Sunday, October 31, 2010

Luongo Limericks

Luongo may or may not be laughing here. Limericks will do that.

Four days after Pass it to Bulis suggested it on twitter, we've seen a disgusting lack of Luongo limericks. I guess I'll have to get us started.

Even with man-advantage of two
The Kings were unsure what to do
To pass or to shoot?
The question is moot.
Either way, blocker save: Bobby Lu.

The latest “Quiz” on TSN
Got Luongo laughing again.
“The question’s not, ‘Do
They trade Bobby Lu?’
You trade Schnieds. The question is ‘when?’”

He’s being the best he can be
Robbing shooters with sadistic glee
He’s seeing the puck
And having some luck
“But it must be cause he lost the C.”

How could the Nucks be so clueless?
What could have possessed them to do this?
Lu was coming off a year
To top all his career
And yet they part with the reason: Jan Bulis

PITB Gets Mentioned on After Hours, is Incredibly Famous

Here's a little weekend amusement for you. At 3:42 of the above clip, Scott Oake asks Brendan Morrison a question, but it's not just any question. It's our question, tweeted to Oake earlier in the day. It's kind of neat. Oake leads into already smiling, confident that it will "lighten the mood" (previous questions were about despair, existentialism and why god has forsaken man). Then, not only do they say our full name on-air (take heed, Jeff Klein), they take a moment to chuckle at it. They are undeniably amused. I'm fairly sure what B-Mo mumbles there is "that's pretty good." Yes. It is pretty good.

Now, I don't mean to get ahead of ourselves, but Skeeter, I think, now that we're a pretty big deal (at least as big as Tim from Bellevue), we should quit our dayjobs. This week alone, we've landed twice on Puck Daddy (here and here), once on the New York Times, and finally, in our coup de grace, Hockey Night in Canada. Yes sir, the PITBul is running rampant in the media (btw, first time using that nickname, and I agree it doesn't work). I'm just saying, we've earned the right to be unemployed, at least.

Also: does anyone object to us calling this our first interview? We're going to call this our first interview. If anyone asks, we just interviewed Brendan Morrison.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quotes Taken Out of Context: Halloween Edition

Braydon Coburn licks his lips in hunger.
"It's time to start munching down on the real flesh."
-Braydon Coburn, October 29, 2010

Helping out the CBC: Top 10 NHL vs. TV Moments

I happened upon this fantastic list of NHL vs. TV moments on the CBC website via the wonderful Houses of the Hockey blog from the Score. The title of the list is somewhat inaccurate, seeing as it also contains an NHL vs. film moment in Cam Neely's cameo in "Dumb and Dumber," but since that exception is Cam Neely's cameo in "Dumb and Dumber," I am full of forgiveness.

What I can't forgive is a list about TV on the internet that features no videos. House of the Hockey already pointed out this egregious error and being the gregarious sort that I am, I decided to help out the CBC by doing the legwork they didn't do and tracking down a video for each of their top 10. My success rate is poor.

10. Stanley Cup vs. Guiding Light

What in the world? This is quite possibly the oddest thing I have ever seen.

9. Scotiabank Place vs. 30 Rock
Only the second entry on the list and my search has already come up dry. NBC cares a lot about their controlling their copyrighted material, what can I say? Here's a picture of the nifty moment when Danny sings his Juno-nominated psych-up song for the Ottawa Senators. Just imagine it in your minds and I'm sure it will be hilarious.

8. L.A. Kings vs. Price is Right

Pretty funny. Too bad it's the Drew Carey edition of the Price is Right. The Kings showed up again in the Showcase Showdown.

7. Don Cherry vs. Rick Mercer

Does this even count? This seems almost like nepotism: the CBC website highlighting an appearance of a CBC television personality on a CBC television show. Pretty sketchy, CBC.

6. Vancouver Canucks vs. How I Met Your Mother
Sadly, embedding of this hilarious clip of Robin reenacting the '94 Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Finals has been disabled. On a positive note, clicking on links is really, really easy. And this video of the awesome Mason Raymond namedrop is totally embeddable:

5. New York Rangers vs. David Letterman (vs. Madonna)

Apparently Marc Staal thinks Gordie Howe has a nice looking butt. This won't be the first time Gordie Howe's good looks will show up in this list. What do you know, it's the very next item.

4. Gordie Howe vs. The Simpsons
It is incredibly easy to find episodes of The Simpsons online for free. Finding them legally is another issue altogether. We here at PitB won't espouse the use of illegal methods of viewing television episodes that circumvent copyright laws both because we like to keep a squeaky-clean image and we trust that you can use Google. In lieu of linking to one of the many, many websites that provide Simpsons episodes for free online, here's an odd backwards and Spanish version of the episode "Bart the Lover" from YouTube. Gordie Howe pops up at 13:21 and again in part two. Biggest oddity: everyone is suddenly left-handed.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Conan O'Brien

Number One on this Sportscentre Top 10 list. Since NBC are a bunch of knobs, they consistently remove their content from YouTube. Conan's bit starts at 3:54.

2. Wayne Gretzky vs. Mike Myers
Number 7 on the same Sportscentre Top 10 list as above. Same complaint about NBC as above as well. Gretzky's appearance on Wayne's World comes at 1:50. Bonus appearance by Wayne on SNL at 3:26 of the same video.

1. Cam Neely vs. Dumb and Dumber

Weird Sports, Vol 4: Shin Kicking

Pictured above: dumb people exercising their dumbness. Shin kicking is dumb.

Weird Sports is a semiregular feature I write for the Rec Services blog at Trinity Western University as a favour to a good friend of mine. It will appear on PITB on Thursdays (ish). Let us take a break from our Canuckness and appreciate that Canadians are a hockey-loving people, and not the sort that love dumb sports like this one.

In case I haven’t been clear as to how these weird sports are undeniable evidence that humanity is riding a bullet train straight into a river of pure, liquid stupidity, consider the unique sport of shin kicking. Yes, shin kicking is a very real organized sport in which two opponents square off, grasp shoulders, and then violently kick, or “clog” each other’s shins. I’m not kidding you. That’s all this is.

How do you win a shin kicking match? It’s quite simple. You kick an opponent so hard in the shins that he becomes unable to stand. Then you push him over. Now I’m no pacifist, and I enjoy a good fight (preferably of the hockey variety) as much as the next bloodthirsty psycho, but shin kicking seems, to me, to be unpleasant for all involved parties. Have you ever so much as hit your shin on a coffee table? It is the worst thing in the world. There is no greater pain, save perhaps when a cat bites the flap of skin between the thumb and the forefinger. My innate protectiveness of the shins is a large part of why I don’t play soccer (also a weird sport). Apparently, you’re allowed to wear thick socks–even stuff them with straw–if you’re a tad apprehensive about the idea of having your shins bashed in by someone’s shoe. Not that this helps–contestants are jerks, so they wear heavy boots, though you’ll be pleased to know that steel-toed boots were banned in the 1950s (before which time broken legs were commonplace).

But here’s the incredible thing: shin kicking was invented in 1636, which means it took a very long time for somebody to suggest that steel-toed boots took the fun out of it. Since steel-toed boots were invented around 1899, that means half a century went by before somebody went, “People probably don’t like it when somebody kicks them in the shins with a steel-toed boot FOR SPORT.” I personally feel this realization was unnecessarily delayed.

