May 31, 2008

Leftovers

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Not sure what this post is about. Just random thoughts as I try to wake up after a nearly sleepless night. But this reheated Little Caesar's is helping me get over it. A Wings win tonight wouldn't hurt either.

****

- Sportscenter's Josh Elliot, narrating the display of the 2008 NBA Finals schedule:

"Look at that. Just look at that. It's a snapshot of a gift from the basketball gods!"


I have an idea. Since EVERYBODY wants the Lakers and Celtics in the Finals, why don't we just have all of the other teams disband so that they can play each other for the championship every year? Wouldn't that make everyone happy? And since that still probably won't be good enough, all of us non-Boston/L.A. basketball fans can make a pilgrimage to French Lick, Indiana after the season and take turns fellating Larry Bird until he goes blind.


- Carlos Guillen hasn't changed positions in something like 4 days, so it's just getting to be that time. Unbelievable. The guy went from shortstop to 1st base to 3rd base to part-time DH .... and now you want to put him in left field? That's enough position changes for a career, let alone two months. Shit, why not just have him replace Kenny Rogers in the rotation too?


- Sheed's stats in the Pistons' final games of the last 4 seasons:

2005 -- 11 points, 1 rebound, no free throw attempts
2006 -- 10 points on 4-12 shooting, no FT attempts
2007 -- 11 points on 5-14 shooting, 2 rebounds, fouled out, 1 thrown headband
2008 -- 4 points on 2-12 shooting, 5 fouls, no FT attempts


- Chris McCosky's Pistons game recap. Some things that stood out:

The Pistons are the first team in the modern era to lose in the conference finals three straight years.

"Man, I don't know," said Chauncey Billups, who scored 29 to lead the Pistons. "We had a couple of opportunities, to make some shots, get some breaks. We had an and-1 in that stretch, and the momentum kind of shifted. We feel comfortable in those types of games but we don't come out on top all the time, especially against another great team."
What now? Most likely coach Saunders' reign ends here. Despite a franchise-best .715 winning percentage, he couldn't get the Pistons back to the NBA Finals -- and that was, fair or not, his mission with this team.

"I don't know what Joe will do," McDyess said. "But he probably will make changes. There are no more excuses. We didn't get to the Finals, again."

And another eye-opener from Dice:

"We didn't give it all we got," said a dejected Antonio McDyess. "Look at what we've got, a 4-2 (series) loss to the Celtics. We had homecourt advantage (after Game 2), and we thought we could just go out and win it. As I was sitting there at the end, I thought, 'Another year we didn't get to the Finals; another letdown.' Just no excuses, we didn't get there."

- Free agent wishlist: Antawn Jamison

Even before last night's game, I was thinking about potential lineup changes for next season (impossible to ignore considering Sheed's contract situation). I can't envision him still being here by the end of next season, but how are we going to adequately replace him? Whatever it is, I don't think it's going to be an immediate fix. I read a couple commenter blurbs -- and thought about it myself to an extent -- about a Pistons/Suns trade with Sheed and Amare Stoudemire as the centerpieces. But there's no way the Suns give up Amare, especially after how dominant he looked playing alongside Shaq, and as far as the Pistons go, Sheed would still be considered a better defensive player even if Amare was allowed to use a blowtorch on the court. Not to mention we'd probably have to give up Tayshaun, and while I'm willing to part with him, giving up two good defenders for at least one bad one isn't going to get us any further than conference finals anyway. In conclusion, I have no fucking idea why I even brought this up.


- Wings will win tonight. Not jinxing anything, just telling it like it is. Babcock will make the right adjustments, Datsyuk is gonna score, and Ozzie will rebound from his iffy Game 3.

"Get dat fuckin' camera out my face!"

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Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6
Pistons 81-89 Celtics


If Joe Dumars decides to shake shit up this offseason, that quote from Sheed might be the last memorable one we get from him in a Pistons uniform. After picking up a big 2nd half foul in yet another game he just never quite got into, a camera man thought it would be a wise idea to plop right down in front of the disgruntled vet and capture his frustration from two feet in front of his scowling face. Why anybody would think this is a good idea is beyond me, but at the very least it provided a hilarious moment in an otherwise disheartening game.

