezed out of a live caterpillar. This fanbase needs Prozac.
  • Paula came with Liz and I to the Bruins/Avs game and sat with us in one of the few extra seats (front row- how pathetic). I pointed out Milan Hejduk and told her that he was the one I'd had the dream about. Her, Liz, and the woman next to them agreed that he actually was kinda cute, which freaked me out.
  • I missed the Oilers game last night because I was out and "didn't care". I still checked the score on my phone until it got to be 4-0 Anaheim. Then I did stop. I don't know if there's a point where I'll stop watching the games. Maybe when they have to forfeit because the only defensemen left are Jason Smith and Laddy Smid? The de situation reminds me of the episode of "Pete and Pete" when the older Pete joins the wrestling team and is forced to actually wrestle when every other person on the team is killed off. I have no idea how I remember that.
  • While giving a presentation on Dante's Inferno to my English class, I accidentally pronounced the name "Simon Magus" like "Seemon Magus". Eliza asked if I had done it to sound like "semen" and make Skinder feel awkward, but I told her I had actually been thinking of Simon Gagne. She seemed disappointed, but not surprised.
  • When at the Avs game with her and Liz, we each got the attention of a different person. Liz waved wildly at Petr Tenkrat while he was stretching, and got him to keep looking over and smiling amusedly. Paula (according to her) made eye contact with Zdeno Chara, whom she has dreams about. She can't figure out why; he's her Milan Hejduk. I got the attention of the Bruins mascot Blades, who is, outside of Daniel Briere, my sworn enemy. As he walked by I took a picture, and he started pointing and waving at me, giving me a mild panic attack. Due to him and Wally the Green Monster, I just really hate mascots.
Would you want that thing waving at you?

Update: The Bruins beat Detroit. I was asleep for the first two periods, but according to NBC, they played with a lot of desperation. From what I saw and read, Patrice was finally on today, getting a goal and an assist. Savvy still played with some fire, but today it paid off, getting him 3 assists. Tim Thomas was again fantastic, stopping 35 of 38 shots. I still don't care. My faith in them was killed yesterday. Goddamn Bruins.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Pregaming: Avs at B's

This game makes me nervous, and not just because I'm afraid I'll pass out when I see Joe Sakic in person. If the Bruins win this game, they'll move into 10th place in the East- 2 points behind Carolina, with two games in hand. If the lose, they idle at 12th, suddenly behind both Toronto and the Rangers with no games in hand. They have a good shot at catching Montreal and Carolina, but they absolutely have to keep ahead of the Leafs and Rangers. That's why this game makes me nervous- and that's why yesterday I looked up every possible statistic related to the game instead of, say, doing my homework, or even going to the last half of the school day.

Through my exhaustive research (which made me look "wicked burned out" according to a few people), I found some interesting things that could come into play tonight. Firstly, there's a fair amount of evidence to show that the Bruins have played much better over the past two games than they did through their 4-game winning streak. I see the Bruins' recent play in three sections- the four game winning streak, then the three game losing streak, and finally the past two games (another winning streak, you could say). The goals during these three stretches go:
Goals for-Goals against
Winning Streak1: 21-8 (AVG 5.3-2.0 per game)
Losing Streak: 7-14 (AVG 2.3-4.7 per game)
Winning Streak2: 7-2 (AVG 3.5-1.0 per game)
The numbers make sense. If there's any disparity between the two winning streaks, it's style of play. It looks like the Bruins focused more on offense during the first, and defense during the second. But looking at shots seems to prove this wrong.
Shots for/Shots against
Winning Streak1: 92-128 (AVG 23-32 per game)
Losing Streak: 88-127 (AVG 29-42 per game)
Winning Streak2: 66-59 (AVG 33-30 per game)
They were outshot during their first winning streak in all games but Buffalo. So if they were awful defensively, not generating more shots than the other team, and bad on the powerplay (11.8%), how in god's name did they win? The answer lies somewhere in between opportunistic scoring and Tim Thomas' .945 SV%. It's easy to say that it's entirely Thomas' doing, especially when you see that the losing streak started in a game that he was pulled from, but it can't be entirely. Even with that game, he posted a .938 SV% during the losing streak. The real problem was that the Bruins got even worse defensively and stopped being able to pull goals out of thin air. When they played the Flyers during the winning streak, they scored 6 goals on 18 shots for the win, despite letting up 33 shots against. When they played them during the losing streak, they scored 3 goals on 37 shots and let up 55 against for the OT loss. The Bruins have corrected both problems. They may not be scoring 5 goals a game, but they're also not letting up a mind-boggling amount of shots and expecting Tim Thomas to hold the fort. That's what real teams do. How exciting!
E had a line about Thomas in her last post that absolutely killed me.
Also, even though he murderized us tonight, I kind of like Thomas for his sheer stubborn refusal to look even the least bit athletic. It’s like the Bruins decided to put a big stuffed panda bear in goal.
So true, but I guess that's just another reason why I love the guy.

Even though the Bruins are getting good offense, great goaltending, and acceptable defense, and they're hungrier for the points, and they're on home ice, there's still one thing that could hurt them: the Avs powerplay. If I were looking strictly at the numbers, I'd say that the Bruins have an advantage in the special teams department. While their mediocre penalty kill might struggle with the Avs 4th-ranked powerplay, they have a good powerplay themselves that should take complete advantage of the Avs useless killing squad, which is even worse without Karlis Skrastins. But, having watched the Avs all year, I'm not looking strictly at the numbers. Their powerplay has bailed them out of a lot of games this year and always seems to be able to get them a goal when they most need it. This doesn't bode well for the Bruins, who, led by their fearless captain Zdeno Chara, take the dumbest penalties at the worst times. If they take too many penalties this game, they might end up losing to a team that they should and need to beat. That being said, the Avs penalty kill has bad timing to the point that it almost cancels out the good timing of their powerplay. So pretty much everything is saying that the Bruins are going to win.

