Thursday, November 30, 2006

Jon and Ally at Bruins, 2-2 in third

Tied at 2-2 heading into the third, the Lightning struck midway through the third, but Boston responded, setting up the eventual shootout and Thomas' chance to shine.

He turned away seven consecutive shots, prompting Phil Kessel's rise from the bench. After reversing his rally cap, he skated down on Denis and beat the keeper high over his blocker, sending the Bruins to their eighth win in 10 tries.

Thomas continues to get my vote of confidence, while keeping the team intact, derailing any further trade talk involving Murray or another forward. Thursday's shootout win was heart-wrenching upon each Tampa chance to end the game.

Mobile test success

Well, here is an old photo of Boston College's football field that I took from the top floor of the facility while trying to find my way to the Conte Forum press box before the Northeastern vs. BC hockey season opener. I'll see how well this service works tonight from the Bruins game at TD. Unfortunately, from the balcony, the pictures are unlikely to be any more focused or zoomed than this shot.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Leafs falling as winter approaches

A few more games, maybe a few more years, and a handful of fights, and fans will start to realize why facing divisional foes eight times is much more appealing than traveling to the Sunbelt for feelingless contests.

December 22nd, the first day of winter, is fast approaching, and in the Bruins/Leafs developing rivalry, we could see a fourth Leaf fall from the tree on Dec. 7 before the Winter Solstice creeps up on us. Pretty soon, I will have a clear view of the city from the roofdeck, with all the leaves on the ground, and the Bruins playoff chances within sight. Chalk up another November victory against the Maple. The B's have now won 8 of 13 in the month, including three over Toronto and one over Ottawa. These three most recent wins against the Leafs have been just huge - a 12 point swing if you want to look at it from a divisional standpoint.

From the B's website earlier today: "It's a lot about hard work," said Glen Murray, whose goal was the eventual game winner. "If you go out there and work your tail off, things will happen and we've done that the last two games."

Not only did Boston look very quick on the puck, but the Bruins were moving fast in the transition game and were pushing hard on the backcheck just as hard as on offense. A few weeks ago, I was all about sending Murray away to one of those teams with two No. 1 keepers. Now, I'm starting to feel comfortable with Thomas, and Murray is starting score consistently and more importanty, he is starting to look like a guy who is finally happy wearing the black and gold and ready to work following a year in which he saw his good friend and setup guy leave.

The guy was excited from start to finish, end-to-end. There were very few lulls in this one - I felt like I was watching a different matchup.
I love the B's third line. Chistov was a great pickup.

I thought Kessel, although he failed to score again, looked frighteningly fast on that coast to coast rush that resulted in a solid wrister on Raycroft.

Tenkrat continues to produce - he fed Murray nicely and credit the B's new management for bringing him up while sticking with Thomas in goal and keeping Murray in town. Three crunch times decisions, all paying off. Unlike past management, Chirelli didn't fret and send all the B's good pieces packing.

Shean Donovan, who I thought would add some scoring, grit and determination in the form of an above-average third-liner, finally potted a goal for the B's. It was a nice one too, fittingly up high on Raycroft (see Savard's pregame comments).

In the end, it all starts and ends with Thomas. He made 45 saves last night, and if the Bruins are to continue to succeed, they will need probably one 30-35+ save performance per week from "Tank." More than anything, I like Tim's approach to the game, and I think it's becoming contageous around the locker room.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hobby Baker blemishes; B's at Toronto

David Brown

Brian Elliott , Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie, Scott Parse, David Brown, Nathan Davis, Byron Bitz, Jay Barriball, Kyle Okposo, Michel Leveille and T.J. Hensick

Well, there's your Hobby Baker list, according to Dave Starman's article, "The Contender."

Hobby candidate number one, "the contender) Michigan's T.J. Hensick

Why not Erik Johnson of Minnesota, I ask? It seems odd that the No. 1 overall pick of the Blues and the top blueliner of the nation's No. 1 team isn't even on the list. I think there are at least a handful of other blemishes on this list.

Hobby candidate number two, No. 1 ranked Minnesota's Kyle Okposo

But let's check these kids out. I must say I am excited by the knowledge and enthusiasm I have acquired since becoming an active participant in covering Northeastern hockey.

Out of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Scott Parse.

Nathan Davis

I also never understand how there are so many great athletes, particularly hockey players, that were named using illiteration.

Byron Bitz

There are a few here, including Bitz, who is apparently one of the Bruins' prospects. I'll have to start checking up on him now every week, too.

