Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Talk About Comeback Kids!

Down 3-0, The Windsor Spitfires became only the third team in history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. Windsor defeated The Kitchener Rangers to move on to face the Barrie Colts in the OHL Final for the Championship and the right to represent the OHL at the 2010 Memorial Cup. That’s right, Memorial Cup NOT Mem.Cup.

Their improbable comeback is topped only by last year’s improbable run where they became the first team to capture the Memorial Cup after losing the first two games and needing to go through the tiebreaker. The Spitfires are my adopted Western Conference team as I feel the need to like the 67’s but that is primarily a geographic thing. The Spitfires have just a wealth of notable named players that makes the team easy to follow. This is either as a result of being a good prospect or as a by-product of the World Juniors Tournament. When you can float players out like possible top draft pick Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis (Nash), Adam Henrique (NJ), Greg Neimez (CGY), Cam Fowler Top 5 potential, Zack Kassian (Buf), Eric Wellwood (Phi) Scott Timmins (Fla) and Dale Mitchell (Tor) it makes it surprising that they fell down 0-3 but also explains how they managed to fight back to take the series.

When the Spitfires match up versus the Colts it is going to be a good series, these are both highly rated and highly skilled teams. It is a shame that these teams can’t both move on. With the host being from the WHL they get the benefit of the extra team. It would be a good story to have Windsor move on to defend their title but after such an emotional comeback it will be interesting to see how they respond in the OHL Finals.

If your teams happens to be eliminated in the NHL, maybe have a look into this series and the other CHL games on the road to the Memorial Cup.

Barrie Colts vs. Windsor Spitfires:
Game 1 – Tuesday April 27 at 7:35 pm – Windsor at Barrie
Game 2 – Thursday April 29 at 7:35 pm – Windsor at Barrie
Game 3 – Sunday May 2 at 4:05 pm – Barrie at Windsor
Game 4 – Tuesday May 4 at 7:05 pm – Barrie at Windsor
Game 5 – Thursday May 6 at 7:35 pm – Windsor at Barrie*
Game 6 – Saturday May 8 at 7:05 pm – Barrie at Windsor*
Game 7 – Monday May 10 at 7:35 pm – Windsor at Barrie*

Monday, April 26, 2010

The View From The Top

So after local boy Matt Carkner scored the winning goal in game 5 versus the Penguins and Pascall LeClaire decided to be a wall and become a quality goaltender helped make my decision to get a ticket for game 6 back in Ottawa. As soon as the puck crossed the line I was on the computer and attempting to connect to capital tickets. After a few slow periods I managed to get through and after a little panic of forgetting my log in information I managed to get in and secure a seat. That seat was in the Home end in the upper 300’s. Upper being an understatement. It was the last row before standing room but it was one of the best worst seats in the house. It was like being on an isle because I was right beside a pillar and there was an opening from the ledge behind so I only had 1 person to the right and open space to the left so that was a bonus.

I was expecting for there to be a lot of people out early at the Red Zone since it was such a nice day and it was a Saturday playoff game so I figured that I should go early and get situated in the lot and avoid traffic as best I could. So I decided that being in Kanata I couldn’t not get my pre-game meal at Arby’s so with a quick detour I procured a succulent Med Roast Beef Combo including beverage and well seasoned Curly Fries. With that in had I made my way to Scotiabank Place or a mini tailgate with a delicious Arby Sandwich!

Once that was done and listened to the pregame for a bit I made my way to the festivities. Basically I just took it all In but didn’t get too involved as most of the stuff were for the kids and the tent, was not a option as time did not permit it also it was pretty full by that point. (I took a few pics with the cell phone which I will try to post later on). Then entered the building for what I hoped was a successful and entertaining game.

Got to the seat and was pleased to find a nice white Playoff Rally towel on the back of my chair (so it was a good thing that I decided to spring for a seat and not standing room). Little did I know at the time that it would be more for dabbing the eyes after the game rather then waving it in celebration.

