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Archive for May, 2008

Is it Game 4 already? Guess so! We’ll be here, Gentle Reader, not with a full diary but just a smattering of our thoughts as the game goes along. If we believed in signs, we’d be a little confused today. All day long a day-or-two-old baby deer has been camped out next to our garage, all spindly legs and fluffy white spots. That suggests the helpless, hapless Pens of Games 1 and 2 might have something in store. Of course, the fact that when we turned on the TV for tonight’s hockey, the channel was set on NHL Network, which was showing highlight clips of Scott Stevens leveling Kozlov, Lindros, and Francis, suggests the juggernaut Wings might return to form. We’ll just have to tune in to see which portent wins out — cute baby deer, or Scotty Stevens’s elbow.

— Hossa gets the Pens on the board and our feed quickly flips over to the not-so-subliminal messages suggesting we buy Flyers season tickets. We see visions of what the Flyers would do if they were facing down a baby deer and decide we’ll skip those season tickets, thanks.

— We become deeply engrossed in Baby Deer Watch ’08, and spend several long moments watching breathlessly as the baby deer makes its adorable, wobbly way across our backyard through the gloaming, disappearing silently into the woods where its mother is waiting. When we come back, the score is 1-1. We have no regrets; the baby deer is a million times cuter than this hockey game, no matter how good the game is.

— As the period winds down, still 1-1 and with the teams trading chances off some turnover-filled, end-to-end wheeling, Pookie waxes nostalgic: “I’m just thinking back to the Devils’ Sykora trade, and all it gave us… A Stanley Cup with Jeff Friesen, and then the joy of not having Friesen or Tverdovsky on our team anymore, while still not having Sykora! It’s the trade that keeps on giving!”

— It would behoove NBC to tell Pierre to stop thinking “X got into Y’s kitchen” is a cool thing to say.

— We also wouldn’t mind if the MSM would quit thinking that we care about a player’s nationality. We don’t care any more about Lidstrom being the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup than we do about Modano being the highest scoring American. They’re all just hockey players. We’ve past the point where anyone is going to like or dislike Lidstrom more or less because he’s a “furriner”.

— We don’t watch much of the Red Wings, so we were very excited to get to see these Datsyuk and Zetterberg fellows we’d heard so much about. But you know what? They kind of seem like piles of puke. Madden totally should win the Selke over those two guys.

— Boomer spent the first intermission complaining that she’s ready for hockey to be over, that the playoffs have gone on too long.

Boomer: You know what I’m tired of? Pierre McGuire!

Schnookie: But we didn’t even seen him in the second and third rounds.

Boomer: So? I’m tired of him!

That, NBC, is the power of Pierre McGuire. Please, use that power sparingly.

— The second intermission studio segment, with its “banter” and “analysis”, leaves us in a state of stunned silence. It’s finally broken by Schnookie asking, “Was that just a new nadir for intermission shows?” Boomer: “I hope so. Because if it can get lower than that…” She trails off ominously.

— Hudler scores to put Detroit ahead. We didn’t get a great look at the play thanks to the difficult-to-decipher weather warning map our local NBC feed put up. We think they’re might be a severe thunderstorm warning for our county, or it might be in Maryland. Damn our US educations, not teaching us geography better! (Marc-Andre Fleury, however, has no such excuse for not getting a good look at the scoring play. What the hell?)

UPDATE:

— The Wings ended the game with some prevent defense, but proving hockey pundits everywhere wrong, it did not prevent them from winning. The final thirty seconds looked like we might be in for some OT, but mercifully the Pens couldn’t quite put the puck in the net. Monday night the Cup will be in the building. Given how much better the Wings have looked than the Penguins, we’ll almost forgive the fans if they start chanting “We want the Cup” before the 3rd period.

— So, in the end, it seems Scotty Stevens’s elbow won out over the baby deer. Better luck next time, Bambi.