Maine's magician, Michel Leveille. Representing Hockey East.

While searching for all these photos and other information, I came across another great website for prospects that I will add to my template. Looking at how low some of these Hobby candidates were on some NHL teams' top prospects list, I was surprised to find Mike Morris rated in the Sharks' top 15.

Goaltender, Brian Elliott

Apparently he is projected as a future second or third line winger. As much as he has progressed since the beginning of the season, I think he still is a long ways off from an NHL appearence.

Jonathan Toews

Bruins at Toronto tonight. Another "four point" game. A win would be huge for the B's, moving them past Ottawa (likely to lose tonight at Carolina) and within a few wins of the Leafs and Nos Canadiens.

Phil Kessel's replacement man, Jay Barriball

Thomas will have to be big, and Mara will have to take fight number two against Darcy. I see the B's taking this one, 4-2, with two goals from Kessel.

North Dakota's T.J. Oshie

Monday, November 27, 2006

Former Husky Mike Ryan makes NHL debut with Sabres

More news here at Northeastern University today, as former Husky winger Mike Ryan recently made his NHL debut with the NHL-leading Buffalo Sabres (19-3-2) and has now played in three games, recording six shots and averaging 9:07 of ice time. Nothing too impressive so far, although he did manage to find the back of his own net in his first game. Lucky for him, he plays for the NHL's best team, so his own-goal was soon forgotten by everyone else. Captain Daniel Briere even promised Ryan that he would make sure the Sabres won during the second intermission. Following Briere's third period tally, Ryan was quoted as saying "He did deliver on his promise. I think I jumped about four feet off the ground on the bench when he scored."

For more on that blooper, check out any of these articles: Briere bails out the new kid, Depth lifts Sabres to new heights, Ryan shakes off misfire in NHL debut.

On Wednesday, the day of Ryan's debut, my boss had heard rumors of the former Husky's promotion, but we waited on posting anything until we got a confirmation. Apparently, an article would have gone up immediately following his debut had he not scored on his own goal. Anyways, another highlight for NU, as both Jim Fahey (Devils) and Ryan have now played in the NHL this season.

I just did the writeup for the website, titled Former Husky Mike Ryan makes NHL debut. Here are Ryan's complete stats of his time at Northeastern.

On the blog BleedingBlueandGold, the blogger wrote, "I'm still feeling sorry for Michael Ryan's 'own-goal' that got the Leafs to within one near the end of the second period. Ryan was very impressive in the first half of the game, especially on the penalty kill. However, his play fell off a bit after that miscue and he carelessly iced the puck one time when he easily could have reached the centre line. However, my impressions of his game are mostly positive."

Coming from a Sabres fan, that sounds like a positive review. Hopefully, Ryan will start put one in the other team's net soon and get his +/- up a few points.

I'm hoping Ryan at least retains his spot on the roster for another week so I can catch a game on All-Access.

In other local news over Thanksgiving weekend, the Huskies were defeated 3-1 by UNH. After coming out fast and generating the first handful of great scoring chances, NU let up in the second and before long, the Wildcats held a commanding 3-0 lead. Morris eventually got the Huskies on the board, but it was evident from the time UNH added a third goal that there would be no comeback on the night. It's now or never for NU with a home-and-home series with Merrimack coming up this weekend.

I missed Saturday's Bruins game after watching the disgusting 5-1 whopping by the Hurricanes the day before, but I'm pretty happy with what I've seen as of late. The Chistov/Kessel/Tenkrat line is very appealing to me and I would imagine to the B's overall fan base. Any line with that kind of speed and creativity, albeit some defensive liability, helps us fans of the Black and Gold to forget the glory day of Samsonov and co. On that note, Savard and Jumbo Joe are currently tied with 27 points, but Joe is a -5 while Savard is a +4. I'm not holding my breath yet, but imagine if Savard outscores the big guy?

In College Hockey news, Minnesota claimed all 40 first place votes, while Northeastern's latest bully, UNH, climbed all the way to No. 2.

A big week in local hockey ahead -
Tuesday - choice of UMass at BU or Vermont at Harvard. I'll probably go with the less expensive admission (Harvard). Or, Bruins game at a local bar.
Wednesday - San Jose at Minnesota. Two former Boston middlemen, Joe Thornton and Brian Rolston, square off. The real questions remain: Who is better? And how good would the Bruins be with both of them?
Thursday - A date with Tampa at TD. My fourth trip and counting this season.
Friday - Merrimack here at Northeastern's Matthew's Arena. A must win for NU.
Saturday - At Merrimack. A must win. B's will get revenge at Carolina.
Sunday - My return after a week off.