Yes, shin-kicking, or “Hacking”, as it is often called by those in the know, was invented in the 1630s in England. For some reason, it was often done in the nude. Tales of “hobnailed” or “clogged” competitors gushing blood were commonplace, and the sport was popular among the working class. Unsurprisingly, it was not popular among Puritans, the lovable, America-founding stick-in-the-muds who, as we all know, were against all pointless frivolity (except for witch-hunting).

In this case, they probably had a point. I think we can all agree that the good lord did not design our shins to be “clogged.”

One thing I often wonder about is how somebody trains for a weird sport like this. When it comes to shin kicking, it’s actually quite simple: contestants harden their shins by hitting them with coal hammers. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What possesses a man to sit down in his spare time and hit his shins with a coal hammer? Why, the love of sport, and unfortunately, a lot of people love shin kicking. How many? Too many. More than enough to host a World Shin Kicking Championships, a popular annual event in Gloucester, in the southwest region of England. I imagine that's a gathering of unfiltered stupidity not unlike the locker room of a certain Alberta-based hockey team. Just sayin'.

Has anybody ever been to a shin kicking competition? Is it even half as stupid as it sounds? Because, to me, it sounds twice as stupid as it sounds. Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Atlanta Thrashers and Black Players: A Follow-Up

This photo is here because its colours incidentally match our header--not because Johnny Oduya is in it.

A month ago, I wrote an article discussing the Atlanta Thrashers' acquisition of black players over the past year and a half. I argued that, not only had they built a roster with the largest percentage of black players in the NHL, but they had done so intentionally, with marketing in mind. Needless to say, it was a contentious thesis, and I got some heat.

I expected heat. Race is a topic that makes people oversensitive, accusatory, defensive, unreasonable, and blind, among other adjectives. Many people don't engage it near enough to talk about it reasonably. For example: people don't understand that perfect equality is a little harder to accomplish when one group is trying to claw its way up from years of oppression and the other is reluctantly ceding ground when it wants to. People don't realize that active, blatant racism--segregation, racial epithets, full-on hatred--is still very much alive in some parts of North America, because they don't live there. Some people don't even understand how the racial lines are drawn. Commenters told me the Thrashers' black players aren't even black--they're half-black. "Unfortunately, they have white moms," one said. Please. Good luck telling that to the doorman at a segregated nightclub. I'm only half-black. Why can't I go halfway in?

Furthermore, far too many conversations about race end with one person being labeled a racist. People are so afraid of this dangerous accusation that they avoid the subject altogether. Previous attempts to point out the Thrashers' strategy fizzled in silly accusations of racism simply for noticing, because that's unfortunately how racism works now. Color blindness is the recommended policy, and while it's not a good one (ignorance is never the cure), those who don't adhere to it are often run out of town for seemingly adhering to its presumed opposite: super duper racism to the max. It's a false dichotomy. Is it really so difficult to notice, and then not hate?

Apparently, yes. As such, race is a thorny issue. The Thrashers' story is fascinating and engaging, but it's difficult to discuss without using conversation-ending buzzwords like "exploit," as Thrashers GM Rick Dudley did in denying everything. I felt that mainstream writers and hockey people would have a hard time even broaching the subject unless they were responding to somebody that had already made the necessary explicit claims. Then you're just reacting, not noticing. If it sounds stupid, that's because it is. But consider the title of Jeff Klein's article: Thrashers Don't See Race, Just Opportunity. How did they see opportunity if they didn't see race? The line the race conversation forces people to toe is not only ridiculous, it's outside the realm of common sense.

Sidenote: Klein called us "the blogosphere," but don't feel bad we didn't get named. Feel bad for the other bloggers who thought they were part of the blogosphere. Sorry, guys, it's only us now.

This is the way the Thrashers have to play it. I never claimed that they were getting black players without considering their talent or their fit in the lineup. That would be "ludicrous," another word Dudley used. But, if a player happens to be black, and they just happened to acquire him, and this just happens to happen more frequently than at any other time in the history of the NHL in one of the blackest cities in America and the soulless marketing department just happens to notice, well, that's just happenstance. No racism here. Just a happy coincidence. Right? The nature and prevalence of the colour blindness argument forces the Thrashers to feign ignorance at the same time they're so conveniently savvy to start advertising on urban radio stations and magazines. Are you going to tell me the Thrashers just found out about their Atlantan African-American media? No, they knew about it beforehand, and they also knew they didn't have the personnel to utilize that stream of marketing. Incidentally, they acquired 20% of the black players in the NHL.

I don't mind Dudley's refutation. More than anything, it's unfortunate that what he said was what he had to say. I got heat and I'm nobody. Imagine the heat he'd get. The Thrashers would be finished if somebody inside their camp were to admit that, as seems apparent to me, this plan was hatched shortly after they realized they were going to draft Evander Kane. Their social awareness would be misconstrued as racial "exploitation" at a time when colour blindness is policy, and suddenly, they'd be alienated by the very community they're trying so hard to reach. Rick Dudley did the right thing in denying everything.

But forgive me if I think he just winked.

Other notes: you should really be following us on Twitter; and thanks to Puck Daddy for actually naming us in his piece on the subject.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Avalanche, October 26, 2010

Canucks 4 - 3 Avalanche (OT)

Last night's edition of the Canucks got outworked by the Avalanche, outshot by the Avalanche, and outchanced by the Avalanche. Fortunately, they did not get outscored by the Avalanche, so all other statistical victories are secondary. Yes, the Canucks may not have been the best team on the ice last night, but tell that to the box score. For those who say the Canucks didn't deserve to win, may I remind you that Colorado's goal against average is the highest in the NHL? They gave up four tonight. They didn't deserve to win either. Tonight's game was a competition of who deserved it the least, and the Avalanche, by winning, lost.

Also winners tonight: PITB and our small community of committed readers, as our liveblog--I Am Watching This Game --went off without a hitch, save perhaps the dishonesty of the title. It is very difficult, you see, to simultaneously watch hockey and blog about it. But, whatever. It was fun. There was much humour, Qris showed up, Mason Raynmond was there somehow, and regular readers and commenters popped in to say what's up. We did it, and we'll probably do it again next month. Indeed, we watched this game, albeit perhaps not as intently as we usually do. Here are some things that stood out to us:

  • The story of the night was Roberto Luongo, who made a litany of amazing saves to keep the game in the winnable column for the Canucks. People are semi-ironically throwing around the phrase "goaltending controversy", as though the added pressure of such is what made Luongo play better, but he gave no indication whatsoever that he felt besieged by said pressure. Before the game, he joked, "We decided to give Schneids the night off tonight, so I got the tap on the shoulder and I'm ready to go." After the game, he joked, "I was disappointed. I was getting jacked up for the shootout, so, I'm a little disappointed we won in overtime." And during the game, he performed a side-splittingly filthy rendition of the classic Aristocrats joke, but the play was at the other end of the ice, so nobody noticed.

