Archive for May, 2009

Random thoughts as I watch G1 on DVR

May 31, 2009
EDIT:  Be sure to read James’ brief (much more brief than mine) thoughts on G1 from the perspective of a Pens fan.  His version also contains much less pissing on Marc Andre Fleury.
I’m watching the game about two hours late on DVR.  Figured I might as well throw this up here, since James lets me post here.  The jokes on him, one day I’m just gonna post penises all over the front page.  I’m picking this up most of the way through the first period, as thats when I got done eating and could start typing.  So this is a sort of semi-live blog, but I think live-blogs are stupid anyways, and I don’t intend to sit here and give you some sort of play by play (you’re watching the game!  Why do you want to read me trying to do the same thing as Mike Emrick?), so here’s random things that occur to me as I watch this game.
Start of the game:  How does MAF go to play the puck and lose his stick?  That’s only slightly better to start a series than tripping on the entrance.  If we see a third matchup like this next year, MAF will do something stupid at about the 10:00 mark instead.

Red Wings 1-0: WTF was MAF doing?  You know the boards in DET are highly active!  He sees it coming, and then misplays it, moving his leg funny and hesitating before pulling it back in.  Pivot the paddle to the right and block it off, or get that heel back against the post.  He didn’t even actually get his foot back to the post, he just went down to make sure it deflected into his net.  This is the kind of shit you can’t do if you want to win a series against the Wings.  

