Friday, March 31, 2006
Flames Game Day
This is the 7th meeting between these teams this season; with the exception of a 3-2 Flames SO win back in November, the home team has really dominated. I expect that trend to continue tonight; it'll be Operation Shutdown for the Flames (and I don't mean that in the Derek Bell sense).
3-1. Iginla, Phaneuf, and
UPDATE, moments later: I almost forgot the pic. For karma.
Kudos to D. Sutter!
Duhatschek audits the Flames off-season train wreck:
Out: Conroy, Gelinas, McAmmond, Clark, Lydman (Total: 6.65 mil.)
In: Langkow, Amonte, McCarty, Wiemer, Hamrlik (Total: 9.542 mil.)
That's right, Calgary has a worse team with a higher payroll than last season. Kudos Mr. Sutter!
It's been a banner year for former Flames in the NHL. Conroy is centring the Los Angeles Kings' No. 1 line, where he has 19 goals and 40 assists. Gélinas is a team best plus-24 on a Florida Panthers team that has given up only 15 more goals that it has scored. Clark plays on the Washington Capitals' top line with Alexander Ovechkin and has a career-high 18 goals. Lydman plays top-four minutes on a Buffalo Sabres team that is challenging for the Presidents' Trophy. McAmmond is second in goals scored for the St. Louis Blues. Meanwhile, of the new faces, Langkow is on pace to produce 55 points, which is his average for the past five seasons. However, Amonte is in the midst of a 23-game goal drought. McCarty is below his career goal average. Wiemer was traded to the New Jersey Devils. Hamrlik has been effective when he's played, but he's missed two big chunks of the season because of injury.
Apart from the addition of rookie defensive phenom Dion Phaneuf, the Flames are not as strong, personnel-wise, as they were in 2004, when they went to the Stanley Cup final. Thank goodness for goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff; otherwise, they might be out of the playoff picture.
Some highlights from his online birthday card (April 1st):
- HAPPY B-DAY MAC HOPE 2 C U IN THE WHEEL SOON ITS SO WEIRD WITH U NOT HERE.
- Happy Birthday Darren McCarty! I just want you to know that i absolutely love you sooo much!!! You are absolutely amazing!!! Keep up the great hockey playing!!! I will be at the Wednesday April 5th game! I will be cheering u on ALL NIGHT!!! Good luck with
I really should have worked harder at my skating.
Friday Baseball Standings
And FYI, Ottawa is one game behind Detroit for the President's Trophy, a.k.a. home-ice advantage in the playoffs for as long as they keep winning.
I feel for my friends down south. I really do.
Here they are, dog-paddling to keep those games in hand relevant, and they lose their second best point producer* for at least a week to an eye injury.
He will not be able to play tonight against Colorado for first in the division. And he won't be able to play in the BofA on Saturday.
My goodness, who is going to pick up all that offense?
Watch out for that Budaj character tonight. Oh wait, Flames fans already know all about him.
*On a point/game basis
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Whatever the reason, the Oil spanked 'em tonight, which was just what the doctor ordered.
In more exciting news, it is Battle of Alberta time again as the Oilers take on the Flames on Hockey Night in Canada. I'm sure a proper post will go up, but it is fantastic to see that the Bible Smack has already begun, harking back to previous BofA's.
Let the games begin.
Oilers Game Day - LA [updated]
|Season Record: 36-25-12||Season Record: 38-30-5|
Does it seem wrong to anyone that LA has more wins and fewer losses than Edmonton, and yet the Oilers are in playoffs and the Kings aren't? Let nobody say that Edmonton doesn't know how to lose the right way.
RiversQ, of IOF, succinctly summarized tonight's game in a comment at a previous post:
I haven't freaked out yet, but it'll be hard to defend anyone remotely connected with the Oilers' organization if they drop any points to a rudderless team playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back on the road.
Indeed it will. Lowetide is concerned that, despite the absurd number of former captains on the Oilers, there is a paucity of real leadership. I guess we'll see for sure tonight.
UPDATE: It seems that MAP will make his NHL debut tonight on a line with Chopper and Fernando.
- Phoenix at San Jose
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
After 40 Minutes
Flames Game Day
For, what, the third time this season, the Flames play a team within days of a coaching change. The Kings' players are apparently thrilled that Andy Murray is gonzo, but I'm not sure where, if anywhere, that adrenalin will get them. Interesting tidbit from the game preview:
Los Angeles has given up 31 goals in its last seven games, losing five, while Calgary has allowed more than three goals only once in its last 22 contests.
I was actually quite surprised to read that about the Flames, since my casual observation has been that they've been committing more defensive miscues recently. So I looked it up myself, and sure enough, that 9GA fooferaw in Nashville is the only time they've allowed more than three since a 7-4 loss in Denver back in January. Their record in that 22-game stretch, by the way, is .
The best news tonight is simply that it's a home game. In 34 home games, the Flames are 24-7-3, allowing a total of 62 goals. That's a Home GAA of 1.82; no other team has one below 2. Kipper's personal Home GAA is even better.
Also: the Flames have not suffered a 3-game regulation losing streak all season (even including OT/SO losses, they haven't had one more than 3 games). Demitra and Roenick among others are hurt, and I don't think John Torchetti knows what he's doing, not that it'd make much of a difference anyway. 4-1 for the homeboyz. Go Flames.
Is it possible to be both disgusted and relieved about last night's loss?
Look, it is no secret that the Oiler haven't been playing well since just before the Olympic break. Even the wins have been shaky. But last night they actually played pretty well. In fact, for short periods they completely dominated Minnie, and overall they certainly outplayed them. That's the good news.
Alas, it was one of those games where every mistake turns into a goal against. As far as I can remember, the Wild scored on three of their 4 (5 at most) good scoring opportunities. The Oilers . . . missed a few. Smyth missed a wide open net. Horc missed a wide open net. Staois missed a wide open net.
Two of the Wild goals were breakaways, and one was a two on one. Rollie should have been able to stop at least one of them, but it wasn't as if they were entirely terrible. On two of them Greene pinched and got burned. That's just a dumb rookie mistake x 2. I know Ullie had some tough games, but I'd bring him back.