Hobby News
Selanne's Stock Looking Up
Despite his nagging knee injuries a few seasons back and the drop in market for 90s cards, including his own singles, Selanne's issues could see some progression as the season moves on. He has six goals in his last six games. He leads the NHL's best team in points (29). He isn't far from the league leader in points. Just imagine if the Finnish Flash continued to lead the Ducks and eventually carried them to a Stanley Cup, while earning Conn Smyth and Art Ross honors. Very unlikely scenario, but it could happen. I would relish a Ducks/Sabres matchup, pitting Anaheim's D against the Sabres' high-powered offense.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Donruss Limited Exposure

I'm taking some time to post one of my ongoing wantlists while at home. This one is for the missing pieces of the 1997-98 donruss limited exposure hockey set. I consider this to be perhaps the best designed set from the 90s decade, although like all other 90s cards, the value has dipped significantly. I remember a long time ago when I traded a Bure star factor exposure for three 96-97 upper deck game jerseys, including a multi-colored Lemieux. Now that same BureI already have the following:

3, 4 (Gretzky SF), 8 (Jagr UL), 11 (Selanne SF), 14, 18, 20 (Hull SF), 21, 35 (Kariya SF), 38 (Shanahan UL), 49, 52, 54, 55 (Jagr SF), 58, 61, 67, 69 (Yashin SF), 73, 79, 83, 86 (Hasek UL) 89, 91, 93, 96, 98 (Federov SF), 103 (Joseph SF), 110, 111, 112 (Oates SF), 113, 118, 120 (Roenick SF), 127 (Brodeur UL), 141, 143 (Selanne UL), 147 (Hasek SF), 151 (Roy UL), 153 (Bure SF), 156, 162, 163 (Palffy SF), 165 (Yzerman UL), 169 (Shanahan UL), 172, 178, 183 (Lindros SF), 193 (Modano SF), 195, 200 (Gretzky/Marleau UL).

I also have the Thornton UL and Forsberg SF. Anything else not on this list I need. I am also willing to trade for rookies I need.

Also of note. The following number exist of each subset.
Star Factors: 25
Unlimited Talent: 40

I'm not sure about the Double Team and Counterpart subsets, but I believe it is around 60 and 90 exist, respectively.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Three top forwards commit to Northeastern

I just researched and wrote the article titled Huskies sign three recruits for the Northeastern website, so I am not going to go into any further detail regarding the transaction and the players NU signed, but I do want to note how much there is out there to learn for even the biggest hockey fan like myself.

The British Columbia Hockey League (BCJHL), Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League, Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) are all more or less at the same level of play. For more on these leagues, check them out on Wikipedia.

Current starting keeper Brad Thiessen played for the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL last year, and the current No. 2 scorer of the BCHL, Wade Macleod, also of Merritt, will be joining Brad on NU's roster next season.

Here is a full list of the league leaders. Also available at the Merritt Centennials link at the top of this graph are thousands, literally, of pictures of him and the rest of the team over the last three years. Seems like some impressive photography up on the web for a Junior A team.

The other recruit from the BCHL, Tyler McNeely of the Barnaby Express, is eighth right now in scoring, but his resume is quite impressive, as detailed in my release. He is supposed to be the big name of our three recruits. Maybe he is projected as Mike Morris' replacement? Maybe not. But he's still draft eligible.

The United States Hockey League, which happens to have produced tons and tons of college and professional hockey players, is pretty much on par with those Canadian Leagues. Northeastern happens to have more than a handful of former USHLers, and Steve Silva of the Green Bay Gamblers is one of the three recent recruits to sign with the Huskies. NU will have at least seven former USHLers on the team next year.

More Hobby News

Milan Michalek of the San Jose Sharks, as I have mentioned, is having an awesome start to year and may be the Sharks best player right now, despite playing with the likes of people named Thornton, Cheechoo, Marleau and the Dynamic Duo in goal. To make matters even more urgent on capturing his rookies, I read today that he is the lockeroom leader. That might sound stupid, but the combination of skills, production, size and leadership could one day result in a big time superstar. It's a reach, but I just keep hearing good things.