Shortly after: PIT sends a shot wide and off the boards, where it bounces to the other side of the net.  Ozzie completely flips and dives across, because he understands that the boards are active.  Part of that is the experience factor of being the DET goalie in the DET building.  Part of that is being an old guy who realizes he has to know about things like that.
Pit scores, 1-1:  Ok, thats one of the few goals this postseason that I’m gonna lay on Ozzie’s neck.  Sure, there was a turnover by DET, but that should’ve been an easy catch and freeze there.  All postseason, Ozzie has been taking high shots and bobbling them, knocking them down, turning them into rebounds when he can gather them into his chest or catch them.  He keeps losing shots for rebounds that he never should let get away from him.  Control of rebounds is one of those handy dandy skills that makes good goalies great, and helps lengthen the careers of goalies on the decline. 
First intermission:  Danica Patrick is not attractive.  I’m sorry.  She’s not.  Thats not to say that I wouldn’t hit it.  I would.  But that’s not saying much.  But she’s not that attractive.  She’s kinda funny lookin, and only looks hot in still shots which get touched up.  Otherwise, she looks kinda funny.  She’s not ugly, but she’s funny lookin.  When you use her in commercials where she’s supposed to be hot, it becomes distracting.  
The intermission report would be better if Darren Pang just stabbed Mike Milbury and then started drinking his blood.  
Could we please stop with Malkin’s mom?  Evgeni Malkin looks like an ogre.  He really does.  This is where I should insert a side-by-side of Shrek and Malkin.  He looks like an ogre, and you can see where the family resemblence comes from.  His mom.  Sorry Mrs. Malkin, but you look like an ogre.  Show me Mrs. Robitaille, not Mrs. Malkin.  
Sidney Crosby cannot grow a beard.  He’s not that much younger than me, only 6 months younger.  I could grow that kind of beard when I was 15.  And I looked stupid when I did it.  If you can’t grow the beard, don’t try, because you’ll just look like an idiot.  If you win a Cup this year, every single picture of you with the Cup is going to have you looking like a 15 year old idiot.  Sorry dude.
Second Period, 1:00 in: Hey, Pierre McGuire just made an observation about the Penguins trying to take shots at Ozzie to create rebounds.  Good observation Pierre, you’re only about 6 weeks late on that.  
2nd, 3:30 in: Malkin on a breakaway!  Who didn’t see that coming?  Kronwall got stopped, and then insisted on trying to jam through a guy in front and behind to make the shot, when he should’ve just slapped that on the backhand across to his partner, who was probably 15-20 feet to his left.  Kronwall moved laterally, which his partner had to respect, and that put him out of position to cover Kronwall’s back.  Kronwall forced his partner out of position, and then made a dangerous play, and Ozzie bailed him out.  
2nd, 4:60 in:  Shit, PIT PP.  If PIT is to win this series, its going to be on the PP.  With the Wings atrocious PK and the Pens dangerous PP, the Wings taking penalties could be a very bad thing.  The way this game has been officiated so far is probably to the Wings advantage, because the Wings are the better team at 5-on-5, I feel.  Big dangerous chance in front, and then Helm finishes off the penalty by taking out Phillippe Boucher and icing the puck.  Why is Boucher on your #1 PP line with Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, and Gonchar?  Is that some sort of joke?  I loved Boucher back in the day.  You know, when he could skate.  Nowadays, he’s a corpse on skates.  Also, I absolutely love Darren Helm.  Strip the C from Lidstrom and stick it on Helm, that’s how much I love him.  Darren Helm is everything that is wonderful about hockey.  Aw shit, I don’t even get done writing about my crush on Helm when dumbshit Samuelsson gets a penalty.  I hope Darren Helm kills this off, scores a shorthanded goal, and then has my babies.  If I didn’t live in Colorado, I’d try to get my teammates to rename our beer league team “The Darren Helms”.
2nd, 10:00 in:  Pierre McGuire just made the observation that the NJ Devils singlehandedly created the idea of using active sticks, and keeping them on the ice, when you’re in your end and on the PK.  Now, maybe its possible that every single defenseman for the first 75 years of the NHL’s existence sucked and couldn’t figure this basic part of the game out.  It’s possible.  But somehow I doubt it.  A minute later, Emrick explains that Larry Robinson taught that to the Devils after being taught that in Montreal.  Which would seem to say that the Canadiens invented that, not the Devils.  God I fucking hate you, Pierre McGuire.  If I could have any two people in the hockey media eliminated, it would be you and Milbury.  If I were sitting behind him, I’d wait till near the end of the game, and then I’d spit on him.  
2nd, 14:00 in: Wings PP.  Why is Mike Samuelsson on the PP?  He really isn’t that good.  Maybe I’m spoiled and expect everyone to be Yzerman or Shanahan or Zetterberg or Datsyuk, but he’s just not that good.  Wings PP forwards ought to be Franzen, Hossa, Filippula, Zetterberg, Hudler, Holmstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk.  And I’d stick Helm in before Samuelsson too, because of the effort he’s given.  I’m a big believer in rewarding effort like that.  
I like Matt Cooke’s game, but that was a stupid hit to make.  Cooke is risking a stupid senseless penalty there, and he knocked the guy into his goalie, though he hit MAF more than Homer did.  You’re supposed to knock them away from the goalie, not into them.  Homer should’ve just tried to fall on MAF’s head, since he would’ve gotten a clean hit on the goalie, for being knocked down.
2nd, 18:00 in:  The Pens are getting away with an awful lot of near-interference calls.  The way this is being called, they’re letting them go, but they’re really pushing it.  Every dump in or pass involves a guy being held up by a Penguin while his partner goes after the puck.  I don’t know off the top of my head if this officiating crew will be the same one for the series, but in any case, the Pens ought to be careful.  
2nd, 19:00 in: YES!!!!!  Chaos in the Pens end leads to a goal.  After the faceoff, the little stat thing on the top bar says Wings 23, Pens 11 on faceoffs.  Not sure if that was a defensive zone number, a 2nd period number, whole game, or what.  Earlier, Emrick said something about how PIT is holding their own on faceoffs.  He must’ve been making a joke.  Losing nearly 70% of your faceoffs is a really good way to lose a game.  In this case, the PIT line was tired, lost the faceoff, overpursued on one side, and MAF again misplayed the boards.  You can’t send yourself sliding around the net.  You can’t overpursue all over the place.  You absolutely cannot put yourself out of position.  MAF has to be great for the Pens to win this series.  So far, he isn’t.
2nd intermission: This intermission has Milbury telling me what each coach should be saying.  I’m guessing Milbury is going to tell us how if he was Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma, he’d trade Crosby and Malkin in a package for a big-game goalie, like Andrew Raycroft.  You know he’s a bigtime up and comer, right?  Raycroft is gonna be a HHOF’er, and those bums Crosby and Malkin will never win a Cup.  I hate Mike Milbury.  After two, faceoffs are 26-11 Wings.  The Pens are barely winning 30% of their draws, and that’s rounding up.  Before Malkin and Crosby can win a Cup, they need to win a faceoff.  This was clear last summer, and it should be even more so now.  This is the biggest improvement these guys need to make.
3rd, 2:00 in:  I LOVE YOU DARREN HELM!!!  McGuire makes the observation that Babcock loves Darren Helm.  Well, I love him more.
ABBY!!!!!!  Abdelkader is another great guy, who I got to see in NCAA’s.  Abdelkader also makes MAF look stupid for the third time tonight.  MAF misplays that, though I don’t think he’d have gotten that shot in the far corner anyways.  He panics and flops onto his ass and gives up more net than he needed to.  He lost sight of the puck and then saw it and tried to react, and did the wrong thing.  He didn’t need to flop onto his ass, from his one-knee position.  He needs to go butterfly there, where your panic move is to go into the butterfly, arms wide, and hope it hits you.  Maybe instead of trading for Kunitz, the Pens should’ve traded for Hiller.  If MAF is smart and just goes butterfly, his legs take away the bottom, he uses a big chest and arms to get as big and wide as he can.  MAF is not a great goalie, and he is going to be a anchor on this Penguins team for years to come.  As in boat anchor, not a cornerstone of the franchise.  
3rd, 4:00 in: Ozzie shows what it is to be a smart goalie, even if you’re not a good one.  He felt that puck hit him square in the back, and you can see him pop his head up with an “oh shit” look on his face.  He holds on for a second, to make sure its not rolling off toward the net, and then starts to tip away from the net.  And his entire team jumps on his back because they understand the situation.  
3rd, 12:00 in:  Detroit has been the far better team in their own end this game.  They’ve also gotten far better goaltending.  Offensively, its been a little tighter, but overall, they’ve been better there too.  If PIT wants to win a Cup, they’re going to have to change things up a bit.  This isn’t Cup winning hockey.  I honestly think they’d be a better team, if they had to face better teams in the playoffs.  Frankly, the only three teams I could seriously see winning a Cup in the East are the Pens, Bruins, and Devils.  PIT needs more practice playing against better teams, to learn how to shut them down.  They’re not going to get it playing in the East right now.  Their system, with their lack of depth personnel is not going to cut it against the Wings, Ducks, and Sharks (?) in a Cup Final.  
Commercials:  Is that Tim Allen narrating these Pure Michigan commercials?  I think it is.  Up top to him.  I laugh at the commercials and magazine ads I see about working in Michigan and moving business to MI, but MI is a pretty nice place to visit, if you’re an outdoorsy type.  Here in CO, people tell me they have trees, but they don’t understand.  In Michigan, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a tree.  Here, the trees are only where they put them, unless you’re in the mountains.  I’ll die before I ever go back, but I definitely am proud of where I’m from.  And thats before you even touch on any of the history in MI.
3rd, 16:00 in: MAF goes crazy bouncing around and getting out of position, and his defensemen bail him out.  If Pit shaves half a mil off of Crosby and Malkin’s contract, and doesn’t sign Staal to a stupid deal, they could afford Lou instead of MAF, I’ll bet.  If I’m PIT this summer, I’m doing anything I can to get Giguere/Hiller or Lou.  Short of Crosby/Malkin (who noone wants anyways), I pay whatever it takes, and I get a fundamentally sound goaltender.
The Listener: If you could hear other people’s thoughts, would you use it to help yourself, or to help others?  You know damn well you’d use it to get laid.  
3rd, 18:00 in:  This looks like a PP in the Pens end…  and the Pens have an empty net.  That’s really, really funny.  The Pens almost ice it afterwards.  I think part of the icing rule should be that you’re forced to keep the same players out, and if one of those isn’t the goalie, tough shit.  If you ice it when you have an empty net, you deserve what you get.  Crosby nullified the icing though, and I don’t run the NHL, so I guess its a moot point.  
3rd, 20:00 in:  Wings win, 3-1, and the Penguins looked overmatched through almost the entire game.  If you’re gonna win a Stanley Cup, everyone has to step up, and step up big.  That didn’t happen in this game for Pittsburgh.  Primarily, your goaltender needs to step up.  Butterfly goalies who play fundamentally sound are inherently hard to beat.  MAF looks more like a chicken with his head cut off, and there’s really only been one guy who made that style work, and he had a method to his madness.  
Ozzie got into a position a few years ago where he started to find out he wasn’t so good, because he was getting older and wasn’t as fast as he used to be, and was on his way to an exit from the NHL.  He redesigned his style, and turned it into two more Stanley Cups and extended his career.  MAF isn’t that great of a goalie.  He needs to learn to do something different to improve his play, and that’s probably becoming a butterfly goalie.  If he doesn’t change anything, not only will he always stay a pretty average goalie, but he’s going to get an unending pile of shit dumped on him, for the contract he has, paired with the performance he gives.  Maybe he bounces back in the rest of the series, but somehow I doubt it.  PIT got outplayed in general, but MAF really hurt them tonight.  At least he didn’t fall down coming out.  
Oh, and sorry James.  I’m burying you under this wall, since I typed this while you apparently were posting.  Sorry bro.  After G3, I’ll be available for every game.  Maybe we should do some sort of non-douchebaggery live blogging or something for some of the games.  I might be available for G3 too, depends on if my boss will approve a time off request with under 2 days notice. 
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Instant (and brief) analysis

