Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hot is Hot

I've heard this nasty rumour lately that Daniel Craig, Mr. Blonde 007 James Bond, has been caught kissing some man and that he may possibly be gay. While it's always shocking and disheartening to hear that some beautiful specimen of a man actually hits for the other team, what really shocks and disheartens me is the discussion that is surrounding this so-called issue.

Some people say that it's unacceptable for the 007 super spy to be gay and that if he ever comes out, this is a good reason for him to get fired as the world's most famous numerically identified spy. The reasoning behind this is that James Bond is a true man's man and ladies' man and that there is no way that he can some sort of pansy wansy gay man and retain that role.

There is so much wrong with this reasoning, so I'm going to proceed in order here otherwise I'll have a blind rage filled hissy fit:

Stupid argument number one: James Bond cannot be gay

James Bond cannot be anything. He is NOT REAL. He is a fictional made up character who is part of a billion dollar movie franchise based on the fact that audiences love to see things blow up and love a man who can get any woman because that's their ultimate fantasy.

Another thing about this which is faulty is the fact that Daniel Craig is NOT James Bond. He's Daniel Craig, a paid actor who makes a living by being paid to act like someone he is not. This does not apply to his real life. In his real life, he should be himself, whether that's gay or whatever. In the movies, he should be ladies man Bond. Don't get the 2 confused, people. Let him be what he is in real life and he will continue to pander to your silly action related fantasies in the movies.

Stupid argument number two: male audiences will not identify with a gay James Bond

James Bond is not being rewritten as the owner of a flower shop in Manhattan who sells lilies by day and solves crime at night. He will continue to be the man that he always was and his career will still be super spy. There will also be tons of supermodels to follow in his path and end up in his bed in the movies. Remember: it's the movies. Male audiences should not let the personal life of the actor portraying Bond affect how they feel about seeing things blow up.

Stupid argument number three: women audiences will not identify with a gay James Bond

No way. Hot is hot. We all know it when we see it. Sure, we're not going to be happy that we can't actually have Daniel Craig's sexy body when it comes out of the water in those old school tight swim trunks, but then again, none of us are ever going to have it. We only have it when we go to the movies, much like the James Bond fantasy itself. So just because he prefers men, we're all going to stop swooning collectively when a bare chested Craig shows up on the big screen? Anyone who thinks like this doesn't know women.

Movies are fantasies. We're not going to watch Bond movies with Craig and suddenly fantasize about shoe-shopping with him. We like hot men and we will pay to see them, even if they turn out to be gay. Most men who work in strip clubs are gay men and women still want to stuff dollar bills in their G-strings. We're not going to stop ogling Daniel Craig as long as he's still buff.

If he gets fat and lazy, on the other hand, well, we're not going to line up and pay $12 to see him.

All of this may just be a rumour dreamed up by some jealous heterosexual man or the fantasy brain child of some homosexual man. Either way, the fact that this is an issue is in itself problematic and is the real point of this entry. As a society that has recognized the rights of gay people, we should not be fixated on this.

Either live and let live and give gay people as much consideration as everyone else, or forget it. A person's sexual orientation is not supposed to be used against them, particularly in terms of their professional life and if we were going to fire some gay guy in our office, we would have the Human Rights Tribunal on our butts so fast, we wouldn't know what hit us. The fact that Hollywood thinks it can dismiss an actor on the basis of his being gay makes it even more backwards. We are an irresponsible society if we give people rights that we're not willing to honour.

And gay or straight, in my opinion, Daniel Craig could make out with palm trees and he would still be hot. Hot is hot.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nothing says O Canada like a new tax

On July 1, 2010, the government of Ontario is introducing a new tax because nothing says happy birthday to a nation like imposing a new tax. The HST, the Harmonized Sales Tax, is going to replace the previous two tier provincial and federal sales taxation system with a harmonized model that will make some things a tad less expensive and some other things a tad more expensive. While the new HST will still combine for 13%, which is roughly what we pay now, it's not so much the how much that will change, but what gets taxed.

Things that had not previously been taxed by one of two governments will either be slightly decreased by around 2% and other items will increase from 5% to 13%. Certain essentials, like food, clothing and child services will not be affected, so as to let the poor stay poor and not slide all the way to destitute. Other less essential items which still make up a good portion of goods and services used by the present middle class, will be taxed up to 13% from the previous 5% and this where some of the sliding occurs from middle class to closer to poor than previously thought.

Frivolities such as internet access, drycleaning services, hydro, hairstyling and gas will increase. While these are not considered to be essential to life in the same way that food, water and shelter are, it's pretty difficult to see how the average consumer is going to be able to absorb these extra costs. Most people will not have the option of not owning a vehicle, since the middle class tends to live a little out of the downtown core due to inflated central housing prices. As well, those working in any kind of profession in which they contact the general public will probably not be able to forego haircuts and drycleaning. As for hydro and internet access? We can't exactly eat in the dark and not check our email.

And then there are home renovations and services like snow removal. Wait, didn't the federal government just offer tax benefits for those renovating their homes? Looks like the government keeps to its old tradition of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Another interesting fact is that while alcohol will decrease from 15% to 12%, tobacco will increase. Why are we punishing the smokers and not the alcoholics? Don't they both have just as big an impact on our social services and health care? I guess the government figures that smoking is plain evil, whereas alcohol just helps their public servants face another day at work.

And when introducing a new tax, why not ruin two holidays at the same time? While this new tax comes into effect on Canada Day, it will spread its influence straight through to Christmas, when Christmas trees will be taxed up to 15% as well. Ho ho ho, thanks for the extra dough.

Probably the single most maddening thing in this equation is that while inflation has risen roughly 2.2% over the past year, most public servants have seen an increase of 1% on their annual pay. Which means that the hated public servants who always seen to be doing better than the rest of the country, really are not doing THAT much better than the rest of the country.

1% is better than a kick in the teeth, and I guess for those people who didn't even get that, well, they probably see it as such. In the meantime, it's probably a good idea to get your hair cut, get your clothes cleaned, quit smoking and turn off the lights. Those little 'luxuries' will soon cost us more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gathering of the Clans

As the preparations are underway for the G20 summit, you have to wonder about that old idea that 100 monkeys on a 100 typewriters would eventually write Shakespeare. Can 100 world leaders, bankers and diplomats in a period of several days, by this very same token, make a single life changing decision?

The answer to both questions is probably yes, but the results are probably more skewed than some people would expect. There's no guarantee that a 100 monkeys writing Shakespeare would actually write the BEST Shakespeare nor that the one life changing decision that gets made at the Summit would actually be a GOOD one.

Or here's another way to think about it: if you invite 1000 guests to your wedding, what are the chances that there will be ONE person who sees NO issue with ANY aspect of the day, right down to the choice of bonbons on the tables?

The point to be made here is that more is not better. As this Summit grows, so too do the issues and so few real resolutions are ever offered. And that's a lot of pain when you consider how expensive, disruptive and potentially dangerous an event like this is.

Anyone who thinks it's a smart idea for every major world leader to get together in the same building at the same time when that building is not a bunker underneath a bunker somewhere near the earth's core is maybe a tad naive. With all the 'threats' and 'radicals' out there, wouldn't this be target number one for any would be martyr? Of course this is dangerous. The mere fact of gathering together, while it's a fantastic show of diplomacy, flattery, image and collaborative spirit, is somewhat dangerous.

Beyond the security issue, though, is this model effective? Yes, we have great organizations like the United Nations which is used as a vehicle for diplomacy and negotiations, but other than tabling a lot of studies, what have they really done? It is good to have everyone aware of each other and keeping tabs on each other. This is done quite effectively as well through new technology. But what comes out of the Summit other than awkward family photos of world leaders wearing stiff smiles and suits and renewed commitments to principles such as fighting injustice?

And then this year's summit will include bankers and financiers who crashed the market and then had to petition our governments for bailouts so that they could keep paying people their bonuses so that they would keep working for their broken financial system. These are not the people who should have the ears of our world leaders.

The ones who should have the ears? The people, of course, the ones that are represented by the leaders and who give them their trust. But the Summit isn't open to the people even though it's being run for the interests of the people. That's like being told that you can't get into your own birthday party because you didn't respond to the evite that you sent.

The G20 summit may be viewed as an event of enormous diplomatic and bridge buidling importance. But for the rest of us who aren't invited, it just looks like a big fancy dinner party.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Thrisis Crisis

Is it possible to have a crisis about a crisis? Well, maybe not a full blown crisis, but maybe just a hissy fit works.

The thrisis is defined as that crisis which occurs when you turn 30 or are approaching 30 at an alarmingly despondent rate and realize that you're not happy with anything in your life. Most people in the past have experienced the mid-life crisis which occurs at 50 traditionally with the same amount of despondence and general unhappiness. Since people are not settling down the way that they used to, and taking longer to get educated and are no longer working the one career every day for the rest of their lives, the crisis and the questioning tends to happen earlier. 30 is a great milestone to take stock of one's life and ask yourself lots of important life questions in order to determine if you're on the right track or not. The problem seems to be that most of us find that we're not.

This is why turning 30, as momentous an occasion as it is, leads to depression and long sleepless nights of 'why? why? why?' Some people say that this is a good thing, because it often results in us making necessary changes to our lives or altering our course when we see that we're headed nowhere. But no doubt, it's a painful experience nonetheless.

My real beef with the thrisis? I know that I'm having one because I'm not a long way off. I also know that I'm having one because I'm not particularly feeling perky fabulous about my life and where I'm at. My real beef with the thrisis is the fact that a lot of the other people who are having it, really have no good reason to have it at all.

