Friday, April 30, 2010

Do not fear Halak; Pens in five

The Pittsburgh Penguins are running into the hottest goalie in the NHL playoffs tonight in Montreal Canadiens' netminder Jaroslav Halak. I'm not too concerned.

Call me a homer, I don't care. The Pens are going to crack Halak, who humiliated the No. 1 seeded Washington Capitals in the first round. Halak was a big reason the Habs held the Caps to just one goal in 33 powerplay attempts. And it's true that in the regular season the Caps' powerplay was much better than the Pens', which was a joke on numerous occasions.

This Pens team is built for the playoffs, though. The Caps were not.

Despite having very skilled players, the Pens don't rely on the finesse the Caps do. The Pens score gritty goals in front of the net with deflections and rebounds. They don't just shoot for the heck of it. They work a play and wait for an opening.

Halak was seeing a lot of the shots the Caps threw at him. He is going to have a hard time doing that with the likes of Bill Guerin, Max Talbot and Matt Cooke screening him all game. Throw Sidney Crosby's unique ability to find the puck in traffic, and Halak is going to have a rough go of it.

Don't believe me, just look at last year's postseason. The Caps' Semyon Varlamov was lights out against the New York Rangers, before being shelled by the Pens in the next round. Then there was the Carolina Hurricanes' Cam Ward. Members of the media were practically crowning him as the Con Smythe after two rounds. Well, four games later and he and his team were out and probably wondering what the hell just happened.

That brings us to Chris Osgood. He had a 2.01 goals against average and almost 93 percent save percentage in the postseason last year, played well against Pittsburgh, but the Pens still got the best of him in the biggest moments of the series.

I understand that all of these references are from last year. All I'm saying is the Pens have a history of solving hot goaltenders when the situation calls for it and there is not reason to think it won't continue this year.

Warren Zevon - Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Habs knock out Capitals

Holy crap the last two minutes of that game were intense! Nicklas Backstrom made an amazing play to prevent the Habs from scoring an empty net goal, but the Capitals just couldn't pound the puck into the net despite having a powerplay for the last few minutes.

Alexander Semin, who had 40 goals and 80+ points during the regular season, had one assist in this series. That's it. Can you say goat?

Can there be multiple goats? Mike Green ignored the puck trying to hit a guy and allowed Dominic Moore to walk in and score the eventual game winner with less than four minutes left. Also, Alexander Ovechkin, who some consider the best player in the league, finished the game with one assist.

This is a happy day.

Now, the Habs come to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins in the next round. I'm not worried. Yes, Jaroslav Halak was ridiculous for the past three games with like 130 saves on 133 shots; however, the Pens actually put traffic in front of the net. They also crash the net much harder than the Caps. As long as they don't get caught up taking tons of outside shots, the Pens will be able to solve Halak.

I love playoff hockey!

Bob Seger - Turn the Page

Habs still leading

Halak is a beast. The Capitals outshot the Habs 13-3, but the score is still 1-0.

More big penalty kills by the Canadiens this period. How the heck did the Caps go from No. 1 in the regular season on the powerplay, to being like 1-for-36 in this series? Good to see they peaked at the right time.

Mike Green is absolutely terrible on defense. He makes Ryan Whitney look like Rob Scuderi. He took another bad penalty after getting burned, but the Habs couldn't capitalize with the extra man.

As much fun as it is to rip on the Caps, if they dominate possession in the third like they did in the second, they are going to win this game. Well, if they don't let Semin shoot the puck. He has been a joke this entire series and has not scored a playoff goal going on 14 games. This is the same Semin who said he didn't see what was so special about Sidney Crosby.

Tom Cochrane - Life is a Highway

Canadiens looking good

So the second period of tonight's Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens just started.

The first period saw more of the Habs' goalie Jaroslav Halak destroying the Caps moral. Alexander Ovechkin and company look tight. The highlight of this tightness was postseason star Alexander Semin hitting the post on a wide open net. Wow. Tightness, Semin and wide open all in the same paragraph. I feel dirty.

End of the period saw the Habs get a powerplay goal after Mike Green made a wonderful play where he whiffed on the puck and took a stupid penalty. Ladies and gentleman, one of your Norris trophy candidates.

Second period recap coming soon.