Streak snapped; Selanne scoring; Frolov fulfilling

Neither team was really able to establish a rhythm during Tuesday's game, featuring the visiting Panthers and the streaking Bruins. The crowd seemed to have an equally tough time getting into the game. As I walked around inside the arena toward our section, I could have heard a pin drop during the opening minutes of action. And as I watched from my seat, the B's seemed in control for much of the first half of the game, but still they found themselves down 2-0 heading into the third.

Tim Thomas singlehandedly paid for my $15 ticket (cut down from $25). He made a hefty handful of flat out brilliant saves, saves that I would say a keeper would have a 1 in 5 chance of coming up with. And he made at least three or four, if not five or six. Especially big was his reaching glove save while on his back with his helmet falling off. There was just one minute left following that save and the Bruins couldn't find the magic.

It wasn't the most exciting game, but for $15, Thomas made it worth it. And two very good signs. Thomas is establishing himself as a legitimate No. 1, and Glen Murray, who was The guy being mentioned day after day in a seemingly inevitable trade for a No. 1 keeper, scored twice and leads the team with 11 goals. He isn't too far off the league leaders either.
I have some pictures of the game but uploads await.

I'm hoping for a better effort tonight. The Penguins have four sensational players, but I still see the Bruins as the better team. And to the Senators credit...that No. 25 power ranking is just absurd. The Sens are playing much better right now, yet they are ranked below the Blackhawks. If those teams squared off for the next 10 games, I don't know if Chi Town would claim a single victory. I guess the Sens will just jump like 15 spots in the coming weeks.

Also of note: Selanne scored twice last night in the Ducks' 5-0 beating of the Sharks. I guess the Ducks showed the No. 1 ranked Sharks who's best. #8's goals weren't bad either and came one game after he posted a career high five assists. It brings me great pleasure to see my all-time favorite producing like he once did pre-injuries.

Hobby Hot Streak:

Alexander Frolov, that 6'2, 210 pound elusive forward selected 20th overall in 2000 by the Los Angelas Kings, is not very well known. He has been completely overshadowed by his fellow rookie class (Zetterberg, Spezza, Nash), but his time to shine might be approaching. Frolov has scored twice in each of his last three games while accumulating eight of his 21 points in those games. On pace for 45 goals and nearly 80 points, this Russian could soon become an elite scorer rather than a potentially gifted scorer. He soon could be mentioned in the same sentence as hobby superstars Nash, Spezza and Zetterberg, who all have gotten off to slow starts (not so much Spezza). In any such case, if Frolov approaches the 40 goal plateu, his rookies should triple in value.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What us sports writers do...and the occassional perks...and how a true fan is affected in the conscience, and subconscience

Sometimes, I can't help but think about the future I could have had, had I went the extra mile and really worked to be a great hockey player. Now, it is too late, and it looks like my chosen path in life is to become a sports writer of sorts. It seems like such a drop off in being one that writes about the great players rather than being a great player. But some articles, and not necessarily extraordinary pieces, help to show why us writers are such a crucial piece of sport and its history. The players make history, but is us who shape that history and dictate how long and in what way it will be remembed and told.

One such article, titled NU thinks outside the box was written by Jim McCabe in Saturday's Globe. The article will never appear in any "The Best of Sports Writing..." books, and it probably won't be remembered much past Northeastern's next big win (or tie), but this was a well-written piece that stands out.

It stands out to me for several reasons. The lead..."Whistles dominated the first 59 minutes 57 seconds..." set up the dramatic. The reader must read on.

The second graph: "But what defined the penalty-filled Hockey East game last night between Boston College and Northeastern was the eruption that shook the rafters of Matthews Arena, which certainly qualifies as an "old barn," having been around since ice was invented. But perhaps never has the place hosted anything as wild as this 3-3 tie, which was earned when the Huskies' Mike Morris pushed home a loose puck with 2.6 seconds left."

McCabe captures the essence of the game right away. The multitude of penalties. More importantly the crowd's eruption at Morris' game-tying goal at this historic arena. And he even goes on record, saying that the goal might have concluded the wildest event ever held at Matthew's? It's very unlikely, but I'm sure it ranks somewhere high on the all-time list, and it again adds excitement and feeling, bringing the reader to the game.