Going on 34, inconsistent swings in effort, and the always attractive expiring contract all point toward the end of the Sheed era in Detroit. If nothing else, you can say that he's an interesting dude; you always hear that, if he wanted to, he could be one of the top 5 players in the game -- he's got that type of pure talent. We see it in spurts ... that high arching, indefensible fall-away jumper that always feels like it's going in ... that up-and-under move that he can seemingly get whenever he chooses ... and solid enough D that we can match him up with anybody's front line in the league.

But all of that upside comes the negative stuff. The antics ... the uncontrollable anger ... the times where it just doesn't look like he gives a shit. The times where he looks so convinced that everybody's out to get him, to the point where he completely shuts down and just says "fuck it." I haven't watched the postgame press conference yet -- and I won't subject myself to it in the days to come anyway -- but I'm sure he's going to bitch about the referees to an annoying extent. It's just what he does. He lets the calls get to him so bad that I swear he's going to retire 2 or 3 years too early just to rid himself of it.

Sheed's an interesting guy because nobody knows what makes him tick. I've heard that he's a family man, a real "nice guy" off the court. I've heard that he's maybe the most well-liked guy in the entire NBA, and he's obviously one of the most respected players in the game. But he's just a different character altogether. There's nobody even close to him in terms of his combination of personality and playing style. The part that intrigues me is how fired up he can look when the shit hits the fan, but how laid back he is when things are going right. You rarely see him get over-emotional after a win or a big play or anything positive. And therein lies the mystery of this guy -- what exactly motivates him? He had more fouls than points in a home elimination game for fuck's sake. What would it take for him to just completely dominate a game? Not Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I guess. A couple playoff games, sure. A number of December or January games, yes. But the thing is, you just never know what kind of effort you're going to see from Sheed from day-to-day. And if he has played his last game in Detroit, or even if we're heading into his final season here, we'll all be left wondering what more could have been made out of these 6 straight conference finals appearances. Other thoughts on the depressing final game of the season ...

- This game wasn't lost because of a lack of Chauncey Billups. He was playing with a purpose from the start of the game and finished with 29-6-6, and was aggressive the whole way through.
He was abusing Rajon Rondo so bad it was almost embarrassing. We did a good job of utilizing the pick-and-roll for all that it was worth.

- Rip Hamilton was awesome, bad elbow or not. 21 points on 9-14 shooting in 39 minutes. He might have an off night for time to time, but he's the guy I trust the most in pressure situations. With all do respect to Chauncey, Rip is the real "Mr. Big Shot" of this team. Real gutty effort from him tonight.

- God I hate the Celtics. I really do. I hate Sam Cassell, I hate Kendrick Perkins, I hate James Posey, I'm tired of hearing the words "Big 3", I'm tired of hearing how great KG and Rajon Rondo are ... I just hate that team. I can't believe Doc Rivers just beat us. Seeing Paul Pierce beaming with joy in front of Michelle Tafoya was sickening. Seeing Rivers celebrating like he just won the NBA title, the lottery and an Oscar all at once was even more sickening. The fact that this all happened at the Palace was the most sickening.

- Tayshaun had a terrible series offensively. We needed him to have a decent Game 6 at the least, and he scrounged up zero first half points. He finally found his stroke later on but still only finished with 10. Then he fell asleep in the backcourt for the final dagger in our hearts as Posey (I think it was Posey) made a huge steal to basically end any chance of a comeback.

- The rebounding edge was only +2 for Boston, but it felt like it was at least +10. They had a number of killer offensive boards that made me want to pull my hair out.

- Rodney Stuckey wasn't a huge factor in this game, but it wasn't a crucial element of the result (Rip and Chauncey had 50 on their own.) Like every other Pistons fan, I'm already excited to see how his game is going to develop next year. He's off to a terrific start.

- I hate Jeff Van Gundy as an announcer. He's the definition of "douche bag". When he called Chauncey's reaction to an illegal, moving pick from Rondo a "flop" and bemoaned about how embarrassing it looked for the next 30 seconds, I considered muting the game permanently. Chauncey didn't even fall down -- just merely threw his head back a little bit like every other fucking player in the NBA would've done.

- I love Dice, but never really got himself into the action. Only 6 points, and only 3 shots in 36 minutes. If the team played with his heart every playoff game, we'd be in the finals right now, I'm convinced of that.

- Unfortunately, I was under the assumption that this series was lost after the Pistons failed to show up for Game 3. That was the most disappointing Pistons game I have ever watched. Period. They didn't just dig themselves a hole, they went to a whole new plateau of complacency that was once thought to be unattainable.