The Skids - The Saints are Coming

More random thoughts

The blog was on hiatus for a few weeks and I apologize to my handful of wonderful readers. Internet was down for 10 days and then I was just lazy. On the bight side, it gave me plenty of time to compile another list of random thoughts.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers had a decent draft. Love the Maurkice Pauncy pick and trading for Bryant McFadden, but a little disappointed they didn't go with an inside linebacker higher than they did.
  • Not sure who I feel worse for, Sam Bradford or Jason Campbell. Bradford is going to get paid lots of money, but may be killed behind an atrocious St. Louis line. Meanwhile, Campbell goes from one joke of an organization to a bigger joke of an organization and will probably disappear in the black hole that is Oakland.
  • Why did Tim Tebow have the longest interview after being drafted 25 overall? I am probably going to hell because I want the man to fall on his face.
  • "Clash of the Titans" was not a good movie. I am all for big action movies in theaters, but some plot is needed.
  • I used to be a big Mel Kiper hater. I think it was mostly jealousy that his job is to watch football and say if players will be good, OK or stink with no real consequences for being wrong. Seriously, what a sweet gig. My hatred died down because of Todd McShay's emergence and my hatred of him.
  • Great column here by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Joe Starkey on how Roger Goodell is setting a dangerous precedent with the Big Ben suspension.
  • Now, if the Steelers met with Goodell and said they wanted Roethlisberger suspended 4-6 games, I'm OK with the suspension because the union can't fight it from the commissioner, but could have if it was levied by the team.
  • If the Steelers start 1-3 or 0-4, do you think fans would still be calling to the radio stations demanding Ben be traded?
  • If they are, do you think they'll still be making those claims when Ben comes back and leads the team to the playoffs?
  • The NHL playoffs are the best postseason in sports, and it's not even close. The overtime thrillers, upset potential in every round and the determination of players to take the ice with pretty serious injuries are just a few of the reasons. If a baseball player has a sports hernia, he misses at least a month. A hockey player has it and plays three games a week without us even knowing.
  • Go Habs!
  • Does anyone else think that the media is making too much out of the Washington Capitals-Montreal Canadiens Game 7? It's a great story about the No. 8-seeded Habs taking the Caps to the brink, but is this really the biggest game in Alexander Ovechkin's career? His team should win this game nine times out of 10. Yet, if they win this game and he plays well, the media will make him out to be some great hero. It's the first round. If he gets past the second, then you can almost say he has done something.
  • Sidney Crosby haters were already desperately reaching for flaws in the man's game. Look at his past year of feats and you'll see they really have nothing to grasp. I'm not saying they have to like him, but you have to respect him and his ability to raise his game when called upon.
  • Max Talbot is back. Somewhere (Detroit's bench), Chris Osgood is having nightmares from last year's Game 7.
  • Maybe next year the New Jersey Devils will realize that Martin Brodeur can't play 70+ games in the season and be expected to be in top form come playoffs time.
  • Then again, they didn't learn it the past three years, so why would they pick up on it next season?
  • Remember my rant about reserving judgement on the Pittsburgh Pirates this season? After a recent 7-game skid, I'm starting to think the team's critics had a few points.
  • Jeff Karstens = Cy Young!
  • Was that last one an overreaction?
  • I still support the Jeff Clement experiment. I don't care if Steve Pearce is batting .400 is AAA, he had plenty of chances and sucked at the big league level.
  • Aki Iwamura looks fat this season. He's currently batting under .200. Coincidence? I think not.
  • If you even remotely look like a Mexican, or just have a dark tan, do not go to Arizona.
  • Anyone else laugh when they see the "C" on Ovechkin's jersey?
  • After about eight years of participating in fantasy sports, I am beginning to lose interest. Drafts are still fun, but the season is losing it's allure. And it's not because I'm sucking in some leagues.
  • With that being said, I am obsessed with a current rinkotology fantasy league I am in for the NHL playoffs. I'm 12 points shy of $50!
  • Freddie Prinze Jr. is still alive in Season 8 of "24". What the hell?! And when did he get his crazy eyes? Watch the show for 5 minutes and you'll see what I'm talking about.
  • "Paranormal Activity" was really, really boring. Although, now anytime I here a creak in my house I think it is a demon coming for me.
  • Despite reading several stories explaining it, I still don't get how Greece's failing economy could cause widespread problems in Europe. I have a deep respect for people of Greek decent and their contributions to society (mythology being the big one, with democracy a close second), but what exactly do they contribute today?
  • Loyal reader, Mike, just puked a little in his mouth and decided he's going to throw a molotov cocktail through my bedroom window because of that last thought.
  • Bring it.
Joe Walsh - Life's Been Good

