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Archive for the ‘IPB’s Can’t-Miss Predictions’ Category

The other day we were discussing the Devils future over lunch and decided it’s time to start girding ourselves for the possibility of a Zachless existence. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? What could possibly make that more sufferable? Well, Gentle Reader, you know us — we’re always thinking. And we’ve got a solution that will help not only the Devils but also another favorite team of ours.

If Lou can’t re-sign Zach, he should trade for Ryan Getzlaf. Seriously! We’d love to see Getzi getting to set up Kovalchuk. They’d be an unstoppable scoring machine, and if they weren’t that, then Getzi would be aimless, cranky, and his shirt would fall off a lot, which is almost as good. So, what would the Ducks want in exchange for their captain? Perhaps a return to their glory days of gooning their way to the Stanley Cup, right? Right! So, how can the Devils give them that? Two words: Boulton. Janssen.

WE KNOW! Genius.

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Gentle Reader, you know by now that we are not glass-half-full people. In fact, most of the time, we’re “the glass is bone-dry in the cupboard it’s so not half-full” people. But desperate times call for desperate measures — particularly desperately hopeful times. The Devils have clawed their way up to 9 points out after being — let’s see… carry the one… — a million, billion points out two months ago. How can we not be hopeful?! Jacques Lemaire practically came to the house and filled all our glasses more than halfway (and yes, that is Kool-Aid in those glasses, but what can we say? It tastes like winning)! So what are the desperately hopeful measures this crazy run as pushed us to, you ask? Thinking our socks are lucky? Nope. Scoreboard watching? Uh-uh. (Well, yes, actually, but that’s not important right now.) Try… Math! That’s right, math! These tra-la-la-la-feelingsbits-loving gals actually got out the schedules, revved up Excel, and crunched some numbers! Woo!

We dubbed the endeavor “Mission: Improbable”. Could the Devils possibly or probably actually make it into the 8th spot? Should we continue to believe? Were we being optimistic fools? The answer might surprise you!

VE Mats Rolling Dice

Our methods included having Mats roll the dice…

VE Mats Crunching Numbers

… crunching numbers…

February 23 2011

… and augering with Shreikyguts.

Our conclusion… It’s possible. Maaaybe. Get back to us on April 10th and we’ll let you know whether the entrails numbers lied or not. (Hint: they said no.) (We don’t want to believe them, though, so eff ‘em!)

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Here at the outset of the latest installment of “The Devils, Playoffs Version”, we’re beginning to understand why Red Wings bloggers are the way they are. When your team not only makes the playoffs every year (and since we became Devils fans at the start of the ’96-’97 season, we’ve never seen them miss), but also doesn’t even come close to not making it, there’s just not that much to say as a blogger. So you can be like the Wings writers, crowing about how great you are, how stupid everyone else is, and crafting outlandish conspiracy theories to explain away the times when your team doesn’t come through, or you can be like us and struggle to think of new ways to say, “Yeah, my team’s rolling along, as usual.” Consistent regular-season winning is a wonderful, comforting thing; as sure as there will be the seasons and the tides, so too will there be 40+ wins for our team. And just as we are grateful for the seasons and the tides, we’re also grateful for our annual 40+ wins. Really, we are. But honestly, who wants to write about the tides every day?

Anyway, we wanted to get that little bit of positivity (and apology for being lousy bloggers) out before moving on to the topic at hand: the playoffs.

Sigh.

Just as the Devils are consistently winners in the regular season, they have lately been consistently losers in the playoffs. They’ve been atrocious in each of the last three seasons, so we think we’re justified in being a bit reserved about the successes of this past regular season. Also, we think we’re justified in being extremely reserved in our enthusiasm for the Devils’ playoff chances this time around. Thrice bitten, many many times shy, as the old saying goes.