In short, it's a bummer and that's about it. San Jose and Anaheim both lost, so it didn't hurt nearly as bad as it could have.
- Anaheim at Dallas
- LA at Calgary
- Minnie at Vancouver
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Gee, that's a tough one, alright...
David Sutton from Toronto, Canada writes: I understand Mr. Cheney is an avid hockey fan and is himself a very strong ice-hockey player. In Mr. Cheney's opinion, which city can claim rights to the better professional hockey team?
Allison Dunfield writes: Hmm, Peter hasn't answered this one yet. And, Chris, in your opinion?
Chris Koentges writes: Look who's still in the playoff hunt, baby.
For those Torontonians who need a team to cheer for this spring, I'd direct them to my favourite Alberta blog.
Thanks, Chris. And I quite liked this little bit from your piece:
(With Maple Leaf Gardens now an unfinished grocery store, and the Montreal Forum a downtown Pepsi ad -- you'll have to let this sink in for a minute -- Calgary's Saddledome is the last iconic arena left in the country.)
According to Hockeyfights.com, 3 of LeGG's 8 fights this season were against the Wild's Derek Boogaard. Georges is 3-0.
Alas, I suspect that Mac-T will have him on a short leash tonight.
Here are some clips of LeGG showing Cabbie how to throw down (scroll to July 5). He also gets duded up in some cowboy gear.
Oilers Game Day - Wild
|Season Record: 36-24-12||Season Record: 32-32-7|
Here we are again. If the Oilers pull out a win tonight, they have a chance at grabbing a share of the NW division lead (not including games in hand, obviously).
So far, the home team in the Oilers-Wild tilts is 1-5.
The first goal is always big, but the fact that Fernandez has given up 9 goals in the last two games suggests that it might be particularly so tonight.
"We're just a fragile team right now," Wild forward Wes Walz said. "It seems like when we have a little bit of adversity, when something goes wrong, you can feel it on the bench, it kind of sinks. Unless we get a goal or something really positive happens, it's tough. I think falling out of the playoff race takes the wind out of your sails for sure."Getting 5+ points out of this four game home stand is almost required. I really don't see it being a problem. The Wild are disinterested. After losing to Vancouver and playing Calgary the day before they come to Edmonton, the Kings are probably also going to be deflated. The Flames are choking, and Phoenix has Mike Comrie.
- Anaheim vs Colorado
- San Jose vs Columbus
- Nashville vs Phoenix
The Sauve & Reinprecht for Boucher & Leclerc trade has been an absolute bloody disaster. The winner of the "talent swap" aspect is still to be determined, but considering the Flames' record is a sub-.500 10-9-3 since Sutter went off on Sauve, it sure looks like he mishandled the whole deal. Also worth raising an eyebrow: Sutter worked for "a long time" on a deal to pick up an experienced backup goaltender; the Flames just played 7 games in 11 days; and the important, experienced backup got one start. That's now 2 starts in 18 games as a Flame (11.1%). The inexperienced Sauve got 6 starts in 53 games (11.3%).
On top of all that, if you know a Mighty Ducks season ticket holder who is also a clergyman, put him in touch with me, as his word is the only way I'll believe the now-injured Mike Leclerc ever scored 20 goals in a season. If the Flames season goes all the way sour, I'm gonna get under a blanket, cue up the highlights of Rhino's goals in the 6-5 win over Vancouver, and sob gently.
And, I've already mentioned (a couple times): Dion Phaneuf is a gifted rookie. How gifted is he? He's so gifted, he's already working through his sophomore jinx.
Now that I have that out of the way, we have the following going for us, which is nice:
- 7 of final 11 at home (Flames home record: 24-7-3)
- 2 of the 4 roadies are @ EDM & VAN on HNIC (Flames HNIC record: 6-0-1)
- 1 game in hand on COL & EDM, 2 on VAN
- 2 points up on EDM & VAN
- Whatsisface - leading Hart Trophy candidate
Like for instance, the guy who thought we missed the speed of Oleg Saprykin. Uh, not so much dude--if I was still waiting for him to break out, I really would have an ulcer. Leopold was our most talented PP D-man last season; now he's 2nd unit, behind Phaneuf & Hamrlik. And for all the mostly-deserved laffs about the Flames' puny scoring numbers, the 2nd-leading scorer in 2003/04 was Shean "Figure 8" Donovan (18G).
This is a good team that has been in 1st place all but one day since December 29th. mc79 has the Avs favoured to win from here; the 2 head-to-head games they have, both in the 'Dome, should tell the tale. Go Flames.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Deadline Deals Deliver
Oh wait, that's the rant for after Oilers losses. Turns out they won. And with style too. K-Lowe's tradeline deals stole the show, with Samsonov scoring the game-winning shootout goal, and Rollie the Goalie (new mask on head) making a spectacular diving save on Sakic to stone the Avs.
Did I mention that Calgary also lost to Dallas to cap off their wildly unsuccesful roadtrip with a record of 2-4-1.
All of this adds up to an even better race than before. Calgary is officially back in the mix. They are tied with Colorado and Anaheim (Anaheim has a game in hand over Calgary, and Calgary has a game in hand over Colorado), a mere two points up on Edmonton (with one game in hand), four points up on SJ (and SJ has a game in hand), and a measly four points up on 9th place Vancouver (with one game in hand).
Even better, is that Calgary's next game is vs LA. A Kings win might just pull them back into contention (especially if they beat Vancouver tonight) and would seriously hurt the Flames. Everyone pull out your old LA Gretzky action figures and rub them for luck.
Quotes of the Day:
- "We wanted to put a good string together. We didn't do that." -- Jarmoe.
- "Right now, two points are better than one" -- Captain Canada. Ahhh, Smytty. How are you always able to articulate what we're all thinking?
- LA @ Vancouver
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Oilers Game Day - Avalanche
|Season Record: 35-24-12||Season Record: 39-25-7|
Well, the Canucks back to back to back solved nothing.
A few quick thoughts on last night's game:
- Hemsky is driving me crazy. Lord knows he has skills, but man does he turn it over a lot -- and in bad places
- The defensive clinic the Oilers put on for the last 10 minutes of the third was incredible. Have they closed out a game that well this season?