Everyone has the right to have their own little issues and quirkiness when it comes to their lives, the pet peeves, the questioning, etc. That's fine. But a lot of the people who are having their thrisis can easily see what they don't have, but not what they have.

Prime examples:

My boyfriend won't get around to proposing to me.

Really? That's such a pain. I don't have a boyfriend. I haven't had a date in months and hate everything about the dating scene and the last few single men that I met are gay. But poor you. You have no ring on your finger. Don't just be happy that you have someone at home waiting for you, who loves you, who comforts you, who makes your life worthwhile. Complain about the lack of jewelery and bonbons. That's keeping things in relativity.

I want to have a baby.

That's great. But you wonder why it isn't working when you put a ton of pressure on yourself and each other and use thermometers and organic aids and consult astrocharts to determine when the moon is aligned with the earth's radius, thereby creating the ideal circumstances for baby making.

Stressing out won't help your situation. The fact that you're two mature, healthy adults with a solid commitment who are making a life changing decision together to bring more love into your lives is already half the blessing. Just remember how many women would like to be in your situation, or who want children and can't, for various reasons.

Here's an idea: why don't you go with the traditional system of a bottle of wine and some Tom Jones? It will happen when it happens.

I want to buy a house.

Then buy it. This is not a life decision that is insurmountable if you're ready to do the research, make the commitment and invest the time and money in it. You may have to lower your standards and not go for the house with the fancy upgrades and all the bells and whistles. If you're not willing to do that, well, then reconsider why you want the house and what you're willing to sacrifice in order to get it. Instead of complaining that you don't have a designer home, either get used to renting upper class or make the sacrifices you need to get it. And be patient because it can take years. Don't believe me? Ask mom and dad what their first house looked like. Unless you come from money, I'm pretty sure it didn't have granite countertops.

I can't get a great job.

Keep looking. There's no easy solution to this. It can take the average person up to 6 months to replace a job if they lose it, whatever the circumstances may be. Different factors kick in here: education, the industry, the economy, the long time it takes to get established within an industry and jobs with low pay scales. You want a great job, you have to make use of your contacts and buff up your experience in any way that you can. If you can't get the experience through your job, you may need to do some extra or free stuff.

Depending on the job of choice that you're going after, you need to do your research, get a plan, make some contacts and probably suffer through some tough times of not knowing what the heck you're doing. This is hard in any period of your life, but the good news is that you can do it anytime. Unless you're attempting a supermodel career or something.

I want to go back to school.

Then go. Nobody cares if you're older than the 20 somethings who still have acne. As long as you choose a field that you truly love or that will pay serious dividends for your career advancement, you will not regret this decision. When it comes to education, this is a serious credential for advancement and there's no such thing as too much. It also lets you keep your options open for career change and most people want that.

Be happy that you live in a country where there are lots of choices for education, including distance education. Also be happy that there are lots of options for loans and bursaries.

I don't live where I want to live.

Then move. Yes, moving is inconvenient, hard work, a big adjustment and stressful. But if you get to where you want to be, it is so worth it. It's not a happy thing to live somewhere when you'd rather be somewhere else. If you want to live near the water, or you want to make the big move from country to city, then do it. Consider what you love, consider what makes you happy on a daily basis. Maybe the water is that important for you to work out and hang out in the sun. Maybe the city excites you. Make the move. Your friends and family will keep in touch and hopefully visit. Don't let any of that stuff hold you back.

Be happy with what you have if you already have a partner, a baby, a good job and a house. Be happy that you have choices if you don't have any of those things or if it turns out that you don't want any of them after all. It's never too late to change your course in life. No matter when it happens.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Today in Hockey

A few fun notes on today in hockey:

It must be the hotel soap...

The Chicago Blackhawks are a great road team, but not such a great team on home ice. So much for home ice advantage. The Phoenix Coyotes had this same problem back before they had, well, a world of problems, and the Great One actually booked them into a hotel in Phoenix in order to 'trick' them into thinking they were on the road. Looks like Chicago's taken page out of that book, as the team has checked into a hotel in Chicago tonight for their game 3 against San Jose.

It's said that the bonding rituals on the road, as well as the pressure of not having to put on a show for the local crowd, helps them relax and play a simple game. It's a hotel, after all, it's made to cater to your needs and make you feel really comfortable and food and drink is just a phone call away. I guess victory really is a question of mentality. And nothing says peace of mind like complimentary towels.

So goes one series, so goes the other...

If the trends continue, San Jose has another reason to be optimistic tonight and that has to do with the fact that the series in both conferences seem to mirror each other. Down 2 games, Montreal made a great comeback in game 3 once the venue changed. If you follow this pattern, it makes sense that San Jose will come back to steal this one from Chicago. But it's hard to say whether or not their mojo can outdo tiny shampoo.

Thornton vs. Bolland

Thornton delivered the ultimate blow in media trash talk: he commented on another man's size. Telling the media that Bolland was small and easy to play against, the usually easy going Big Joe made something of a big mouth of himself. If Chicago wins tonight, Joe will look and feel like quite the fool. Now he's put all the pressure on himself to perform. Bolland will just have to show up to get even. Maybe not the smartest move. In any case, it's doubtful that Bolland's feelings will have been hurt or that this will make him let up in his game.

Toews vs. Crosby

It's Captain Serious vs. Captain Canada. A breakdown on TSN has used numbers to demonstrate that Toews is better than Crosby and that all it will take for Toews to take over Crosby for the Crown would be a Stanley Cup win. There's bound to be a lot of different opinions in this case, but I have to say, even if Toews does hoist the Cup this year, I'll take Captain Canada any day of the week. He's an incredible all around player and he works miracles on ice. Plus, with all the hardware he picks up at the NHL awards, it's hard to argue for Toews on this one. And it's also hard to argue for the man with the hairy sideburns. We'll take Crosby.

A tale of two Crosbys

And on the topic of Crosby, it looks like Russian Crosby will stay in Pittsburgh. Rumours that Malkin would be traded in the off season have been more or less quashed today according to news reports. This is great news if it's true. It's unthinkable to separate Sidney from his Russian counterpart. Nicknamed the two-headed offensive monster, I think it's time to give these two a common name. My choice: Croskin. Can't separate this dynamic duo. That would be just criminal.

Russia vs. the world

Speaking of criminal, Russia is stealing the IIHF championships in Germany. No small wonder, considering that some of their greatest stars are playing in this series, while very few of Canada's select players have been able or willing to make the trip.

The IIHF vs. the Stanley Cup Finals

Not to take anything away from Russia's clear dominance, but the fact of the matter is, they've been dominant. A full scale Canada and US team vs. a full scale Russia team is one thing. We saw that in the Olympics. But a half put together scavenged team of Canadians pushed out of the playoffs vs Russia's all stars? Not much of a contest.

The IIHF has been upset by the lack of interest in their tournament, particularly by a declined invitation from Crosby himself. In terms of Canada, it's hard to get psyched up for a tournament of leftover players while the Cup finals still has a Canadian team alive in it. Secondly, it's difficult to get psyched to watch hockey being broadcast at 10am. Unless you belong to a group of hardcore fans or alcoholics, this is just way too early to get up for a hockey game.

And third, anything that conflicts with the Stanley Cup finals is a problem. This is part of the reason that I'm so grateful not to have kids, that and the fact that I can sleep in on the weekends. No, there are about a million reasons why I'm happy not to have kids, but one of them is definitely the fact that my life can be scheduled around hockey, insomuch as work lets me. And even that...

And that's today in hockey.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NHL Content moved

Hi,

This is to let you know that I will continue to follow the Stanley Cup playoffs, but I will be on wwww.prosportsblogging.com

Please check the site for commentary, analysis and rants and raves there. And tell all of your hockey friends.

I am also happy to say that this website has 100 bloggers that cover every professional sports team and that they only have 4 women. I am one.

Thanks!

Ninjas in the Outback

First, it was the attack of the amourous kangaroo. Now, it's the outback ninjas to the rescue. Take a look at this article which was posted on yahoo.ca, the same source as the amourous kangaroo:

Ninjas rescue student from muggers

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Ninjas are not known for having a soft side, but a group of warriors came to the rescue of a student in Sydney who was being viciously assaulted by muggers.


Ninjas scared off three men who were attacking a 27-year-old German medical exchange student in an alleyway outside their warrior school, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported on Wednesday.

One of the teachers saw the attack and instructed the students, who were decked out in their black garb, to go out and confront the muggers.

"You should have seen their faces when they saw us in ninja gear coming toward them," the school's sensei, or master, Kaylan Soto, told the newspaper.

Another ninja, Steve Ashley, said: "It was probably the worst place in Sydney where they could have taken him."

Wow. This is really great. Now the great Outback, otherwise known as the place where everything can kill you, has another thing to look out for. There's the traditional animals and crazy plant life that can take you down, the animal lust that you have to look out for, and now, the ninjas. Ninjas decked out in garb who have a warrior school in Sydney.

Ninja sightings are incredibly rare these days, but the outback is one of those areas that I really wouldn't have expected. Sure, it's far fetched to think of a bunch of ninjas jumping all over the Great Wall in China with wooden sticks and taking out tourists that don't respect the barrier rules, but the Outback? Really? Is there anything strange or unusual known to man that doesn't hang out in the outback?

Now, I know that there are many enthousiasts for ancient art and combat forms who still pursue them to this day. There are renaissance societies that host jousts and there are traditional tea rooms that have Geishas who only live to serve. But ninjas with a warrior school who intervene in attacks?

I have to say that the intervention part is great. The poor exchange student was probably as grateful as he was surprised. It's comforting to know that if the last lines of our defense start to crumble, there will still be an ancient clan of dark knights who will come to our rescue.