So, realistically, how do we think this Devils/Flyers series is going to shake out? Well, there is a variety of subplots that merit mention. There’s Jacques Lemaire, and the question of whether he’ll hoist the team on its own petard like he did last time he was coaching the Devils in the playoffs. There’s the Zach/Zubrus Showdown At The Triple-Z Ranch buzzsaw that we’d love to be the key to the series. There’s Kovalchuk trying to put an exclamation point on his contract year. There’s Paulie trying to cram an entire contract year into one playoff run. There’s Patrik Elias playing against a Boucher-backstopped Flyers. There’s Langer and his all-around captainy awesomeness (HAHAHAHAHAHA! Just checking to see if you were still reading). But ultimately, none of that matters. It doesn’t matter what the forwards do, doesn’t matter what the D does, doesn’t matter what the special teams or coaches do. No, the only thing that really matters is Marty. Is this going to be the year that competent, gives-his-team-a-chance-to-win-every-night Marty returns to the playoffs? Or is this going to be another year of Marty giving up bad goals at the worst possible times, and losing his focus, and throwing hissy-fits, and whining and pointing fingers and generally looking like he doesn’t belong at this level? Four years ago, against the Hurricanes, we blamed the d-men. Three years ago, against the Senators, we blamed the system. Two years ago, against the Rangers, we blamed the universe. Last year, against the Hurricanes, we blamed the forwards. If it happens again this year, we’re blaming Marty.

Our prediction for this series? Flyers take a 3-1 series lead, but the Devils win in 7. Just the way it should be.

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It was Schedule Day today, Gentle Reader! WOO HOO! It’s perhaps the very best day of the year that doesn’t have either a major holiday or actual hockey games on it! We love, love, love poring over the ins and outs of the seaspn to come, spending these long, lazy summer days thinking about colder, happier times of year. But this summer we’ve added a new twist to our Schedule Day; at long last our specially-designed computer, IPBtron 3000, is up and running.

IPBtron 3000

The IPBtron 3000, with our dedicated team of NHL Schedule Simulators.

IPBtron 3000 is a state-of-the-art device that can, in a matter of mere minutes, run thousands of simulated hockey seasons. It crunches more numbers than even the most dedicated stat-head could imagine, in algorithms so complex they’d leave a lesser person than us with their head spinning. It’s wicked smart. And as we all know, numbers (and algorithms) don’t lie; whatever results IPBtron 3000 comes up with are indisputable.

IPBtron 3001

One of the Ookies, hard at work at the helm of IPBtron 3001, which exists to check IPBtron 3000’s work.

So what does the future have in store for the Devils? We were not at all surprised to see the following summation from IPBtron 3000:

October — Devils stumble out of the gate, still adjusting to new coach Jacques Lemaire’s system. Things look dire; even though the defense is solid, the offense is a wreck, and the team falls into a bit of a hole as one of the other Atlantic Division teams starts like a house afire and opens a huge division lead. Fans worry that Zach Parise won’t score a single goal all season.

November — Devils find their equilibrium. While not looking like world-beaters, at least they’re over .500. Zach Parise finally scores a goal. And maybe even a second one.

December — Don’t look now, but the division is suddenly all square again, as the Devils are starting to figure out how to play good hockey, and the front-runner has plummeted back to earth. Patrik Elias finally scores his first goal. There is a strange strain of optimism in the air for Devils fans.

January — If the playoffs started now, the Devils would win the Cup handily. It looks for these four weeks as if the 2009-2010 Devils are perhaps the greatest Devils team of all time. Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner both score their first goals of the season, and Brian Rolston comes close to getting his. Even better, though, is the fact that someone else in the Atlantic is almost managing to keep pace, so the Devils can open a lead in the division, but not so large of one that they ever stop flying under the national media radar. The situation is perfect.

February — It’s like January, but the wins seem less about awesomeness and more about luck. Everyone just figures it’s excitement about the coming Olympics. Devils fans start looking forward to a two-week ice dancing break. Or at least, these two Devils fans do.

March — Um, no need to panic. It’s just post-Olympic break rust. All the other teams are struggling, too, so it’s not like the Devils are losing ground in the standings. And, um, the Devils who went to the Olympics? Zach, and Marty, and Paulie, and maybe Patty, and maybe Langer (HA! Joke’s on Team USA if they do that!)? Um… those aren’t injuries, per se. Just… um… wear and tear. They’ll be fine… Okay, who are we kidding? It’s the Devils. It’s March. There are 15 games of this particular March Swoon. It’s ugly. Fortunately, everyone else in the Atlantic is inexplicably struggling, too. The Devils players continue to insist that they’re all fine, that none of them were injured during the Olympics (either from competing at the Games, or from some kind of beach-related vacation mishaps), and that actually, if you don’t judge them on offense, defense, goaltending or special teams, they’re really doing quite well.