- Smytty was dynamite
- Samsonov continued his PPG average with the Oilers
- A great game by the vets -- nice to see
- Apparently, Conky was sent to Colorado a day ahead of the rest of the team so that he could stew in his hotel room all alone and completely psych himself out for today's game. Fantastic!
- A win tonight combined with a Flames' loss really confuses things. I want this to happen.
- San Jose vs Chicago
- Calgary vs Dallas
Flames Game Day
A win today makes this a decent 3-3-1 roadtrip, and of more interest to me, shows that the Flames can play a good road game, which is absolutely a concern heading to the playoffs.
My other concern at the moment is our rookie dynamo. Phaneuf has been bad on this roadtrip.
- Played without jump against Edmonton
- Let a puck get out of the O-zone for a SH breakaway in MIN (tying goal)
- Gifted Columbus the puck on the winning goal Friday
Really, if the Flames win today (1PM MST), everything looks like sunshine & lollipops again: 3 point division lead; season splits c/w road victories against the other 2 division winners; 7 of next 9 games at home; etc. etc. go team go. (Not to mention, every game that goes by is one game closer to Warrener's return to the lineup, meaning Cale Hulse can go back to high-sticking his wife, which doesn't make his team shorthanded.)
I'm going to recycle my prediction from the last Dallas game, and predict that today, Calgary spoils the Stars' perfect shootout record (now 11-0). Go Flames.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Oilers vs Canucks - Round III
|Season Record: 34-24-12||Season Record: 38-27-6|
There really isn't too much to say here. The Oilers need to get it done.
Things I'll be looking (hoping) for:
- LeGG and Peca to keep up their fantastic work from the last game
- Some physical play -- especially on Naslund
- Hemsky, Horcoff, Smyth to match the effort of the 4th line
- Rollie the Goalie to not let in a weak one
- Someone miscellaneous to step up (Samsonov, Moreau, Pisani, Stoll . . . )
On another note, wow is Anaheim looking good these days. I thought that their schedule would burn them down the stretch, but they just keep on winning.
- Nashville vs LA
- Anaheim vs Phoenix
- Colorado vs St. L
- San Jose vs Minnie
Friday, March 24, 2006
Flames Game Night
Just thought I'd help you out, buddy. You can thank me later.
Home vs Road Coaching
The assumption here, if I have read them correctly, is that because home coaches have the last change, they are more able to influence the outcome of the game than when they are on the road and don't have the opportunity to match lines. In other words, coaches at home do more coaching than coaches on the road.
Balderdash! I don't buy for one minute the argument that road coaches are simply passive puppets reacting to the whims of the home coach. If anything, road coaches have to be more active and savvy with respect to switching line combos in order to get favourable mismatches -- something the Oilers have apparently been successful at as evidenced by their favourable road record. Or are we really suggesting that the Oilers are winning on the road because . . . what, all those other coaches turn even stupider than Mac-T when the Oilers happen to come to town?
Obviously the last change is an advantage -- especially in certain circumstances late in the game when there is a faceoff and you really want a certain matchup -- but I don't think it is nearly the advantage some seem to think it is.
Cleave doesn't like the pressure-cooker theory either, noting that fans in all Canadian cities are demanding. Fair enough. But to my eye, Mac-T's line-combo blender has been pretty much the same on the road as at home, but the players have played tighter at home than on the road.
Tight play isn't generally a function of line-combos, it's a function of pressure and confidence.
Of course, we can argue about whether a coach in the NHL needs to be a "motivator" in addition to an x's and o's guy, but frankly if the players can't get it up for a big game without a rehashed Bear Bryant pregame speech, that isn't the coach's fault.
JJ has a clip up from a CBC special covering the Lotusland Fans' recent roadtrip through the Province of Milk and Honey. The only saving grace of the whole thing is that it rekindles memories of when the Flames used to lose and the Oilers used to win. Remember those days?
Friday Baseball Standings
Thursday, March 23, 2006
A few thoughts on the game:
- LeGG continues his tradition of terrific play down the stretch. Heck, I'm beginning to think his bloated salary might actually be worth it -- just for the last 15 games of every season
- Samsonov had great chemistry with Horcoff. Then he had great chemistry with Torres. He's the real deal.
- Peca has been deservedly maligned, but tonight he was pretty solid -- definitely his most physical game in a long while.
- Jason Smith had a nice game, especially when he slew-footed Bertuzzi twice on the same shift.
- Although they gave up a goal in the third, I was happy that the Oilers didn't try to just sit on their lead.
- Rollie was . . . up and down. Still waiting for that one more save.
- Does it worry anyone else that Ray Ferraro seems to know everyone's shootout move, but our goalies don't?
I don't even have a moustache
Another classic quote for our BofA dust jacket:
The Battle of Alberta
If this were a porn site it would feature rough video clips of a guy sitting in a hardback chair, and looking agitated, while the other guy shagged his girlfriend. Which is why it's probably the best hockey blog on the internet.
Thanks Vic! My mother will be so proud.
The number of Oilers blogs has mushroomed over the last few weeks. I know I've linked them in the past, but you really should check out Lowetide and Irreverent Oilers Fans. Stats, analysis, barely legal porno metaphors (oh man, I just know that is going to get us some crazy hits on the search engines), they've got them all.
MATT UPDATE: Yeah, wow, thanks Vic. Also, thanks for the birthday idea for Sacamano (softer chair).
Flames Game Night
The Flames' chances tonight can be summed up in two words: Patrick, and Lalime. They should dominate, so what's that, a two-goal victory, right?
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Completely non-hockey-related trivia: do you know how many different TV series Richard Belzer has appeared in playing the role of Detective Munch? The amazing answer is seven, which helps explain why it's so hard to tell all those crime dramas apart... (ÞCosh)
UPDATE, seconds later: I think most of us knew that Most Goals was the tiebreaker for who gets the Art Ross if there's two players with an equal point total (it cost Gretzky an 11th, which would have been his first, in 1980). But did you know that there's two other tiebreakers?
If two players finish the season with the same number of points, the trophy is awarded in the following manner: 1. Player with most goals; 2. Player with fewer games played; 3. Player scoring first goal of the season.
