Category Archives: Hockey

In the Mouth a Desert

Just a few of my diamond-sharp observations about sports and culture.

-Congratulations Randy Johnson. 300 wins is impressive, and it may be a while before we see that done again. I still, for whatever reason, can’t fucking stand you, though. I know, it’s weird. And it has nothing to do with your Yankees stint. Maybe it was that fucking haircut you wore for so long. Or that you’re tall. I wish I was that tall. But you’re an accomplished pitcher, you’ve remained reasonably consistent for a long time, and you suffered in Montreal and Seattle for long enough. You’ve got your ring, you have your Hall of Fame credentials, and I expect you to retire at season’s end. Continue reading

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Superstar (Sonic Youth version)

What a day for the Superstars of the world. First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh. I can’t say I’m often pulling for your teams (although it was pretty cool to see the Pirates relevant again for the first 10 days of the baseball season), but you’re one series away from having two major sports championships in one year. Two of the most coveted trophies in your possession. And right now, your Penguins look unstoppable …. Crosby and Malkin cannot seem to be contained. My only concern would be how much time this Wings/Blackhawks series goes on for. It’d be a shame to lose the momentum right now.

I was thinking, too, that the next steps of the NHL’s return to any semblance of prominence in the American sports landscape are going to involve a) the emergence of young superstars (clearly this is happening/has happened), b) some of these young superstars having a chance to be on championship teams (check), and c) the development of rivalries. We are seeing Hockey popularity rising in the Original 6 cities (which was probably going to happen at some point anyway) with the Rangers, Bruins, and Blackhawks all back in the post-season. And now we are seeing spillover into those cities with hockey-history. Pittsburgh. Philly (who usually have a pretty high level of interest, from what I can tell. But I also really don’t pay much attention to Philly). Washington. St. Louis had a nice run at the season’s end. I know it’s biased, but it just gives me a feeling of continuity … I’m watching the same sport I grew up with. It was hard when I wasn’t watching hockey as much and looking up to see the Lightning or the Ducks or the Hurricanes. I know, I’m an asshole. But to me these teams are the equivalent to the track-housing the majority of their fans live in. Continue reading

“Where Were You?” No. 2: Messier’s Guarantee

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It was brought to my attention that today, May 25, 2009 is the 15-year anniversary of Game 6 of the epic 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. Otherwise known as the Messier guarantee game, as it came to be called because of the back cover of the New York Post seen above.

This post is categorized under the “Where Were You?” banner, a feature I created for us to regale readers with interesting recollections of where and when we watched historic sporting events. (I’ve only ever done one of these, but Keith, Mex and I all should do more.) Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting story about this game. I watched it in my parent’s basement while nursing some beers, having just graduated college about a week earlier. Ho-hum.

I only decided to write about this because when I saw it was the anniversary of Game 6 I was overcome with a flood of memories. As I said, I was graduating from college that month, which made me both an insufferable know-it-all AND a sappy little bitch. Meanwhile, the Rangers and Knicks were going on long playoff runs. This was heady stuff. All the pieces were coming together, and I could practically taste the trophies that were about to be ours. But then the Rangers dropped Game 5 to the Devils, a 4-1 ass whooping at MSG, and the series suddenly looked over. After a lifetime of disappointment, even a sports optimist like myself retreated into the well-worn pose of the abused Rangers (or Cubs or Red Sox) fan. 1940! 1940! indeed.

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Feather of Forgiveness

I hereby absolve the Celtics for what many might consider a disappointing run. I touch them with the feather of forgiveness. I wash them in a river of forgiveness. I wrap them in the fabric of forgiveness. I put them in a light that will hurt their eyes.

Let’s state the obvious. This team had little left in them. The Magic stand a much better chance of winning a game or two against Cleveland than the Celtics would have. We should be excited. Dwight Howard and co. could make the East exciting for years to come. This might provide the experience they need to take it to the next level as a team (that and, um, the Magic really need to hire a real coach). The Celtics against the Cavs would have been more of a marquis matchup (almost explicitly because of the Celtics’ status as defending champs). But it also would have been on par with Creed vs. Drago when it came down to it. Was that too Simmonsish? Sorry.