Anyone who say the game knows that it started out great and the team came out strong, looked good and looked poised to take the game. Only problem with that is that after a 3-0 lead they seemed to take their foot off the gas and things took a turn for the worse. 1 went in, then another, now we are only up 1 and you could see the ice beginning to slope and the Penguins were gaining momentum and began to out shoot the Sens and Ottawa looked to go into a prevent defence. If we have learned anything from a prevent defence is that all it does is prevent a team from winning. Then the 3rd goal went in late in the third and you could feel that the ceiling was starting to cave in.

At this point things got rough in section 328- There are in fact something worse then French Montreal Canadian fans... I know I wouldn’t have believed it either had I not seen it with my own eyes and heard it for myself. Turns out that French Pittsburgh Penguins fans with Canadian Tallboys are worse. It is one thing to cheer, it is another to be obnoxious little SOB’s. I hate to use stereotypes but these were your typical greasy looking scruffy faced punks that looked like they should be out drinking on the farm, not at a hockey game. Just when I was able to come to grips with that and figured if that was the worse we were doing ok... then it happened, the French guys were topped by a surprising source... This was none other then "Ridiculous Hyper Old Lady Who Thinks She Knows Hockey" This lady was not only opinionated but wrong. The high pitch Squeal did nothing to help her case either. Yelling Shoot when they don’t have the puck is not helpful. Telling them to stop hitting is not the answer to playing aggressive. How she managed from even further up then I was to be so sure that a goal was scored during the second lengthy review was amazing, as she felt the need to make a call on her phone to voice he displeasure to one of her bitty old friends. Worst of all was the yelling/screeching of "SHIT, SHIT, SHIT" every time the Penguins touched the puck like she had a case of Tourette’s syndrome. It was almost as bad as sitting in front of a kid questioning everything at a Globetrotters show. It almost came to the point where I was felt forced to turn around and let her know how classy a lady she was. I don’t know if it was too much wine or not enough but It was trying on the nerves for sure.

As soon as the overtime goal went in was quiet and people began to file out. It wasn’t a bitter or bitchy crowd, just somber. The Sens were the underdogs going in and despite 3 major injuries stood tall versus the defending champs. All in all they played hard and left little on the table, fans seemed to be more forgiving this time around, maybe it was because they missed the playoffs last year and it was good to be back but also the team showed progress and fought strong. Hopefully going forward they can use this to continue to improve.

The final saving grace was that I shot out of the parking lot in record time. It was well timed and well maneuvered and I was in line and out in 4 minutes, a far cry from 1/2 hour, probably a benefit to arriving early.

On a side note the only thing harder to watching you team get eliminated from the first round in 6 games is watching your newly adopted Favorite(s) Western Conference team The Los Angeles Kings also get eliminated in 6 games. Hopefully going forward they can use this to continue to improve as well...but I do loves me some Doughty

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kings In Their Castle

With the Senators looking like they are on their way out of the playoffs and the St. Louis Blues deciding to start to play well after they had already been all but eliminated from the playoffs it is nice to see those Kings in LA at least putting up a fight versus the Vancouver Canucks. They are currently 2 games a piece but there are lots of hockey left to be played between these two teams. The Kings Power Play is keeping the team in the games but unfortunately scoring at 5 on 5 is proving to be a difficult task for this team with not a whole lot of natural goal scoring. I usually root for the Canadian teams to succeed during the run for the Cup but since I have adopted both the St. Louis Blues and the LA Kings as my Western favorite teams I have to put all them cheering behind the somewhat surprising Kings. Sure it is early and I will be very difficult for them to get past Vancouver but after the struggles they had finishing out the season and the difficulty to score 5 on 5 it is nice to see them doing so well.