Maybe this is the solution to the amourous kangaroo situation. Maybe we need to send ninjas to Honeymoon Ranges to protect and defend the women. Surely with their skills, they can tame a wild beast as easily as would-be muggers?

Ah, the Outback. If ever I go one day when I'm tired of living and no longer care if everything around me can kill me, I hope to wander around a paradise with flying ninjas.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Battle that Was Not

Please note that this blog is now on: http://prosportsblogging.com/all-sports/the-battle-that-was-not/

A ton for Leighton

A ton of credit is due to Michael Leighton of the Philadelphia Flyers for shutting down the Montreal Canadiens for the second game of the series. His incredible run in this series has shown that he is the real deal in a clutch. Claimed from waivers and trucked from one team to another and quickly approaching his 29th birthday (which in the NHL is something close to your 50th), bouncing back from injury and being replaced by Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton might be the best comeback story since Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Whether or not he's as good, well, that remains to be seen, but there's still a lot more hockey to be played and more chances for him to prove it.

The goaltending battle between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philedelphia Flyers was another example of the battle that wasn't. It seemed like Halak had the clear advantage coming into this series, riding high from magnifique victories over offensive powerhouses, Washington and Pittsburgh. You don't shut out the two greatest young stars of your generation without feeling a little good abot yourself. And Halak had plenty of reason for that coming into this series.

Leighton, on the other hand, was riding high on a historic comeback victory for his team. But this comeback victory was clearly a team one and it didn't appear that Leighton was going to be THE factor for the next. But has he ever been THE factor.

Since this series with Montreal opened, the Canadiens have not been able to figure out Leighton. He's been playing a good, consistent game and has not been too fancy in the net. He's gotten some great grab saves and has done a good job of staying big and seeing over players, even through traffic.

On paper, these two teams were more or less evenly matched with a similar style of game. On paper, Halak was cleary the star goalie and Leighton was good enough to get by. In reality, this is not what is happening right now.

What I thought was going to be a close, nailbiting series has ended up being a far and away seatsinker. A seatsinker is one of those series where the competition level is so heavily favoured on one side, that all you can do is sink in your seat and wait for it to be over. In terms of the battle for the Cup, this is a battle that wasn't.

Brother vs. Brother

No, this is not an instalment of the ever-increasing Staal brothers series, although it will be great to see what happens when two Staal brothers take on another now that Jared has joined Eric in Carolina. No, this civil war is being played out between the French.

Briere and Gagne have doubled up to do some serious damage against the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens, traditionally a French Canadian team with a strong tradition of having home grown heroes, may be faced with that strange situation of being beaten by a US team which is more French than they are. While I'm not an advocate for French or Quebecois interests, I find this both ironic and sort of sad. There's something so great about the homegrown hero who can speak to the crowd in both official languages and who knows where Shawinigan is. There's also something really touching about the level of pride that they inspire, both in the team and within the crowd.

But identification, for better or worse, is often not a factor in these debates. What interests players most is the best deal, the most money, and the best chance at a Cup. Wonder what Briere thinks of his chances now. Whatever he may think, we alreayd know what a certain city thinks of that.

Putting the Fan back in Fantastic

Booing and jeering will be huge in this series. Philadelphia and Montreal are not known for having the kindest fan bases and that's putting it lightly. We sometimes forget that fans are the short form of fanatics, which is another way of stating that someone is looney tunes. In Spanish, they are los fanaticos. The Spanish know better than to mince words on this one. Philly and Montreal both have fanaticos.

Philly has already set a bad precedent by mockingly singing Montreal's Ole Ole song. Montreal has been known in the past to boo the US anthem, a tribute to their long standing anti-American tradition. Rioting and violence are also not uncommon for both cities. The mayors of these two respective cities are probably going to hide underneath their desks until this series is over. Who can blame them?

Time for a Change

With this series making its way to Montreal, it's time for some changes in Montreal's strategy. One thing that has to change for sure is the traffic in front of Philly's net. Yes, the Canadiens managed to get the traffic going, but it wasn't the right kind. Leighton is a big guy. You need to get big bodies in front of him. No offense to Gionta, but Leighton made a big save in the air simply by looking over his head. If that had been Moen standing there, it would have been a different story.

Another thing that has to change is the discipline of this team. They have to calm down and keep it together. Philadelphia scored on two power plays and Montreal cannot afford to give them the man advantage. Don't take selfish penalties. Play a good, hard, clean game. They've paid for this mistake already twice in this series. Let's hope that they learned.

The one thing that doesn't need to change? Halak. Do not open the goalie debate again. Halak is still Montreal's best player. What he really needs is for Montreal's defense to stop screening him and creating chances up high for Philly. Philly has figured out Halak's style and knows better than to go down low with him. Like most goalies formed in Montreal, they are generally good down low. This is part of the reason why Pittsburgh lost their series; they kept trying to jam it shortside like they expected him to just panic and fall. This didn't happen.

The other thing that would help Halak? Some offense. Nobody should expect miracles from their goalies if they don't put a few away for him in return.

It may still happen that Price will get the start in Montreal, which makes me want to sink in my seat even more and tell the person next to me to wake me up when it's over. Maybe they believe that they'll get different results with Price, but my guess is that Philly will figure him out too. And considering what an emotional player he is, I'm guessing that someone's mother is going to be called something and all heck will break loose.

Another thing that isn't quite working for Montreal is their forecheck. While they did manage to deliver some good hits and even punish a few of the Flyers, it generally looks like the Flyers are swatting them away like fruitflies. This is not just a size jab. Montreal needs to make better use of its forecheck and figure out WHO needs to be checked. Their coverage on Gagne and Briere has to improve.

And they should be taking advantage of Pronger and Carcillo. Pronger is a valuable player because of the amount of ice time he puts in. Taking him out for awhile would put more pressure on the rest of the bench. Carcillo is a highly emotional player and it's not that hard to push his buttons. He can be goaded into taking dumb penalties and giving Montreal some chances.

Then there's the coaching. A ton of credit to Laviolette for his hands-on, keep-calm approach to his team. It's refreshing to see a coach who doesn't look like his top vein in his forehead is about to blow or who's chewing gum so ferociously you're actually afraid that they may have no tongue at the end of the series. Laviolette talks to his players a lot and has strategic timeouts for rest and encouragement. That's the type of person you want to work hard for and get results for and I bet that entire bench wants to see the tears in his eyes if they ever win the Cup together. And that's not a far fetched idea.

Montreal is going to have to claw its way back in this series with more discipline, more strategic checks, and more adaptable play. They're going to have to find a way to get more chances, unclog the neutral zone and play a tight defense on the guys that they need to watch the most. Otherwise, their euphoric playoffs run is going to crash and burn.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wacky Waka Waka Debate

There’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the Official World Cup song in South Africa this year. It appears that the winning song by Colombian sensation Shakira entitled Waka Waka (This time for Africa) has caused a problem for Africans, soccer fans and possibly for music fans around the world.

The most serious and blistering problem with the song is the fact that Shakira is not South African. Many people, not just from South Africa, find this offensive, as the World Cup should have a song that represents its host nation and pays tribute to their culture as opposed to Colombia. Fair enough. It’s not like we would want Beyonce to sing the World Cup song if it was being hosted, by, let’s say, Japan. We could always let that international Japanese pop star do it, you know, -yashi something, we all know her, right?

Well, this is likely the argument that a lot of corporate types are going to make. Even though this is an event focused on the love of the beautiful game and bringing the world together to compete in a convivial spirit, it’s also about making money and part of that means having identifiable people associated with it. South Africa’s most famous export at this time is the dishy Charlize Theron, who, even though she’s fiercely talented, also has the added bonus of being knock you on your butt and forget your first name beautiful. But she will be hosting and not singing, so the corporate types probably put all of their greasy heads together and dreamed up a comparable alternative, also dishy, also hot, who can sing and looks not too white.

While it is offensive, ignorant and small-minded of these types to dream up this sort of thing, it should hardly surprise anyone. Everyone loves to wave the Unity banner when it comes to international sporting events, but their end game is always about making a lot of money and attracting tourists to someplace that they may not otherwise go to. South Africa will benefit from the attention, the media spotlight and the grandeur associated with hosting such a prestigious event. They are not going to be losers in this deal. But so far, this deal hasn’t been without its problems.

Getting back to the Waka Waka debate, there’s actually nothing really wrong with this song. If you leave the origin and representation debate to one side, it’s actually quite catchy and along the lines of classic hip shaking Shakira fare. Regardless of how things turn out, there will be people singing, clapping and shaking to this thing come summer. It can’t be worse than the stuff that’s usually released in the summer (Umbrella, anyone?) or the songs that are used in other competitions of this type (I Believe was less good after the 1000th time it was played).

I guess the other side of this argument has to do with the Waving Flag song, which is a lot closer to what people were thinking of in terms of a World Cup song. It’s a rousing song, and actually has a dance to it that people can do. Unlike the Shakira jiggle that most of us should never even attempt unless we have complete health insurance and Robaxacet, you can actually wave your arms and dance along to Waving Flag and not feel dyslexic.
Not only that, this song is just better. It’s very catchy and it embodies the competitive spirit of the World Cup. Would you rather be stronger or waka waka? I think the choice is obvious.

It’s always disappointing when mass media and mass appeal trump cultural representation and fairness. Unfortunately, this is the ever growing trend with international events. Let’s hope that the Cup itself will give us more to cheer about.

Nowhere without my internet

This Roger’s ad definitely falls into that bewildering category. It’s a nice enough ad, with an attractive woman, going through her daily routine while carrying a laptop with her, a common enough sight in today’s world, and narrating the joys of portable internet connections while claiming at the end “I wouldn’t be anywhere if I couldn’t take the internet with me.”