Yeah yeah, ties suck, but that's taking things a bit far, no?
Good post-game thoughts can be found at:
- Covered in Oil - "2 Josh Greens out of 10 Sean Browns"
- Lowetide - "Piss poor . . . a complete disaster"
- Irreverent Oiler Fans - ". . . this game sucked on every level"
Sacamano's Playoff Predictor [UPDATED]
If you're like me, it is about this time in the season that you start to spend hundreds of hours running through the remaining schedule, trying to predict who will beat whom and how this will all play out in terms of playoff positions.
To help you all out, and to further reduce your productivity at work, I've made a little spreadsheet in Excel that will automatically calculate the points and rank of the top 11 Western Conference Teams based on your predictions for the remaining games.
Alas, I'm not web-savvy enough to make it an online interactive deal, so you will have to download and/or open it on your own computer. If anyone out there wants to put it up in web format (if such a thing is even possible), you are more than welcome to do so.
Just click on the picture of it below and it should come up.
Enjoy and let me know if I messed up anything.
Note: It gives the "absolute" ranks and doesn't take into account the divisional champions, but I figured we are all bright enough to figure that on our own.
Obviously last night was not what I was hoping to see from the Flames, in terms of the result or the performance (notable exception: Kipper, who was fantastic). I might have jinxed Phaneuf last week; the winner was a SHG that popped over his stick at the blueline. Equally frustrating, though, was the tying goal on the PP. Hey, penalties happen, but Cale Hulse was sitting in the box for tripping Derek Boogaard (56GP, 2G, 146PIM).
That's a stupid penalty, chief. The only penalty Derek Boogaard should ever draw is Instigator, and that had better be when the game result is no longer in question. These are mistakes that a 10-year NHL veteran should not make (The Warrener isn't perfect, but it'll sure be nice to get him back in the lineup).
Also, I should say that while the commercial-free aspect of the PPV broadcasts is kind of fun, Jim Peplinski is probably the worst colour commentator in hockey. There was plenty of lowlights, but going on about how happy the Flames must be to have an experienced depth D-man like Hulse, during the aforementioned PP mere seconds before the goal, was probably the lowest.
Hearing him speak at a dinner, during dessert after a couple of beers, is fairly enjoyable -- he's got some excellent stories. Turns out, it doesn't translate to the booth. Don't quit your day job, Pepper!
Other frustrations: all minor compared to the above, except for Huselius fanning on a couple of setups from Iginla that were even sweeter than the winner on Sunday.
Today's fun stats: the Flames are tops in the league in even-strength Goals Against with 88 (Ottawa is next with 91; the Blues have allowed 149). In even-strength Goals For, they are dead-ass last with 94 (Ottawa has 160). To compare, the Oilers have 136 ES GA and 122 ES GF.
Bonus stat: the Flames' average attendance is 19,289, a.k.a. 100.0% of capacity. These sellout crowds, 34 in the regular season so far, witness less goal-scoring than any other crowd in the league. Go ahead and talk about what The League needs to do to market The Product, and it may make some difference at the margins, but I note again, there is absolutely no substitute for winning.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Flames Game Night
This is the game where Minny folds it up for good for the season. 4-0 Calgary. Go Flames.
"That weasel snagged the 'bee!"
Ever seen PCU? Funny little movie; it came to mind reading about this triple-header between the Canucks and the Oilers.
"This is Port Chester's biggest sporting event, Tom: the Hippie Olympics. Nobody wins, 'cause they're all losers." - Rand McPherson
Edmonton vs Vancouver - Round I
|Season Record: 34-23-11||Season Record: 36-27-6|
Tonight the Oilers take on the Canucks in Round I of the Back-to-Back-to-Back.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I'm am ecstatic about this turn of events.
- Oilers - Canucks tilts have been highly entertaining over the last few years
- The Oilers have owned the Canucks this year (5-0-0) -- even more than Nashville has owned Calgary
- The Canucks have lost 6 of their last 7 and got booed off the ice last game.
- The stakes are high. Really high. A sweep by one team will seriously cripple the other's chances at making playoffs
- It is a terrific warm-up for the playoff format
- If any extra motivation is needed, it should be recalled that it was Vancouver who knocked Edmonton out of playoffs last season
Regardless, for Mirtle, I'll predict Oilers 5-1 with D-vo getting two, LeGG potting a big one, The Orbs getting the game winner, and Smytty getting the opener on an ugly goalmouth rebound on the Oilers' second powerplay.
Talk some smack here, and make sure to drop some science over with JJ at his surprisingly upbeat Canucks blog.
And if you really want to have some fun, go drop some audio comments at the Vancouver Canucks Op Ed. Fantastic! Top priority of the day? Find a computer with a microphone.
Compulsive Scoreboard Watching:
- Calgary at Minnesota
- San Jose at St. Louis
Monday, March 20, 2006
The glass-half-empty perspective for fans of the Oilers, or any of these 6 teams, is that there's really no room for a slump. (To wit: Vancouver was in an OK spot after beating the Flames the 1st game out of the break; they're 2-6-1 since and are outside looking in).
The glass-half-full perspective is that 4 of 6 teams will qualify, and it's statistically likely that one of them will play very poorly down the stretch and take themselves out of it. That means, probably, that your team only has to be better than one more team.
If I had to guess, I'd pick Anaheim for the 5-spot: they've been consistently good for 40+ games now. I'd also pick L.A. for 10th; they had a few good games bookending the Olympic break, but they've basically been mediocre to weak for 40-ish games (since Game 20, they have 52 points in 49 games).
Clearly the Canucks look terrible right now, but I'm not ready to count them out. San Jose's 9-2-2 stretch has put them in a great position, although their back-to-back losses to CGY and EDM last weekend still gives me pause as to just how good they are. Colorado picked up an Alex Tanguay knee-sprain last night, to go with Svatos' broken shoulder: they could easily be worse than Vancouver over the remainder of the schedule (and let's not forget that their new #1 goalie is still hurt; may not be any good anyway; and their acting #1 let in 6 last night and was apparently dismal).