  • But seriously, though, folks, Luongo was great tonight. 39 saves. Some of the whaaaaaaat variety. The biggest problem is that we expect him to play like this every night. Not only can nobody sustain that, but nobody should have to. The Canucks need to be better in front of him. Schneider hasn't had to work this hard for a win yet.

  • Jeff Tambellini with the Sedins continues to go way beyond simply a viable option. For the second game in a row, they generated a goal, this one the result of some wizardous sedinerie. Tambellini has been excellent with them. It's incredible to me that both Sedins touched that puck, considering it went from Paul Stastny's stick to the back of the net in about one second. But such is the nature of their wizardry; they are truly wizards. Also: the less said about the blatant, missed hooking penalty that led to this goal, the better. In fact, the Sedins are all about hooking. They hook a lot. They are Captain and Assistant Captain Hook, as far as I'm concerned.

  • The Canucks' big three faceoff guys continue to finish above 50% in the circle. Malhotra, Kesler, and Henrik were 61%, 53%, and 57%, respectively. Among Avalanche pivots, only Paul Stastny was above 50% in the circle.

  • I'm interested in this stat: Henrik Sedin was 4-4 in the offensive zone, but only 1-4 in the defensive zone. The Sedins were both -2 on the night. I know I might get lambasted for saying this, but this isn't the first game where they've gotten on the scoresheet and finished in the minuses. Coach needs to address this before it becomes a real issue. I recognize they're a reigning scoring champion and the brother of a reigning scoring champion, but Vigneault might need to remind them they can't skimp on the defensive side of the game.

  • Peter Schaefer has played poorly 5-on-5 over the season; everybody knows it. We've been ragging on him since the season began. Alain Vigneault, an avid reader of PITB according to cherry-picked evidence, is starting to think similarly. Inititally he [wrongly] trusted Schaefer as a second line option, but Schaef's been bumped down to the fourth. Tonight, he only got on the ice for 13 seconds in the third period, coming on for Manny Malhotra during an on-the-fly change in which the Canucks had the Avalanche hemmed in their zone. Schaefer made the most of that time, however, scoring on a beautiful wrist shot.

  • Schaefer's doofy little fist pump after the goal was far less beautiful. What the heck was that? He looks like he just got the right answer on Bible Jeopardy.
  • While we're talking about the fourth line, it's worth noting that Schaefer, Glass, and Desbiens had 49 seconds of ice-time in the third period. This is unacceptable. Clearly, Vigneault doesn't trust them, and it's much, much too early in the campaign for the Canucks to be a three line team. If these guys can't get the job done, Gillis needs to find players who can. Shoring up the fourth line was an offseason priority, and it hasn't happened at all. Granted, when Burrows returns, one of these three guys will lose a roster spot, and hopefully Bolduc comes back, bumping another one out, but still. It's October. We need to be able to roll four lines.

  • Mason Raymond's game-winning goal (above), on a harmless poke, was the hockey equivalent of a Wet Willy. But it's a testament to his skills at taking the puck away, is it not? We mentioned it yesterday in the Big Numbers thread, and the game-winner was more evidence of it.

  • Ryan Kesler looks downright determined out there, doesn't he? He scored a goal while fighting at the front of the net, but there was one power play where he took the puck to the net, then just started whacking away at it like a noob. Homer Simpson whacks with more grace.

  • Nothing but good things to say about Orland Kurtenbach's induction into the ring of honour. It's a gorgeous piece of visual art, it was a beautiful ceremony. Much praise to the people planning these things this year. They've been a real treat for two reasons: 1) They look great and 2) they don't go on too long.

  • Christian Ehrhoff may have been tonight's goat. He seemed to be on the ice for every goal, for and against. Some of that has to do with the fact the Canucks really only have four defenseman (Rome and Parent play sparingly, which is fair), but much has to do with the fact that Ehrhoff just wasn't sound tonight. He and Edler aren't the best pair, either. There simply isn't enough defensive reliability on the pairing to make up for their offensive instincts. Typically, they both play with a stay-at-home guy, and, like most new, modern couples, they need to have a long, frank discussion about which one of them will stay at home.

  • As a result of the growing pains of the above pair, it pains to me to say that the Bieksa-Alberts pairing was tops tonight. They were physical and smart, and finished the night +1 and even, respectively. Alberts had more hits than Dexy's Midnight Runners. Which is to say, more than one.

  • And finally, the green men were back for the first time this season. They had some new moves (a little air guitar, for instance), and they did their thing at the penalty box. Part of me wonders if they have writers for their moves. It wouldn't be too surprising. If Jay Leno needs writers to be not funny, clearly you can use writers for anything. On a sidenote: after close inspection, we suspect that one of the green men has been replaced. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement that Sully would now like to be called Dipsy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Am Watching This Game, A PITB Live Blog: Canucks vs. Avalanche, October 26, 2010

For the first time in PITB's history, tonight's game will be LiveBlogged by Skeeter, yours truly, and, potentially, a couple other special guests. Tell your friends. Drop by to chat. Hang about in silence, observing the shortsighted things we say in the moment. See you tonight. We'll fire this bad boy up at 6:45pm. Faithful readers, don't panic: we will still be writing an "I Watched This Game" to accompany and summarize what goes on in the box below.

Big Numbers: Interesting Stats, Eight Games In

Below you will find a compendium of interesting stats. Take from them what you will. Or, if you're feeling particularly sluggish this morning, take from them what I have taken from them. Yes, feel free to plagiarize my thoughts, like the government does through the microchip they've implanted in my utricle. I long ago lost the will to fight it.

  1. Through the first eight games, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler are six seconds apart in total time on ice at 159:20 in 196 shifts and 159:14 in 197, respectively. The difference between their TOI per game is one second. In short, their time on ice has been basically identical through eight games. Interestingly, it's not even close to the same type of ice time. Henrik has nearly twenty total minutes more time at even-strength, and Kesler spends far more time on special teams time on both sides of the man advantage. He's got seventeen more minutes of PK time, and two more minutes of power play time. Huh?

  2. Kesler really shouldn't have more total power play time. He not only leads the team in missed shots with 17--he's first among forwards and second overall in the NHL. Who's in front of him? Duncan Keith. That's a double-edged sword for the Blackhawks. Keith's missed shots numbers are going to be inflated because he's a defenseman and he plays so many minutes a game. But he's only got three assists for a guy who plays nearly half of every Blackhawks game. Both Kesler and Keith are offensive catalysts for their team, hence the frequency with which they shoot. This stat is a large part of the slow start in both Vancouver and Chicago. Both of these guys needs to start hitting the net. Note: Keith also leads the league in giveaways. Don't get me wrong--he's still an incredible player, but he's not playing as well as they're saying. He's just playing a lot.

  3. Before we move on, you should also know the Canucks are 2nd in the NHL in the team missed shots category, behind only Pittsburgh. Not too surprising, as Alain Vigneault once said that Pittsburgh plays the exact same style as the Canucks. There are, as a result, other statistical similarities, like the one below:

  4. Vancouver is second in the league in total hits with 216, behind only Pittsburgh's 240. And not that it's paying off, but the Canucks lead the NHL in hits on the road, with 120. They are 10th in hitting at home. Strangely, Pittsburgh has the inversion of this stat, leading the league in hits at home and sitting 11th on the road. Here's the weird part: Pittsburgh is below .500 at home and 3-0-1 on the road; The Canucks are winless on the road and 3-0-1 at home. Why do these teams win less when they hit more? I couldn't say for certain. My guess is that, while they're already very hitty teams, they hit more when trying to come from behind.