May 31, 2009
  • Naturally, this might stem from my Penguins fanboy status … but I think the Penguins generally outplayed the Red Wings tonight. Especially in the second period.

Obviously, Pittsburgh was pulverized in the faceoff circle (not surprising since the Penguins are below average in that area while Detroit is THE faceoff team), but overall it seemed to me they carried the play during long stretches of the game.

  • During the first half of the game, I braced myself for penalty whining. The Penguins did, indeed, get away with some penalties (particularly on Evgeni Malkin‘s failed breakaway).

Still, the no-call on Henrik Zetterberg (who, when looking through black-and-gold colored glasses, clearly closed his hand on the puck) should more than make up for whatever other discrepancies.

  • Chris Kunitz was a force on the forecheck. Darren Helm is a star in the making. If Niklas Kronwall was an NFL team, he’d be the San Diego Chargers. (Seriously, do officials need to wait until he injures Malkin while leaving his feet before they finally call a charge on him? Pens fans were [rightly] complaining about this last year.)
  • Marc Andre Fleury wasn’t awful but he still needs to be better for the Penguins to win this series. In broken play situations, he seems to go flat to the ice surface far too easily, giving up a ton of net in the process. That, and his penchant for playing the puck poorly, are two potentially fatal flaws in his game.
  • The Penguins will probably find themselves in the same 0-2 hole as last year, but what’s more frustrating is that for at least one game, the Pens seemed like they belonged this year. As a fan, though, that almost makes this loss tougher to swallow.

No, it definitely makes it harder to deal with.

Fuck.