All in all, there's still cause for optimism up in the 'Chuk. I don't care what ups and downs we've seen in the past two weeks -- Roloson is an upgrade in goal, and that's probably all they needed to assure themselves of a playoff spot.
Does that mean a 6-seed is in the cards for the Oil, c/w a 1st-round Battle of Alberta playoff? Good God, let's hope so. Neither Sacamano nor I have made much mention of this, but this site is most likely a one-and-done effort. He's moving off the continent in the summer, and I never want it to feel like work, so there's a decent chance we're going dark at season's end. A head-to-head playoff series seems like a great way for it to end (for the Oilers, with 6 weeks of Flames-only content to follow). Get 'er done, Mac-T.
Simile of the Week
...what the Flames are about to accomplish in just making the playoffs is the equivalent of a homeless guy walking into Cowboys on Professional Athlete Night and leaving with three hot women.
Tyler also notes (correctly) that this site is now the #1 Google search result for Orbs of Power, "much to the dismay of D&D types everywhere, I'm sure..". What I like about that is that a LOT of people had a hand in it. Later.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
That's what I'm talkin about
Amazing note from scoreboard watching: ever hear of a guy going +5 in a loss? Congratulations, Rob Blake.
Flames Game Day
Nine goals against? The Flames have had 5-game homestands where they didn't give up 9 goals. Listening on the radio, it sounded like you could hang most of the first 4 or 5 on Brian Boucher (Mike Rogers after Nashville's 3rd: "Brian Boucher has got to stop that puck!"). After that though, it was total collapse. Hell, Boucher stopped two breakaways in the third! (Otherwise, the score might have gotten out of hand, hawhawhaw..)
Well, the last time Calgary looked this bad was in losing consecutive road games to the Rangers and Islanders. Then, they went into Minnesota and slapped the Wild around a bit, and got back on track. So! How timely that the Flames play the Wild today (5PM, RSN West). We also play them Tuesday, followed by St. Louis & Columbus on Thu/Fri. This is the week where we use up our games-in-hand; it would be advisable to get some points to go along with it.
Kipper will be back in net today (duh). The Wild are pretty live at home, but they lack mojo this year (and Calgary is up 4-1 in the season series). 3-1, the boys in Red with the 3. Go Flames.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Oilers Game Day - Detroit
I'm in an all day conference today, and so tragically I'll be missing the March Madness and the trash talking.
My only observation is that Edmonton matches up well with the Wings.
Prediction: 4-2 Oil
Friday, March 17, 2006
Friday Baseball Standings
Boy, that Western Conference playoff race is something, isn't it?
Bonus St. Patrick's Day fun link: Japers' Rink lists the Top 10 Patricks in hockey history.
- Calgary clearly carried the play for the most part. The Oil had a better PP, especially early, but the Flames' group of potzers on the forward lines way outplayed the Oilers at even strength. The failure to add to the 2-1 lead was frustrating for sure (btw, thanks for that quick whistle on Leclerc, ref), but all four lines just dominated down low. I'm very happy with the way the forwards are progressing as a group, heading to the playoffs.
- It's not just you, Chanandler. Huselius was a lot more dangerous than Samsonov yesterday. Sammy had one good shift, by my count, and it was made by Pronger's broken stick under Hammer's skate blade (though I concede that this kind of thing happens to scoring threats strangely often compared to, say, Stephane Yelle).
- As good as Calgary's forwards were, I thought the D had a pretty weak performance. They seemed awfully passive, especially with the puck. I thought that might have been Phaneuf's worst game of the year: save for drawing one penalty, he didn't make anything happen out there.
- Kipper cannot be the 3rd star in that game. Yeah, he made some nice saves, especially against the PP, but on the tying goal he was out of position (shades of December 19th), and the winner was just weak. I don't care how many great saves a goalie makes: two weak goals = a performance that's not good enough.
- Word of the night: square. I liked Ferraro earlier in the year - is he just talking a lot more now than he used to? If I were to give him one hint, it would be this: if you're tempted to start a sentence with, "Like I was saying before", just shut up. We heard you the first time.
- Peca & Laraque (together at last!): Edmonton's best forwards. I don't think the CPuck guy that Tyler quotes here was that far off: the Oil's forwards were remarkably (alarmingly?) passive. Most of them had only one or two shifts where they were competing like this was an important game. I say this seriously: where's the heart? As noted, Samsonov was near-invisible until the winning shift. Smyth seemed somewhat game, but took a couple of stupid/careless penalties. Stoll has just fallen off a cliff since the early season; I barely recognize him. He worked hard on his goal, but generally, he stunk. Hemsky was OK with the puck a couple of times, but didn't play like he was keen to gain possession of it. Torres had the nice hit on Iginla: otherwise, brutal. Dvorak was good on the PK only.
It's fashionable to say that the Flames' forwards are a reflection of the way their coach played. I can't vouch for that, since Sutter retired before hockey on cable. But last night, I would certainly say that the Oilers' forwards were a reflection of the way their coach played. No, not their head coach...
A win is a win, and as is often the case, the Flames can look at their failure to convert puck pressure and scoring chances into goals as the reason they lost. And if the Flames play the Oilers in the playoffs, I might actually worry a bit about why Kipper seems to lose his mojo when he walks into SkyRex. But the lasting impression (uh, next-morning impression) of this game for me is that the Flames are getting it together for the playoffs, while the Oilers aren't yet out of the woods. If they don't play better next week, their dominance over the Canucks will quickly become but a fond memory. I await being proven wrong. (By events.)
I mean, the guy gives up probably his final opportunity to play with what was unquestionably a sublime generation of Swedish hockey players (Sundin, Forsberg, Lidstrom, Alfredsson, Holmstrom, Jonsson, Havelid, etc.) -- who finally lived up to expectations by winning the Olympic gold medal in Turin -- in order to rest himself for an NHL playoff stretch run over which the Canucks have so far gone 2-6, dropping them to 8th in the West (and having played 3 more games than both Anaheim [2 points back] and San Jose [3 points back]).
One wonders how bad their record would have been with a "tired" Markus Naslund in the line-up.
Afterall, Detroit's 5 Swedes have only managed to put up a 6-2 record over that period.