The main point I want to make is, that as the keeper of the shot charts during the hockey games and particularly Friday's agme against BC, I found the game exciting. I knew there were tons of penalties. I watched as several controversial calls were made and as one accidental goal light went on. I wanted to leap out of my seat when Morris jabbed Costello's rebound through Schneider's legs, sending the packed "old barn" into hysterics. But as the reporter, and even more so as the keeper of stats, I find it difficult at the end of the game, during the calm after the storm, to sift through everything that just perspired and come to the simple realization that "hey, that was one strange but incredibly remarkable game." Two days after the game, McCabe helped me to see the game how everyone should see it.

Following Friday's game, I met up with my mother, her boyfriend Laurence and my cousin Thea at Uno's. We got some beers, some food and I drank some straight alcohol to ease the pain of my wisdom teeth surgery after being recommended to do so by my elders. My friends met up with us too, and then we headed to Connor Larkin's, where the night started to get really interesting.

After a short delay in getting in (the bar was full), my cousin managed to "convince" the door man and my mom and her boyfriend and probably my 26-year-old cousin entered as the three oldest people in attendance. As we walked further in, there was part of the soccer team, for the second time that week, and third or fourth time in the last month. And just ahead stood at least three or four players from the hockey team, already at the front of Connor's after earning a dramatic 3-3 time with BC.

First, I saw Greg Kilkenny, the leading-scorer of the soccer team. I had seen him earlier that day or another earlier on the street, exchanged hellos and this time, I talked to him for a little bit again. I told him the hilarity of the situation already, and before long, I was moving on toward the front of the bar. I pushed threw the dense crowd to get a few pitchers and before long, we were drinking in the midst of Mike Morris, who sat front center and Joe Santilli. Also right there was Dennis McCauley, teammate from about 10 years ago. I told my mom and everyone else of the situation with the soccer team and the hockey team, and the best players from both squads. I watched Morris, who is of my age, but looked elegant, glorious, cool and composed, above-and-beyond and a man among the surrounding crowds of boys and girls. Santilli, who I have learned is the character of the team, was even closer (right next to me). I don't know how it started, maybe I played the "are you on the hockey team? act. I can't be sure, but my mom and I struck up conversation with the short, clever-speaking character with slicked back hair and a black leather jacket to complete his Italian appeal. He was extremely nice and lived up to his reputation as a great interviewee. I learned a thing or two about him, and a thing or two about my boss, who Santilli had a story or two about.

I was there, behind the scenes with some lesser-known heroes of mine, drinking at a bar. As weird as it was, I had an unbelievable, eye-opening time that only got better as I watched my mother approach The Star, front and center, and shake Mr. Morris' hands while saying something along the lines of "nice game tonight," or maybe something funnier that I will just never know. My mom also recently said to me, "he reminds me of I wrong on that?" Come to think about it, he does look a little bit like the Great One.

Now, on to my dream from Saturday night. It's been a few days, but I remember most of this dream taking me around my neighborhood, to a friend's house and then back to my place, where we were having a big family get together. With me was Dennis McCauley, and perhaps other members of the hockey team, and we had a good time. I wish I could elaborate, but that's all that's coming to me right now.

Ffor now I'm off for some ceremonial lighting at Christopher Colombus Park, some free Mike's pastry and Legal Seafood's chowder before we watch the B's go for their fifth straight at TD.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The blues fuels moves in Boston

Having already endulged in a good five plus hours of sports news and with nothing on my palate but more sports news for the remaining hours of my work day, I figure it is time to take a break and summorize the recent frenzy among Beantown's teams.

The Red Sox, reacting to their dreadfull collapse in 2006, have officially posted the top bid ($51 million) to begin negotiations with Japanese pitcher and hero, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will likely be inked to the Sox starting rotation by the December 15 deadline. Already having generated more news than the Bruins will all season long, Matsuzaka will come with some mighty high expectations that I can't help but believe will fall short. I could be wrong but instict tells me it will be more difficult for a pitcher to come over from Japan and dominate the MLB as much as star outfielders Matsui and Sasuki have been able to. Nonetheless, the 26-year-old does have nine pitchers, including some scientifically studied "gyroball," which seems like an attribute of a create-your-own-player in MVP baseball, not a Japanese superstar hurler. Read more about that in today's Globe article Dollars and hopes sky high already. But back to the $51 million the Sox gave Matsuzaka's Japanese team just to hold negotiation rights.