There’s a lot wrong with this statement. First off, it implies a huge existential crisis. If you cannot be without the internet, then you cannot be, and yet, you exist in your material form as flesh and blood, you walk, you move, you breathe- and yet, you do not exist. But cyberspace is, in and of itself, a complex place where you cannot technically ‘be’ either, since the internet is not a place that you can hang out or a person that you can call. So before this turns into a huge headache, let’s just say the being and not being thing is one of the main problems with this statement.

The second problem is that this woman is in a lot of places. She’s hopping cabs, taking trains, sitting on her car, lying on park benches and hanging out in a cafĂ©. That’s a lot of places to be in one day and a lot of modes of transport to use. What’s even more bewildering is that it’s impossible to figure out what this woman does. Apparently, she moves around a lot, shops online, tweets, blogs, emails, enjoys the icing off cupcakes, but what does she actually do? Is she some sort of international vagabond heiress or a supermodel on her day off? Either way, that’s a pretty bad spokesperson to use for a product used by a mass population of working class slobs like the rest of us.

You also have to wonder if this woman has anything to do because she’s lying on a park bench in the middle of the day and sitting on the hood of her car near a beach at the end of it. Who does this, anyway? And if you really had time to go to parks and beaches, would you really be glued to a machine while you were at it? Maybe this woman should chillax a little, do a little sun tanning, toss a Frisbee, and join the clam bake down the beach?

This woman looks really happy in this commercial and maybe it’s because the internet plugs her in and maybe it’s because she doesn’t work for a living. Or maybe it’s because she’s a hired actress for Roger’s. I don’t have a love of corporations, but I don’t hate them for existing. What I do resent is the fact that this ad implies that it’s better to be on the internet than it is to be in real life, actually interacting with people or taking in the scenery around you.

If I was some hot chick that didn’t have to work and travelled all of the time, I would be hot footing it to see sights, shop in real stores, and enjoy a glass of wine on a terrace, lost in my own thoughts. I would picnic on park benches and watch the children play and the adults come and go and watch the birds do funny things. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I understand that the internet is a great tool and a source of information, socializing, dating, shopping, banking and lots of other great life things. I also think that it has its limits and shouldn’t be used to drown out or replace the real world. It also isn’t a way to validate your existence. You don’t not exist because of the internet or without it. You are a person and you exist as a person with a mind, choices, opinions and a true sense of identity which isn’t owned or manufactured by any type of company or interest group. And you would still be a person and you would still be yourself if you were living in a cave in the Himalayas with a llama named Junga. And no internet.

Be plugged in. Take the internet with you if you’re far from the ones you love or if you need it for work or just want to play a few games while in transit. But don’t let it own you and don’t let it take you away from actually experiencing your surroundings.

Great and Not So Great Expectations

What we expected...

The San Jose-Chicago series is more or less exactly what I expected. Two fairly well matched teams with a fast pace and a tight game. No clear advantage really goes to either team at this point, because they're both contenders. Goal tending is solid on both sides, defense is consistent, and goal scoring, when it happens, is generally a thing of beauty.

There have been the stinky goals in the past for San Jose, but they seem to have gotten over those bumps, and it looks like they're going to put on a great show. Chicago can always rely on its stars (Toews, Kane, Sharp) to rack it up. Both teams have good momentum and are playing with lots of confidence.

San Jose's stars need to up their game if they want to win this series. Chicago's players don't seem to know the meaning of the words playoffs slump, so they're going to have to get it together pretty fast so as not to find themselves in a hole.

The Sunday game could have gone either way. It was a low-scoring affair, but an intense game with a dynamic pace. No slackers on either side. There will be more of the same to come, and if San Jose's stars don't shine, the Blackhawks may just walk away with it. But San Jose's a hungry team. They haven't made it this far in a long time and it would surprise me if they slowed down after having beaten down Detroit.

The only thing that may be unnerving about this series is the feeling of lockjaw. Most people will say that a true competition is one in which the competitors are evenly matched. While this is true, it can also end up looking like the battles using the force in Star Wars where lots of blue lights get thrown around, but not much else happens. Someone's going to have to win or lose eventually. In this case, though, it may take plenty of overtimes to get there and lots of one point games.

Expect a long series. If this doesn't go to a game 7, I'd be pretty surprised. Keeping my calendar open just in case.

What we didn't expect...

Low-scoring affairs are the norm for teams with a highly defensive game style and very little offensive powerhouse names. So the Montreal-Philadelphia match up should have been just that. A 2-1 game, maybe, with the game-winning goal occurring sometime in the second period before a highly defense-centric third period to protect the lead.

So what in the world happened? How did the team of destiny, Montreal, lose its momentum? How did Halak go from unbeatable to interchangeable with Price? Who lit the fire under the Flyers butts? Could it be that one team of destiny outdid the other, now that it's taken its place in history as the 3rd team to make it back from a 3-0 hole?

Philadelphia scored more goals in last night's 6-0 victory over Montreal than it probably has in any game this season. The triumphant return of Simon Gagne has been a major factor, along with Briere's stellar performance. It's almost like Briere opened his eyes the other day and realized he was still in the playoffs. He hasn't shown that kind of spirit in a long time.

Montreal seems to have lost some of its focus. Highly undisciplined play led to a lot of power plays for Philly which ultimately led to really good chances and multiple goals. The Flyers have figured out Halak for sure, not because there's anything wrong with Halak's game, but simply because it's not possible to stop what you can't see. Philly had the defense scurrying around like mice in their end, and created traffic jams as thick as the bridge traffic to the Ile Montreal, and they got the better of them.

Philly has done what Pittsburgh and Washington couldn't do: create consistent swarms around the blue paint. They bait the defense and cycle the puck well. They don't cycle around in perfect formation so that they can create a perfect V and get the highlight reel goal which is beautiful and tactical. They just work really hard, winning puck battles in all of the dirty areas, getting in around the boards, getting down low, forechecking hard and fighting for every single inch of ice. They made Montreal look slow and tired, and that's no doubt how they felt as the goals kept piling up.

Philadelphia doesn't play a beautiful hockey game. They play a hard, gritty, workhorse style of game and they will wear their opponent down into the ground. Montreal has to show some of its resilience and gather their best strength, both mental and physical, if they want to beat this team. They will also have to make sure to not screen their own goalie. They are just as responsible for some of those goals through traffic as the Flyers.

If Philadelphia wants to win, which they very clearly do, they will have to keep up this level of play and keep calm, just as they did in their series against the Bruins. They'll have to keep fighting hard and checking hard, which they will do, because they will battle right up until the end. Laviolette is doing a great job of keeping their spirits high and their game focused.

If Montreal wants to win, they will have to be just as opportunistic as they've been against Pittsburgh and Washington and get in the right places to score. Cammaleri has an uncanny ability to do this, but he will have to cycle harder against this bullish defense to do so. Montreal will also have to play a more disciplined game and not take selfish penalties and try to incite something with the more emotional players on the Flyers bench, such as Carcillo.

Philadelphia put on an unbelievable show. But Montreal did it to themselves in many ways. We hope that they've learned from this first game how to switch things up and who to go after.

Let's see which Montreal comes out to play on Tuesday. And someone set Heatley and Thorton's alarm clocks. They're needed in the shark tank.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rotten in Pittsburgh

Let's get this straight: there is nothing rotten in Pittsburgh. The Penguins do not need an overhaul in their locker room. Their team is solid, talented, hard-working and well put together and led by the greatest (active) hockey player in the world. It is not time to pull out the roster and start moving players around like they're pawns on a great chess board.

If Pittsburgh is looking for an explanation as to their demise at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the 8th seeded team in the East, what they need is an attitude check, not a casting call. These were the things that killed this team's chances:

Overconfidence

This is not an arrogant team, but let's face it, who would have thought that Montreal was going to be much of a challenge for the defending Cup champs? You can't blame fans, sportscasters, coaches, management and teams themselves from feeling that this was a big, fat given. Thinking this way is part of the reason why this team fell. The ensuing confusion as to why Montreal wasn't falling, along with the tough media scrutiny that came with it, seemed to just escalate the confusion as well as the frustration level.

Frustration

This is probably the real factor in the series which caused everything to collapse. When things weren't happening the way that the Pens expected it to, they gave in to their frustration, with many bad displays of unsportsmanlike behavior. Sidney wasn't the only victim of this frustration, but as the Captain of the team, it is his responsibility to keep his frustration to himself and then punch the hell out of something when he gets home. Keeping your poise in those moments is one of the things that will make a real difference in your team's will to win. A Captain inspires his followers and leads by example.

Sidney Crosby has showed incredible leadership and incredible skill. He is also very mature for his age. But he needs to be the master of his emotions in the future. More effort on this aspect of his game is needed, not another Captain.

Inflexibility

When things didn't go right for Pittsburgh, they did not adapt their game. Their game style remained the same and even when it became quite clear that certain things weren't going to work, such as the countless attempts to jam the puck in under Halak who stood there like a solid wood post, things didn't change. Good teams find a way to win. They can switch up their games whenever they need to and that's how you steal momentum away. Montreal learned how to do this and adapted themselves to the styles of Washington and Pittsburgh, learning how to discourage them and where to get them where they were weak. They were opportunistic and their defense was water tight.

Even when things did go right for Pittsburgh in their wins, they didn't repeat the pattern. Their 2-0 victory had both goals coming in off the point and redirected through traffic. Why this didn't keep happening in the final games is beyond my comprehension.