- He was obviously at work/out of town and so couldn't:
- watch March Madness
- watch the Brier
- particpate in BofA pre-game trash talk
- His March Madness bracket was a couple of overtimes and a couple of scrambly last second shots away from being in total shambles
- When he does get out of the capitalist commitments, Blogger locks up and he is unable to post anything -- until hours later when the Blogger gods thought it would be a funny trick to post four copies of his trash talking "Go Time" post -- several hours after the Oiler had already beat the Flames.
- His trash talking regarding Samsonov is looking more absurd by the day, and,
- Despite outplaying the Oilers for much of the game, the Flames are still not able to score more than two goals.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
The fact is, the Oilers have been bad lately, and Calgary has not been a team that has motivated the Oil much so far this year. Roloson is unquestionably an upgrade in goal, but in the context of The Battle of Alberta, the Oilers still have the same goaltending problem as before, and his name is Miikka.
Two of Kipper's three bad games this season have been against the Oil, but last game on Election Night, he reverted to owning them. (Like Siegfried owns Roy, baby.)
Calgary scores 2, 3, or 4 tonight, no weak ones. Edmonton scores 1. Go Flames.
Battle of Alberta - Open Thread
|Season Record: 33-23-10||Season Record: 37-20-7|
Chill your beer, and warm-up your tee-vees, It's Battle Of Alberta Night, baby!
I'm not sure there is a better team to play to get Rollie his first shut-out as an Oiler. That's if the edgy Rexall fans don't boo him for letting in goals during warm-up.
I'm anticipating a physical affair tonight. Matt posted on some of the line-up shuffles, and the fantastic news for Oilers fans is that Roman Hamrlik is back on the Calgary blue-line. It really is like Christmas at a non-Cosh household. It also looks like Mac-T's inspired decision to put Pisani at centre will continue. I love it.
The big story line in this one, of course, is can Jamie Lundmark continue to spark the Flames offense with more performances like his 1GP, 0A-0G-0P-0+-0PM-1SOG? Sutter is looking like a genius.
Obsessive scoreboard watching:
Battle Game Day - Roster Notes
- Sportak is reporting that Mike Leclerc will likely be a healthy scratch again tonight (10 games on Iginla's line: this is what happens when you score zero goals in that situation, buddy)
- Roloson will get his 5th straight start as an Oiler (proposed nickname: DOG; these days I just think that everyone named Dwayne should be nicknamed Dog). Kipper will get his, I dunno, millionth straight start.
- Sergei Samsonov: "Slicker than whale droppings". Wow, and I was just talking about nicknames...
Bonus material: mudcrutch79's Stat of the Week was that on Tuesday, the Oilers beat Minnesota despite (A) giving up 30+ shots and (B) scoring 2 or fewer goals. The last time the Oilers managed that? January 8, 2003. Welcome to DecentGoaltendingLand, Oil fans.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Back in the Money
- Since the Olympic break, the Orbs of Power have 8 points in 8 games*, including a goal tonight.
- "This is how Dwane Roloson plays" (Ferraro, approximately 17 times). Roloson did, indeed, deliver the goods tonight.
- Still way too many penalties and some rather spotty late-gamesmanship. The first half of the third period the Oil were dynamite, the second half . . . iffy.
- As usual, LeGG is starting to come on at the end of the season. The fourth line was killer tonight.
- Faithful readers will know that I love D-vo, and I thought he had another terrific game tonight. The third line might have been the best of them all.
- Is Spacek for Salmelainen the biggest steal of the year? The decade? K-Lowe's career?
- The most interesting "problem" is still where to play Samsonov. There is no question that he was a solid pick-up, but our forward lines were all clicking pretty well. Now there is going to have to be some switching, and so far it doesn't look like anything has fallen into place. Still early, I know, but there isn't a whole lot of time remaining.
- Vancouver -- who is one of the teams looking even worse than the Oilers lately -- lost another, vaulting Edmonton into 7th place. What a crazy conference.
Blogroll Update - Oilers Division
- Vic's Place - a long-time poster at HF and Oilfans, Vic is another one of these guys that loves to crunch the numbers. He and his two collaborators (RiversQ and Dennis) already have a number of interesting posts up, including a nifty feature that lets you input an Oilers' jersey number to find out his plus, minus, points in 5on5 play.
- Lowetide - another long-time poster at HF and somewhat reluctant blogger. Lowetide has his ear to the prospect pipeline and is a big fan of MAP. Let's all hope he's right.
Oilers Game Day - Wild
|Season Record: 32-23-10||Season Record: 31-28-7|
Is it too early to pull out the ole 'must win' label for this game?
Peca calls out the vets and, interestingly, the coaching staff:
"We're getting leads in some of these games, but then we play not to lose instead of playing to win," Michael Peca said. "We get tentative and stop being the aggressors.This is a problem that plagues most teams, but the Oil are definitely guilty of it on a consistent basis. Playing to protect leads never works.
"Everybody has to have more of a calming presence and it starts behind the bench. The coaches need to stay a little more relaxed in those situations and the veteran players have to show a little more poise. We're all disappointed we've allowed teams to catch us. Our goal is to catch teams ahead of us."
Compulsive Scoreboard Watching:
- Vancouver is at Nashville
- Phoenix is at LA
Monday, March 13, 2006
Oilers Uncover MAP
I wish I knew how he has been doing this year, but the CinO boys haven't updated the prospect stats in a long, long, long time.
I jest, of course, Pouliot is having a fine season with 46 points (15 goals) in 65 games. Not too shabby for a 20-year old 1st year pro.
Part of the reason the Oilers Borgbrain selected Pouliot is that he was the only player to continue to play hard and score on the atrocious pre-Crosby Rimouski Oceanic. Let's hope he can guilt a little teammate accountability in his first appearance in Da Show.
Flames Game Day: Rematch
Either way though, this business of trading odd-man rushes with the Avalanche has got to stop. At one point in the 3rd period yesterday, each team had four of them. Not sure what the Flames allow on average, but I'd estimate that it's zero-point-something.
For today's special pre-game feature, I'm going to take a break from the relentless positivity. There's probably two big things that frustrate me about the Flames more than anything else, and both of them were amply demonstrated in yesterday's loss.