Monday, April 12, 2010

A tale of two players

Pretty sure there is nothing I can say that hasn't already been said regarding the recent trade of Santonio Holmes or the announcement that Ben Roethlisberger won't be charged in his most recent sexual assault charge. But I'll give it a whirl.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that due to Holmes recent and past actions, he was going to be released if not traded. Apparently he was also a bad teammate in the locker room, as Bouchette said there will be many players on the Steelers happy about his trade. Of course, those players are anonymous and it could have been Limas Sweed for all we know, except Bouchette is a very reliable and honest journalist that doesn't just make stuff up, so I believe him.

As much as it sounds like Holmes was on the outs, I still wish we could have received a little more than a fifth round pick for a former first rounder and Super Bowl MVP. Even if he is suspended for the first four games of the season, the man has boatloads of talent. Chances are the Steelers knew the most recent suspension was coming and have been trying to deal Holmes for the past few weeks, therefore the rest of the league knew something was up and they weren't going to give up much for him.

The fifth round does little for the Steelers unless they can turn around their current trend of drafting busts from the third round on. I'd be a lot more excited if it was a first or second rounder, but that wasn't going to happen.

As for Ben, the first thing that needs to be brought up is how the DA showed how he truly felt in his news conference today. Sure, he said he can't charge Ben because lack of evidence, but by constantly referring to the accuser as the victim showed he wished he had enough evidence to put Ben away. If a journalist wrote this story and called the person a victim, they could be sued. Because there was no charge, she is the alleged victim. By calling her the victim, it gives off the impression that a crime occurred.

Second, Ben is slime. There was some sort of sexual encounter, and this woman was very drunk. A decent person would not take advantage of her in any situation, let alone in a public bathroom. Ben is not a decent person. The statement he gave at 7 tonight was a joke. Well, all prepared statements by athletes are jokes. Reading how sorry you are in a monotone voice means nothing and is just a show. I very much doubt he is sorry. I'd say I doubt his sincerity, but there was none to speak of.

Third, as much as I dislike Ben's actions and doubt his apology, the NFL should not suspend him. The law found that there was not enough evidence against him, so how can Roger Goodell obtain enough evidence to suspend him? He can try, but I think the Player's Union would win the appeal. Now, if the Steelers want to suspend him, which I doubt they will, I have no issue with it. They committed more than $100 million to the man and he just dragged their organization through the mud again.

To sum it all up, it was not a good weekend for the Steelers. We lost a Super Bowl hero, and another one is a jerk. The real question is; will Ben learn from this mistake and become a real role model and leader? Or will he continue to act like he can do whatever he wants? If he chooses the latter, then it will be real interesting to see how the Steelers handle it.

Wings - Jet

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dream of perfection ends

The Pittsburgh Pirates shot at the perfect 162-0 season ended today with a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

All Pirates fans knew it had to end at some point, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. How awesome would that have been? The team that local and national media alike mock every chance they get, going perfect in the regular season to end a 17-year drought of losing seasons. Damn you Dodgers!

Seriously though, what a great start for the Buccos. Taking the opening series against a team with far superior talent. Unfortunately, the Negative Nancies, Debbie Downers, Pauley Pessimistics and Bob Smiziks will continue to remind us that this team stinks, the good opening series means nothing and the Pirates will lose 100 games.

Well screw them.

Let them rip on Jeff Clement's offense, defense and existence. Let them tell us that Garret Jones is destined to fail because he didn't get to the majors until he was 28. Let them cry about Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez being traded away, which makes our team defense much worse. And let them repeatedly tell us how the rotation is filled with guys who would be fringe No. 4 and No. 5 starters on most teams.

The truth is, most of Clement's critics have only seen him play a handful of games. Yes, Jones is 28, but Jason Bay was 26 when he broke on the scene and won the NL Rookie of the Year. Sure, the defense takes a hit without Freddy and Jack, but Sanchez is on the DL (again) and Wilson won't hit .250 this year or double digit homers. And the rotation is young and consists of guys who are trying to prove themselves with every pitch.