- Lindsey Hunter's last game? Possibly. My dad will be thrilled ... despite his on-ball defense, nobody hates one player on planet Earth more than my dad hates Lindsey Hunter. Every time Lindsey takes a long range jumper, 5 to 6 months come off my dad's life. I'm not kidding.

- The Palace crowd, I'm sorry to say, sucks. It just does. I don't know what it is, but out of the four major professional sports teams in Michigan, the Pistons by far have the lamest crowds. People were leaving the game with over 2 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. That's fucking embarrassing. If I ever leave a semi-close elimination conference finals game two minutes early -- and for some reason you know what I look like, are also at the game, and in possession of a rifle -- please shoot me dead. Thanks in advance.

- Jason Maxiell had 7 big points and another trademark block in 16 minutes.

- I was 100% convinced we were going to win this game. It never crossed my mind that we would lose until it was getting toward the end of the first quarter, and despite Chauncey and Rip tearing it up, I just started to fear that the frontline didn't have it, and would never recover. Sadly, my fears played out exactly as I envisioned, and a 10 point 4th quarter lead vanished shockingly quick, leading to our exit from the playoffs. The Celtics outscored the Pistons by 16 in the final frame. Sixteen.

- I'm going to try to refrain from going on and on about this, but this is the 3rd year in a row, I believe that we lost to a team that we were better than. These were all trips to the ECF, and I know Flip can't be blamed for everything, but .....

- I'll get to a Season Review post in a couple of days, after the initial shock of this game wears off. As much as it pains me to say this ...... go Lakers. There is no way in HELL that a Doc Rivers team loses to a Phil Jackson team. No way.

May 29, 2008

A long night

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Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3
Red Wings 2-3 Penguins


This was a good hockey game, I'll say that. One that I'm sure the NHL had envisioned prior to this series when they planned on broadcasting a Finals game on NBC. They got a couple goals from the Golden Goose, a highlight reel goal from Johan Franzen, physical play, and yet another white out. Seriously -- even at Pistons games now -- the white outs look ridiculous. Why not go with Black? It's one of your team colors, and it would look infinitely more intimidating than a sea of white shirts.


- Please God, let last night be Andreas Lilja's last game as a Red Wing. I don't ask for much, I just want him gone. Anybody but Lilja. Dig up Slava Fetisov's ass and bring him back if that's what it takes. He was deplorable.....just a fucking caveman on skates, that's what he looks like. Every time he ventures into a corner to battle for a lose puck my stomach churns. Thankfully he's in the final year of his contract (and just let the record show that he's making more money than Ozzie, Chelios, Flip and Franzen in 2008. Wow.)

- Pavel Datsyuk had about as good a game as you can have while picking up no points and a (-1). He was all over the place last night. That hit he had on Ryan Malone was downright gross -- sounded like Malone got hit by a car. That move he made in the first period from the corner to set up a one-timer in the slot was classic. Funny thing is, Pav has zero points in any of the three games, but he looks like he's ready to bust out in Game 4.

- After raving about the glory of Brad Stuart two days ago, he really choked in his own end on Pittsburgh's first goal. You could see him think just a little too hard about what was a pretty simple situation -- first looking to his left, where it looked like Zetterberg (to his right) assumed he was going to be passing it, and then he just makes a terrible pass toward Z and all was lost from there. He's been susceptible to gaffs like that since he's been in Detroit, but for the most part the rest of his game overshadows it.

- Ozzie was a little off last night, but still kept us in the game. The bank shot goal was a bad one to let in. Rather Shanahan-like. (Watch that clip, because I know you planned on going "oh fuck it, I don't have time for these crazy links" but watch it anyway....not only does it include Vladdy's vicious open-ice hit that was replayed a thousand times, but announcer Gary Cohen accidentally refers to Ron Hextall as "Sextall" right before the goal.) Wouldn't have happened though if Lilja didn't fuck things up about 10 seconds beforehand.

- Johan Franzen is a sorcerer. Plain and simple. His goal tops Filppula's from Game 3 in my eyes for Red Wings' goal of the playoffs. I continue to be amazed at how this guy went from "having great potential" to "legitimate threat to score on every shift" literally over night. For people who watch all or at least most Red Wings games, it's incomprehensible.