1. Andrew Ference has got to improve at keeping the puck in at the blueline. He has a remarkable knack for letting the puck hop over his stick, combined with absolutely terrible instincts on when to hold the line (pinch) and when to back off.
This glaring flaw in his game is all the more noticeable because of his teammate Phaneuf. Lots of glowing things have been written about the rookie Dion, all of which are true (if occasionally overexcited). But one aspect of his game that I haven't seen applauded is his play at the attacking blueline. I've been sitting on this thought for two months, just to make sure I wasn't fooled or exaggerating, but I seriously think that Dion Phaneuf might be the best player I've ever seen at holding the offensive zone (the fact that the boards are on his backhand makes it even more impressive). His decision-making and his coordination are just unbelievable: when he pinches, and it's pretty often, the puck stays inside the blueline, period.
For most fans, myself included, the flubbed puck at the blueline is the most frustrating mistake a defenseman can make (for forwards, it's the fanned one-timer). I think it's a huge reason why 5th/6th D-men (often 2nd PP unit guys) seem to take a disproportionate amount of crap from us.
2. Everyone gets knocked off the puck sometimes, or has it stripped away. But why-oh-why does it always seem to happen to Kristian Huselius when he's skating away from the opposing goal? Look Tommy: if you're going to double back with the puck, you had better make G.D.F'in sure that you keep it until you get turned around, or get rid of it before you lose it. This kind of turnover is essentially impossible for the other two forwards to recover from; it's a nearly guaranteed 3-on-2 (or 2-on-1) the other way. Just stop it. I'm begging you. Really.
In tonight's game, I think Colorado scores the 1st goal, and Calgary scores the next four. I also expect Lundmark to draw in (in Tommy's place, perhaps?). It's the good guys' last home game before they make way for the figure skaters and head out on a 7-game in 11-day road trip. Go Flames.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Flames Game Day
New addition Jose Theodore is still out with a broken heel, and Calgary's favourite opposing goalie Hardy Astrom was traded to Montreal, so either Slovak Peter Budaj or Kazakh Vitaly Kolesnik will be keeping Colorado's goal.
Low expectations are a curse, but the fact is a split in these two games would go a ways towards sewing up the Northwest Division. With 16 games in the next 28 days, it's entirely likely that splitting back-to-backs will result in Calgary maintaining or even increasing their lead.
Related, here's the end of Randy Sportak's column in the Sun today:
General manager/head coach Darryl Sutter isn't overly concerned about his charges handling the workload.
"It's about the rhythm of your team," Sutter said. "We have a strong enough group in terms of leadership and the way they handle themselves. I think we're the only team in the league that hasn't lost more than two in a row in regulation -- actually I know we're the only team -- and that's because the guys know how to park and reload and they don't let anything distract them.
"If you have a night when you don't win, it doesn't carry over the next day with them and that's why they're such a good club."
I'll pick a 3-3 game going into OT, and let the hockey gods take it from there. Go Flames.
Oilers Game Day - Wild
|Season Record: 32-22-10||Season Record: 30-28-7|
The Oil gas another game on two positively Conkannan-like goals. The good news is that during the first period when I was actually listening to the game, Rod and Morley were absolutely gushing about the Oilers' powerplay featuring Samsonov.
To retain a shred of morale, I'll point out that Samsonov is two points up on Lundmark . . . little victories and all that.
As for today, I don't know what to expect. The Wild have lost 6 of their last 7, the Oilers have lost 7 of their last 9. Two teams really making a strong case for that last playoff spot.
No prediction today. Maybe that will change the fortunes.
Compulsive Scoreboard Watching:
- Anaheim is at Phoenix
- Calgary at Colorado
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Oilers Game Day - Columbus
|Season Record: 32-22-9||Season Record: 25-36-2|
The Oil are back in action tonight and they can't afford to lay another egg.
Word is that Hemsky might sit out with the flu, meaning that Samsonov would take his place on one of the top two lines.
The Juice is likely to start in net since they play Minnie tomorrow.
Also, it is Smytty's 700th game in Oilers' silks -- look for a big one from the mullet.
Prediction: 5-3 Oilers. Smyth(2), Samsonov, Pronger, Bergeron
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Sacamano's Worst Nightmare
Matt's Worst Nightmare
Oilers Game Day - Sharks
Going forward, this appears to be the team:
Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky
Torres - Stoll - Samsonov
Moreau - Peca - Dvorak
Pisani - Murray - Laraque
Pronger - Spacek
Smith - Tarnstrom
Staois - MAB
Pressbox: JFJ, Grene, Ulanov
I really like the look of that team.
Prediction: 3-0 Oilers (D-vo with the hat trick)
PS: Good to see that Calgary upgraded their scoring by acquiring noted sniper and career -14 Jamie Lundmark
Samsonov is an Oiler [updated again]
Hey, hey, hey. Great news. D-vo isn't going anywhere.
The bad news is that the other object of my unwarranted man-crush affections -- Marty Reasoner - is gonzo along with a draft pick and a "non-roster player" whatever that is.
As I've said on numerous occasions, Reasoner provides the kind of instant chemistry/do anything type of player that is hard to replace. But . . . I'm over it.
A few questions:
- How much did Samsonov benefit playing with Thornton?
- A UFA who didn't want to be traded sounds like a rental to me. Is Reasoner, a draft pick and a Yan Stastny the price of a rental? Or do we think that Samsonov can be re-signed?
Man, has Kevin Lowe had a big year or what?
SAMSONOV - 27 years old
Flames Game Day
I don't have much to say about this game except that a win would be pretty comforting. Based on the present standings, if the 1st round of the playoffs goes according to form (hah!), this would be the conference semifinal matchup.
I have one other thought relating to the Trade Deadline, and that is that you can dismiss Montreal and Philadelphia as contenders for anything. To explain, I have a newly articulated Theory: call it the Curse of the Flames' Failed Future.