These players, and the whole team, will hit roadblocks and slumps, and the media and fans will respond with nothing but cries of "We need new owners," and "I can't support a team that isn't trying to win." Yet, when they win, these same people will tell us how the team still sucks and will get crushed in the next game.

I understand the frustration. I'm in the same boat as a Pirates fan who can hardly remember what playoff baseball feels like. But it's just too easy to poke holes in every thing about this team. Instead, try and look at how much fun this season will be. Many of these players are fresh out of the minors or have very limited time in the pros. This is an opportunity for them that thy don't want to ruin with poor play, and then a demotion back to the place they fought so hard to get out of.

So instead of joining the growing crowd of people screaming how the team sucks, let's support them and enjoy the effort they give us every day. Let's focus on every positive that presents itself and see how we can build on it, rather than pick out every bad thing and try to knock the team down.

The Pirates will be a playoff team again. Really, it's going to happen. Odds are it won't be this year, but it very well be with this core of players a few years down the line. So I plead for the people of Pittsburgh to enjoy the wins we get along the way and support this team as they grow.

Peter Gabriel - Don't Give Up

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dumb move by Eagles

OK, I'm late and I apologize. But hoe stupid are the Philadelphia Eagles for trading Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins?

His doubters and critics will say he could never win the big game, but McNabb made his team a consistent playoff and Super Bowl contender during his time in Philadelphia. The one year he had a true No. 1 receiver, his team went to the Super Bowl and looked amazing during the season. They ran into a tough New England Patriots team with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in their primes.

All of the Philly fans who applauded the shipping off of McNabb are fools. Are you really that comfortable with Kevin Kolb back there and Michael Vick backing him up? Think about this, the biggest knock on McNabb was his accuracy. Vick is worse in that department, a lot worse.

Another reason the Eagles were mistaken in dealing McNabb is he could come back to haunt them twice a year for the near future. Who trades a Pro Bowl quarterback within the same division? If it came out today that Ben Roethlisberger was guilty of both of his alleged sexual assaults, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were to trade him, it wouldn't be to an NFC North rival.

I'm not saying the Redskins are going to be good this year; their receiver group is one of the worst in the league. But why risk having McNabb hand you multiple losses each season. You're just asking your fans to hate you.

Of course, now that I say this, Kolb will go gangbusters this year and lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl while the Redskins finish 5-11. That result wouldn't really upset me though. I hate the Redskins and their fans and love to watch them fail.

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

Thursday, April 1, 2010

College basketball just got a lot less interesting

Looks like the NCAA is going to expand March Madness to 96 teams in the near future. Nothing has been confirmed or decided yet, but officials today said that 96 was the "logical" expansion for the tournament.

What happens if this plan is implemented? The regular season will basically be meaningless and the tournament is going to be less exciting.

There are already too many mediocre teams that make it in now because they get hot at the right time and win a conference championship. With 96 teams, we're going to get a lot more teams with .500 conference records in the tournament. I don't care if you're in the Big East, ACC or Southern Conference, if you can't win more than 50 percent of your conference games, you shouldn't be playing for a national championship. Good teams will be able to take breaks during the season without any real fear of losing a spot in the tournament.

Why should I watch the regular season?

To be fair, I went to small university with a crappy basketball program. Seriously, they stink and have stunk for a long time. Needless to say, I have no real cheering interests when it comes to college basketball. I'll pull for Wisconsin because of family connections, but mostly when I watch, it's strictly to see a good game. If teams don't feel the same amount of urgency, there is a good chance less good games will be on. With less good games, the more often I will be watching reruns of "Scrubs." Unless it's the seventh or ninth season. They sucked.

With the tournament, there are a lot of good games packed into a three-week period. Expand this thing, and it's not going to be as exciting in the beginning. Teams that have no right playing for a national championship will be getting stomped early and often. You kind of have that now with 64 teams, with occasional No. 1 and No. 2 scares and the annual No. 12 dropping a No. 5.

My biggest problem with 96 teams is it's not about giving more teams a chance. Sure, the NCAA will announce it's for the good of the event, but what it comes down to is it will bring in more money. It's naive to think otherwise.

It could be worse though, they could be considering having 97 teams with a play-in game. Seriously, who thought of that crap?

Bob Seger - Feel Like a Number