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We were driven today to the outer edges of sheer boredom, and did something that only the most desperate of hockey fans should ever do — we read the CBA. Some people read the CBA and come out of it with a clearer understanding of the financial picture of the NHL. Others walk away shaking their reads at the madness of it all. And yet others totally ignore all the serious business statbitty parts (read: 99% of it) and cut straight to the titillating, behind-the-scenes stuff. Like how the players get fined if they don’t pay their own incidentals on their room bills when the team is checking out of hotels on the road. And how a player is reimbursed for up to six months of his rent/mortgage when he’s traded. And what the NHL per diem is. In typical fashion for us, though, a discussion of the finer points of everyday life as outlined by the CBA quickly evolved into our vision of how the Devils handle their per diems. The following is how we figure it goes down, and we suspect we’re spot-on. Because we know the Devils really well. (This is also the actual IM conversation we had, verbatim.)

Pookie: Paulie packs all his meals so they’re bland enough for him and then he pockets the per diem. He’s saving up for something nice. Like a new Goldie Christmas ornament set.

Schnookie: Yup! He’s savin’ up. And enjoying those ambrosia cups, all at the same time.

Clarkson spends his on lottery tickets. All of it.

Pookie: Yup.

Schnookie: At the first place that he sees that sells them.

Pookie: As soon as they get to the hotel lobby he buys them all up and then goes, “D’oh!”

Schnookie: Then he spends the rest of the day salivating over the other guys’ food, asking, “Are you going to eat all of that?”

Pookie: Fortunately it doesn’t take much for him to charm his way into food. He’s always missing team meals because he’s eating with the maids in their breakroom.

Schnookie: Well, Travis is a sucker, too, so he always shares.

Pookie: Travis does all kinds of research before going to a city to determine the cheapest possible meal. Then he saves the rest of his per diem under his mattress. Out of fear of being an Okie.

Schnookie: Travis always takes out $5 and mails it home to his parents. With a letter:

Dear Mom and Dad,
Am still making good in the big city.
Your son,
Travis
P.S. I miss you both.

Pookie: Nah, Rod Pelley does that. Mr. Kitimat.

Schnookie: Right!

Pookie: Marty has Brylin handle his per diem for him. When he has to pay for something he just snaps his finger, walks away, and assumes Brylin is covering it for him.

Schnookie: Marty’s like, “Here, Sarge. You probably need this more than I do.” And he throws the money in Sarge’s direction and forgets all about it.

Pookie: Yup.

Schnookie: Zach has his converted to gold.

Pookie: Langer goes to the dog track. And eats there. No betting, though. Betting would be stupid.

Schnookie: He just loves the food carts at dog tracks. “They have the best cheap Chinese food,” he explains.

Pookie: Yup.

Schnookie: Gio thought he was going to the horse track with his money, until he ran into Langer there. “Shit. Horses must be HUGE,” he says.

Pookie: Sutter gets his per diem changed into pennies and then gets pissed off when he has to count them out to pay for stuff. Just the way he gets pissed off when he has to put unprepared losers out on the ice. “Life,” sighs Albelin in commiseration, “imitates art.”

Schnookie: Travis loves counting and rolling those pennies for Sutter. It causes a lot of tension with his roomie, though. “Suck up,” Zach hisses at him.

Pookie: Just the way Travis loves being an unprepared loser.

Schnookie: “Being an unprepared loser is my favorite thing in life,” he attests.

Pookie: You bet! Sutter’s like, “Grrrreat. Have a penny!” And he wings a big handful of pennies at Travis’s head.

Our team has issues.

Schnookie: Travis just lets the pennies hit him, and then he says, “Do you want me to count and roll those, too, or should I leave them?”

Pookie: Oduya uses his per diem to buy the ingredients to make his mom’s special Swedish cookies, which he sells in the hotel lobby, thereby doubling his per diem amount.

Schnookie: Oduya’s the secret smart one!

Pookie: He usually uses his extra dough to buy Paulie a more interesting lunch, feeling sorry for him having to eat ambrosia AGAIN.

Schnookie: So Paulie’s the one who’s doubling his per diem! After four years in the NHL, you’d think Paulie could afford the Goldie ornament set by now. But the sad truth is, Paulie has no idea how much it costs. “If you have to ask,” he says wistfully. Greener’s like, “You don’t have to ask. Look. The price is right here on the website, it’s $49.95–” Paulie: * DUNK! *

Fortunately, he eats enough pot brownies that he soon forgets that Greener broke the mystique surrounding the ornament set.

Pookie: Yeah. And when he retires he’s going to have like $600,000 in per diem money. Which… He’ll blow on 600,000 Mr. Pibbs and thus never get the ornament set.