April — Is it October yet?

Bonus Prediction: The Devils meet the Rangers in the first round. Lemaire has Zach shadow Gaborik. The Rangers score six goals in the five-game series. Unfortunately, the Devils only score two.

IPBtron 3001_05

Another Ookie, hard at work at the helm of IPBtron 3001.05, which exists to be the sexy face of the IPBtron 3000 empire.

In other words, Gentle Reader, the more things change in New Jersey, the more they stay the same. We hope the Devils prove us wrong, though. About the post-Olympic stuff. We like the December/January part.

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With training camp starting this week, it seems as good a time as any to take a look at how the team shapes up heading into this season. Instead of doing an all-around season preview, we’ve decided to take the hard-hitting magnifying glass of IPB’s investigative team to each individual player listed on the Devils current roster (excluding salary dump KHL defector Vish-dog) to determine which players are trending up from last season, and which are trending down.

Forwards

David Clarkson: Trending… Up, But Like A Rollercoaster. Okay, we’re kind of troubled by Clarkson, because we’re not quite sure what year he’s in, so we’re not positive he’s staring down the barrel of a sophomore slump. And after looking at the recent history of Devils rookies (it’s a brief history), it seems the guys who get a few games in during the season before their official rookie years have half-year slumps. See: Oduya, Johnny. So our mad trendspotting skillz have us calling a spectacularly crappy first half, and then a reaffirmation of the Devils-fanbase-wide crush on Clarkson when he comes back with a vengeance, on an unholy tear not unlike Oduya’s last year. It’ll be kickstarted by a coast-to-coast wraparound goal against the Hurricanes. Mark our words. (Seriously, the Devils play the Canes on January 6. You can mark it on your calendar in pen: Clarkson will get the goal of the year in that game.)

Patrik Elias: Trending… Down. We’re kind of torn on this. One of us thinks Patty’s going to have a bounce-back year, “now that Sutter isn’t fucking with him.” The other of us says, “Sutter wasn’t fucking with him.” “What about the captain thing?” the first one asks. “That was long over while Patty was still sucking,” says the other. An uneasy silence ensues. We’re not in agreement until the one arguing that he’s trending down points out, “He was godawful all last year and we spent the whole season hating on Oduya and then Gio, totally ignoring Patty. He’s going to test to see how long that can last.” Yeah, he’s trending down.

Brian Gionta: Trending… Up. Two words: contract year. Two more words: we’ve spent the last year begging for him to be traded and there’s nothing the Devils love more than making us look like idiots. Hey! That was more than two words! See, Devils? We’re perfectly capable of making ourselves look like idiots, thank you very much. Gio, this means you don’t have to go back to your habit of making us all do spit-takes when we’re reminded that you once scored forty-eight goals in a single season. A single contract year season. We rest our case.

Bobby Holik: Trending… To Lowell, if we’re lucky. We considered issuing a ban on all things Blobby Holik, but then we realized that the ONLY silver lining to this dog of a free agent signing is that it will give us a worthy subject for our relentless negativity. We’re kind of a match made in heaven, Blobby Holik and us, considering he openly hates Devils fans as much as we hate him. It should be fun. (And while we understand the idea that having a guy on the team who can win a faceoff is a good thing, there’s a serious flaw in the logic when that guy is Holik. Because how does it help the Devils if they’re in a “must win the faceoff” situation, and after winning the faceoff, they find themselves with Bobby Holik on the ice?) Pookie declared at one point this summer that if Holik gets more than eight minutes a night she’ll call for Sutter’s head on a plate; we’re going to go out on a limb and start firing up our “Calling For Sutter’s Head On A Plate” tag now, just to save ourselves the time.