So don't clear out the locker room. These guys need to stay. Crosby, Malkin and Staal make this team tick. It's not the who of this series that was problematic, but the what they were thinking. Humility, calm and adaptability are the things that the management should work on with this team.

This team will hoist the Cup again. And it will likely not be very long until this happens.

High Three

Don't give the Philadelphia a high five; give them a high three.

Three has been their magic number to overcome, and they have overcome it in a way that is almost worthy of a holy trinity title. Three is the number of games that they were down in this series. Three is the number of goals that were scored on them in the opening round of this final game. And three is the number of teams that have come back from a 3 game deficit to win 4 in a row to take a playoffs series. Philadelphia is that number three in history, joining the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders back in more glorious times.

Return of the Conquering Hero

Just as Savard experienced a comeback victory in his first game back from injury, so did Simon Gagne. A latecomer to this series, many of the Flyers fans had lamented the loss of their star and thought that the end was near. And then, lo and behold, their conquering hero was back to defend their title and their place in the playoffs, to show the world that they did have a rightful reason to be in it. And the rest of the team reacted in kind, elevating their own game and finally leading the way to a great victory.

Bruised Bruins

Don't mention 3 to the Boston Bruins. Unlike the Flyers, this number was not their lucky one. 3 is the number of games that they were up in this series before crumbling to a loss, 3 is the period in which the fatal too many men call occurred, and 3 is the number of teams in NHL history to lose a 3 game lead in a playoffs series, which is now Boston.

Another great 3 to go with this? This too many men call was the 33rd which was called in this playoffs. An ominous sort of number when you think about it, as this number has the religious significance of being the age of Jesus when he was crucified, as well as being the number of Boston's Captain Zdeno Chara. This 33rd too many men call was the kiss of death for Boston, as the Flyers managed to break their 3-3 tie for a game winning 4th goal on a power play. The 3s are getting creepier as they pile up, so I'm going to stop this now.

History has a funny way of repeating itself, and Boston fell to its own history last night. The too many men call from last night's game was a mirror picture perfect image from one of their past games in which they ultimately lost another playoffs, also in the third period, also giving up a goal as a result.

Poor Boston. Someone better pull out the Boston archives to help out the team for next year and maybe change some of those 3s into more amenable numbers. Which probably sounds like the equivalent of calling the witch doctor in to see the team. Hey, whatever works.

What happened in this series? Well, Boston and Philadelphia play a very similar type of game. It's a gritty, physical, low-scoring affair with lots of hits on both sides, lots of fights in the dirty areas like down low in the corners, a fair bit of cycling and just generally, a no-frills, tough kind of game that's usually not pretty to watch. They're mules, let's face it, they work really hard and a lot of it is grunt work. Goal tending is consistent on both ends, a few spectacular saves are made and some soft shots make it in from weird angles or at weird speeds.

Injuries and penalties were big factors in this series. Benches were short at times and the re-appearance of stars definitely changed the pace. Some good supporting players came out, with Satan having one of the best runs of his career in this series. Lucic and Rask really came out for Boston, while Hartnell and Briere were the clutch players for Philadelphia alongside Gagne.

Penalties were just killers for both sides, as many of the goals did come with the man advantage. Surprisingly, Savard and Briere, two star players, were the most penalized in this series. The refs were keeping close tabs on those two, it seems, despite the fact that they don't take a lot of penalties during the regular season and neither one is known for questionable plays.

The Tortoise and the Hare

The best way to explain this series is through the tortoise and the hare myth. Boston leaped into this series with a dominating force and it looked to be a sweep for them. Philadelphia, on the other hand, went by the old mantra that slow and steady wins the race, and slowly gathered momentum in this series. The pieces came together for them one by one, with the return of Gagne and a smarter, more poised game which was adapted to the situation.

They didn't panic, they didn't give up, they switched up their game when they had to and proved to be very resilient. As their confidence level rose with each comeback win, so did the confidence of Boston erode. Simply put: Philadelphia outplayed them.

Flying High/ En bon esprit

Philadelphia is flying high and Montreal is en bon esprit. Both teams have a ton of confidence, a ton of momentum, a world of support, and have stunned critics with their feats. So who has the advantage? Well, it's hard to say.

Montreal looks like they can't be beat. Halak has been incredible for them and all of their players have stepped up. If their defense can all stay healthy and if nothing happens to Cammaleri, then there's no reason to believe that anything short of a freight train will stop this team. The city truly believes that they're a team of destiny this year and it's hard to argue the point.

Philadelphia has joined the ranks of NHL history with their comeback victory, and it's clear that they can advance as long as they keep it together, play a tight game and stay out of the box. Their 4 on 4 has not been strong lately, and this could be a disadvantage to them in this series. Their goalie has also been solid for them, but hasn't made the kind of highlight reel saves that Halak has. So advantage Montreal on those fronts.

One thing that could hurt Montreal is Philly's hard, physical game. The Habs may get a victory, but not without eating some board first. This is not a team that will give them the time and space that a careless and let's face it, just plain lazy, Washington and Pittsburgh defense gave them, nor will they back down in the dirty areas. And another possible obstacle? Philly's not the cleanest team in the league, so keep your eyes peeled for questionable plays.

If the reffing is sharp, this should not be a factor. I wouldn't trust that, though, considering a lot of the bad non-calls in the first round and I would ensure that EVERY team advancing to the next round practice too many men drills to avoid this kind of penalty. This is a dumb penalty to take and so many of them have been taken so far. It was funny at first, but now, it's getting to be an issue.

It's not that the refs just like calling more of these. It's that teams aren't communicating right. Excitement and noise level are both factors, but ultimately, these guys have to work on changing in an efficient manner. They have to tighten up this aspect of their game and remember that in the playoffs, everything counts.

So for Montreal: keep your eyes peeled, make sure that Lapierre lays off the theatrics, and be quick on your feet. Do not get caught with your head down under any circumstances and strike early on in the game. Philly's not an offensive team, so get on the board early and make them work their way out of the hole. Playing catch up will lead to desperation and desperation leads to sloppy play.

For Philly: stay out of the box, annoy Lapierre, and play the same hard physical game that you play against everyone. Do not leave Cammaleri alone on the ice and get a lot of traffic in front of Halak. That's the only way to beat him. He will out-wait you on a short handed rush, he will beat you short side, he will track you from the point. A shot through traffic and a quick redirect from the man on the crease is the magic formula.

This is going to be a scrappy, long, nail biting series. Just the way we like them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do not Jog In the Outback

It's Friday, so I was perusing the internet for interesting stories, and came across this little gem that I couldn't resist:

Amorous Aussie roo has outback residents hopping

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An amorous kangaroo in the mood for love has female joggers hopping mad in the Honeymoon Ranges of Australia's outback Northern Territory, prompting a flood of angry calls to authorities.

Territory police said Friday they had received reports of the kangaroo stalking residents in the ranges near the township of Tennant Creek, including a woman on her morning walk.

"There was no doubt about what he wanted, the randy old thing," the woman told local papers. "I turned around and saw this big kangaroo behind me, so I hastened my steps," she said.

The woman said the obviously aroused animal bounded off when other walkers approached and she sought to escape.

Later that day a mother-of-three encountered the aroused kangaroo at a night-time speedway meeting, while a man said he challenged the intimidating macropod and came off second best, receiving a swift punch in response.

Northern Territory police told Reuters they were not pursuing the salacious mammal unless it continued to cause trouble.

It's hard to know where to begin with this article because it's hilarious on so many fronts. On the one hand, it's yet another deterrent to take a trip to the Outback, a land that we all know so well in Canada as being the place where everything can kill you and the place where Crocodile Dundee kills things. You don't have to worry only about getting poisoned or eaten by the spiders and crocodiles, but you ALSO have to worry about the crazy animal lust. And not the animal lust of their sexiest export Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine, but of the hop along pouch sagging big eared mammals.

Another hilarious highlight has got to be the location of the so-called 'amorous attacks' which is appropriately named Honeymoon Ranges. That could make anyone feel romantic. How can you possibly blame this poor resident of Honeymoon Ranges from feeling the love? Maybe they should have called it Puke Mountain. Nothing good sounds like it will come from that.

Another great note: what exactly is a night-time speedway meeting? Maybe this is an Aussie thing that I couldn't possibly understand, but it sounds like a strange time to meet and a strange place to meet. I figure if you go to something that weird, you should expect something as unusual as an animal out for love.

Then there's the great concluding line at the end, where the police will only intervene if this continues to be a problem. I don't know if kangaroos have a mating season or if this is an anytime thing for an animal that just feels the mood a bit stronger than everyone else, but what makes them think that this will just go away?

But, to be fair to the police, what does the population honestly expect them to do? It's not like they can have a quiet sitdown with the animal and explain that its behavior is wrong. And it's not like they can arrest it. It's an animal, after all. Its whole life is about feeding and getting some. That's what Discovery taught us.

Maybe a tranquilizer dart is all it would take to settle this issue. Maybe they should just hire some guy to be on Roo Patrol near Honeymoon Ranges.

Someone call Crocodile Dundee.

Moving On

Who do you like?

As the second round of the playoffs ends tonight with a win for either Boston or Philadelphia, the third round is starting to the take shape in the Western Conference. And since stats haven't been particularly helpful in making predictions so far, the question is not so much "who do you think will win?" but "who do you like?"

Not a lot of sports fans like to talk about their feelings, but we all have feelings about games, players and series. We all get that uneasy feeling when a player goes down or when we see the momentum shift in a game in the opposite team's favour. We all get that good feeling when the calls and bounces are working right for our team, or when we see them address the media with confidence in their eyes. So, love for specific teams aside, we still have feelings about how things will play out.