Prediction: Avs. I'm always wrong. Besides, this makes it a win-win situation. If the Bruins win, they get the points they need and will move that much closer to the playoffs. If the Avs win, I'm right for once and will ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach that I get when I look at the Eastern Conference standings. Yay insurance!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

It's Not Bad, It Just Looks Good

Yesterday I needed a mental health day, so I decided to take a day off from hockey and spend time with my friends. With everything the way it's been lately, this was exactly what I needed. We went to the mall, fooling around for a bit with the iPhoto in the Apple store.
We were on the same page with the "blinded by the light" picture...

...but had some unfortunate miscommunication on the "product placement" one.

Then went to my house with a few more people to watch movies and relax. When one was over my friend was flipping through the stations and I noticed that the Bruins game was still on. Unable to keep my pledge of a no-hockey day, I told her that I "just needed to quickly check the score". She begrudgingly flipped to NESN, noting that I sounded like a crack addict looking for a fix. Of course when I saw that the Bruins were beating the Canadiens 2-1 with 5 minutes left in the third, I admitted to my addiction and made them watch the end of the game. When Murray scored again to make it 3-1, I started raving that I couldn't believe the Bruins were doing this to me, and that they couldn't just let me give up on them, and that if they had only lost this game, I would be able to let go, but now I was stuck with them, and so on so forth. Good god, do my friends hate hockey. After they left I turned to the Oilers game, watching them lose then Lowe and Horcoff being interviewed on After Hours. I'm pretty sure someone from the Oilers was holding a gun to Horc's back throughout the interview, making sure he didn't say anything that could be perceived as vaguely negative about the trade. So much for a mental health day.
Edit: Credit to The Battle of Alberta for going into detail about the After Hours interviews. I couldn't manage to myself.

The Avs are on now, beating Detroit 2-1 going into the 3rd. It's a fun game to watch, especially on a Sunday afternoon when I woke up 20 minutes before gametime. The Avs are playing well, though with strange line combinations. Instead of having Arnason centering Lappy and McLean like they used to, they have Brad Richardson on that wing, with Mclean playing on the Stastny-Hejduk line. I would have switched the two, but that's why I'm not an NHL coach. Both lines have scored (Arnason and Hejduk). I'm very sentimental in my choice of linemates, meaning I'm usually wrong.

Tonight the Bruins are playing the defensively-minded, 2nd-ranked Devils. That game won't be so much fun. My prediction: The Bruins score twice early (Patrice, then someone normally unassuming on a feed from Savard). They completely own the first period, causing everyone to talk about the playoffs. They get bombarded in the second period to the point that it's a shock they're still winning and let up a late goal. New Jersey scores an early third-period goal; I dismiss the Bruins as bums. They come back and score again, dragging me back into it, then lose the game in the last 5 minutes. I'm found several hours later in the trunk of my car, curled in a ball and muttering to myself about Brad Boyes. That's a best-case scenario.

Quick notes
  • I've decided to stay insanely positive with the Oilers and focus on the young guys for the rest of the season. Everyone else is looking at the negatives, and I don't think that's a bad thing. It needs to be examined, but just not by me, lest you want me to wind up in the car muttering about Long Island.
  • One of the movies my seriously strange friends made me watch was "Alice in Wonderland". They decided that I was Alice, the normal-esque girl who's stuck trying to make sense of people who are completely mad and often drugged. It's a scarily accurate comparison.
  • Remembering that my parents doubted Dan Spang, a prospect from our town, would ever make the NHL, I looked him up on Hockey's Future. Contrary to what they thought, he seems to have a decent future ahead of him. If he solidifies an NHL position, I could see the Bruins trying to snag him. They love hometown boys, and in addition to growing up 10 miles north of Boston, he went to BU. He's worth following, for me.
  • NBC has Mark Rycroft miced up, which is exceedingly random, but produced a good clip. Rycroft got cut with a stick and had blood trickling down his face. After complaining to the refs, he skated to the bench and asked the trainer, "Is it really bad?" The trainer took a quick look, then told him, "It's not bad, it just looks good." This is why I love hockey.
  • Update: The Avs just beat Detroit in overtime. It was a fantastic game and put me in a good mood. And I was about as wrong as a person can be about the lines. The goals were: Arnason, Hejduk, McLean, and Richardson. Sigh.
  • Last game the Avs announcers said that they were always wrong when predicting whether something would be a goal or not, so they should just always predict in the opposition's favor. It worked. I'm thinking of starting the same thing, because I'm phenomenally wrong about almost everything.
  • Brodeur has won so many games for New Jersey- he's a goal-stopping machine. And gosh, that Patrik Elias has been durable this year. Go Devils!
  • Update: The Bruins handily beat the Devils 4-1. I've heard that Dave Lewis informed the players they would be killed off one by one until they played a more defensively responsible game, starting with Stanislav Chistov. You hate to see it come to that, but I guess that's what it takes to win. They were fantastic this game. Have I mentioned that I hate them?
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