A few points on the Celtics season, and then onto the remaining NBA playoffs …

-The absence of Powe and Garnett hurt this team. It didn’t condemn them, necessarily, but the Celtics didn’t change their gameplan enough to make it work. But let’s acknowledge the following. 1) Rajon Rondo was our second leading rebounder in the post season (averaging 10 a game, by the way). 2) Either Davis or Scalabrine or BOTH of them were on the floor for the majority of every game (may help explain the first point). I will grant you that Big Baby had a sort of coming-of-age post-season. He may very well turn out to be the mediocre power forward we all think he can be. Scalabrine is flat out awful. I swear he fills a quota for the Celtics organization that mandates at least 25% of all employees have to look like they’re from Southie. The only thing he brings to this team is that he reminds me of John C. O’Reilly which makes me think of Brule’s Rules and then I have a hearty chuckle. Oh, what’s that? But he hits all those 3’s? Yes, he hits a few, but only because any smart team will gladly double team Pierce, Allen, or Rondo and leave Scalabrine wide open outside. Over the course of the game, he costs you.

-Rivers should have given Moore some time on the court. He gets into foul trouble, but I think he also integrates in the offense better. He seems to hover in the 10-ft range that ends up getting left unattended unless someone from the outside drives and pulls up. I like that guy. I know this completely discredits me, but … I’d rather have lost with him on the floor than Scalabrine.

-Watching Pierce run the floor was painful. He was dead. I almost feel like Rivers should have taken him out more, except that would only ensure that he (Rivers) was crucified by the Boston media and fans alike. I’ve also never seen him front-rim so many jumpshots. After the Celtics tied the series on Davis’ game-winner in Game 4 (which, to be fair, was actually a great play by Pierce to draw the defense and find the open man), Pierce struggled. He had that one tear in Game 6 where he put away 7 points in the span of 1:08 (which really wasn’t that impressive … he just didn’t pass the ball and actually hit the 3 shots he took … which should tell you something about the bar he set for himself this year vs. last year).

-I think it worked out last year because Allen, Pierce, and Garnett all carried the load at one time or another. I felt like both Allen and Pierce this year, especially towards the end of the Magic series, were not hungry for the ball. They were waiting for someone else to stand up and take over. This team worked well when teams had to worry about them and couldn’t leave them alone. But the Magic were able to wear Rondo out, dominate the inside, and not have to worry about Pierce or Allen as much.

-I have to disagree with my blogmate here. Rondo is the real deal. I love this kid, and I wish he’d stepped up and claimed this team as his. It’s going to have to happen. Pierce and Allen are going to become those old guys that were good at one point, but now can only contribute if there’s a young guy on the court who draws the defense’s attention away. I think we started to see that already. Rondo can hit from the outside, drive the lane, rebound, pass, and play defense. Not saying he’s the top of the league at any of these, but he can do them all. He has great instincts, loves to roller skate, and I think if he can get himself to be able to play 40ish minutes a game at full-speed, he’ll be dangerous. (A big “if” I know, but I think he can do it. Also, the rest of the league had better pray they don’t make Heely’s legal in the NBA.)

-I am not 100% sold on Perkins just yet. He shows signs of becoming a pretty good inside man, and at times he held his own against Howard. He seems to get into foul trouble a lot (which isn’t a bad strategy against Howard, really), but he also maintains pretty good position.

-I am 100% sold on Perkins’ nickname being “The Pharaoh” … he could call the lane his Tomb or something. And yell out “Cursed!” whenever he swats someone’s shot. I might be treading into racist waters here, but I swear it’s only because of his goatee.