The Sox-Matsuzaka transaction is a perfect transition into the negotiations between Evgeni Malkin and his former Russian owner, team Mettelsburg. As detailed in today's article, Malkin's story is one of great illusion, dishonesty, scandal and bravery. I don't want to go into detail because it is all explained in great length in the article, but it is amazing to me what these Russians (Mogily, Federov, etc. and I'm sure other players as well) have had to do just to get out of Russia and into the NHL. If the Russians still possessed enough talent to compete with the NHL, I can only imagine what kind of rivalries would come out of a Russia vs. U.S. matchup with all the current animosity.

As for Malkin's continued dominance in the earlygoings of his NHL career, I watched the Pens beat the Flyers the other night, 3-2, after Evgeni's last-minue game-winning goal. Crosby carried the puck deep into the zone, attracted three opponents, freeing up Malkin, who spun around in a crowd of players along the top of the faceoff circle and ripped a one-timer past Nittimaki to the upper-right corner. It was an absolute blast, placed perfectly, that looked so easy. If the Pens do manage to keep these two together, and possibly pair the two on a line together, with Staal on another line, the team should win a Cup within five years if there is anything resembling a supporting cast in the Burg.

Two other Russians also guilty of defecting to the NHL illegally, Alexei Mikhnov and Andrei Taratukhin, will likely face future trouble with Russia's legal system, along with Malkin. Mikhnov, as I just found out, is a former first-rounder who possesses great size at 6'5 for a forward. He's only played about five minutes for the Oilers all year but some fine tuning and this kid could probably be a force somewhere down the line.

Continuing the Russian theme, the B's picked up Stanislav Chistov, a former first round (fifth overall) pick in the same draft that Kovalchuk went No. 1. I balk at this notion, but according to the article, Chistov was considered by one source to be the top talent of the draft. A local agent made comparisons to Ladislav Nagy, as Nagy also took time and a trade to ignite. Chistov's numbers certainly aren't anywhere close to supporting either of those statements. But I'm not going to lie...I'm pretty damn excited to see Chistov suiting up on our fourth line (with Tenkrat, who looked great and was a pleasant surprise in his first game with the B's against Ottawa) tonight against Toronto. He can only add offense there, and I can only hope he will prove to be half of what his original expectations were. The best part about the deal though was that Anaheim, too good and already with a full roster, couldn't use the underachiever anymore. Their organization admitted that "there is nothing wrong with this player." I'll be watching tonight game at Uno's, hoping the Bruins can win a seconss-straight game for the first time this season and move toward becoming Boston's most consistent team, with the Celtics, Sox and recently the Patriots all dissapointing.

Speaking of dissapointing, Northeastern (0-6-1 and last in Hockey East) lost once again, and once again by one goal in a game that should have been won. The Huskies did fore Thiessen to make 42 saves, but from what I have heard, it wasn't the best 42-save outing, and after going up 2-0, NU just can't afford to squander leads like it did in last night's 4-3 overtime loss at Providence.

Hobby Happenings-Player to Watch

Stanislav Chistov has not made a mark in the NHL yet, and as a result, his rookie cards actually dipped quite a bit over the last year or two. If Chistov emerges in Boston, as Nagy did under similar circumstances in Phenoix, his rookies could easily double in value and then some. Given Boston's lack of scoring depth, Chistov has space on this roster to make a move and it wouldn't be that shocking to see him on one of the top two lines by mid-season.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hockey wisdom

I'm finally back in Boston after a weekend at home, recovering from the removal of my Wisdom teeth on Friday morning. I was in pain for a much of the weekend, and much longer than I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first weekend off in a long time. Even though I was away for sports information, I still caught two college hockey games and two Bruins games, building on my hockey wisdom. Also of note, three of my wisdom teeth were impacted. For more information, see this page.

I turned Thursday night's game off pretty quickly and turned to video games with a friend I hadn't seen in months. I'll admit, I did come back to watch the closing minues of the failed comeback against the Leafs, but all-in-all, it was a pathetic performance.

Friday, I watched most of the Northeastern at UMass Amherst game on a live video feed on the Minutemen's website. It wasn't great quality by any means but I still enjoyed the live coverage. BU vs. UNH was televised as well, so I checked that out of the corner of my eye here and there. NU got dominated from what I saw. As the announcer continously reiterated throughout the broadcast, the Huskies are first in the league in penalties, while UMass is last. That difference was the difference again on Friday, and if it wasn't for Thiessen, NU could have lost by a lot more than the 2-1 final score.

The Bruins provided the only home team win for the weekend on Saturday, as they just barely got by the Senators,
4-3 Nonetheless, the victory was absolutly crucial and the game was very entertaining. I still think the Senators will finish second or third in the East this year, behind only below and a team to be determined.