Dissecting the most interesting/obnoxious Cup Finals storylines

May 30, 2009

Update: Check out this very interesting (and odd) SCF preview from Alexander Dubcek.

Let’s take a look at the big storylines of this Finals re-match.

Hossa-gate

Somehow this was the only Pensblog Hossa Photoshop I could find. Arrrrrgh.

Anyone who discounts this as “just a media creation” is totally nuts. When a free agent signing causes people to create Two-Face Photoshops, there is obviously plenty of relevance to the situation.

However, I’m one of those Penguins fans who was happy to see him leave (although strictly from a salary cap stand point). Simply put, Hoser is a great player who is not worth $7 million. We can gnash our teeth debating that point, but there are only a few players who can justify a cap-busting contract. Can you say that Crosby-Malkin-Hossa would be worth having awful depth for the next five years?

Surely, the guy’s face kind of pisses me off. Will I scream to the heavens if Brooks Orpik knocks the shit out of him in the slot? Absolutely.

But Hossa didn’t come to Pittsburgh by choice, he was traded there. People act like Hossa was a long time teammate but he came to the team toward the end of the season, barely played any regular season games and then had a fantastic run in the post-season. It was great to see Sidney Crosby have a great winger for once, but let’s face it: losing Ryan Malone was more of an “emotional” blow than Hossa ever was.

The Penguins: favorites???

Going in to the series, it seemed obvious to me that the Red Wings should be the favorite.

1. They have home ice

2. Let’s face it, they fucking creamed the Penguins last year.

3. Don’t forget, Johan Franzen wasn’t healthy for much of the SCF. So the Red Wings basically are going into this series with the team that beat Pittsburgh plus Marian Hossa AND Johan Franzen.

Yet, a surprising amount of people are predicting the Penguins. I will root relentlessly for Pittsburgh and be depressed if they lose, but if I had to put my (future, imaginary, candy-based) house on the line my pick would be the Red Wings. (Sigh)

Chris Osgood

Penguins fans really don’t like Osgood. I’m on record for calling him a queef.

That being said, watching NHL on the Fly’s press conference coverage Friday night made me realize that Osgood probably has to answer the same goddamn tired questions over and over and over again. Seriously, if you were him, wouldn’t you start douching every one just out of the monotony of the “are you the weak link?” line of questioning?

Jesus I better stop or I’ll start empathizing with the Keebler Elf/non-Blue Smurf looking motherfucker.

(Oh, and PLEASE stop calling him a Hall of Famer. If you barely hold onto a starting goaltending job against Ty fucking Conklin, you’re not worthy of being in the HoF. Sorry, brah.)

The Health Factor

One of the bullet points MSM members have been using is the relative “health advantage” the Penguins have going into this series. I find this to be a heavily overrated idea.

Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t 100 percent but Sergei Gonchar is pretty banged up too. The Hurricanes weren’t able to take advantage of Gonchar’s bum knee, but it was obvious that the Russian veteran couldn’t skate quite as swiftly in a few odd man rush/broken play situations.

Obviously, the Red Wings have some depth guys who are banged up, but teams that make it this deep into the playoffs are almost inevitably beat up. Considering the fact that the Penguin vigorously block shots, we can assume they have some guys playing hurt too.

Don’t get me wrong, the Penguins might be a bit healthier but it’s a tremendously exaggerated advantage.

Star Power

After watching almost every second of the Penguins’ playoff run, I can say that the Penguins have some nice support players who show the ability to maintain a high level of play throughout a game. That being said, when it comes to scoring goals, the team is highly dependent on their two super-duper-stars.

In the salary cap era, that is far from shocking. But the Red Wings can go into this series thinking “if we can hold Malkin-Crosby to a draw, we have a bunch of depth players who can steal a game.”

Hopefully, Sid and Geno have shown skeptical hockey fans that they are worthy of the immense hype they’ve received. Annoying message board people will never go away unless they win a Cup, but the Penguins showed me plenty. Even if they have to settle for the Prince of Wales trophy for a second straight year.

Sadly, Red Wings have defense and team play like no team the Penguins have seen in the playoffs.

Again.

This commercial should never die

May 30, 2009

Every time this commercial comes on my TV, I cannot help but stare at it like a slack-jawed idiot. It’s like when a beautiful woman walks into a room, only it’s OK to burn holes through it.

(Despite a disturbing creative crisis, there will be some kind of SCF preview tomorrow so take a look before Game 1.)

Well, that was anti-climactic, wasn’t it?

May 28, 2009

So after a 2nd round which featured 3 Game 7’s and another series going to 6, we enter the conference finals to find that the two clear-cut best teams really are the best teams.  Carolina and Chicago, while they have potential, just couldn’t stop the bleeding, much less stop themselves from being beaten silly.  Both teams were quite simply embarassed by two teams that were miles ahead of them.  There’s no shame in being beaten by a better team, but there is shame to be had in 1) looking scared of Malkin in an interview (Carolina) and 2) throwing a fit because of the refs, when your team has done nothing to try to win the game themselves (Chicago, but mostly Coach Q).  We had a hell of a second round, but the third round mostly turned into a formality, as the Penguins and Wings got their requisite 4 wins to move on, for the right to make Marian Hossa either a psychic or the biggest idiot ever.  