-Pierce’s place in Celtics lore is already pretty high. I’m not sure I put him in my starting 5, but … he might also be the single most talented player this team has ever had. One of the things that I’ve always loved about the Celtics (at least through my childhood, which ended when Bird retired) was that they were a team. Bird had some greats on his team. But how much better were those guys for having played with Bird? Pierce wasn’t that type of guy. He didn’t make too many guys better than they were going to be otherwise. You had to learn to play off of Pierce’s game, or there’d be no room for you (the obvious exception, of course, was last year … but Pierce knew his clock was ticking and so of course he wasn’t going to object). It’s hard to argue against Russell. 13 seasons, 11 rings. He’d need to have a finger surgically attached to wear his rings at once. Bird embodies everything people want the Celtics to be. Hard-nosed, not pretty, but gutsy, gritty, determined to win. I’m not going to say white, because I really don’t think most people care, but yes … there are probably some people who love that he was a white farmboy as well.

(For what it’s worth, my favorite Celtic of all-time? Dennis Johnson. Not an HOFer, but his number hangs from the rafters. Larry Bird, who was pretty sparse with his compliments if you weren’t Magic Johnson, said DJ was the best he’d ever played with. This guy just flat out knew the game. Not a dominant player. But smart enough to realize no dominant player was going to win without someone like him. Bird can make the greatest play ever and steal the inbounds pass, but who is it that instinctively cuts to the net while everyone else on the floor is still watching? DJ. He knew Bird was going to steal that pass before Bird did. Also, he hits a pretty impressive layup there. I love the image of Bird grabbing DJ after that play as they go to the bench. It’s as though Bird knew his steal was a good play, but DJ’s was a great play. The greatest play I’ve ever seen, anyway. If you haven’t watched the clip of this recently, it’s priceless. The Bill Walton before-and-after shots cannot be duplicated. I think I’m going to go cry in the men’s room, now.)

Moving on from the Celtics … I like the Magic matching up with the Cavs. Let me clarify, there is a very, very, very, very slim chance this goes to 7 games. I would say most likely 5, followed by a Cavs sweep, followed by the Magic winning 2 at home and losing in 6. But I think these games will be reasonably close and worth watching, with a blowout (maybe two) sprinkled in. But it’s important that Howard, Lee, Lewis and Alston get this taste, this experience. This team with Jameer Nelson could be awesome, and back here again next year (add to the mix a Bulls team I expect great things from next year, and a Hawks team that maybe(?) gets to the next level? That’s an exciting East in my book.)

In the West, it’s tought to pick against the Lakers, but … I love the Nuggets. I’d love to see them upset LA, and I think of the two Conference Finals matchups, it’s the more likely. Denver has to be amongst Bryant’s least favorite places to be/play.

I know the only thing left to watch for is a Kobe/LeBron matchup. And truthfully, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But I just can’t bring myself to outright root for the Lakers. I really hate Pau Gasol in a way I haven’t hated anyone since the Motor City Bad Boys (by the way … how’s that for a team nickname? Their warmup tear-aways should have been made of leather). But I also think this will be the best matchup. Maybe even a 7-gamer.

I think I spoke to Keith or Hernandez about this at the bachelor party which spawned my inclusion on this blog (by the way, thank you both for your kind words … it’s nothing short of an honor to be writing alongside the two of you). What makes it more likely that LeBron bolts for NY? Winning or not winning?

You will notice I did not extend my forgiveness to the Bruins. I love them, but that stung. Congratulations to the ‘Canes. I will admit, I thought a Bruins win was a foregone conclusion. I was wrong. Impressive to win on the road in Game 7, and to stop the momentum the Bruins had built. I suppose it’s not the worst thing in the world for Detroit and Pittsburgh to play each other again. It’d also be awesome to see the Blackhawks hoist the cup and get Chicago back into the hockey mix. It kind of sucks, but I have no particular love or hate for any of the remaining teams. So, I just hope everyone has fun and nobody gets hurt.

I will end with a non-sports related note. I caught an episode of Party Down on a JetBlue flight to Seattle last week. Pretty fucking awesome. I come to find out my sister works for a firm that does PR for the show. She says not all epsisodes are funny, but that when it’s on, it’s on. I think (I could very well be mistaken) that Paul Rudd is a producer? All I know is, the episode I saw featured Ed Begley, Jr. and some titties. Cha-ching!