  5. The Canucks are 2nd in the NHL in total faceoff percentage, at 56.6%. All three of the Canucks top faceoff men are over 50% at the dot, with Manny Malhotra leading the league at an ungodly 66.9% over 139 faceoffs. That is a very large sample size at which to win two-thirds of your draws. Ryan Kesler is 14th in the NHL at an impressive 57.6%, and Henrik Sedin is 40th with 51.6%. How's about that fourth line? Well, interestingly enough, only the three guys mentioned above have even taken enough faceoffs to merit statistical consideration. 11 other guys have taken draws, and only Peter Schaefer has taken more than ten. Of note: Rick Rypien has nine; he's won six of them.

  6. Considering Malhotra and Kesler are defensive centers with excellent faceoff percentages, it's probably no surprise they lead the team in shorthanded time on ice among forwards. Who is the highest clocking winger? Peter Schaefer, to nobody's surprise. He has been an excellent defensive player. Following him, it's Jannik Hansen.

  7. Do you hear that? It's the sound of nobody missing Shane O'Brien. Andrew Alberts, who won his job in the preseason, shares the team lead for hits with Jannik Hansen at 23 apiece. Alberts is also second in blocked shots, with 13. Who leads the team? Alex Edler, with 15. Interestingly, Ryan Kesler also has 13, and the next best shot-blocking forward only has 5. It's Peter Schaefer. Keith Ballard had 8 blocked shots in two games before he was knocked out with the concussion. He would likely be leading the team right now.

  8. Speaking of Jannik Hansen, let us say something about his 23 hits. While he might not hit as hard as Alberts, he's hitting with frequency and efficiency. Hansen has the ability and multi-dimensionality to be this team's Kris Versteeg--a gritty guy with enough skill to occasionally surprise. Last game was a nice start, but he needs to do that more often. Here's hoping the chemistry he appears to have with Malhotra is for real.

  9. Kevin Bieksa leads the team in giveaways, as he has since the first game of the season. He has nine now, widening the gap since the last time I brought this up. Bieksa just might run away with this dubious category. Christian Ehrhoff is second on the team with six, but I don't remember each one of his nearly as vividly. You probably know exactly how I feel about Kevin Bieksa, so I'll just move on.

  10. Mason Raymond leads the team in takeaways with 8. He doesn't get nearly enough talk about his defensive play. The Sedins are up there as well, with 7 apiece. They don't just hold onto the puck spectacularly; they regularly take the puck.

  11. Canuck forwards without a goal are Tanner Glass, Guillaume Desbiens, Peter Schaefer, Jannik Hansen, Rick Rypien... and Henrik Sedin. It doesn't mean anything, especially considering he plays on the one of the most productive lines in hockey and he leads the league in assists, but the less time he spends on a line--even a stat line--with Tanner Glass the better.

  12. And finally, penalty minutes. Here's an interesting stat: through eight games, there isn't a single Canuck with more than one major penalty. Torres, Rypien, Alberts, and Desbiens have all fought one time and only one time. In total penalty minutes, Raffi Torres leads the team, but don't start ripping on him just yet. There are four guys with more minor penalties: Jannik Hansen, Mikael Samuelsson, Andrew Alberts, and Kevin Bieksa all have four. Do you know who shouldn't have four? Mikael Samuelsson. His temper doesn't get a lot of play, but it should. Ask Sweden: he can muster a boatloads of antipathy in a very short time. Most of his penalties are acts of aggression directed towards somebody who has pissed him off. He's a heady veteran who should know better than to take so many retaliatory penalties.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fantasy Hockey Mondays: Week Two

Week two of the fantasy hockey season has passed, and Steven Stamkos continues to be awesome. He leads the league in points and goals and I am exceedingly happy that I ended up with him on all three of my fantasy hockey teams. This week he chipped in 4 goals and 5 assists in 4 games, but he also contributed a +3 rating, 6 penalty minutes, 17 shots, and 4 powerplay points. One of the leagues counts hits and blocked shots, and Stamkos even contributed there, with 4 hits and 3 blocked shots. The guy is a stud.

And, quite frankly, he's going to be a stud all season long, so I'm going to keep Stamkos talk to a minimum. It's not going to be Stamkos that wins me a fantasy hockey crown; he was a no-brainer pick. It's going to be all the fringe players and the unexpected success stories that determine things. This week, my big performer was Miikka Kiprusoff for the Emily Carr Echidnas, who posted two shutouts this week to lead the Echidnas to victory.

Pool One - Office Pool
Team: Aldergrove Awesome
Week Two Result: 5-7-1 Loss

Two straight losses in my office pool means I'm in for some sharp barbs at work. At least they were close losses, which means I can certainly recover and make my way up the top of the standings through the rest of the season. The Awesome currently have an 11-14-1 record.

My goaltending let me down this week. Ilya Bryzgalov and Jonas Hiller were reasonable, but Chris Mason was awful, posting a 4.68 GAA and an .892 SV%. With Ondrej Pavelec returning, he might lose the starting job...but not necessarily as the team in front of him hasn't been any good either. In any case, I lost all of the goaltending categories except shutouts as my opponent, The Helmut Twisters, didn't get any either.

Offensively, it was assists all the way, with Mike Comrie, Martin St. Louis, Sergei Gonchar, and Ed Jovanovski all posting 3 apiece. David Clarkson led the way in penalty minutes with 11 (making up for his complete lack of scoring), helping me win that category, with St. Louis posting 23 shots and Gonchar blocking 8, to win both those categories as well. The wildcard, shorthanded points, was won by Jovanovski's 1 shorthanded assist.

I decided to cut ties with Dan Carcillo, as he has done approximately nothing through the first couple weeks of the season. In his place I picked up Josh Bailey, who Canucks fans will remember from the 2008 NHL entry draft, as the Islanders took Bailey much higher than expected, allowing the Canucks to select Cody Hodgson. Bailey has become a decent two-way forward and has started off the season on a tear with 3 goals and 3 assists, before missing a couple games with a minor hip injury. I'm hopeful he can keep up his scoring.

Pool Two - Nucks Misconduct
Team: I Miss Kyle Wellwood
Week Two Result: 5-4-1 Win

With another win, I Miss Kyle Wellwood moves up to 7th overall out of 20 teams with a 10-6-4 record overall. As with the Aldergrove Awesome, goaltending was a weakpoint, as I lost each goaltending category. The culprit was once again Chris Mason as Dwayne Roloson was outstanding and Jonathan Bernier decent enough.

The only other category I lost was +/-, but I lost that by an absurd amount. Apparently, I Miss Kyle Wellwood is terrible defensively, posting a -14 altogether. That's because most of their production comes on the powerplay: my players racked up 12 powerplay points, with Tobias Enstrom and Marek Zidlicky providing the production from the blue line.