Jamie Langenbrunner: Trending… Wherever Travis Can Take Him. We stand by our belief that Langer’s career goal-scoring year two seasons ago was fueled entirely by skating with Travis before Travis forgot how to play hockey. Not that we want them to skate together again, necessarily, but it’s likely a totally spiritual thing. Oh, and really, we can’t expect much from Langer until he gets out from under the weight of the C — we’d call for it to be given to Madden this season (because what’s a post-Stevens Devils season without wonky captaincy issues?), but frankly, we’re wondering if maybe Niedermayer didn’t curse it. Or, more likely, Rafalski, during those random preseason games when he got to wear it.

John Madden: Trending… The Sky’s The Limit. We all saw what a man possessed Madden was during his “Let me prove to the new coach what a complete moron he is for breaking me and Pando up, for suggesting we’re not the heart and soul of our PK, and for not giving me the C” season. Yeah, and now he’s in a contract year. One of our favorite things to laugh at Madden about is his prediction many years ago that he’d be a 40-goal scorer. You know what? We’re penciling him in for that now. (But in invisible pencil. Like those white ones that come with a big set of colored pencils, the ones you wonder what the point is, because we never write with them on dark colored paper.)

Jay Pandolfo: Trending… We Daren’t Say It. We put a lot of stock in the power of contract years. Even with Pando. So we’re not expecting the kind of production he was putting up before his season-derailing shifted-bits injury. Even if his bits have shifted back into a contented, healthy place, we see him going back to being normal old Pando. And that’s more than good enough for us, considering he was our emperor-god when he wasn’t a goal-scoring machine, but still. It is, technically speaking, a downward trend. A lovable, Pando-riffic downward trend, though.

Zach Parise: Trending… Up-ish. Every year Zach has exceeded his prior year’s points total: 32 points, 62 points, 65 points. So look for Zach to get 66 points (33 goals and 33 assists, you heard it here first) and then stop short. Yeah, that’s right, we’re going against the grain here and saying Zach is not going to get 100 points. Sad, but true. Still, with the linemate upgrade from Travis to Rolston, Zach is going to have a serious opportunity to counteract some of our relentless negativity as he transitions from “future of the team” to “present of the team”. Of course, we already know how Zach handles the present, and it ain’t pretty. *Clank!*

Egg Pelley: Trending… Her?

Brian Rolston: Trending… We Don’t Care. We don’t care because he was a big-name UFA who chose to return to NJ. That’s all we need to love the guy. Also, he didn’t have any statbits as a Devil last year; how can he do worse? As for that whole, “he’ll score 30 goals” thing, meh. He’s a Devil. We’ll pencil him in for a more sensible 12-15. 12-15 goals other teams can’t have because he wanted to return to Jersey.

Mike Rupp: Trending… Down. There’s quite a bit of competition for the fourth line spots and we’re afraid the lovable, scampish folk-hero inventor of the Rupp-around is going to be one of the victims of Project: Overstock On Fourth Liners. This makes us endlessly sad because Rupp’s suggestion box was one of the highlights of last season for us. Who else on the team would do that? Zubrus? He’s too unassuming. Pelley? He’s too short; the suggestion box is a giant’s job! Holik? He’s more likely to put boxes in everyone else’s stalls to stuff with suggestions on how to improve.

Travis Zajac: Trending… Up. Travis can’t possibly trend down after last season. His statistical season went beyond a cute-sounding Sophomore Slump — it was like a Post-Rookie-Year Post-Apocalyptic-Wasteland. His spiritual season was even worse, though. Think about it. The highlight of his season was getting bit by Darien Hatcher. There is literally nowhere to go but up. Unless he’s going to get bit by someone worse. Someone like… Bobby Holik. Oh man. Let’s move on before we consider the possibilities of how much worse Travis can be.

Dainius Zubrus: Trending… Up. Now that he’s unburdened of the mark of shame he had last season (namely, Bobby Holik’s number), and now that the original Sergei Brylin is gone (but never forgotten, unlike when he was actually on the roster), it’s time for our 6’5″ Brylin to become the all-purpose tool we know he can be. Considering he had a pretty underwhelming season last year but still came out of it looking like one of the few functional forwards on the team, we can only assume things are going to get better for him. Or at least he’ll be more comfortable with the notion that Sutter is never going to ask him to do the same thing twice.