The Red Wings are hated by anyone who isn’t a fan of the team specifically.  Apparently, pissing on everyone else’s dreams for the last 15 years has kind of soured people on the Winged Wheel.  The Penguins are hated by a whole lot of people because of the Crosby-hype, and the attention they get, which exemplifies the east-coast bias that anyone west of the Mississippi can’t stand.  This series will match what are quite likely the top teams in each conference, regular season stats aside, and they should put up a hell of a show for us, but it seems that mostly, everyone hates both sides.  It’s like the Evil Empire versus the Little Empire That Could.  No matter who wins, everyone else ends up enslaved!
(If I could photoshop, or even insert pictures, this is where I would insert a picture of Lidstrom wearing a Darth Vader mask, facing off against Tux, muttering “I think I can, I think I can…”)

Judging Jordan (and other playoff nuggets)

May 27, 2009

Be careful what you wish for?

Maybe. If you would have told Penguins fans they’d make the SCF in February, most would have looked at you funny and mocked your turtleneck. Yet here they are after a resounding sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Some scattered thoughts from the playoffs:

  • It’s not fair to blame Cam Ward and Eric Staal for the series loss. Both had some low moments (Staal being held to a mere sprinkling of points; Ward allowing that ugly Max Talbot goal), but they need some help. Ray Whitney was abysmal. The Hurricanes’ D couldn’t handle Malkin or Crosby. Media members always want storylines, but a lot of times one team is just deeper, meaner and more talented.

The Hurricanes should seriously consider going after a quality offensive free agent to ease some of the burden off of Staal.

  • After witnessing Rob Scuderi limiting Alex Ovechkin toward the end of their second round series and playing very well against the Hurricanes, I was prompted to check his contract status. Rut roh: he’s an unrestricted free agent for 2009-10. Could this be a problem for the Penguins?
  • Rudy Kelly rightly pointed out that the Penguins might have been wrong when they passed up talents like Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel to draft Jordan Staal. Still, Kessel is injury-prone and Toews might be too great to keep under contract (or as the third banana). Staal’s lack of finishing touch can be really frustrating, but he’s still an extremely impressive player who’s willing to play a lesser role alongside the Penguins other blue chip centers.

His size and defensive instincts give you the impression that he could be an amazing asset going forward. It’s hard to say, really. Would it be better to put a Todd Marchant-type cheaper veteran in Staal’s spot and put the $4 million toward a younger winger who could finish all the great opportunities created by Crosby or Malkin? Or could Staal continue to blossom into a player who could allow the Penguins to more or less roll three great lines all game long?

  • This year’s Penguins team is more of an adventure than last year’s runner-up. Last year, they didn’t even go to a game 6 (until the Red Wings claimed the Cup on Mellon Ice, the bastards). Yet this year’s scrappy bunch almost missed the playoffs, went down 0-2 to the Capitals and won a Game 7 on the road.

This team has really grown on me. Even to the point that I think I like this team more than last year’s version. In 08-09, Ryan Malone played with marshmallows sticking out of his nose, showing an undeniably endearing amount of grit.

This time around, it seems like everyone is willing to put it on the line. Even Miroslav fucking Satan looks like he’s expending energy out on the ice each game. They’re also less “stacked” without Hossa and some other solid supporting players, making them about as close to an underdog as a team with Crosby and Malkin can be.

Will some extra sand paper and an extra year of experience be enough to overcome (probable opponent) Detroit? Probably not. But either way this Penguins team is special.

How to survive the latest NHL 09 update without damaging your dignity (or controller)

May 25, 2009

Earlier this week, I had it.

After playing approximately one billion versus games in NHL ’09, the most recent update appeared to be way too frustrating to deal with. Every goal I allowed sent my blood pressure to Zdeno Chara heights and even prompted my immature (and unintended) semi-destruction of an X-Box controller. Bad times.

Somewhere along the way, one of two things happened:

a) I figured out how to play under the new restrictions

-or-

b) Subtle tweaks were made to avoid the first polygonal hockey-based homicide.

Whatever the case may be, aside from losing an OT game I went on a 7-game winning streak (and a conversely unimpressive vagina-less streak, but fuck you for saying that). While you cannot teach pure, sublime irrelevant video game talent (ugh), here are a few tips for adapting to the latest update:

1. Zen hockey

My winning streak began while chastising my friend for giving up an opportunity for bowling and poontang. Despite being partially distracted by aimless telephone banter, things just started to click.

It made me realize that a Buddhist-like detachment is necessary to get any level of enjoyment out of the latest edition of the game (since EA decided to be dicks and suck all the fun out of playing online). This also goes for winning strategy, though: it’s best to summon your inner- Jacques Lemaire and play snooze-fest hockey. You know that urge to turn Dan Boyle into Bobby Orr? Might want to pick your spots there, champ.

2. Avoid using defensemen whenever possible

Perhaps this is just me, but damn if I don’t get burned by cheap shit whenever I try to play defense … with defensemen. It’s much better to miss a check/clog a passing lane with a forward, I’ve found.