Watching games at the Staples Center in LA is a nice treat. The fans may not be for lack of a better term knowledgeable as the die hard Canadian fans but give them a winner or something to cheer for and they are just as loud and passionate as any building in the league. After being starved for playoff hockey during a lengthy rebuilding period they have made it back to the post season, not only with a decent team but also an organization with depth. A rare thing for the Kings. There is a pipeline of young players and prospects at both the AHL and junior level and hopefully they will have a successful draft this year to further solidify the coffers. The youth may prove to be both cap busters for value and talent but also may be used as leverage to acquire some legitimate scoring threats in the top 2 lines. They do have a bit of flexibility in terms of the cap as well so hopefully they use that space wisely in the off season and continue to get stronger deeper and better.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It’s A Walk Off!!

Not since Zoolander have I seen a walkoff like this! This is not only terrific and cocky because it was done by my Braves but because it was new, it was inspired and it was just plain awesome!! On Tuesday night the Braves center fielder Nate McLouth completed the Braves’ comeback with a walk-off blast in the 10th inning. Maybe he should have listed to his friend Billy Zaine, he’s a cool dude. Winning a game for your team is usually a great thing and a great feeling but this time the cherry on the top of this sundae is the celebration that happened in its wake. As it turned out it was more of a prank, a baseball version of the ding dong ditch and not the head-pounding and back-slapping by teammates. I choose to view it as a cocky move over a rival then a joke on a teammate. In any event it is funny.

Traditionally a team will rush the plate after a blast like that and just pile on the guy when he crossed the plate. No this time! As soon as that ball cleared the wall the Braves dugout emptied down the tunnel like someone pulled the fire alarm, but this was no drill, this was the real thing. McLouth rounded the bases and when he reached the plate he was not greeted by raving teammates or even the catcher, just the home plate umpire. After touching the plate he went directly to the dugout and straight down the tunnel to where there, your of the eyes of the fans and the Phillies celebrated and congratulated him there.

Cocky? YES. Arrogant? YES! Showing up the pitcher and the opposing team? YES! Epic? YES. That is like shaking hands with the team that you just beat in the middle of the diamond and saying "Thanks for coming out" the "How’s you momma? We went out" to the pitcher.
Granted, he or someone else on the team is likely to get dinged in the next game, but let me tell you it is worth it...to execute a move like that is a bold move by both him and the team. Clearly there was a plan in place by the team should such a situation arise so the fact that it was planned makes it even better that they decided to do this. For it to happen to the Phillies is just a double bonus

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quality Zebra's Becoming Extinct?

With the first round of playoffs well in hand it is just great for the fans. There are a handful of games on every night. You can pick the game/teams that you want to see or you can be the flipper, where you go back and forth between all or some on any given night. With the games being so well contested you are almost assured of getting to see a decently entertaining game whether you like the outcome or not is a matter of personal preference.

With every series being available and seeing most of the teams play one thing is becoming even more and more evident. The refereeing is very poor. It is poor in terms of quality, consistency and the ability to control the game. After watching the Sens game last night I am even more convinced. Now, it has been bad in the Montreal series as well and only marginally better in any of the other series but on the whole... not good. If there is one thing players coaches and fans want is consistency. You can adjust to a tightly called game and you can adjust to a game with little or no calls but it is the grey areas when you don’t know from shift to shift what will be called and what is going to be overlooked. It hamstrings the players from playing aggressive and takes away from the flow of the game. It is frustrating for all involved.

There are some veteran referees that are retiring this year and that is not a good thing. When they moved to the two referee system they had to double the referees that were working in the league and the curve has proved to be steeper then maybe the league would have thought or hoped. A guy like Kerry Frasier may not be well liked but you knew what you were going to get and that goes a long way. When the talent pool is already shallow and not good and you are taking out some of the veterans you are just watering it down even more with rookies. That is not a recipe for success. I fear that it is going to get worse before it gets better.