Recent transactions:

Picked up Michalek, Gleason and Liles rookies from 03-04 Upper Deck Ice for $4.35, including shipping. Not too bad for a $26 lot. Michalek in particular could jump significantly if he finishes the year with something like 50 or 60 points and factors in the Sharks likely playoff run.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the girl of your dreams would never take you away from hockey...right?

In the mail bag of letters recently received by John Buccigross, ESPN hockey writer, was the letter below penned by a wife of a big-time hockey fan...


I just had to respond to that letter from ex-hockey fan Mark. You said
"the girl of your dreams would never take you away from hockey."

Speaking from experience -- and my husband will vouch for this --
instead of taking you away from hockey, she'll get you Rangers tickets
for Valentine's Day so you could see Gretzky play before he retired.
She'll watch every game of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Bourque going for
the Cup was a compelling story, especially living in Boston). She'll
listen to you patiently, at midnight, when you get back from pickup
hockey -- late because the kids get the better ice times, which is as
it should be -- as you describe the sweet goal you got, low, stick
side. She'll start ordering the NHL Center Ice package for you,
watching all the games and understanding what offsides and backchecking
are. And finally, she'll start playing the game herself -- goalie if
you're really lucky -- so that you'll always have at least one net
filled at your scrimmages. (Besides, what better marital therapy is
there than firing slap shots at your wife?)


I just filed for divorce and am now hitchhiking to Minnesota.

OK. As soon as I read this, I sent it to my girlfriend. I must say, through the ups and downs of our relationship to this point (11 months tomorrow), there have been mostly ups, and now in our first full season of hockey, I am seeing and playing more of my favorite past time than I have in years. I am covering Northeastern games. On Tuesday, I plan to travel to Providence to visit a friend and watch the Huskies take on the Friars. I have already seen two B's games. I am back into the collecting swing of things, having just recently picked up rookies of Rick Nash, Marcel Dionne, Illya Bryzgola (golla check that spelling) and Pavel Datsyuk on ebay for a combined $70 (minus $25 with ebay gift certificate).

While on the topic, I want to quickly mention NHL tough, hot-mouthed Sean Avery of the Los Angelas Kings and how well he is literally making out in life. Long considered no more than an AHL quality guy, he is now NHL quality and dating even out of his league.

Elisha Cuthbert, voted the second hottest woman with sports ties, is the Avery's biggest score for sure. But I'm sure he treats her a lot better than anyone else on the ice.

But most importantly, which brings us back to the letter, is that I am back on the ice for the first time since high school. That does not include a minor stint in Northeastern's intramural league, where I would too often decide to go out drinking rather than opt for the possibility of being outplayed by a girl. The NESHL gives me nearly 20 games and playoffs if we make it, and this time I feel like I am much more committed. The games are all on Sunday nights for our team, the guys are all pretty cool and Dinah spends the night with me.

After my first game two weeks ago, she congratulated me on my goal (low, just inside the post on a 2 on 1) and said that I looked like a pretty good hockey player who hadn't played in a while, which I think is a fairly good assessment. She provided good critique on the car ride home, but best of all, she really seemed to enjoy coming out to the rink, at 10:10 on a Sunday night, to see me play. And she came again this past Sunday. It's looks like it's going to be a routine for the next 15 or so weeks. Now I have to keep up my end of the bargain, to myself, and continue to run and workout, and eventually, play a decent two-way game that is non existant right now. Also of note: this is a metro Boston league, and although my roommate said I could use his car in most cases, I would be unable to get out to these rinks without D.

She's not die hard about any sports or teams yet, but she is willing and usually interested in going to any Bruins/Northeastern/NESHL game. Now, I don't think any hockey nut should be looking for a hockey chick (or puck slut), whatever you want to call it, right off the bat. That likely is not great long term material. But gradually, as you should with her dance performances and other activites, she should recognize and take an interest in your passion. That recognition and interest will come from "the girl of your dreams who would never take you away from hockey."

And hopefully, for your own sake and her sake, her recognition and interest isn't the only good quality she has to offer. As much as I love hockey, a well-rounded life is essential for my happiness and overall well-being, and right now it is safe to say she offers me everything I need in that kind of life. And I gladly attend all different social events, theater, art that she pursues.