This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven

My dearest apoligies to Keith. I really am new to “blogging” and “simple instructions” and fancy “buttons” with their explicit functions written right “on” them. I was trying to delete a post I had started. I will leave it up to you to determine what, if anything, I could do for reparations. (Note: I will be in Seattle at week’s end, and could look into some discounted Sonics schwag (sp?) for you.)

For now, though, allow me to go back in time to Sunday night. I’m at the Sox with a very good friend who is moving to Spain soon. This was our last chance to really hang before he goes. By the time we’re in our seats, the Bruins game (which is being updated on the Green Monster … New England = charming, bitches) is in hand. They win 4-0, and prevent the ‘Canes from ousting us at home. The Sox are tied up late in the game, when the crowd erupts. To the point where the umpire and batter and Hideki Okajima instinctively stop and look around to see if there’s a brawl or some well-endowed topless woman has run onto the field. Well, they were close on both accounts. Glen Davis has hit the game winner at Orlando and then tossed some kid aside. I won’t even go into that, as the kid’s father has already done enough to humiliate himself and his son. But all in all, it was a pretty awesome moment. And then, of course, the Sox take the lead in the bottom of the 8th (Papi doubles, is inexplicably not pinch run for with less than 2 outs, gets to 3rd on a passed ball, then scores on Jason Bay’s double … that trade looks better and better almost every day!) and Papelbon makes it interesting by putting the first two on before striking out Pena, Upton, and Crawford in order.

So, yeah. Magical. One of your best friends is leaving to another continent, and you get to watch Papelbon jerk off towards the first base dugout together one last time and in person.

As much as I love Fenway, it was welcome relief last night to be watching in the comfort of my own home. My wonderful girlfriend made us some food and didn’t complain once as I skipped over Dancing with the Stars and American Idol to go from Bruins to Celtics, and eventually the Red Sox, Wings/Ducks, and Rockets/Lakers. I will limit my musings to bulleted observation points:

-The Bruins are a frightening team right now. Not in that they’re unstoppable, either. But in that they will dominate for periods of time (see: first 5 minutes of the game last night) and then cower in a defensive shell, avoid hits, and seem flat for extended periods (see: rest of 1st period, first 5 minutes of 2nd). What really worries me is if we get past Carolina, both the Capitals and the Penguins are far more aggressive and offensively potent. We will need to be the same team that gave Montreal absolutely nothing in the first round – only better, because we won’t be playing Montreal.

-In cased you missed it, try to catch the assist from David Krejci on the Bruins 2nd goal last night. Pretty amazing touch on the puck, good awareness of what was going on around him, and the guy took out the only would-be defender, which allowed Montidor to settle the puck in front of him instead of having to one-time it.

-The Crosby/Ovechkin matchup is pretty awesome to watch. But what do you think Bettman would rather have seen? Crosby/Ovechkin in the 2nd round? Or the Wings, Blackhawks, Bruins, and Rangers in the Conference Finals? I can’t decide, though I lean towards the latter. (Also, sorry Hernandez for bringing this up at all. I was pulling for the Rangers. At least they’ve won a cup in your lifetime.)

-Thank you to the Wings and Ducks for providing me with the end-of-the-game-fight-that-spreads-like-wildfire. I caught the 3rd period, and was thinking to myself how much this game seemed tame compared to the Caps/Penguins and Bruins/Canes series. After Detroit scored and forced Hiller to preserve the win with an outstanding save, I got what I’d been waiting for (and was expecting at the end of the Bruins game, to be honest). This should be an awesome Game 7.

-I wish I had the option of turning off the announcers and just listening to the sounds of hockey. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the noises you hear while watching hockey on television. Note: The Fox laser sound is NOT a “hockey noise.”

-A hearty thank you to the Orlando Magic. I don’t want to take anything away from the Celtics, because (as you will hear umpteen times) this team is winning on pure will right now. But the Magic did their part to give away last night’s game. You have to be able to protect that lead with 5 minutes, on the road, in a pivotal Game 5. They just lost on a buzzer beater at home. Now they’ve guaranteed that, at best, they will have to come to Boston for Game 7.