Defensemen

Sheldon Brookbank: Trending… Up. Brookbank’s future looks bright only by virtue of there no longer being nine “NHL caliber” (a questionable title last season) d-men on the team. This means he’s mathematically less likely to be the odd-man out on any given night. Right? Right? Of course, given his proclivity for hitting Patty Elias injuriously with his point shots, he’s probably Sutter’s favorite blueliner, and is thus likely to get top-pairing ice time this season.

Andy Green: Trending… It’s a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma Wrapped in a Puzzle. Andy Greene’s season made Travis’s Sophomore Slump look like Gretzky in his prime. The words “wet”, “hot”, and “mess” come to mind. Maybe having another season defending against NHL-calibre players under his belt will help. Maybe having Tommy Albelin on the bench coaching the d-corps instead of Larry Robinson will be a shot in the arm for him. Maybe not being one of nine d-men will take some pressure off and allow him to be the cheap Rafalski replacement we were all hoping for last July. Or maybe he’ll continue being too small to go to the Super Bowl. Only time will tell.

Paul Martin: Trending… Comfortably But Not Spectacularly Up. Paulie was predicted when he was drafted to be another Niedermayer, and last season he proved the one way that was actually true: he very quietly, with absolutely zero fanfare, rounded into a form that is not at all what anyone really had in mind originally. Now he has to wait for everyone else’s expectations to be reshaped as we all come to terms with what he is, just the way things did with Nieder back in the day. Of course, Nieder then won a few Norrises. Paulie? Is probably not going to match that, as much as PaulieMartinNation thinks he should. No, the best Paulie can probably hope for is Devils fans someday not cringing when they think about the fact that he’s their top defenseman.

Mike Mottau: Trending… Wicked Up. After years of career-minor-league-titude, Applemotherfuckingsauce is starting this season as an established NHL defenseman. That and he’s wicked hot. But more on that in our next post.

Johnny Oduya: Trending… Down. He spent the first half of last season being constitutionally incapable of hanging onto his stick whenever he was faced with a defensive situation, and somehow still finished the season as a +27. There is no way he’s not falling back to earth a little bit next year. He just flew too close to the sun for our liking. But at least he’s not a full-on laughingstock or anything. Anymore.

Bryce Salvador: Trending… Down. Our prediction for Rolston should suggest that we’ll be happy with Bryce “The Iron Boar” Salvador thanks to his decision to re-sign with NJ but… We recognize every team needs a serviceable d-man, but we already have Colin White. Despite his kick-ass nickname (which the Devils players and media are more than welcome to run with), The Iron Boar doesn’t really blow our skirts up. As it were.

Colin White: Trending… Ever Increasingly Invisible. Now that Brylin is gone as the team’s resident Devilishly invisible player, doesn’t Colin White strike you as the newest Devil You Most Quickly Forget?

Goaltenders

Marty Brodeur: Trending… He’s Chasing Records And We All Know What That Means. Considering how Marty’s always struggled as he’s approached milestone wins, we suspect this is going to be a long, painful season. And that’s all we’ll say. Move along, Hockey Gods. There’s nothing to see here.

Kevin Weekes: Trending… Up. If Marty’s tying himself in knots chasing the all-time wins record, Weekes is likely to see more minutes. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding.

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It hardly feels like a year since our last Conference Finals Tale of the Tape, but it’s time to break out IPB’s highly scientific approach to determining who should win. Today we’ll address the Western Conference. You know, that conference we know we sooooo much about. Tune in tomorrow for the Eastern Conference.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Detroit (1) vs. Dallas (5)

Skaters:

We are really well-informed about this series. What can we say? We’re bloggers. That makes us experts. We’ve been paying very close attention to the Stars in the early rounds of the playoffs, and have watched a grand total of maybe 40 minutes of all the Red Wings games so far. But they were a very convincing 40 minutes. If the Stars decide to look at all like the Avalanche did in Game 4 of the second round, it’s going to be a quick and bleak series for them. Apparently, when their opponent is utterly incompetent at the sport of hockey, the Red Wings are really good. But are they as good when their opponent is, like the Stars, not utterly incompetent? Probably. But don’t go trying to burst our bubble of newfound Stars fandom. We love how confident both of these teams look, and the fact is that while we know a lot of the names of the players on both rosters, we wouldn’t be able to pick more than three guys from either team out of a police lineup. Advantage: Red Wings