I don’t know how they are going to fix this when they can’t even decide what some penalty’s are. In the referee’s defence; What is a head shot?? If the league doesn’t know how can the referees? What is a kicked in goal? There is no way that you can direct a puck into the net with your skate and have it not called a direct kicking motion. In slow motion every movement of the leg looks like it is a kick,,, at full speed it is usually just a matter of inches. If a player can make the puck go into the net with your foot I say count it.. provided that the blade stays on the ice, the hinge of that knee can not be the determining factor. Lifting the blade of the skate will need to be looked at like a batter in baseball on a check swing, there can be motion but the wrist has to break and/or the barrel to cross the plate. This is clearly only an argument during video replay because as we have seen the refs on the ice are already missing enough calls to have to add this into the mix.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Braves At A Glance

2010 marks the end of an era for the Atlanta Braves. After nearly 2 decades this will be the last Spring Training that will be run by manager Bobby Cox. Cox is set to finish out the year and then retire as manager of the Braves. He leaves a legacy of excellence that will be difficult for the next person in line for sure. Tough to follow in a legends footsteps. The Brave are not regarded to win the East this year (which would have been a fitting send off for the man who guided the Braves to 14 straight division titles). The Phillies have the team to beat in the East but the Braves may just be dark horse for maybe a Wild Card. If the Phillies sputter maybe they can make a run. The Braves still have a decent rotation even after trading Javier Vasquez provided everyone stays healthy. The Braves are looking to throw out; J. Jurrjens, D. Lowe, T. Hanson, T. Hudson and K. Kawakami. Not a bad top 5, again only if they manage to hold up health wise.

For the first time in a while the lineup actually looks like it may be able to help out the pitchers with some run support every now and again. The addition of Milkey Cabrera and Troy Glaus are question marks but could provide to be nice surprises should they pan out. It will be interesting to see how long it will take for rookie sensation Jason Heyward to take over right field from Matt Diaz and he moves over to split time with Milkey in left. Heywood has been the talk of Spring Training throughout the league and in the media. I gotta say it is nice to have the number one prospect in baseball coming through the Braves system. Heyward was named the Minor League Player of the Year both by Baseball America and USA Today. This is a guy who seemingly has all the tools, offence - defence - and a head on his shoulders. This spring Heyward hit two notable batting practice home runs that garnered much attention. One hit and damaged a Coca-Cola truck in the parking lot, and another broke the sunroof of Atlanta Braves’ assistant GM Bruce Manno’s car in the same lot. People are having to move their cars from lots just to be safe. That is the kind of power that has been missing for years with the Braves. Between he and Glaus could help solve that.

Up the middle they look to have good defence with solid bats between Escobar, Prado, and Infante. If Brian McCann keeps up to his all star play they should be good behind the plate and if the table-setter Chipper can bounce back from a tough year last season he could once again be the straw that stirs the drink. The Future Hall of Fame member, Jones has said that if he can’t play at the level he is comfortable with he will retire. So selfishly I want my favorite player to keep playing so I can continue to watch him, and if he stays then he is producing and that can only help the team score some runs.

There would be nao better retirement gift for Bobby Cox then another trip to the playoffs. Well Maybe a World Series but even rose coloured glasses can’t make me see that.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What a Game / Games!!!

Now that was a game! It had everything you could want. Drama, intrigue, great defence and extra time!! As a Canadian during playoff time you'd think I was talking about the Montreal Canadians playoff game versus the Capitals....I am not. Although apparently that game was interesting and did go to OT ending on a quick strike goal by the Caps. I slept through that game and by all accounts am just as pleased that I did. I Will always have a soft spot for the Habs, they were my favorite team as a kid but now they have slid down my list. For the most part it is because of their fans and not the team. The majority of fans are just two faced which makes them insufferable. They will bash their own players to cover themselves when the team is bad then at the first sign of a decent of significant play that same player is elevated to legend status. Bash, Bash, Cheer, Bash, Cheer, Cheer. you jut want to slap the poutine from their mouths. It is worse when they actually win and they think that a minor victory means plan the parade! And since we are here they can take their soccer song and stuff that in a sack...it is annoying and should stay where it belongs..on the pitch. Just because the players fall down easier then an English Premiere League player doesn't make it right. If you are going to sing Ole Ole at least learn when to use it. Nothing better then the fans singing that song and having them shut right up after a comeback from the other team.