Of course, that strategy’s great until the game decides that you’re not going to be able to switch to a forward no matter how many times you press the button, swear at children or throw dogs at the TV. You made me do it, EA.

3. Fear stick-lifts more than unwanted pregnancies

In the world of NHL 09, every ham-and-egger can stick lift like Pavel Datsyuk. When I was first getting used to the latest update, I’d say that 80 percent of the goals I allowed were based on my opponent lifting my D’s stick and scoring a vein-popping-out-in-your-head type goal.

Every time there’s going to be an obvious puck battle, get ready for some button “A” mashing. It’s lift or be lifted, folks.

4. Cheap behind the net deke moves > too-perfect one timers

For a while, my one timer abilities were absurd enough that I’d often score goals off what seemed like passes. It’s kind of like how Gretzky would score off the back of a goalie’s pad/legs/skates, only I wouldn’t get to bang some Canadian supermodel after the game.

ANYWAY, EA must have read a lot of message board bitching because the one-timer has been rendered somewhat irrelevant. Now it seems like it’s all about waltzing around defenseman and cheap shit like that.

***

So, hopefully those four guidelines will help you re-claim your game (or compete instead of the typical shellacking you suffer from). If you want to “put these rules to the test” or just want to play a game of versus, my X-Box gamertag is jimbobri (creative, I know).

Warning: I am ruthless and probably cheap as hell. But at least you know my strategy, right?

Crap, this was a mistake.

Bargain contract "bank"

May 24, 2009

To make your salary cap “team building” easier, here’s a “bank” of good contracts. Team-by-team. If your team isn’t represented, lobby to get the GM fired. All cap numbers from NHLSCAP.com. Keep in mind that rookies are not listed. (See my Salary Cap Dream Team post for more details)

Anaheim
Ryan Getzlaf (on my team): $5.33 million
Corey Perry: $5.33 million
Teemu Selanne: $2.63 million

Atlanta
Todd White:
$2.38 million
I assume Bryan Little is on his rookie contract. Is that right?

Boston
Marc Savard:
$5 million
Aaron Ward: $2.5 million
Andrew Ference (on my team): $1.4 million

Buffalo
Derek Roy: $4 million

Calgary
David Moss:
$1.3 million
Craig Conroy (on my team): $1.05 million
Robyn Regehr (on my team): $4 million
Rene Bourque: $1.35 million

Carolina
Cam Ward: $2.67 million

Chicago
Dustin Byfuglien:
$3 million

Colorado
Milan Hejduk:
$3.9 million
Marek Svatos: $2.05 million

Columbus
Antoine Vermette:
$2.76 million

Dallas
Mike Ribeiro: $5 million
Steve Ott
(on my team): $1.43 million
Toby Petersen
(on my team): .5 million
Stephane Robidas (on my team): $1.5 million
Trevor Daley: $2.3 million

Detroit
Chris Osgood:
$1.42 million
Johan Franzen: $3.95 million
Tomas Holmstrom: $2.23 million
Kris Draper: $1.58 million
Daniel Cleary: $2.8 million
Henrik Zetterberg: $6.01 million
Pavel Datsyuk: $6.7 million

Edmonton
Ales Hemsky
(on my team): $4.1 million
Ethan Moreau: $2 million

Florida
Nathan Horton: $4 million
Stephen Weiss: $3.1 million

Los Angeles
Dustin Brown
(on my team): $3.18 million
Alex Frolov: $2.9 million

Minnesota
Mikko Koivu
: $3.25 million
Brent Burns: $3.5 million
Nick Schultz: $3.5 million

Montreal
Andrei Markov:
$5.75 million

Nashville

Jordin Tootoo: just under $1 million
Ryan Suter: $3.5 million
Dan Hamhuis: $2 million
(Is Dan Ellis still in a rookie contract?)

New Jersey

Zach Parise (on the team): $3.1 million
Jamie Langenbrunner: $2.8 million
Jay Pandolfo: $2.5 million
Martin Brodeur: $5.25 million

NY Islanders
Doug Weight:
$2.2 million

NY Rangers
Sean Avery
: (waiver discount) $1.94 million

Ottawa
Anton Volchenkov:
$2.5 million
Alex Auld (on the team): $1 million

Philadelphia
Mike Richards
(on the team): $5.7 million

Phoenix
Shane Doan:
$4.55 million
Matthew Lombardi: $1.82 million
Ilya Bryzgalov: $4.25 million

Pittsburgh
Tyler Kennedy
(on the team): $725,000
Max Talbot: $1.05 million

San Jose
Marc Edouard Vlasic
(on the team): $3.1 million
Douglas Murray: $2.5 million

St. Louis

David Backes: $2.5 million
Chris Mason: $3 million

Tampa Bay
Martin St. Louis:
$5.25 million
Adam Hall: $.6 million

Toronto
Tomas Kaberle: $4.25 million
Niklas Hagman: $3 million

Vancouver
Ryan Kesler (on the team): $1.75 million
Alex Burrows (on the team): $2 million
Steve Bernier: $2 million

Washington
Alex Semin:
$4.6 million
John Erskine: $1.25 million
Mike Green: $5.25 million

A salary cap Dream Team

May 23, 2009

A couple nights ago, I couldn’t sleep. So instead of doing something productive I decided to put together the best plausible team using only players with good contracts. During that process, it became obvious that rookie contracts made it way too easy. With that in mind, the team would only be allowed to consist of players on their second contract and on.