Goaltending:

This is a head-to-head battle between two guys who’ve long struggled with a terribly unfair, burdensome label — no, we’re not talking about the whole “playoff choker” or “underrated” thing, we’re talking about us thinking they’re douches. As it turns out, we were just projecting our dislike of their teams, when in reality, they’re both adorable in their own unique ways. First up, there’s Marty Turco, who won us over completely with his charming mic’d up turn during last year’s All-Star Game. Who knew he could be so personable? And he blazed a trail by doing in-game play-by-play that made the way for Manny Legace’s star-making hilariousness during this season’s ASG, and Pretty Ricky’s magnificent slip-up when he declared over an open mic that he’d just “fucked up” his hip during the Superskills. On the other side of the coin is Chris Osgood, who, for some inexplicable reason, has prompted us for years to shout, “Yo yo yo! Ozzie in da house!” every time we see him on TV. Seriously, we have no idea why we do this. But look at this picture! He’s too cute for words! Advantage: Push, unless Hasek gets back in net. Then decided advantage Stars

Coaching:

This one’s a no-brainer. Dave Tippet is freakin’ adorable. Bored during the lock-out he took up motorcycle building to pass the time! Following the 8th longest game in NHL history he wrote on the dressing room white-board that every player had given “195%”! We’re fairly certain he spends his weekends volunteering at the animal shelter, delivering food to shut-ins, and planting flowers in downtrodden neighborhoods. Mike Babcock, on the other hand, is a monster. He once said IPB’s beloved Mike Commodore “never should have been drafted”. He held hockey fans everywhere hostage in 2003 with his overuse of the word “greasy”. We’d be surprised if he doesn’t spend his weekends releasing kittens into the wild to repopulate feral cat colonies, boxing in Meals on Wheels trucks, and planting invasive weeds on every corner. Advantage: Stars

Uniforms:

As Devils fans we have to salute the Red Wings for making as few changes to their uniform as was possible for this season of the Sexy Slimfit Look. The winged wheel is hands-down one of the greatest logos in all of sports, maybe even of all logo-dom. That logo alone more than makes up for the fact that the Wings wear red pants, which is almost always a terrible idea. The Stars, meanwhile, took the makeover opportunity and ran with it, completely revamping their look. Since the previous look included the mooterus and those dopey star ponchos, it should leave us without complaint. But… We’re just not sure about the “Dallas” baseball-style design. It’s a little too sparse for us. We’re not “sparse” people. Advantage: Red Wings

Mascots:

While both teams’ media guides might tell you they don’t actually have mascots, that’s a load of bunk. The only reason the Stars don’t have an official mascot is because they promoted him to co-GM after firing Doug Armstrong. And we’re not talking about Les Jackson! ZING! Meanwhile, Detroit acts like they’re all “too Original Six” for a mascot, but if Toronto, Montreal, Boston and Chicago can have them, then really all you’re doing by refusing to have a giant plush dude wearing team colors and running around your arena is aligning yourself with the Rangers. The Wings seem to be hedging their bets by having that insipid purple polystyrene octopus that descends from the rafters, a half-measure that fails worse than not trying at all. So the tale of the tape for the mascots in this series come down to the unofficial mascots Brett Hull and Octopussy — Advantage: Stars

Players We Love, In Spite Of Ourselves:

Remember how we mentioned earlier that we don’t really know anything about these teams? Yeah. That means we don’t know which guys we shouldn’t like. There’s really no “in spite of ourselves” when we say we’ve fallen in playoff love with Brenden Morrow, is there? Schnookie has strangely set her playoff goggles on Tomas Holmstrom, but really, that’s not really very “in spite of ourselves” either. We’re not sure if the problem is us, or if it’s that neither one of these teams is particularly ugsome if you don’t play in the Western Conference. Advantage: Push

Players Who Annoy The Living Crap Out Of Us:

Relevance is no issue here, as in one corner we have Darren McCarty, washed-up ex-grinder, and in the other we have Willa Ford, who we think was on some network reality show we don’t watch (if it ain’t ANTM, it’s a waste of airtime). Darren McCarty was the cherry on the sundae of the Wings-‘Lanche Turn The Clock Back To 1996 fiasco this post-season. ’96 was the first playoffs we watched as truly crazed hockey fans, but even then, when we were jumping on any and every bandwagon we could, we hated McCarty. Willa Ford reminds us why we’re glad we don’t care about celebrity gossip anymore. Advantage: Stars

Playoff History Against New Jersey:

Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Advantage: Push

City Claims To Fame:

In 2003 we packed up trusty Pando the Prius and headed out from Arizona to New Jersey. The best part of the drive, by far, went through North Texas. North Texas? Is stunningly beautiful. (The 80 mph speed limit is also beautiful.) The worst part of the drive, by far, went through Dallas. Our driving directions from AAA involved merging into the far left lane of an 8,000-lane highway and then taking an off-ramp on the right-hand side of the highway 10 feet later. We still have the white knuckles to show for it. After a long day of being in the car and after braving and barely surviving the famous Death Merge, we arrived at our hotel, desperate for room service. Gentle Reader, there was no room service. We dragged our sorry asses to the front desk and begged for directions to the foodstuffs that would require the least amount of driving on our parts. The concierge directed us to the one place that didn’t require getting back on the highway — some chain restaurant industrial park. Whatevs, said we, as long as there’s no death merge. In place of a death merge we got a series of shadowier and shadowier back service roads littered with billboards for strip clubs and gun shows. Now when we think of Dallas we think of the Famed Stripper-Gun-Show District. Good times, good times. The only time we’ve been to Detroit, we sat on the tarmac at the Detroit airport in a non-deplaning layover while waiting to fly to Vancouver for the ’98 All-Star Game. Advantage: Detroit

Conclusion:

This one’s almost too close to call, Gentle Reader. At first glance, it looks like a 3-3 tie, but if Hasek gets in net, the Stars eke out the win in the Tale of the Tape.

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As many of you already know (and as some of you witnessed in person), Drew “Staffy” Stafford and Ryan “Crunchy” Miller made a very special appearance last night with Ronan Tynan and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Now, we have an in with the BPO, in the person of Katebits, and over a month ago (November 26, to be exact), we exchanged a series of emails with her in which we anticipated what was bound to be the single greatest moment in BPO history. Here, Gentle Reader, is how we called it:

SCHNOOKIE: You’ll be happy to know, by the way, that we are being inundated by searches for Staffy and Crunchy and what instruments they play. It seems the entire hockey blogosphere is super-excited for the New Year’s Eve Gala and their mad musical skillz.

KATEBITS: I know! It’s so hilarious how people are clamoring for information about this concert! For some reason I’m envisioning Crunchy and Staffy playing various percussion instruments. Can’t you see Crunchy earnestly holding a triangle, waiting for his cue? And Staffy, looking impish and naughty poised over a bass drum?

SCHNOOKIE: Crunchy would so be the world’s most earnest and serious guest triangle player. He’s probably practicing as we speak, in his dank, windowless room. Staffy can’t wait to stomp that big drum.

POOKIE: Au contraire, Staffy can’t wait to stomp that harp.

KATEBITS: One of my weirdest on-stage daydreams has always been imagining myself standing up during a particularly boring/stifling slow concert and flipping over a marimba. Or even better, pushing the grand piano off the edge of the stage. I’ve never thought too much about the harp as a good target for concert-ending disruption. Staffy is so smart! Attacking a harp would be very dramamtic.

SCHNOOKIE: I will not be satisfied unless Staffy destroys all three instruments. First the grand piano over the edge of the stage, for maximum drama and racket. Then, in the stunned silence, the marimba. And, in the midst of the tinkling of the marimba pieces skittering across the stage, he’ll shout “Staffy stomp harp!” and then follow through. It’s going to be awesome. And once the cacophony of breaking instruments falls silent, and the audience is still in a stunned, motionless haze, Crunchy will very earnestly hit his cue and DING! his triangle.

Well, let it be stated for the record, we are not satisfied. None of these things happened. Staffy and Crunchy, you’ve let us down. Next time, gentlemen, we expect better.

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