But then, in his old age, when he’s like 86, his roomie in the Old Folks Home For Aged D-Men, Old Man Oduya, will give them to him for Christmas.

Schnookie: Awwww! That’s so sweet! Maybe our team doesn’t have issues after all!

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So we’ve decided to show up to diarize tonight – does that mean the Pens will show up, too? Whatever happens, we can be pretty much guaranteed the presentation of it will suck, because it’s on NBC. We’d say something like, “Buckle your seatbelt, Gentle Reader,” but with the way NBC presents hockey, we’re afraid we’ll all be dozing by 9:00.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! After Doc’s intro seems to imply that Sid invented the white-out, we then cut to an “outside the dressing room” interview with Marion Hossa (who we suspect didn’t bother going to Detroit for the first two games), and it’s Pierre McGuire doing the interviewing! Oh Pierre, how we’ve missed you! Of course, we take all our jubilation back if it turns out that Mike Milbury’s reign of terror reporting from between the benches hasn’t ended.

We ignore most of the rest of the pregame stuff as we try to figure out whether the HD picture is better on the cable or satellite. We decide we like the cable picture better, in case you’re wondering.

Comparing NBC to Versus, it’s actually hard to say which commercials for the network’s other programming are worse, Extreme Fighting and/or rodeo, or “Celebrity Circus”.
(more…)

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Two games in to (and presumable halfway through) the Stanley Cup Final, it seems like a good time to take stock of the lessons we’ve learned from the matchup between the Red Wings and the Penguins.

Lesson The First: When all the experts say the matchup will be the greatest SCF ever, it’s probably not going to be that great. It’s the snakes in the grass — the Lightning and Flames, the Hurricanes and the Oilers — that make for a great series. The teams that are supposed to be the marquee matchup never live up to the expectations. Ever. Especially when the superstars on one team fail to show up. Did Malkin and Hossa not make the trip to Detroit?

Lesson The Second: If we were ever asked to contribute to the Official Rules Of Hockey-Pundit Prognosticating, we would offer this hard-and-fast rule — If you are confronted with a matchup in which you can see one team sweeping, but not the other, don’t pick the team you can’t imagine sweeping. What, exactly, is the logical thought process when you’re saying, “I can see this series being a sweep for Team X, which is why I’m picking Team Y in six”?

Lesson The Third: If you’re playing the Red Wings at their most juggernauty, don’t take penalties. And don’t think playing four-on-four will be an advantage to you.

Lesson The Fourth: There’s a big difference between pre-lockout-style trapping hockey and what the Red Wings are playing. Just because the Pens haven’t been able to figure out how to function at all in any zone doesn’t mean the Wings are playing boring, clutch-and-grab, static trapping hockey. The Pens had no problem beating a static-trapping team in the Rangers. They just have no idea yet how to beat a defensively swarming, offensively dynamic juggernaut. Sure, if you’re cheering for the Pens, it sucks to see your guys get shut down, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings are playing boring hockey.

Lesson The Fifth: We fully believed the Pens were this year’s Sens, but we didn’t expect them to cross into “Alfredsson shooting a puck into Niedermayer’s chest” territory until later in the series. They really surprised us by bringing the “let’s take shots at Franzen’s head to show off how frustrated we are” douchebaggery as early as Game 2.

Lesson The Sixth: The Western Conference was way better than the Eastern Conference this year, as much as it pains us to admit that.

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So is everyone ready for Game Two of what we’ve all been promised is going to the Greatest Stanley Cup Final EVAH? Yeah, us neither. And if this series is going to live up to the hype, it’s got a lot of “Greatest EVAH” to fit into the remaining six games, after game turned out to be hardly the evenly matched barnburner we were promised. We’d try our hands at a game diary for this one tonight, but with all the time off since our last one, we’d probably just faceplant out the gate just like Marc-Andre Fleury. Instead, we’ll be posting our musings as the game progresses. Stay tuned!

— We wholeheartedly approve of the person in the crowd who perched a tiny stuffed octopus atop her twirling goal light hardhat in such a way that the octopus danced like a music box ballerina. We still wholeheartedly disapprove of the ridiculously undignified giant inflatable octopus that descends from the ceiling. For an organization as reliably staid as the Red Wings, the insistence on rolling out a giant cartoon octopus seems very out-of-place. I mean, if the Toronto Maple Leafs had a giant inflatable Carlton the Bear come down from the Jumbotron before every game, they’d be laughed at almost as much as the Sens for that centurion debacle. Just because the octopus is an unofficial mascot, doesn’t make it any cooler than any official mascot. Bah! Humbug!