This is that imaginary roster. One other important caveat: No Detroit Red Wings. It’s obvious to me the Red Wings are going to win another damn Cup, so it also became a matter of seeing if it was possible to put a better roster together without one Winged Wheel.

Ken Holland, feel free to stare at a painting of yourself right now.

(Oh, and if you’re interested, feel free to leave your own salary cap team in the comments or an e-mail. Remember, the following are prohibited:

1. Red Wings

2. Rookies (so no Patrick Kane or Steve Mason, you cheating bastards)

Also, big contract guys like Chris Pronger are allowed but frowned upon. You don’t want to be frowned upon, do you?

OH, and I excluded guys with expiring contracts too. Not so easy now, is it. Is it?)

ANYWAY, here’s the team in pseudo “line by line” form with my third grade math at no extra charge:

First Line Offense

Daniel Alfredsson (approx $4.9 million); Ryan Getzlaf (approx $5.4 million); Zach Parise (approx $3.1 million)

Is it crazy to think that this would be the best line in the NHL?

On one hand, you have a guy who at times was unstoppable even against Nicklas Lidstrom and the San Jose Sharks in Ryan Getzlaf. He’s big, mean, has a crazy reach and sublime passing skills. Oh, and the guy already was a vital cog in the Ducks Cup run a couple years ago.

Just take a look at Ryan Getzlaf’s stats in 08-09: (91 points in 81 regular season games; 18 points in 13 playoff games)

As great as Getzlaf was, Zach Parise has the best contract in the NHL going forward. A deadly combination of pure scoring (5th in the NHL in points) and goal scoring (third in the league with 45), Parise exploded onto the scene this season. He also managed a solid run in the playoffs.

To round that jaw-dropping first line, we have Alf. Say what you want about his reputation for playoff struggles (and that incident in the SCF when he slapped a puck at Scott Niedermayer), he’s an unreal player at the sub-$5 million mark. He was the defensively responsible superstar when lining up with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, so backing up Getzlaf-Parise wouldn’t be an alien task for the talented Swede.

“Second” line

Mike Richards($5.7 million); Ales Hemsky ($4.1 million); Dustin Brown ($3.1 million)

Mike Richards (80 points) and Ales Hemsky (66 points in shortened season) are two front-line players who would make life miserable for middle pairing D while Dustin Brown would provide a menacing level of physicality (he’s been a league leader in hitting before). Richards can bring the pain AND score, making him a less despicable heir to Bobby Clarke‘s throne as a prototypical Flyers forward.

Richards is also an absolute terror on the PK. It’s too bad he’s a Flyer, really.

Third line

Ryan Kesler ($1.75 million); Steve Ott ($1.4 million); Alex Burrows ($2 million)

Kesler is a nominee for the Selke. Ott and Burrows both showed they are guys who can be more than pests this season. Once 2009 came around, Ott managed 37 points in 44 games. Burrows scored 28 goals without getting a whiff of powerplay time. If you can find a better trio of elbow grease forwards for about $5 million, then well done sir or ma’am.

Fourth Line

Craig Conroy($1 million); Tyler Kennedy ($700,000+); Toby Petersen (.5 million)

One thing this team might lack is “experience.” As overrated as that might be, getting a popular veteran forward like Conroy seems like it would make a lot of sense. Plus, if this theoretical team faces an imaginary injury, Conroy’s shown that he can slide into those higher spots in the roster without missing a beat.

Kennedy is a very, very nice fourth-line player. He frequently makes the right moves and occasionally helps dominate a cycling game with Jordan Staal during the playoffs. He’s not a star, but he’s a guy who can make things happen for a great price.

Petersen is a plugger who will show the willingness to kill penalties. Maybe.

Defense

Marc Edouard Vlasic($3.1 million); Shea Weber ($4.5 million)
Robyn Regehr ($4 million); Stephane Robidas ($1.5 million)
Kyle Quincey ($.5 million); Andrew Ference ($1.4 million)

Total cost of defense (rounded up): $15.1 million

With all that was spent on offense, there still was a pretty good defense that came about. Vlasic is a smart, solid defenseman for a bargain price. Weber has a booming shot, a nice mean streak and a high ceiling. Regehr can be the Scott Stevens of the group, hurting people on a regular basis. Robidas is a nice budget D to put in your top-4. Quality offensive defensemen tend to be expensive, but Kyle Quincey can be a solid guy for a cheap price. Andrew Ference is another solid, inexpensive puck moving defenseman.

Maybe the group lacks an obvious leader but it is versatile, mean and affordable.

Goaltending

Cam Ward($2.67 million); Alex Auld ($1 million)

Auld is there because he’s a solid backup. Nothing more, nothing less.

Cam Ward has a great bargain of a contract. He’s won a Cup, he’s having a great run in the playoffs this year and generally has shown an ability to handle the workload of a No. 1 goalie. You cannot ask much more for a sub-$3 million goalie.