Alert readers may recall that right about 10 years ago, the Flames were in a transition period. They were no longer good enough to be at the top of the division, as they had been most of the previous 10 years. However, we fans were pretty optimistic, as we had a glut of up-and-coming talent, particularly on the blueline. The CW was something like this:
"With their young defense corps of Todd Simpson, Joel Bouchard, Cale Hulse, Denis Gauthier, and Derek Morris, the Flames are well-positioned to rebuild quickly and regain their mojo."
Now, we know this:
(A) The Flames didn't make the playoffs again until 2004, and
(B) The five young up-and-comers mentioned above have basically never contributed to a winning team, ever.
Derek Morris was a Top 4 D-man for the Avalanche for a little while, but in his only postseason there (he was traded to PHX before the 2nd), they lost in the 1st round. Hulse has one career playoff games, with the Flames in '96. This is Todd Simpson's 9th full season; he has weak 1st-round losses with the Panthers ('00) and Coyotes ('02) to show for it. Joel Bouchard (age 32) has still never played in an NHL playoff game.
And Denis Gauthier (who I love by the way): he was with the Flames in the spring of 2004! However he was injured in the 3rd period of Game 6 vs. the Canucks, and it was Montador and Commodore who shored up the Flames D for the rest of the playoffs.
Suffice it to say, only bad things can happen to the Habs and Flyers for picking up Simpson and Gauthier, respectively. Equally obviously, if the Red Wings pick up Derek Morris in the next hour, I'll be thrilled.
But wait, Matt: didn't the Flames just acquire Cale Hulse, who by the way was generally a healthy scratch in Columbus? Yes they did, and you may notice there are no links to Hulse fan sites on the sidebar. But since his role appears destined to be 8th defenseman, I'm assuming he'll be no more of a bugaboo for the Flames from the pressbox than Gauthier was from the trainer's room in '04.
I don't have a good sense of how the game will go tonight, so I'll go with counter-intuition, and pick Calgary to win in a shootout. Kipper is the man to shut down Mr. Perfect. Go Flames.
Roli the Goalie
Look, Luongo wasn't available, there is simply no way we could have stayed with Conky and Jussi down the stretch, and--despite what some would have you believe--everyone else out there has question marks.
Biron? What exactly has he done to earn the mad props he's getting?
Theodore? Thank you for killing Colorado's chances this season.
Cujo? What the . . .
Noronen? - could be Kipper, could be Jussi. A great pick-up in the offseason, a risky pick-up in a playoff stretch run.
Tyler has all the relevant numbers for those of you who are inclined to trust statistics more than your eyes, but for me, the most important observation has been made repeatedly by K-Lowe and Mac-T over the last few days. We don't need an all-world goaltender. We need one or two more saves per game. That's it. That's all. Anything else is gravy at this point.
The bottom line is that Roli will give the Oilers a chance to win more games. Added bonus, K-Lowe has, yet again, added without subtracting from the current team. Maybe Oilers fans have been in the "think about the future" mode for too long. This is a move that helps the present. A novel approach for E-town.
[Update] Sadly, Mayor Quimby was picked up by the Sens.
[Update 2]: Cosh has some thoughts on the trade here.
That might have been the best game that Calgary's forwards, as a group, have played all season. All four lines created sustained offensive pressure numerous times. It was only Vokoun's solid play and a bit of bad luck (bouncing pucks etc.) that kept the Flames from getting on the scoresheet several more times. (Not to mention having a Jordan Leopold goal called back on a Too Many Men penalty. How on earth does that happen at the end of 20+ seconds of offensive zone pressure? Unbelievable.)
I'm completely comfortable with Darryl Sutter standing pat today, as he has rudely indicated that he will. That said, I think I'd like to see a notarized statement or something, from the scorekeeper in Anaheim, confirming that Mike Leclerc really did have a 20-goal season a few years back.
There's a few skills that I expect to see from a 20-goal scorer. The least of those is the ability to intentionally redirect the puck with his stick in some particular approximate direction (say, North). Thus far, Mike Leclerc seems unable to manage even this simplest of attacking moves; his "touch", as it were, appears Peca-like. As I've said before (and apparently so did someone on HNIC last week), even more than Iginla needs someone to feed him the puck, he needs someone who can finish on the chances that he creates on the boards. Leclerc has shown himself to be woefully ill-suited for this task to date. (I'm still not sure why they took Lombardi off of Jarome's line; it seemed to me to be a very promising combination, the 3-1 win over the Oilers in January being the prime example.)
All that said, Leclerc can't possibly be as bad with the puck going forward as he has been so far. I think Calgary is in good shape to be mighty tough in the playoffs. It's Go Time.
"Hopefully Conklin has the good sense to get into the back seat of the car."
Then he has a meeting with him. I imagine it was like that scene at where Michael questions Carlo about Sonny's death:
"You have to answer for the soft goals Ty."
"Kevin... you got it all wrong. I was screened... my groin... spine cancer."
Read it all; the final Godfather reference in the piece could not be more appropriate.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Rololing into town
Catch the excitement
Waivertown has a new Mayor
Standings Watch: Three-Quarter Pole
And Western Conference:
Notes? On the East side, we see illustrated what we already knew: that the gap for Toronto, Boston, or Atlanta to make up to get into a playoff position is considerable, and will require not only a terrific record over the final 20 (uh, 22), but a major collapse by one of Tampa, New Jersey, or Montreal. Possible for sure, but no mean trick.
Also of note is just how awful the Leafs were in the 3rd quarter. Pittsburgh's 8 points is the worst quarterly performance this season, but the Leafs' 10 is tied with the Jackets 1st quarter as the 2nd worst performance (out of 30x3=90 to choose from -- ouch).
In the West, does anyone like L.A. to hold on to a playoff spot? They've actually won their 1st 3 games of the 4th quarter, but they were all by 1 goal over non-playoff teams (CBJ, MINx2). It's really hard not to pick the Ducks to overtake them; the question may be whether some other team drops below 8th instead (the Canucks and Oilers being the prime candidates, I'd think).
The consistency award goes to Dallas, for identical 27-point performances in all 3 of the quarters to date. For consistent mediocrity, the Islanders and Minnesota are there for you. (Minnesota also wins the Confounding Poisson Award: in all three quarters, they've had a goal differential that puts them IN the Top 8 in the West, and a point total that puts them OUT of the Top 8).