— At various times during the season we’ve mentioned how we’d be happy to have the choice to get a Pay-Per-View version of games that feature all open mics and no broadcasters; we’d now like to suggest an alternate channel for this game that will be guaranteed to feature absolutely zero close-ups of Sid’s facial hair.

— So is it a good sign or a bad sign for Detroit that their first goal wasn’t waved off for no good reason?

— Is is just us, or does this series have a heavy air of “1997 SCF” to it? In that the lead-in to the series was everyone in the hockey media establishment talking up the team from Pennsylvania while we were sitting there thinking, “Have none of these people watched the Red Wings?”

— If there’s a questionable play where there’s a chance that possibly Hal Gill did something stupid, chances are… Yeah. Hal Gill did something stupid.

— So if this is the 1997 SCF revisted, is it safe to say that Sid is in a choking situation right now?

— In honor of the excitement we’re supposed to feel for the SCF, we opened a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to go with our frozen pizza gourmet meal (*shifty eyes*) but after a few sips it was determined it sucked. That’s right, this SCF is such a let-down so far, it turned our wine to ash.

— As we go to intermission, the overriding opinion here at stately IPB Manor is that that period did very little to convince us that the Pens came to play.

— Almost midway through the second period, it is deathly quiet at stately IPB Manor. Boomer is working on a crossword puzzle. Pookie is absently troving the interwebs. Schnookie is puttering with photoshop. Every now and again we hear Edzo saying something about how the Pens “need to create something” and we just nod to ourselves, because this is playing out exactly how we expected it to.

— Any minute now we expect the Red Wings to announce “Now, for the next period, we’ll all play left handed! Just, you know, to make things interesting!”

— The Pens get handed the perfect chance on a fucking golden platter when Wingy McWing falls over, leaving the puck alone for Gary Robert to skate in and make up for his stupid penalty earlier in the game. He sends the puck toward the net, giving Jordan Staal a chance to make up for being entirely invisible since the second round. The end result? The puck bounces off a confused Osgood and ends up on the goal line in front of an empty net… Where another Wingy McWing calmly knocks it away, completely defusing the situation. This is not the series we were promised!

— Here in the second intermission, the overriding opinions are: one, that the Pens still haven’t shown up to play; two, that the Wings should skate as if it’s four-on-four to spice things up in the third; and three that the unimaginably terrible episode of MacGyver we watched to kill hockey-less time last night was slightly more interesting television than this even though the golden eagle Mac performed emergency Swiss-army-knife-surgery on died.

–At the start of the third period, Doc remarks that Edzo said before the second period that Sid needed to play more in order for the Pens to get back into the game. “So did he?” he asks. Edzo looks smug and replies, “No he did not. He played 12 seconds less.” Is Edzo trying to make some sort of statement about what a better coach he is than Therrien?

— When Ryan Malone takes a goaltender interference penalty midway through the third period, to take the Pens off the power play, we are left wondering two things. First, is Malone deliberately working to drive down his asking price on the UFA market this summer? And second, why is Eddie Olczyk allowed to call Pens games on VS? He spends the first few replays of the infraction spluttering that Malone was being wronged, and when a third replay proves that Malone was guilty, guilty, guilty, he just sits in sullen silence.

— Stay classy, Gary Roberts. Sucker-punching a player with a recent concussion, what a guy.

— Stay classy, Ryan Whitney. Target Franzen’s head once, shame on Roberts. Target Franzen’s head twice, shame on Therrien.

— When the final horn sounds, it seems like nothing but a formality; this game was over three hours ago. The only real surprise is that the Pens managed to make themselves look goonish and idiotic instead of just outclassed from a hockey perspective. Well played, Penguins. Well played.

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Gentle Reader, after a week of discovering what life is like without hockey, you didn’t really expect, like, a real post tonight, did you? Nah, we’re out of practice, so instead of diarizing, or writing some kind of actual bloggerly content, we’re going to have dinner in front of the game while enjoying an open thread.