***

So, there’s the best team I could put together under those restrictions. It came in under $54 million, giving a couple million for wiggle room with healthy scratches and such.

Now, it’s your turn. Which players would you put on your salary cap All-Star team?

Krejci, Kessel or none of the above? A Boston Bruins salary cap outlook

May 21, 2009

So far, CLS looked at the salary cap situations of the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. With news of off-season surgeries and Sporting News executive awards for the Bruins’ front office, it seems like a natural time to take a look at the future of the Boston Bruins.

Boston Bruins
Current projected 2009-10 Cap number:
approximately $47.5 million (One goalie, five defensemen and nine forwards)
Best contract(s): Marc Savard (one year left, $5 million cap hit); Milan Lucic (one year left, rookie contract)
Worst contract(s): Tim Thomas ($5 million per year through 2012-13); Marco Sturm ($3.5 million through 2010-11)
Dude who is Seven-feet-freaking tall (on skates)’ contract: Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million per year through 2010-11)

It’s been a really nice two years for the Boston Bruins. After suffering briefly from a Joe Thornton hangover, they snagged the former assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators to construct a team that shares some similarities with Peter Chiarelli‘s old squad: staggering depth, splendid regular season play and … Zdeno Chara.

An unexpected (and utterly, undeniably dominant) run to the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference allowed the Bruins to stuff another gluttonous bowl of Chowder in the over-fed mouth that is the Boston sports market. At their best, the Killer Bees looked good enough to make Western Conference teams nervous.

That great run came at a price, as the Bruins were forced to hand their admittedly exhilarating goaltender a contract that will almost definitely bite them in the end. A Vezina-caliber season notwithstanding, Thomas has a few prominent strikes against him. Not to be an age-ist, but at the ripe age of 35, how long can an unorthodox goalie like Thomas thrive before he turns into Roman Cechmanek with a nicer yacht?

Still, signing Thomas allows the Bruins to focus solely on the extremely difficult decisions regarding their two young forwards Phil Kessel and David Krejci.

Kessel has the pedigree. After having some up and down years (including earning the respect of any human by overcoming cancer), the 2006’s #5 draft pick exploded as much as any Boston Bruin this season. In an abridged 70 games, he managed an impressive 36 goals. To put that in perspective, his .51 goals per game average ranked eight best in the NHL. He also showed impressive speed and was at times very dangerous in this year’s playoffs, with 6 goals and 11 points in 11 games. Despite injury concerns, Kessel is a true game breaker.

Say what you want about the dubious nature of the plus/minus statistic, it’s still pretty astounding that David Krejci lead the league with a +37 rating. After flying under the radar with 27 points in 56 games last season, Krejci managed a 73-point season. He’s a smart player who played a full season in 2008-09.

So, the question is: how much is each player worth? With All-Star caliber Marc Savard and former stud Patrice Bergeron already on the roster, should the Bruins settle for getting for a few draft picks for Krejci and/or Kessel? If you had to choose, would you rather get the dynamic but injury prone (and potentially more expensive) Kessel or the heady and steady work of Krejci (who you cannot be totally certain isn’t a contract year guy)?

Obviously the decision is circumstantial. If Krejci only wanted $3 million per year, Boston would be crazy to let him go. On the other hand, if Kessel wants to be paid Sidney Crosby money, that wouldn’t work for the B’s at all.

It’s funny that Chiarelli received a GM of the year award, because the next seasons will test that honeymoon period immediately. Three crucial contracts will be up for renewal for 2010-11: Savard, Blake Wheeler and borderline folk hero Milan Lucic.

While the Chicago Blackhawks are my pick for the team with the most potential to make shortsighted analysts look silly (“Why, they have young players so that means they automatically have a bright future derp!”), the Bruins’ window could close quickly.

It could end up a lot like Chiarelli’s Senators did. After being a dominant-yet-frustrated team for years, the team could no longer keep Chara, Martin Havlat and other solid-to-great players not named Spezza, Heatley or Alfredsson. By the time Chiarelli left, Ottawa became a top-heavy, deeply flawed team. Then again, there are also Buffalo Sabres parallels: a team featuring a talented cast-off (Savard/Daniel Briere), staggering depth and an exciting score-by-committee approach that ultimately became unsustainable within the confines of a salary cap structure.

Let’s not be TOO negative, though, as a very tough summer might turn into a series of shrewd, Ken Holland-sque maneuvers for the Bruins. There are definitely bright sides to look on: Chara is the only guy with a huge contract and he’s (probably) worth it. And for all the negativity about Tim Thomas’s gamble of a deal, it’s at least not as bad as questionable No. 1 contracts floating around the league like Cristobal Huet ($5.6 million through 2011-12), J.S. Giguere ($6 million through 2010-11) or Rick Dipetro‘s lifetime $4.5 million per year cap hit.

So, what do you think? Are the Bruins the Team of the Future in the Northeast division, just a fortuitous blip on the radar or somewhere in between? Either way, the Big Bad Bruins should be an interesting team to watch the next few years (on and off the ice).

(For the record, I strongly believe that the Bruins should do whatever they can to keep Kessel. Seriously.)