-Rivers should be applauded for getting the right team on the floor at the right time. I’m not sure Van Gundy should have been publicly questioned (and by Howard, nonetheless … more on that later), but he certainly shouldn’t be calling his team out, either. There were questionable decisions and weak efforts from both parts of the team … but they’re really going to start tearing into each other now? Maybe they want it to be quick and painless.

-I think I’m enjoying watching this year’s team better than last year’s. I am sure part of that is the pressure is gone to see the Celtics win another title. But it is really so much more of a team effort … last year there were few, if any, games where you weren’t looking to Allen or Pierce or Garnett to put in 20 and pull down 10. This year you’ve got Rondo averaging near a triple-double, Davis knocking down huge shots in pressure situations, Eddie House and Stephon Marbury coming off the bench. Brian Scalabrine is playing in playoff games where the lead differential is less than 30.

-No disrespect to the Magic, but I have been less-than-impressed with Dwight Howard in this series. His numbers aren’t necessarily terrible, and I wouldn’t hold him single-handedly accountable for the Magic losses. But shouldn’t he be dominating the paint? Am I really just underestimating the defensive prowess of Big Baby and The Pharaoh? (That’s my nickname for Perkins … is that already his nickname? It’s that goatee. He should have it gilded.) I saw at least 2 or 3 times last night where he got the ball on the post and was forced off his shot, at least once by each of them. I was expecting him to devour those two.

-I love watching Rondo drive the lane and take those little running jumpers my Dad was so fond of. (I like to pretend he never wanted to play basketball until he saw Hoosiers and then modelled his entire game from what he saw in that movie. And that the theme song to that movie is in his head all the time.) I hate how he sometimes seems to pull back at the last second, as if he is worried that Pierce or Allen are going to be pissed if he takes too many shots. If a team gives you the lane, take it. If they start to collapse on you, find the open man. If they don’t, put the shot up. Pierce and Allen will bear no grudge if you can carry this team to the Finals.

-The Lakers certainly reminded me again why they are the team to beat this year. Yes, it’s a Yao-less Rockets team that shocked the Lakers Sunday night. I’m not saying that’s the same as beating the Cavs by that margin. But that type of performance makes you realize that they really are a complete team right now. They lack consistency, sure, but in a 7 game series, I think they are going to be really hard to beat in at least 4 or 5 of those games. Fun fact from last night: LA could have been shut out in the 3rd quarter and still maintained a 10-point lead going into the 4th.

-Ok, I admit it. I went to bed last night after Lowell grounded out in the 8th with runners at 2nd & 3rd and 2 outs. But I wasn’t angry. It was 1am.

-Which leads me to my final thought for the day … and I’ve tried to consider all the implications herein. But I think when it comes down to it, I’m happier being an east coast fan and having to watch my teams on west coast schedules sometimes, than being a west coast fan and having to watch my team on an east coast schedule sometimes.

A Holiday From the Hosers

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There’s been a lot of hockey talk around here the last few weeks, but I swear to Wayne Gretzky, it ends right here, right now. Losing Game 7 of a series you were once leading 3-1 will do that to you.

The only potential hitch in the plan is Keith, who is a loose cannon liable to go off on any topic known to man, as he did a few days ago when he surprisingly worked up a completely unauthorized, unsanctioned and gratuitous hockey post. We’ll forgive him because A) the post was really good, and B) he’s a mean drunk.

Bear with me as I empty my puck-crazed brain before it turns to the NBA playoffs, baseball, and just about anything else in sports besides hockey.

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The Truth

060419_springsteen_vmed_2pwidecNext Monday, I’m going with Hernandez to see Bruce Springsteen at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. This is the first time I will see Bruce, and probably the last.

Bruce is one of those musicians who I never got into. But there’s no denying that he drives his fans absolutely apeshit, and there’s a lot to be said for getting a glimpse of that world, of that subculture. I know he’s a legend, and I truly appreciated his hammy Super Bowl set last year because I knew he didn’t give a shit about football. He just does what he does.

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