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[This is Chapter 3 of our three-part “A Playoff Carol”. Chapter 1 can be found here. Chapter 2 can be found here.]

When the doorbell rings, they think they’re ready for him, but when they tug the door open, they are stunned to find a massively rotund, gray-haired Marty Brodeur facing them.

IPB: Oh crap. Are YOU our playoffs future?

GoPF: [Around a mouthful of powdered sugar donut.] You bet I am. Who did you think it would be?

IPB: We have no idea. Please tell us you’re representing the near future…

GoPF: You wish. I’m going to be getting every playoff start for the Devils for the next 30 years. Now come with me — you know the drill. We’re going to look at your future to scare you into loving the playoffs now.

IPB: The next 30 years???

Ever-Growing Spectral Chain: *CLANK!*

GoPF: You know, I’ve got a box of donuts and a plate of honeyed dormice with my name on them waiting on the other side. Let’s get this over with, okay?

IPB: [Resigned.] Fine.

A puff of powdered sugar flies off his fingers as the Ghost snaps them. Suddenly the trio is in a desolate, dark graveyard, where a couple of sinister figures are digging in front of a headstone.

GoPF: [Nonchalantly.] Oh look. Gravediggers.

IPB: GRAVEDIGGERS? On our graves?

GoPF: Looks like it.

IPB: Well, good luck to them. We haven’t got anything worth digging all the way into a grave for, and certainly nothing we’d ask to be buried with… Hey! Wait a second! What does this have to do with the playoffs?

GoPF: I don’t know. You’re the ones who told the Zach Ghost that you know this story. I’m no literary critic — you figure it out.

IPB: You’re keeping us from sleep for an allegory even you don’t get?

GoPF: [Irritated.] Okay, smarty-pantses, I’ll do all the thinking here. What you learned from Arnott Ghost is that you mostly like playoffs where the Devils do well, but you are capable of liking playoffs where they don’t. And you learned from Zach Ghost that there are things in this year’s playoffs that you are capable of liking. And now you’re seeing a terrible vision of the future. Maybe this means that if you keep on the path you’re on now, you’ll end up in a gruesomely awful place like this because the Devils aren’t going to be good forever.

IPB: They’re good now?

Ever-Growing Spectral Chain: *CLANK!*

GoPF: You know what I mean! They’re still making the playoffs, aren’t they? No, what I’m talking about is them being hugely bad.

IPB: Like the Penguins were? So we’re looking at first- or second-overall picks for five straight years? Then we’ll be good again! No biggie. That’s how you build in the NHL these days.

GoPF: I was thinking more like Panthers bad.

IPB: Ouch.

GoPF: Or worse than that, Blues bad.

IPB: You mean, like, “irrelevant for three decades” bad?

GoPF: [Solemnly.] Oh yeah.

IPB: [Shakily.] Heh heh. No. No, it could never get to that…

GoPF: Not only will they not matter, but they could be called on the TV by John Kelly–

IPB: [Cutting him off.] NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh god, make it stop! MAKE IT STOP! We’ll do anything! We’ll change! We promise!!

Suddenly the Ookies realize they are weeping into their front lawn, and there is no one around. They get to their feet unsteadily, then, trembling, retire to their respective rooms. In the morning, they exchange few words while embarking on a mission they both understand as necessary. After making a few stops along the way, they make a quick trip to Pittsburgh, where they are shown in to the Pens dressing room. The team is still partying in fashion not unlike their phantom visit the previous night.

IPB: [In tiny, timid voices, just as Sid is squeaking, “God bless us, every one!”] Excuse us, Penguins?

Sid: [Haughtily.] Who are you? How did you get in here? And what is that you’re carrying?

IPB: Um, it’s a really long story, Mr. Crosby. But the thing is that we’re on a kind of “Christmas Carol” mission, so we stopped on our way here to buy the finest goose from the big store window, and we want to give it to you.

Sid: [Snorting with disgust.] A goose? Are you fucking nuts? [To a security guard near the door.] Show them out.

IPB: Wait, what? [They are roughly ushered toward the door, goose and all, and as they stumble out, they shout back over their shoulders.] Well fuck you, Penguins, and your basement! We’re going to take this goose to Detroit. We bet they’ll appreciate it.

The End.

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