The worst player this week was Fedor Tyutin. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel when I selected him, but he was terrible this week, posting just one assist and a -4 rating. He's gone, replaced by rookie Matt Taormina, who's getting prime powerplay minutes in New Jersey. Also gone is Niclas Bergfors, the key piece in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade for the Thrashers; he's been a healthy scratch and hasn't done much when he's been in the lineup. In his place is Antti Miettinen, who has 6 points so far through 7 games.

Pool Three - Friends Pool
Team: Emily Carr Echidnas
Week Two Result: 8-2-0 Win

This week's massive win makes up for the 1-8-1 shellacking I received last week and bumps me up from 10th to 7th with a 9-10-1 record. Miikka Kiprusoff's excellent performance this week made up for Chris Mason's awfulness, with an assist from Antti Niemi, who was awful for my opponents, the Boston Dereks. The Echidnas ran away with the goaltending categories, including shutouts.

Goals were plentiful for the Echidnas, with Henrik Zetterberg, Patrick Marleau, Martin St. Louis, and Nathan Horton all putting up 2 goals. Assists were also easy to be had, led by Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos with an impressive 5 each. The only weakness this week was +/-, with Marleau's brutal -5 dragging everyone else down.

I took some chances in free agency at the end of this week, cutting ties with Niclas Bergfors, Nikita Filatov, and Chris Mason. In their place, I added Tomas Kopecky, who has had a solid start on Chicago's top line and has LW/RW eligibility, James Neal, who has 8 points and an excellent +8 rating, and Brent Johnson, who has been great for Pittsburgh and may get more starts with Marc-André Fleury struggling. If not, there are other options out there and Kiprusoff and Bryzgalov are a fine tandem otherwise.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Your Eyes Deserve Better: The Fruit of our Daniel Sedin Photoshop Contest

It is entirely possible that you recognize the above image from just over a month ago. It's also possible that you've only been reading this blog since the season started, and this is the first time you've seen it. If the latter is the case, let me give you some context: I love photoshop contests. And, while PITB doesn't quite have the readership to host them, I've never been one to let reality get in the way of my delusions.

Our first photoshop contest, focused around an image we call HenKik, was a rousing failure (although it generated this incredible image by CDC member Egatti, which has no business not being your wallpaper). Our second photoshop contest focuses on the above image of Daniel Sedin getting laid out by Ryan Getzlaf. It looks funny to me but, more than that, it also looks like an opportunity for photoshops.

So I asked for photoshops. Incredibly, I got a few. Behold the fruit of our second photoshop contest.

This comes to us from Rachael, who was kind enough to create an image that perfectly segues from our last photoshop contest to this one. Of note: this was done on MS Paint. How can I tell? Because it looks terrible. Thanks, Rachael!

This image, from reader Jason, continues the Street Fighter theme, but also excellently inverts the action from the original photo. Rather than getting rocked, Daniel is asserting himself. He's taken Ryan Getzlaf down, and he appears to be Prongering his neck. I would imagine that's a finishing move. Also of note: this too is an MS Paint production.

This unfortunate image comes to us from CDC member Canuckletux, who made two big-time contributions to the contest. First, he cut the image out to save future photoshoppers time. (It's here, if you still want in on this party.) Second, he went straight to scatological humour, forcing everyone else to be much more creative. Double gratitude is yours, Canuckletux.

Here we have a typically stellar contribution from Egatti, the winner of the last contest. My favourite thing about this photo is that Daniel Sedin is right in the middle of a jump-skid, and that's reflected both in the top image and the area map below. Also: if Luigi doesn't watch it, he's about to enter a world of banana peel.

This image comes to us from user Rogue Nuck, who admits, "this is a terrible shot at it." Don't be so hard on yourself, Rogue Nuck. Now I've got nothing to say. Thank God there's photographic evidence, because Daniel is going to have a hard time explaining to the authorities how he was thrown over a castle balcony by a giant trophy with no appendages.

This one is from reader Harrison, who is exactly like me, in every way, except much better-looking. He actually made four entries. Check out the rest of his objectively perfect photoshopping below. Sidenote: remember Balloon Fight? It had awesome music.

Earlier I took a shot at Canuckletux for going with the "things coming out of Daniel's butt" joke. Part of that was propriety. The other part was pure hypocrisy.

Here is Daniel taming Black stallion. How did he do it? Well, instead of spurs, he's just got giant knives attached to his feet. That'll work.

And finally, in keeping with the spirit of the original photo, which looks a lot like Daniel's taking a punch, I added him to the cover of the best NES street fighting game not named Street Fighter, Urban Champion. And by best, I mean worst. This game was pure crap.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Wild, October 22, 2010

Canucks 5 - 1 Wild

After tonight's game, it might be hard to differentiate between the west coast sea breeze and the relieved sighs of Canuck nation. While a win tonight doesn't solve our problems, it certainly mitigates our concern. The Wild, like us, had played 3 games in their last four nights, but they were on the road tonight, and gosh darn it, we're better than they are. Had we lost tonight, especially considering what's gone on this week and how badly we craved a win, there might have been enough hand-wringing for a spike in sales of Glysomed. Thankfully, we won. Also thankfully, Pass it to Bulis watched. Hear us roar:

  • Corey Schneider continues to play fabulously, propagating the largely shortsighted and reactionist "goaltending controversy." Not since Cheryl Blossom has a redhead so relentlessly challenged the status quo. Before we start demanding the team waive Luongo, let us remember that the Canucks have played much, much better in front of him than they have in Luongo's losses. The whole team was excellent tonight. Still, Schneider deserves much kudos, as he made it look easy tonight. Maybe it was. Minnesota sucks.
  • Jeff "Shmalexandre Shmurrows" Tambellini looks to be the best fit, among healthy forwards, for the Sedins. Even before the breakaway goal, Tamby allowed the twins to play their game, retrieved pucks, used his speed to back defenders off, and read the play smartly. The line was visible all night. Tamby also made a pretty solid case for being on the shootout roster.
  • Tamby's success up top also allowed Vigneault to roll some solid second and third lines, such as Jannik Hansen with Malhotra and Torres, a line that combined for the first, third and fourth goals. They were the best line on the ice tonight. Hansen and Malhotra were amazing like a double rainbow. I declare them the tandem that will give the third line it's identity for the rest of the season.
  • Why not Torres? While he has excellent moments and definitely did in this game (in this game, a goal and a coupe nice hits), he often doesn't seem to know how to play with others, like Stampy. There were two odd-man rushes where he was so close to his linemate he neutralized any cross-ice pass, as well as spared the defenseman from having to take a man. Open up the ice, Raffi.
  • Tambellini's success with the Sedins also allowed Vigneault to keep Kes, Ray, and Sammy, the rightful second line and producers of the second goal, intact. They're clearly still regaining their confidence, but they're beginning to be consistent. Want to see how stats are totally bogus? Prior to tonight, there was much ado about Ryan Kesler's lack of production. With tonight's goal, he has three points in his last four games. Please unpress your panic buttons.
  • The fourth line looked excellent too, but primarily because Tanner Glass and Peter Schaefer skated on it exclusively.
  • It's not all roses, though. While Mikael Samuelsson still shoots more often than Horatio Caine, too many are getting blocked or missing the net. He seems a little off. He needs to, uh, you know, fix that.
  • I laughed out loud at Shorty and Garrett bickering over the tricky issue of mass nouns and the fewer vs. less debate. Turns out Shorty's a grammar nazi. Think he's a big enough loser to own (and, like me, cherish) a first pressing of Funk & Wagnalls Handbook of Synonyms, Antonyms, and Prepositions? We can only hope. For the curious: fewer is typically used for countable amounts, less for abstract amounts (i.e. fewer shots; less offense). Garrett was talking about games played, and thus should have used fewer.
  • On the first powerplay of the game, Henrik Sedin took a slapshot, but he is such an innate passer that it turned into a crisp tape-to-tape pass to a Wild defender. Does he think he's Daniel? He wouldn't be the first guy to make that mistake. I know he scored 29 times last season, but Hank is not a shooter. I firmly believe he's going to reach 100 points this season without scoring a single goal.
  • That said, he nearly had an awesome one on a 2-on-1 when he pulled off spin move on Greg Zanon and got in alone. It would have been absolutely perfect if Henrik had pulled it to the forehand after coming out of the spin. He had time. Not sure why Zanon was so completely bamboozled. All Henrik does is spin. He's like Cobb's totem.
  • Hats off to the defense corps. They were great tonight, steady, dependable, smart. It's enough to forget Kevin Bieksa is amongst them. Seriously, though, Kevin Bieksa was really good tonight, apart from one ill-advised pinch which led to a two-on-one.
  • Alex Edler has been good all season, and he was great tonight. Often times, he goes completely unnoticed, which is both an element of praise and a criticism. Edler has the ability to do more than he often does. Aaron Rome should be unnoticeable. Edler needs to do more things like this. He's the only D-man in the lineup who can make a pass like that.
  • Great job by the penalty killers on the 5-on-3. The Dead Puck Era created more offense than Peter Schaefer does, but he really is excellent when you're a man down. He killed a ton of time on Minnesota's two man advantage, then drew a powerplay-ending penalty on Mikko Koivu later in the game. I just wish he'd use his knucklepuck more often.
  • Anybody else see the two dudes jump-hugging on the Kesler goal? If there's one thing we at PITB are totally in favour of, it's public displays of dudehuggery. I think the preponderance of dudehuggery is secretly why men love hockey.
  • The 2nd intermission had an excellent piece on one of PITB's all-time favourite Canucks, Cliff Ronning. My favourite moment was the last clip of the segment, which featured Ronning celebrating a goal in slow-motion by shouting "F***ing right!" Obviously, there was no sound, but there is no easier lipread in the English language. What a strange clip to use, but I shouldn't be surprised. Sportsnet makes some questionable choices with their intermission programming, such as putting Tony Gallagher in front of a camera.
  • I'm going to assume Daniel Sedin is going to be given a belated assist on the Tambellini goal. He should, and I hope he does, primarily so his season-long point streak continues. Not since Frank the Tank has there been streaking of this magnitude.
  • I would like to ban Mason Raymond from carrying the puck over the blue line on powerplays. He tries to go end to end, but usually loses the puck because he should have passed it off. Even at even-strength, Raymond needs to realize there are other passing options besides the defensemen. He seems to forget he has linemates--it's a hoedown of one. Only Colin Mochrie can thrive in such circumstances.
  • This is PITB's 200th post, and we're feeling pretty good about it. We work hard on this stuff, and we'd like to thank everybody that's recognized and supported our efforts. You guys are awesome.

Weird Sports, Vol 3: Bog Snorkelling

Pictured: a fool, awash in foolishness.

Weird Sports is a semiregular feature I write for the Rec Services blog at Trinity Western University as a favour to a good friend of mine. It will appear on PITB on Thursdays. Yesterday was Thursday--it's late. Whatever. You're not my dad. Let us take a break from our Canuckness and appreciate that Canadians are a hockey-loving people, and not the sort that love dumb sports like this one.

Have you ever been snorkelling? It’s wonderful. I highly recommend snorkelling along the Hawaiian cost, where the water is warmed by the hot, Pacific sun, and a rainbow of marine life swirls in and out of the reefs just beneath you. In Hawaii, the water is crystal clear, and the sights are equal parts sublime and beautiful. The experience is legendary. I’ve done it twice, and I can assure you of one thing: while I was there, snorkelling, surveying all that God has made and placed underwater, I never once thought, Man, I want to do this in a peat bog.

Unfortunately, others have. Bog snorkelling is an event that takes place primarily in the dense Waen Rhydd peat bog of Llanwrtyd Wells at the World Bog Snorkelling Championship. It’s sporting event that consists of competitors completing two consecutive lengths of a 60-yard (55 m) water-filled trench cut through this bog in the shortest time possible. Competitors must wear snorkels and flippers and complete the course without using conventional swimming techniques for some reason, relying on flipper power alone. Let us, at this moment, realize that kicking one’s feet is a conventional swimming technique, and this sport is so stupid even its most basic rules contradict themselves. From Wikipedia:

The World Bog Snorkeling Championship, first held in 1985, [...] now attracts more than 200 entrants each year and is currently sponsored by Fun Swim Shop. [...] Dan Morgan of Brecon is the new world record holder with the time 1 minute 30.66 seconds, having shattered the previous record set by Joanne Pitchforth. Dan Morgan is the current men’s champion, Dineka Maguire is the current women’s champion, and John Hilliard the current champion junior bog snorkeller.

That’s right, junior bog snorkeller. They’ve already gotten to our kids. We fought the bog, and the bog won.

Before I go any further, I need to draw your attention to an international conspiracy I may be the first person to have noticed. Do you recognize the name Llanwrtyd Wells? You should, as it’s also the site of the Man Versus Horse Marathon, the first entry in the Weird Sports series. In fact, you might also be interested in knowing that the sport of Bog Snorkelling was invented by wealthy land/pub owner Gordon Green, who also devised and organized the original Man/Horse challenge. In both cases, the sport began as a conversation among the drunks in his pub, and was immediately turned into a paean to human stupidity by Gordon. Thinking about it, he may be perhaps the most internationally successful community organizer since Barack Obama. And he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.

Want to know what else is interesting about Llanwrtyd Wells? This:

Llanwrtyd Wells was once a spa town following the discovery of waters with amazing healing properties in 1732, by the Rev. Theophilus Evans. The wells were referred to as “Ffynnon Ddrewllyd” or Stinking Well because of the smell of hydrogen sulphide gas that was given off when you breathed the vapours. Spa fashion reached its peak in the Victorian era and many of the hotels in Llanwrtyd Wells date back to these times. The Belle Vue Hotel was built in 1843 and is the only purpose built hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells.

That’s right. Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Britain at 601 people and known primarily for a dense peat bog that reeks of sulfur, was once a spa town. This place is the home of the greatest con of all time, and it persists to this day. These people have been coming up with innovative ways to promote and make money from this awful bog for over 200 years. First, the spa scheme (as bogus a scheme as I’ve ever heard), then the craze of bog snorkelling. It’s a town of flimflam salespeople stimulating tourism with bogus reasons to visit a bog, and Gordon Green is their king. How else do you operate a pub in a town of 600 people?