In terms of who I like: I like Boston to win their series against Philadelphia and move on to a date with Montreal. Boston did lose its dominance over Philadelphia and may have just lost its confidence. When Boston was up 3 games in this series and looking at a sweep, nobody would have criticized Boston. Now that Philadelphia's clawed its way out of the ditch to be a real contender, criticism abounds.

I like Boston, but I don't have a real feeling about this series. If Rask is up to task, all will be well. If Lucic and Savard can combine for some stellar goals, all will be well. But the Flyers are a tricky team and they've managed to find ways to win in this series when everyone counted them out. And since it's been a year of the underdog so far, it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see Philadelphia added to that roster.

In the Chicago and San Jose series, I like San Jose. Not that it wouldn't be great to see Chicago move ahead with their great repertoire of talent or to have the EA Sports guys actually get it right for once. But I like San Jose because they've had to fight so hard to get here after a couple of seasons of dominance followed by devastating post-season burnout. It's probably been emotionally draining for the players themselves, trying to explain to media, fans and to themselves why they rocked the regular season only to be lights off when it really mattered. It would be great to see them redeem themselves this year with a big win.

David vs. Chara

The one thing about the Boston-Montreal possibility that makes me laugh is the thought of the small, but gritty Habs having to play defense on Chara. The logical choice would be to get Markov or Moen on Chara during this series, but even though these guys are NHL standard size, Chara is Chara.

The Habs have managed to shut down larger than life players before, though, in Ovechkin and Crosby, so maybe they have it in them to shut down the big man too. Although it should be noted that it's the performance of Ovechkin and Crosby that make them big, and neither one is as big as Chara. This man is 7 foot 1 on skates and when he wears the cage mask, he's like this scary Hannibal Hulk. It makes you want to watch the series with one eye covered.

All jokes aside on this one, I don't have a feeling about the Montreal-Boston series simply because stats don't help, history doesn't help, and the Habs are on a streak where seemingly everything is possible. In terms of momentum, Habs are definitely advantaged in this match up. Boston will have been so beat after taking down Philadelphia in a grueling, longer than it should have been, series, that they may not have what it takes to burst the Montreal bubble.

Double the Momentum, Double the Fun

If Philadelphia makes it through for a date with destiny in Montreal, this series may be more interesting to watch. After making a historic comeback, the Flyers will have earned an underdog label that will rival most teams. Their label, though, cannot even begin to compare with Montreal's, who took out both Washington and Pittsburgh to get where they are today. Both teams will be riding a wave of momentum based on the 'nobody said we could do it, but we did' spirit that makes sports movies so great. Both teams will be confident and happy to be where they are.

The one thing that both teams will have working against them will be the raised expectations of their respective fan bases. We all know how hard it is to play in Montreal, and the last thing that the teams needs is for the fans to turn on them in the case of a loss. Philadelphia fans are also prone to this type of violent reaction, so there will not be a clear home ice advantage for either team.

But with so much working for these teams, coming off spectacular series wins, it will be a great contest to see them go. It doesn't look right now like anyone can break Montreal's euphoria. Philadelphia plays a gritty game and their goaltender is looking good. Montreal has played tight, smart defense and their goaltending has been spectacular. Both teams play a similar style of low-scoring games with a lot of sneaky players getting in on the quiet spots to pot goals.

My feeling says excitement for this series and some pretty evenly-matched games. A few one point deciding nail biters and maybe even some overtime scraps. And more glory for Halak.

Off-season notes

As an Ottawa fan, I have a message for Brian Murray. I'm sure that he knows already what I want to say because others have probably said the same thing. Mr. Murray, we need to make some changes. We need to go out and look for those puck moving defensemen that we're always talking about as if they're mythical wilderbeasts from some parallel universe. And we need to start this all off with a call to Vancouver.

The Vancouver Canucks have cleared out their locker rooms and some of those players will not be back. Many of the Canucks are going to become free agents or unrestricted free agents this year, and they have what we want. There will surely be a scramble in Vancouver's management to keep the assets that they have, particularly within their beaten and bruised, but strong, defensive core. But they won't be able to hold onto everyone, so let's start making some offers.

The question in this situation, though, is as follows: do we have anything that Vancouver wants? Where does this team need help?

The Canucks have a diverse and well-balanced team. They're not lacking for much, to be honest, except for a really disciplined veteran who can coach them to a Cup or an offensive powerhouse to complement (not take over) the Sedins.

Two candidates come to mind: Kovalev for the experienced veteran and Spezza for the offensive aid. Kovalev is known to be good leader of men and he helps make things happen on the ice, even when he's not on the scoreboard. He has consistent play but inconsistent goal scoring. No matter. Consistent play is good enough to advance well into the post-season; too bad he was injured when it was Ottawa's turn.

Spezza is a high-risk player, but he needs good linemates to make him better. Who would be better for him than the Sedins? Let's face it, Spezza hasn't been the same since Heatley left town and he still needs someone to help him out. He needs to be on a star line in order to be effective. And when he's effective, he's really effective.

A match up with the Sedins would elevate all of their games. As long as he doesn't try blind back passes with them too often. The Sedins have twin power and intuitively 'know' where the other one is. Spezza will have to be reminded that he does not share this.

And keep Cory Clouston. And Alfie. Just give the Captain whatever he asks for. He belongs to the city of Ottawa now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Montreal Miracle part 2

Who were those guys, anyway?

Montreal's regular season record was no indication of a contending team. Right up until the last days leading into the first round of the playoffs, their spot was still up in the air. But the regular season has little do with the playoffs, it seems, as Montreal came back for an incredible victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This team has been through some strange things to get here. The firing of their coach, a disappointing 2009 centennial year marked by pomp and ceremony but little else, trades that made a lot of people unhappy, the Captain debate, the French debate in the locker room, the Laracque affair, the size issue and the goaltending debate. Not to mention the constant pressure of playing in the boiler cooker that is the city of Montreal.

How can you explain the rise of this team from an 8th seed to an upset over the two greatest teams in the Eastern Conference? Nothing short of miracle.

Who were these guys, anyway? Weren't they too small, too disorganized, too separated by language and culture? I guess anything can be overcome in the quest for the Cup.

Montreal pulled off a historical and astounding victory last night which put an end to the Mellon Arena in the same way that it began, with a loss to Montreal. This probably isn't the legacy that they were planning on leaving, and I'm guessing that nobody is more surprised than the Pittsburgh Penguins themselves.

But it was hardly a surprise on one hand. Even though the stats and the logic weighed in on the side of the Pens, the Pens themselves started to show cracks when they came to the sad and sudden realization that the Canadiens wouldn't die. This was shown most clearly in their Captain.

So goes the ship, so goes the Captain.

The frustration level of Sidney Crosby was a sure-fire indication that this team was starting to doubt itself. His displays of bad, unsportsmanlike behavior were not like him at all. Even his contact with the media, which has never been what you would call dynamic, have been subdued and non-committal.

His worst contact with the media had to be the loser speech that he gave at the press conference before game 7 where he touchily said that "the series is tied, nobody's losing." His lips may have said that, but his eyes said otherwise. You could see very clearly in his body language that he was not believing it. You don't need to be a head doctor to know what this type of defensive posture and stock phrase speech means. If the Captain doesn't believe, who does?

Who were those guys, anyway?

Not to take anything away from Montreal's great defensive play and goaltending, but the Pittsburgh Penguins were not quite their mighty selves. They seemed to cycle a lot for very little gain and their own defense was scrambling mad. The Pens played a highly chaotic and disorganized game, which they were fated to lose after letting the Habs put them in a 3 point hole. If you have to spend that much time playing catch up, you will never get a lead.

Their stars were quiet. Their game was messy. And the true kiss of death was when they pulled Marc-Andre Fleury. This kind of move sends a clear message to the other team: we're afraid. While it is often a mercy move to take out a goaltender after letting in multiple, and sometimes weak, goals, it's just deadly in a game 7 when the other team starts to smell fear.

The Habs capitalized on that fear. They rode a wave of momentum so high into that game 7, fueled by the love of their fans and their previous glories, and their belief, that they simply took away Pittsburgh's will to win.

Who's Next?

While the two first rounds were formidable upsets, there may be an anti-climatic feeling when it comes to facing Boston or Philadelphia. These two teams were seeded much closer to Montreal in the regular season and they're hardly what you would call star power. Sure, they've got Chara and Pronger, but these are not the household names or multimillion dollar draws of the likes of Ovechkin or Crosby. The fact that they had to beat those guys to get this far is incredible; the fact that they did is even more stupefying.

But don't take these two teams lightly, whichever one it is in the Eastern Conference Final. Both teams play gritty games and some of their players, whom you wouldn't expect, can be the difference-makers. It would be great to see them face off against an old rival like Boston, a team with lots of history and a propensity to beat the Habs. This would be another great revenge. But the best part of that series would be the goaltending matchup with Rask and Halak. With these two guys playing up to their full potential, there's no telling what could happen.

Boston, like Montreal, is not a high scoring team. There's very little chance that this match up will result in any high scoring affairs. Both teams can play a very good defensive game as well. The big challenge, of course, will be defending the Boston Captain, Zdeno Chara. This is where the size debate may also re-occur. If they beat them, it won't.

If Philadelphia wins the series to face the Habs, it will be a touchy, pesky affair. The Flyers play a scrappy game and they like to rough it up when things don't go their way. But with their goaltending issues, it's not likely that they will face off.

How far can they go?

Montreal has already come further than anyone could have expected them to, well, except maybe Cammaleri, who's looking pretty chipper these days. It just goes to show you that anything can happen in sports, and that's why you have to keep watching.