Wow, that was not where I was planning on going with this post, kinda went off on a tangent.
The game i was referring to was the baseball game with the Mets and the Cardinals. I only saw 4 innings of it and by all accounts that was all I needed to see. In that short time I saw an overthrow and a throw out, hit batter, a caught stealing, an intentional walk, 3 sick defensive plays, 2 position players pitch 3 innings for the Cards and 3 runs. Not bad since I saw it all after 10pm...THE GAME STARTED AT 3:10 pm - the length of the game was 6 HOURS and 53 MINUTES and ended in the 20th inning it was 0-0 through 18 innings and that is Awesome! That is 2 full games and 2 extra innings It went right through prime time for FOX. There must be some bitter people who missed Cops and America's Most Wanted.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Bad

Thanks to all the loyal lookers on my blog. I have been a little negligent with updates and takes. It is especially bad now that the playoffs in hockey are now on as well. I will work to make a greater effort to keep getting some updates up and out!

My only excuse right now, in honour of the playoffs is to say that I have been sick the last week and not a lot of energy to churn out the quality that you are accustom to! So lets chalk that up to an Upper Body Injury and list me as Day to Day. I will get back to the goods as soon as possible.

In the mean time lets Cheer on the Sens and the Los Angeles Kings in their respective playoff series'

Thanks and keep checking back!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Quick Hits

The Toronto Raptors season is hanging on by a thread as they are a mere .5 game above the Bulls for the 8th and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The other night, All Star and the teams best player Chris Bosh suffered a broken bone in his face. Isn’t it just fitting that a shattered grill could also could shatter Toronto’s playoffs dreams. To make matters worse for the Raps’ their version of the Ottawa Senators enigma Alexi Kovalev - Hedo Turkoglu- suffered a nasal contusion in a loss to Boston the next night. The season seems to be in the balance with only a handful of games remaining and a once sure playoff birth hanging precariously in the balance.

Tiger Woods will make his long awaited return to the ranks of professional golf in this weeks Major, The Masters. The way I am looking at it the only story here is how will he manage a difficult and newly changed course layout after being away from the game for so long. What rust will he have and will he be able to "flip the switch and jump right back to being the most dominant player of all time. There is sure to be rust in terms of playing with the pressure of a tournament but the advantage to golf is that unlike other sports you play head to head vs the course and not other players. You can only affect how you play not anyone else in the field. Sure there are psychological advantages just in terms of intimidation of how good he is and the gallery that will be following him but he has put a lot of time in on the range and practice rounds so he should be ready. He always seemed pretty focused when he was living a huge lie, just imagine how much better he could be when he can actually enjoy himself. As long as his transgressions and lies aren’t the source of his focus like it was Samson’s hair he should be fine. I just hope the weekend is about the golf and not an extended version of the Insider or TMZ.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Champs Are Back- UConn women stay perfect

The WNBA may be a bit of a joke/novelty. It is difficult to watch even without the comparison to the men game but that is not the case as it relates to NCAA Woman’s basketball. OK, let me clarify that; the UCONN Huskies Woman’s Basketball Team. They are currently on a streak that ranks about on the same level as the UCLA John Wooden teams of the 70’s. UCONN managed to pull out a 53-47 victory last night versus Stanford to give the Huskies their 78th straight victory and an NCAA Championship at the same time. That is a LONG winning streak. I am sure that there was some worried people in the house last night as they were in tough versus Stanford but still they managed to eak it out.