How do I know for sure that this is a crazy scam? The other events that take place in this bog. There’s The World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships, in which bog-snorkellers race along the floor of the bog on bicycles with lead in the tires, weighed down by backpacks also filled with lead. If extreme cycling isn’t extreme enough, try adding the threat of drowning, which is ever-present:

Participants sometimes panic in the murky depths—in 2000, one woman had to be rescued twice before eventually winning the female title—but thanks to vigilant, wetsuited medics, all the entrants in the race’s eight-year history have made it out alive.

Wicked. There’s also the BMX Bog Triathlon, which combines all the dumb sports Llanwrtyd Wells is known for into one extremely dumb sport. In this one, contestants have to run seven and a half miles, snorkel two lengths of the stupid bog, and then cycle to the finish line.

Part of me wishes I lived near this bog, because I could come up with all sorts of sweet, bog-related athletics. Basketbog, wherein competitors play basketball in the bog; Red Bog Rover, where two teams play red rover on the shores of the bog, but you have to swim the length of the bog for no reason when you’re called over; Blogging, which has nothing to do with online journalling and everything to do with eating a bogwater-logged log while in the bog; and The Bog Chug, where competitors drink bog water until they suffer acute organ failure.

What say we rent a single engine plane and fly to Llanwrtyd Wells right now?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Armchair Cynic: How to Fix the Canucks Woes from the Safety of Home

The Vancouver Canucks have gotten off to a listless start, kicking off the 2010-11 season with a lackluster 2-3-2 record. Vancouver fans who like to be on top of such things as early as possible, look at the standings and notice that the Calgary Flames have the same number of points as the Canucks in two fewer games. All is not lost, however. As desperate as things seem, there's still a way for the Canucks to save their season and make the playoffs.

They need to hire me as their new general manager and coach.

As a fan who has never played the game at a competitive level, I know I can do a much better job at managing and coaching the Canucks than Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis. Accordingly, I have prepared this list of solutions for what ails the Canucks. These bona fide solid-gold suggestions are provided free-of-charge. If the Canucks want more of my expertise, I'll need to see a contract.

  • Move to a goaltending tandem inspired by Mighty Ducks 2: Luongo for regulation and overtime, Schneider for the shootout.
  • Speaking of Mighty Ducks, begin scouting figure skaters for potential transfer over to professional hockey. Even female figure skaters. Especially female figure skaters.
  • To inspire the slumping forward, pointedly use the word "silver" as often as possible around Ryan Kesler: bring up silverback gorillas for no reason, ask him to pass the silverware at team lunches, buy him a sterling silver necklace, and finally, get a tiny piece of wood stuck in your finger, ask Kesler for help removing it with tweezers, and repeatedly mis-pronounce the word "sliver."
  • Temporarily sign enigmatic moustachioed free agent, Shmalexandre Shmurrows, to play with the Sedins for 3 games before sending him down to the minors, wherein he will mysteriously disappear and face punishment for failing to report to the Moose.
  • Upon realizing that Kyle "They Don't Much Care for Ayn Rand in Russia" Wellwood has as many goals in 5 games in the KHL as Mason Raymond has in 7 games in the NHL, re-sign him to be the fifth-line centre.
  • Force the Team 1040 to fire Dave Tomlinson and hire university students to do color commentary.
  • Since Andrew Alberts has shown such soft hands around the net, put him on the first-unit powerplay with the Sedins and plant him directly in front of the goalie.
  • Slap Raffi Torres. Just slap him repeatedly.
  • Make another trade with Florida.

In all seriousness, though, if I see Peter Schaefer start on the second line again, I will straight-up murder a beanie baby.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Blackhawks, October 20, 2010

Canucks 1 - 2 Blackhawks (Shootout)

I really hate the shootout. That said, I don't hate it for the reasons you think. The reason I hate the shootout is that it completely negates the facts of the game, and instead turns tomorrow's headline into a matter of wins and losses. The Canucks played well enough to win tonight and lost in the post-game coin toss. All the talk will be about their winless road record and their losing skid, but this one really shouldn't count. They deserved the two points. Unfortunately, they only got one point. It was hard-earned as all Hell, but it's one point shy of satisfying the fan's need for blood.

  • Unlike the fans, who were out for blood they did not fully get, Daniel Sedin continues to reap the rewards of liquid envy. His goal tonight ties him for the league lead with Marian Hossa, and extends his 82-goal pace. Can he keep this up? No. Certainly not. But, bringing in the numbers from last season, we can see that Daniel has scored 17 goals in his last 17 regular season games. So maybe he can keep this up.
  • Speaking of blood, was it just me, or was this game oddly devoid of bad blood? It was a very fluid and very clean game. It was lovely to watch, but didn't satisfy my bloodlust, like ice dancing.
  • Still on blood: as much as I hate him, Jonathan Toews is a pretty tough nut. He took a puck right in the teeth, then casually skated to the bench like he needed to reapply his deodorant. There we saw he was bleeding profusely from the mouth. No big deal. He just broke his face. Whatever.
  • I really wish Dan Hamhuis had played tonight, as the Kevin Bieksa-Ryan Parent pairing is more terrifying than the hallways of the Overlook Hotel (warning: clip terrifying). While they were both much better than last night, they got caught behind the play more times than they should have. Both of them gave Marian Hossa a breakaway tonight. That can't happen.
  • More on Bieksa: It's gotten to a point with defensive breakdowns where I immediately check to see if it was him, and too often, it is. Tonight I officially decided I just don't like him. Every good thing he brings is offset by something detrimental. Skeeter is much more reasonable about these things than I am, so expect us to argue all season about it.
  • One thing I do love about Kevin Bieksa is his gloved push-punch. He does it all the time. He and Tomas Kopecky were taking whacks at each other at every stoppage, and I saw Juice pull off a couple of cool, little jabs. Not cool, though, was an instance during the first period when Kopecky faked a slash to Bieksa's head. That's unsportsmanlike.
  • Also unsportsmanlike: businesswomen.
  • In tight checking games like this, it's impossible to miss what Manny Malhotra brings to this team. His stick-checking was impeccable. His faceoffs were glorious, as usual, as he was 14-for-20 in the circle. He led the Canucks to a perfect penalty kill, too. There was one instance when he came out of the defensive zone with the puck, and rather than icing it, he skated gingerly, through the neutral zone, backing the defense off before taking a slapshot on Turco. It killed ten to fifteen seconds that simply icing the puck would not have.
  • Aaron Rome has increased his invisibility, which is to say he played a good game tonight. I'd prefer if he played less, but probably so would the Canucks medical staff.
  • We forgot to mention this last game, but is Raffi Torres capable of making a simple pass? Every time he passes the puck, it's some complicated abortion of a pass that very rarely makes it to its intended target. There was one instance tonight where he could have chipped the puck off the glass, but instead, he feathered it across the ice in the defensive zone. The margin for error there is not unlike the distance between the earth and sun. One degree in either direction and everybody's dead. He does this far too often.
  • It appears Alain Vigneault reads Pass it to Bulis, as the second line was finally reunited, just like we told him to. Sadly, the Raymond-Kesler-Samuelsson line didn't keep, primarily because Jannik Hansen played so badly on the top line Samuelsson had to be returned to it. However, when they were together they were good, creating chances and space. They had 11 shots between them.
  • Though he led the team in shots tonight with five, Samuelsson suddenly appears hesitant to shoot. I never thought I'd say this, but he's holding on to the puck for too long.
  • I found it interesting that the Canuck players had no idea they'd been selected for the shootout. It's a weird way to go about it, but it almost worked. I think it's safe to say that Daniel Sedin has earned his way onto the shootout shortlist with the sick move he pulled off on Turco.
  • Roberto Luongo was fantastic tonight. He made several key saves, including a few breakaways. Unfortunately, he couldn't squeeze the puck in the shootout, and two trickled in after everybody thought he'd made the save. I haven't felt such intense excitement followed by shame since this dance I went to in the eighth grade.
  • Know who wasn't nearly as good tonight? Cory Schneider. He didn't stop a single shot.
  • Before you snicker at the shortsighted line of thinking above, consider that it's the same way this "goaltending controversy" started in the first place: opinions based on one game. Now that Luongo has played a good game, I imagine we'll put the controversy talk to bed. At least until the next time Schneider does his job as the backup and wins the game he's given.