If you had said in March that this was the year that the Habs would have a Cup run, nobody would likely have believed a word. Now that they are where they are, it's not such an unbelievable statement.

Somebody call up Canadian Heritage and let them know that there may still be a Canadian team in the Finals. This may be something that they would like to know.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Final Before the Final

Don't explain

The Western Conference second round is over. The Chicago Blackhawks have managed to polish off the Vancouver Canucks for the second year in a row and it's an all too familiar song for poor Luongo. The captain was clearly disappointed and surprised by their game 6 loss and was at a loss to explain how it all happened.

But maybe there's nothing to explain. When you add it all up, there's plenty of good reasons to think that this was a good match up with a possibility of a win on either side. There are stats to show the best players and good regular season play by supporting members of the team. There are the stars whose names are regularly shouted out on sports shows. There are coaches with great records.

The stats only tell one side of the story, though, and anything can happen in the playoffs. Look at what's happening right now. Montreal is the 8th seeded team that barely squeaked into a playoff spot at all and they're on their way to shutting down the two greatest players of their generation. Philadelphia looked down and out when Boston took a dominating 3-0 lead over them in their series, and they've managed to claw their way back to force a game 6. And Detroit looked unbeatable on paper, but San Jose managed to overcome their own bad history to eliminate them.

When Chicago and Vancouver faced off this year, Vancouver was hoping to do the same. They were hoping to mount a comeback against the team that ousted them and redeem themselves. While the series started great, luck, that tricky little thing that doesn't seem to know what it wants to do, was against them.

The Vancouver Canucks are a battle weary team with plenty of playoff casualties. Sami Salo, Mitchell and Edler were all down and out. The Sedins weren't playing up to their billing and they took some slow walks off the ice themselves. O'Brien was battered and bruised several times, and somehow, managed to keep going, even when he probably shouldn't have. And there were even rumours that Bieksa was playing injured.

The Sami Salo injury was unbdoubtedly the worst, not just because he's such a big factor in Canuck victories, but also because of the painful nature of his injury. We've all heard of groin injuries, but this, well, this is another category of injury altogether. You have to admire the guy from coming back to play in game 6 after such a drastic low blow, pardon the pun. It really shows that he has...oh, well, maybe not. We admire the guy. Enough said.

When you add up injuries, bad bounces, and confidence issues, you can see what happened to the Canucks in this series. Not to take anything away from Chicago, whose star players lived up to their billing (Toews, Kane, Sharp and Ugli there), but I think it's fair to say that they didn't have the same things to contend with in this series. So don't explain, Lou. Sometimes, it's just not your year.

Bad Joujou?

Looking ahead, a fully functional and healthy Chicago team will take on a well-rested and confident San Jose. This should be a great match up to watch. San Jose has been itching to get deeper into the playoffs ever since EA Sports slated them to win the Cup two years in a row- when they were eliminated in the first round, both years.

San Jose has shaken off the bad joujou of years past when they passed on the President's trophy to Washington, albeit not intentionally (as far as we know). Taking out Detroit was in itself an incredible feat. Can they do it again against a young and dynamic offensive team like Chicago?

Chicago, on its end, has some joujou issues (say it outloud, you know you love to say it). There's that mural that they painted in the city which shows Toews with the Cup, something you should never do before it actually happens. There's also the Maid Marion factor, as Hossa has twice been on the second best team in the Stanley Cup finals, playing for Pittsburgh in the year that they lost to Detroit and playing for Detroit in the year that they lost to Pittsburgh. If that's not a bad case of "I'm dumping you for a winner" gone wrong, we don't know what is.

Luck was with Chicago in its series against Vancouver. Will it continue?

The Bitter End

The Eastern Final is turning into a nailbiting, edge of seat, hairpulling, aggravating and exciting affair. There is no clear favourite in either series.

Philadelphia has battled back hard, but their goaltending may be an issue for them in their game 6 tonight. Having lost one starter to surgery, another to injury, bouncing back with Boucher as back up and then losing him to injury, it would be an understatement to say that the Flyers have an unstable goaltending situation.

Boston, on the other hand, has had no such issue with Tukka Rask. They are a gritty, solid team, but they are not an offensive powerhouse. Even if they take out Philadelphia tonight, there are serious doubts as to whether or not they will go any further. For a team that has won most of its games by one point, they are a team that doesn't give a lot of goals away, but doesn't take them either. If Boston wins their series, the more dominant offensive team in the next round will likely take them out.

Who that dominant offensive team will be is anyone's best guess. Montreal and Pittsburgh have been duking it out and Montreal simply won't go away. Montreal has played it safe with the media, not bragging about their achievements, but obviously a proud underdog. Their goaltending has been incredible and their defense has been tight. Cammaleri is the next best thing to poutine in Montreal right now and is racking up points in every game.

Pittsburgh should have been the dominant force in this series, and many predicted a sweep. How hard could it be, after all, with such a talented and strong defending Cup champion team to take on an 8th seed with injuries? Pretty hard, actually.

Maybe the hockey gods are telling Sidney Crosby that he's won enough for one year. He does have an Olympic gold medal, a Stanley Cup ring from last year as the youngest Captain to ever lead his team to the Cup, a Rocket Richard trophy and possibly more hardware still coming to him in the NHL Awards in Vegas. Maybe they want him to just take a little vacation, spend some time on some obnoxiously priced beach where all the women look like they're out of Maxim magazine and chillax a bit(the hockey gods are all men, it seems).

And maybe this is just loser talk. Sid doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who wants to bugger off on an extended vacation with sunscreen. This man likes to win. It seems to be the thing that he's made to do. He wouldn't be much of a Captain if he went out there with resignation and palm trees in his eyes. He has to rally his men and he has to rally hard tonight. There are no excuses for laziness or lapses tonight, especially not on home ice.

This will be a fight to the bitter end. People talk of seventh heaven games like they're some sort of happy, fluffy as clouds, feel-good event. But real hockey fans know that seventh heaven is the name of a spa and the elimination game is an all-out war where someone will have to be the loser.

I love the playoffs.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eenie, meenie, minie, Malkin

Playing in the twilight zone

The Pens-Habs series is beginning to look very familiar. It wasn't that long ago that people were marvelling at the defeat of the Washington Capitals, the top-seeded team in the East, led by Alexander the Great. Many people said that it couldn't be done; others said that it would be a full sweep and that Montreal would never know what hit them. But that didn't happen.

The Habs managed to shut down the Caps with good defensive play. They were a full team, getting into the dirty areas and winning battles in the neutral zone for puck possession. Their goaltending was spectacular and Michael Cammaleri, fantastic. Despite the loss of a few key players to injury, this team still managed to hold its ground and find ways to win games.

If the win over the Caps was surprising, a win over the Pens would be like playing in the twilight zone. Pittsburgh is not Washington. They're a tough, gritty team that's already been there and done that in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They don't rely on their star players and get a ton of support from the point when they need it. Their goaltending is solid, good when it has to be and adequate when it doesn't. And their defense is not as lackadaisical as Washington.

So how is it that Montreal is taking them out with the same strategy that they used against the Caps when the Pens are a better team?

A tale of two Jaroslavs

Halak and Spacek have been magic in this series. Halak has been the best player on the ice when he's had to be and Spacek has been one of the better defensemen. He's all over his man like a pesky wasp at a picnic. By cutting off time and space to Pittsburgh's star players, Crosby, Malkin and Staal, the defense has made it nearly impossible for this team to braek out.

A side order of Cammaleri?

Prior to the trade from the Calgary Flames, many Montrealers could not pronounce the name Cammaleri, opting for the more commonly known appetizer, Calamari. He's also had to explain to the media that he prefers Michael to Mike. Despite the issues with the moniker and rumoured troubles in the locker room, this man is getting along like a house on fire in this series. With at least one point per game and many multiple point games, Cammaleri has overcome a trade, name issues, rumours, doubt about his size and pretty much anything else that was standing in his way of becoming a star.

Michael Cammaleri's jerseys are also selling like mad, showing up in pretty much every Canadian city. He's become a Habs hero and I'm pretty sure that the city will call him anything he damn well wants them to.

CryBaby Crosby

The man has won a lot for a man his age, but there are those rare moments when his age does come through. And I'm not talking about the dirty stache which is currently pencil thin and creepy. It's the unsportsmanlike behavior which earned him the nickname CryBaby Crosby back in 2007. A lot of talking, talking back, getting into it with other players, and some questionable dives are the things about Sidney that we'd rather all forget.

He can't continue to behave like this if he wants to win. Hopefully, the trip back home to Pittsburgh and the beloved Mellon Arena will help him cool off. His frustration level is way too high for him to play a focused game. He needs to be smarter and more strategic. He also needs to understand that if the defense wants to be on him, he needs to play on that.

If you know where the defense is, you also know where it isn't. That's why the best shots so far have come from the point from defensemen left alone with traffic in front. Crosby and his guys should be playing this smarter.

Granted, they got a lot of a good shots on goal that ended up just kissing the post. Kissing the post is something the Habs themselves may want to do, because it saved their lead plenty of times last night. More Twilight Zone type highlights. You have to get a little lucky sometimes.

Staaled

Jordan Staal has been quieter since he came back from injury. While it's good to have him back on the ice, he's not quite himself. This is a shame, because this guy's a serious difference maker in games. He hits hard, he cycles fast, he has a great shot and you couldn't ask for a more focused player. When he's good, he's so good. But when he's coming back hurt, he's...a non-factor.

This seventh heaven game is going to be a nailbiter, a game that you won't be able to take your eyes off of, a thriller and a heartbreaker for one team and a triumph for another. It's still a coin toss as to which team will come out on top. As with every game in this series, it depends on which team comes out to play. We all know that these two teams can be amazing. And they'll have to be in this final.