UCONN coach Geno Auriemma has managed to put together a program that is just consistently dominating and just seems to be able to roll over players and stay at the top year in and year out. He has managed to make UCONN the destination for top level recruits to go. The UCONN team has lost only 2 games in the past 3 seasons. Not too shabby. Regardless of your views about basketball or woman’s sports in general you have to give credit where credit is due and these ladies deserve all the accolades that they get. Led by their coach, they have been lights out and look to add to the 78 game streak next season.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Certainly, Duke is Duke...

This time the Butler didn’t do it! Itwas the little Devils from Duke that have once again climbed to the top of the Mountain, but it wasn’t without a lot of drama. It came down to the wire and down to the last 3.6 seconds and a Hail Mary half court shot that just rimmed out and was mere inches from rattling in and taking over the video of "The Shot" that CBS would play every March of Christian Laettner taking that in bound pass from Grant Hill in the 1992 NCAA Tournament vs Kentucky.

The National Championship game was one of the best finals that has been played in recent memory. Not only was it a close game but it was also a well played game. There was offence, defence and grit. If you look at the game from just a seedings point of view this was a mismatch but Butler came into the game with a win streak in the high 20’s and were the hottest team in the nation..Butler. The coach looked younger then half the players on his team, he makes a respectable $400,000 a year but put up vs Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s $4.4 Million there is a slight discrepancy. In that same light Duke spends $400k per player on the basketball team, Butler spends $400k for their entire team. I think coach may be in for a bit of a raise in the very near future. The good thing for Butler going as far as they did is all the good coaching vacancy’s are filled so they shouldn’t have to worry about loosing theirs...at least this season. I am guessing a 33 year old who just took a "Small" school to the finals would and will be in high demand.

Kyle Singler was the difference in the game offensively and it was the contributions that Zoubek gave as the big man in the middle for Duke that clogged things up and changed the game in Duke’s favour. What Butler has going for it is that they can return a majority of their team and if Hayward stays they may be even better next year. A scary thought even if the tournament expands to the proposed 96 teams next season.

I guess that there now has to be a question to the average fan: What will you remember the national title game for? Duke winning their 4th title or Butler losing?

Either way this was one of the best tournaments in recent memory. It is always great but this one seemed to be a bit of a topper. This is why it is the greatest self contained tournament/sporting event.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Opening Day - PLAY BALL!!

After last nights comeback win by the Boston Red Sox over the Evil Empire aka The New York Yankees in the Play-in game they have now a stranglehold of the American League East. All the other teams are in the rear view mirror. All the other teams in the league are all on even footing, at least in terms of their record. Projections and reality might differ but this is the time of the season that just about all is square and everyone still has a shot...yes even the Pirates and Jays.

After another Spring Training has come and gone and another off season of free agents and trades have been completed. It is time to see what all teams have done to make themselves better and be contenders come September and October. It is always fun at this time to see who comes out hot, who is the sleeper guy nobody thought would be as good as he is and what new rookie or prospect is going to break through and become the next big one. (As a Braves fan I hope Jason Heyward is that guy).

With last nights first pitch and today’s matinee games we can now officially consider it to be spring and sunny summer days at the ballpark are only a few months away!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

On the 'Heels

The Tar Heels are looking to cut down the nets for a second straight season as winners of the post season tournament. Unfortunately for them this one is not the one that they want, this year they are in the finals for the NIT tournament (the dirty red headed stepchild of the NCAA post season). Last year they won the National Championship but for the most part the team either graduated or moved to the next level, leaving the team more "green" then baby blue.

Thursday night North Carolina will face off versus the Dayton Flyers in the finals of the NIT. Dayton reached the finals after taking down Ole Miss for the right to face the Heels. It may sound like a big miss match with the big bad Tar Heels versus the little Flyers but NC has struggled (obviously they are in the NIT) all season but also in this tournament. Just to save face NC needs this win. Should be an interesting game and serves as a good Thursday appetizer for the grand daddy- The Final Four on Saturday.