Rypien Story Goes From Ridiculous to Ridiculously Ridiculous

Not since Abe Lincoln has someone been vilified so quickly.

The media buffet on this Rick Rypien incident only opened last night, but I'm already full. It's been wall to wall Rypper today, as everyone wants to weigh in on the abomination he committed last night. The good news is that the incident has overshadowed the abomination the Canucks committed last night. The bad news? Rick Rypien just passed Killer Moth on the list of the worst villains ever, and he's closing in on Calendar Man. Rick Rypien would like you to believe he's not a baby eater. But he's never gone on record saying he isn't. Maybe it's because he's too busy eating babies. Yes, his public crucifixion is getting a little ridiculous, especially when you consider that he merely grabbed the fan. He didn't hit him; he didn't bite him; he didn't poke him in the eye.

He just grabbed him. For about three seconds. And yet the fan is threatening to sue.

Rypien deserves to be suspended. You can't do what he did--it was stupid, and he deserves to sit out a few games. But when he touched that fan (James Engquist), it was dumb on dumb. This fan is a stupid guy.

I didn't want to weigh in on this. I feel like we covered all there is to this last night in the IWTG. But, like Rypien, I've been provoked by James Engquist who, in his interview with Michael Russo (quoted below) gave himself away as a certified gomer. Here is James describing what instigated the incident:

"I was just standing straight up applauding as he was getting kicked out. He was out of control. And then I said, 'Way to be professional,' and he obviously didn’t care for that comment [...]

Few would care for that comment, you pinhead. James. Rypien is a man who makes a living punching people in the face. He was, in your own words "out of control" with anger, and you decided to stand up, applaud, and make a snide comment? A comment about professionalism to an enraged fighter. Sounds to me like you deserved to see his profession first-hand. A better option would have been to not infuriate an already irate pugilist. The first guy I punch when I'm being kicked out of somewhere is the guy who makes a snide comment once I'm no longer restrained. Here is James describing the fear he felt:

[He] decided to grab me and almost dragged me over the rail. If my brother wasn’t grabbing me and the other player wasn't grabbing him, he probably would have dragged me over the edge."

Man, that is a whole lot of grabbing going on in this story. That must have been terrifying for you, James. Had he succeeded in dragging you over the edge, as you claim (despite the video showing you were never even close) you would have been dragged over the edge. I don't know what happens next, but I'll bet it involves you being briefly on the other side of the edge.

"This is a crazy incident. I’ve seen a lot of hockey in my day, and I’ve never seen someone actually come into the stands and assault a fan," said Engquist.

Really? You've seen a lot of hockey and you've never seen this? Because that's what you're describing, and it's not what happened to you. Rypien didn't come into the stands and he didn't assault you. He grabbed you. Apart from increasing the value of your hockey jersey in online auctions, he accomplished very little when he touched you for three seconds.

Engquist said he is "definitely seeking legal representation. ... I was assaulted, that's just the bottom line."

No you weren't. You were touched. I've seen children grab the hem of their mother's housedress harder. Sadly, I'm sure there's a waaahmbulance-chaser out there, willing to slap a neck brace on you and claim Rypien dislocated your spine, but you should know that you just went from folk hero to total loser in one sentence.

Assault? Please. You were hit harder by the fans you high-fived on your way to better seats. You're fine, James. Let it go, like Rypien did, three seconds after he grabbed you.

And if this does go to court, let the record show that you lied about having seen a lot of hockey, since you've never seen the Milbury/O'Reilly incident. What else are you lying about, James? Better keep your stories straight....

Kesler is Struggling, But it's Not Entirely His Fault

A lot of finger-pointing takes place after a game like last night's, so it was only a matter of time before somebody brought up Ryan Kesler's early struggles. I've heard criticism from a few sources this morning, and it's not entirely undeserved. Kesler has 1 point in his first 6 games, and hasn't looked to be nearly the dominant second-line center we saw last season. He's not creating as many chances as we're used to; he's missing shots; he's not as noticeable. At this point, it's hard to believe this guy has 134 points in his last two seasons. What's his problem?

Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Kesler has been removed from every situation in which he thrives.

The majority of Kesler's success came either on the 2nd line with Mason Raymond (and usually with Mikael Samuelsson), or on the 2nd powerplay unit. This season, he's spent little time with Raymond, and no time whatsoever on that 2nd PP formation. He's freshly shaven Samson.

Last night, the 2nd line consisted of Ryan Kesler between Peter Schaefer and Jannik Hansen, a duo that has combined for zero points this season and will likely improve that number very slowly over the next six months. To wit: they're not 2nd line players. It's hard to even call that unit a second line when two-thirds of it are unmistakably bottom-six guys.

Why is Kesler with them? Despite 50 assists last year saying otherwise, he's never been a particularly effective playmaker, so he's certainly not the right guy to carry the line's offensive load. In fact, most of Kesler's offensive success comes when he's paired with other skilled players. He saw success two years ago with Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra. He developed an offensive identity last season with burgeoning scorer Mason Raymond (and they worked best when the third guy with them was a playmaker). Kesler's an opportunist, not a generator, and there will be far fewer opportunities than he's used to when he shares the ice with Jannik Hansen and Peter Schaefer.

On the powerplay, Kesler anchored the second unit, camping out near the half-wall, and sniping shots from out above the circle. He scored 12 power play goals last season, a lot of them the same way. He was an effective, consistent threat defensive formations had to respect, and it opened up space for everyone else on the unit. Kesler was the lynchpin of a power play formation, but now he's a fifth option, with Daniel, Henrik, and two point shots all looking for the puck. Even if that first unit has success, it won't be because of Kesler. His goal the other night is evidence he remains an excellent powerplay option. We could use one of those on the second unit. Why waste him on the first?

Secondary scoring was not an issue last season, but with Kesler's struggles, it's become one this year. It's not entirely his fault: Kes has been completely neutered thus far. If you want him to be an offensive option, you need to let him play his game. What does Alain Vigneault expect him to do when all the elements that make him successful are taken away?
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