Will luck be with the Habs? Will the stars come out to shine?

Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Boys to Men

The Vancouver Canucks came out men last night and what a great thing to see. Bieksa was on fire, Lou was fantastic and everyone got involved in last night's victory over the Blackhawks in order to stay alive to play another game. The talking was kept down to a minimum, the pushing and shoving still occurred, but one name that wasn't heard very often, to the great relief of many? Byfuglien.

This was a victory, though, that was mired by many injuries for the Canucks and many non-calls for both sides. The officiating for this game was just terrible and even the commentators couldn't help but deduce that certain calls were missed deliberately. It did seem that certain things were missed, others were let go, and some things were ignored entirely to make up for the things that they missed. It's like the cheating that we all do in our regular lives, when we make one mistake on one thing and try to make up for it by doing the next thing perfectly.

Refs and linesmen are human and they're not going to see everything, even with more of them out there. There are going to be one or two things that get missed along the way and some questionable calls will be made. That's all fine and well, but during the playoffs, I think we all expect better than that.

The slashing in the hands was called for some of the most minor taps, while the complete bulldozing of certain players was ignored. How is that justifiable? Maybe because it's easier to see a slash on the hands than it is to see slash through skates (strange no tripping call on Toews for example in the first period). And that's to say nothing of poor O'Brien, who got no call on the high stick that left a trail of blood coming out of his forehead.

True warrior that he is, though, he went to the locker room, got patched up and was back out on the next shift. You'd think this guy was a robot by the way he got hit and came back so fast. And then that nasty shot by Eager in front of the net to the newly stitched O'Brien, right up in that place where he'd been gushing blood? Not cool, Eager. That should have been an unsportsmanlike.

There were more injuries to this lineup as well, with the loss of Sami Salo. This guy's been a major factor in Vancouver's wins and his loss is serious to this bench. The Vancouver defense has been depleted and the remaining guys are picking up the slack. They've done a good job so far, but they're going to get tired if this series goes any longer and when you're tired, that's when mistakes are made. The defense came out in a major way in this game with a few goals, but how much can they rely on that? They're overstretched and something will have to be done.

Lou was fantastic in this game and better still, he was quiet. Keeping quiet, focusing on the game and being able to get a good read of the plays are the keys to winning for Lou. The defensemen have done a great job of keeping the lanes clear and not jamming in front of the crease, and this has made it possible for Lou to keep them in the series. And special credit to Burrows, who knocked one out in the third and made a save himself. He can do a lot if he just keeps his mouth shut and plays.

The same goes for the entire team. Great potential, as long as it comes with great discipline.

The Canucks may have won this battle, but they may still lose the war. It will take all that they have to keep themselves in this series and they can't afford to lose more men. Everyone will have to step up their game and keep quiet.

Quiet confidence should rule this team. It works. It separates the boys from men.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The third isnt enough

Last night's games proves one simple point: it's not enough to just play the third period. Montreal and Detroit both experienced the too little, too late final third period push where a more or less evenly matched game ended in defeat- barely.

In the Montreal and Pittsburgh game, there was a lot of cycling of the puck, but very little action on either of the nets. It seemed like there was a lot of effort for very little results, much like the timbits hockey games where the first goal is having fun, so everyone just skates as much as possible and maybe someone gets a rush on net in the last 2 minutes of the game. This game lacked intensity, particularly in a saggy second period where I was left wondering if I was watching the same game reel over and over again like the looping video in Speed. You know that video where they're on the bus and they just keep looping the same image of Keanu and Sandra driving? Pretty much like that.

Despite the 2-1 score, this game wasn't as close as it seemed. Pittsburgh wore out the Montreal defense in front of Halak, creating a ton of traffic and scoring twice from the point. Montreal, for its part, didn't wake up until about the third period, where an offensive rush actually resulted in a squeeze play goal from Cammaleri, who once again, like in every game of this series, always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

You have to give this guy a ton of credit for being opportunistic and placing himself on the right places on the ice, giving himself a ton of scoring chances simply by virtue of where he's placed. It's not just a question of good puck handling and a killer slap shot; you also need good positioning to give yourself more chances.

That said, if Montreal wants to continue in this series, they're going to need someone other than Cammaleri to step up their game and get on the scoreboard. Plekanec, Gionta and Gomez have all been active in this series, but they're going to have to combine for more opportunities and apply more pressure if they don't want their series to come to an abrupt end on Monday night.

For Pittsburgh, Gonchar came up big in this game and this just goes to show the depth of this team. Even when their two headed offensive monster isn't active, this team still knows how to win. They know better than to rely just on their star line and the fact that everyone's involved means that there's a mighty good chance that they won't be worrying much about the Habs for much longer.

Halak didn't have a bad night, but he didn't have a good night either. It must be disheartening for some to hear the star goaltender speak to the media after the fact in such a critical fashion. It's clearly not for lack of good goaltending that this game was lost. But with such great goaltending, why would a team wait so long to wake up? Is his fantastic play starting to make them lazy? Or is the entire team waiting for more heroics from Cammaleri? It's going to take more than Jaroslav and Michael to shut this series down.

One series has closed down without a lack of serious goaltending effort on both sides of the ice. Detroit has been ousted from the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in a nail-biting final to a deafening crowd in HP Pavilion. The once cursed Sharks are poised to have (possibly) their best ever Cup run. Both Howard and Nabokov were fantastic in this series and gave their teams a fair chance at a win.

Detroit almost walked away with this game with a hard effort throughout, but the third period just wasn't enough, despite a late 2 man advantage on a penalty call. Detroit came out so strong, but San Jose found a way to shut them down, playing like flies on every available Red Wing. The Sharks were out for blood and they got it.

It's hard to imagine a Cup run without the Detroit Red Wings and a part of me is disappointed, while another part of me is relieved. It's not fun when the playoffs become too predictable and it's always great to see at least a few upsets. It's also a true redemption for the San Jose Sharks who have come so close in the past, have dominated the regular season and just couldn't push it through. Now that they've made it, it will be exciting to see just how far they can actually go.

I'm always touched at the end of every series at the way the players line up to congratulate each other on a good run. You can see that some of them are ready to forget the bad blood, trash talking and questionable hits, while others have a true respect and admiration for their opponents. It's the greatest display of man-love ever. It's cathartic and wonderful. Because ultimately, they're all after the same thing, which is the Stanley Cup. And how can anyone not admire that?

Will there be more upsets from Philadelphia, Montreal and Vancouver? Can they mount an unforgettable comeback against Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago?

Only if they play all three periods.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Puck Off

The puck sometimes seems to have a life of its own, and in the two games last night, it really took off. Not to take anything away from the players and all of their hard work, but sometimes, strange things just happen.

Boston and Philadelphia

Does anyone understand that weird goal that slipped in off Boucher in the second period? It just completely disappeared and then re-appeared, inexplicably, in the back of the net. The commentators called that one a stinky goal, and weren't even sure who it would be attributed to.

The Flyers came back strong against Boston, taking home team advantage and welcoming back Simon Gagne. Just like the triumphant comeback from injury of Marc Savard, it was Philadelphia's turn to have a tie-breaking goal when it mattered the most from one of their heroes. The last game is the hardest one to win; this is not a cliche, but just the simple truth.

Boston could have won this game and completed a full sweep of Philadelphia at any point in this game. They played really hard, too, playing their game, being gritty, using their size, and getting in the right spots at the right time. Their goaltending has been consistent and spectacular and Lucic is back, better than ever.

It just looks like Philadelphia wanted it more. They were reignited by the crowd, and the return of one of their stars and they were on the brink. A real sense of urgency is sometimes the deciding factor in a game, and this was a team that didn't want to lose. Whether or not they can carry this into the next game is still a question.

Vancouver and Chicago

More second period shenanigans, this time in the Vancouver-Chicago game where an intense fight for the puck in front of Lou's net resulted in a whole lot of nothing as the puck actually ended up in the far corner where nobody was playing. This was definitely the most hilarious puck trick of the night, maybe of the entire playoffs.

A name that you heard a lot in last night's game was Byfuglien, who, for the life of me, I can't figure out the discrepancy between the way this name is spelled and the way that this name is pronounced. How can you have a name where seemingly the entire middle of it is silent? It's like the ugli in his name is kept out for some weird reason and then put back in whenever he hits the ice. Because this man's an agitator and he seems to have Lou and the Sedin twins in his back pocket.

Not that this is the only bad blood in this series. The trash talking is happening at top speed on and off the ice and it would be hilarious if it wasn't causing the Canucks to lose games that they should be winning.

This is not a clear contest. The Canucks are losing this series to themselves. They're being their own worst enemy by letting the Blackhawks get to them in this way. The Sedins are spending more time in the box right now than scoring and this is a bad use of everyone's time. The Canucks took so many penalties the other night and most of them were just plain stupid.

The Canucks have got to stop playing like boys at school trying to face off with the local bullies and start playing like real men in control of the game and their emotions. They're ruining what started off as a good playoff run by getting suckered into petty fights over nothing.

The talking is getting tiresome. It's not only ruining the game of the Canucks, it's also ruining the ebb and flow of the games themselves and ends up looking more like the View than a hockey game. Yeah, because that's what we all want to see when we tune into pro sports, a lot of yapping back and forth and personal digs. Get these guys some mugs and coffee and we can let them have a good old-fashioned pre-menstrual bitch fight.

Get over yourselves and start thinking like winners, Vancouver. Show some maturity, show some swagger, shut your ears, shut your mouths, and blast the hell out of them in their zone. Give Niemi something to fear by sending more and more shots on the net. A few good goals should put ugli out.