Our second date, my idea, says it all. A bite to eat, a salsa class (one of my weekly at the time) and a game at the Garden.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Turning of the Tables; Week 2 with the Hawks

I just had an entire entry deleted thanks to Microsoft Word, so now I am forced to write a much shorter, less in depth analysis of this weekend's activities. Well looking back to Saturday, upon finishing the booklets (shot charts for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd periods with the box score on top) of Northeastern's second loss, 3-1, of a home and home series with New Hampshire, I returned to the office and immediately jumped on the computer to check out the Bruins score...back to that in a minute. The Huskies and Bruins seem to be having similar difficulties establishing the right mindset this year. NU led 1-0 early and dominated all of the first period, only to wilt away in the second. Actually, it was only about a five or ten minute span that NU just completely melted down. One very minor defensive zone error turned into an ugly goal and a 1-1 game. That minor error and ugly goal quickly turned into two more goals and an eventual 3-1 UNH win.

Well, the B's were down 5-4, an odd score for the lowly B's, when I first looked. But I looked away, looked back and it was 5-5. I went up to the press box to clean, came down and it was 6-5. They will need a similar offensive outburst unless Thomas comes to play tonight.

Game 2 with the Hawks of the New England Senior Hockey League didn't go much better than game 1. Despite having a second line and facing a team with just one line, we still got smoked. I felt like I was just running around every zone the entire game, particularly the defensive zone. After winning much of the early faceoffs at center, I started to lose almost every one down the stretch. Some of their guys were definately pretty good players, but we should have been able to tire them down. I did score once. Nothing great. Season totals: 2, 0, 2 with a plus/minus of around -10. If I could play a game at even, I would be a lot more satisfied.

I found some logos from the teams of the NESHL. Our play seems indicative of the Sloths logo.

I also think I have confirmed the rumor regarding NESHL teams that carry with them handsomely dressed coaches, videographers, web designers and commitments to hold press conferences following games. The Labaat Blue Polar Beers, a "C" level team, one which we will likely be playing at some point, since we apparently have been dropped down to "C" after our uproarious start. At least we don't take it this seriously.

I am asking for a scanner for Christmas. It will be a great asset for this site. Other than release coming Wednesday, Nov 08, 06: 2006-07 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey. I'm not sure if it will be the first new set to feature Malkin or Kessel or not. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Niche Sports

I never thought I would say this in a million years, but I have grown to really enjoy and appreciate soccer. I guess it all started with my trip to Europe this past summer. I flew into Frankfurt, then traveled by train to Munchen, Praha and Berlin. I was in Berlin for the Italy vs. Germany game and I could just sense all the anticipation leading up to gameday, the preparation made around the city before and after the game and how everybody embraced the game and their team. That kind of passion, in any kind of contest in life, has to ignite that competitive nature within any true athlete or fan.

Following my trip, I started working in the sports information office at Northeastern University. I was given men's soccer as my sport to cover during the fall season. I wasn't thrilled at first, but as the season progressed and the team built some momentum (an all-time team record six-game winning streak), I really started to take a liking to the game, the team and all the players. I'm sure any reader would be able to tell by looking at my coverage on the Northeastern Athletics Website After a tumultuous start to the season (0-8-1) in September, they somehow turned it around and made the playoffs. I traveled with the team down to George Mason in Virginia earlier this week for the semifinals. The team lost 1-0 , but it was still a fun trip. I got to talk to some of the players, I had a long chat with the coach, I went out to dinner and to a bar with the coaching staff and an admin and we had a good time playing 2 on 2 darts. And Everything was free. Plane ticket, hotel, food, drink. A nice fleece. I might have a future in sports information. And already, I can't wait until the 2007 Northeastern men's soccer season. Wow. Note: I saw some of the soccer guys out at Connor Larkins last of them is dating a girl from my high school. Everyone is somehow connected to Westford.

Well, I think I might need a week or two or three off from the Bruins after last night. My brother, my girlfriend and I went to the game, moved up about 10 rows from our row 14 seats, and watched the B's play a dominating game for like 50 something minutes. They held a commanding 4-1 lead with a half a period to play. Then we left a little early so my bro could catch the last train. Final score: Buffalo 5, Bruins 4. And Coach Lewis somehow had the soul to say that there were positives to take out of the game. I'm sorry, but what more motivation does a team need in a game? There are no positives here. It happened AGAIN.

If they win every game up until the Wine Tasting, I'll consider going to the event and being a fan again.
P.J. Axelsson, Shean Donovan, Marco Sturm, Hannu Toivon are expected to be in attendance.