- Rafalski didn't have his best game either. I guess I'll stay optimistic about Game 4 because there is just no way that he, Stuart, and whoever is replacing Lilja can be as shaky as they were last night on the back end. I hope.

- Mikael Samuelsson has 3 goals in the Stanley Cup Finals. I don't know how to properly add on to that sentence so I'm just going to stop.

- That was one of my favorite Holmstrom games, ever. He was getting abused so bad in front of the net that I wouldn't expect him to walk let alone play in the next game, yet he does this every night. I am clueless as to how he does it.
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Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5
Pistons 102-106 Celtics


I picked up this one at the end of the 3rd quarter once the Wings game was done, I had been flipping back to it during intermissions and was surprised to see the Pistons down 13 heading into the fourth. They made it interesting though.


- Kendrick Perkins beat us? 18 points and 16 rebounds? Wow.

- When I started watching this game, the defense looked bad, almost lost to an extent. People were being left wide open for jumpers on every possession, which led me to believe that's why there was double-digit deficit as well as Boston having 84 points to start the 4th. Then the alertness clearly picked up through the final quarter, and the Celtics started to look a little rattled down the stretch. I hate Rajon Rondo, by the way. Just throwing that out there. I thought it was funny how Flip decided to trap Pierce rather than put a body within 10 feet of Rondo, and even funnier that it worked.

- Sheed is one tech away from suspension. To think that, if we're going to come back and then win the NBA finals without him getting just one more is kinda scary. It's hard to envision the Pistons winning anything without Sheed in there.

- He seemed pretty pissed in the post game interviews. It's debatable whether that's good or not, but I think it's a bad sign. I mean, the guy goes from damn near apathetic after losses with his "no big deal" mopey ass interviews straight to a point where he's convinced the league doesn't want the Pistons to win (well, they don't, but it's a mentality like that that lost the Cleveland series last year.) So with that in mind, I don't see how this can be a good thing.

- Chauncey had 26 pts and 6 ast, and says the hamstring issue is slowing exiting his mind.

- Rodney Stuckey: impossible not to like this guy. His three-pointer late in the game sent me through the roof. It's hard to say that we need Chauncey to have a stellar game in order to win Friday night, because Stuck has just been getting better and better. And I know he missed one of them, but what does it say about a guy to be taking the last 4 free throws, on the road, in playoff game, as a rookie? The one he missed was halfway down, too -- that had to have felt extra shitty. But it was weird how I didn't feel any more nervous with him on the line as I would have Rip or Chauncey.

- Fucking Ray Allen. Rose from the dead to finally find his mark and hit a killer 3. I hate that guy.

- Rip apparently hyper-extended his shooting elbow toward the end, which is obviously really not good. His status for Game 6 is uncertain as of right now, but to say we need him is an understatement.

May 28, 2008

Tigers starting to run out of creative ways to lose games

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Tigers 2-3 Angels


One day after "giving up" on expecting the Tigers to make the postseason this year, they manage to squander another winnable game with the perfect mix of questionable managing, a perpetually unreliable bullpen, and inconsistent hitting. It was a wondrous concoction of stupid that has repeated itself far too many times already this season. The night previous to last was only slightly less frustrating, probably because I had the Wings & Pistons wins to buoy the initial despair you feel when your team blows a close game. Even so, I had to chuckle at the thought of the Tigers getting tired of getting shut out in 9 inning games -- they thought stretching one to 12 would spice things up a bit.

The worst thing about last night's game was that as soon as I saw Leyland trot out to the mound a second time to pull Bonderman, I was at least 95% sure that the game was lost. I was felt nearly positive that the Tigs were more likely to give up 3 runs before they could get 5 outs than find a way to win. That's not a good feeling. Other thoughts...


- The only real hope I have for this season is that the "good" offense starts to sync up on a more consistent basis with the rest of the team, because it just doesn't seem like these wildly inconsistent nights at the plate can go on for the whole season.

- Before the season, when the MSM were putting the Tigers in the World Series before January, Baseball Prospectus came out with their 2008 projections, which included major regressions for the Tigers' bats and a 2nd place finish in the division. Hogwash, Detroiters shouted. Well, that's pretty much exactly what we've seen through the first two months of the season, plus, the pitching is giving up a ton of runs. Here are guys who have significant OPS's lower than last year's (difference of points in parentheses):

Polanco: (-97)
Cabrera: (-140)
Renteria: (-171)
Granderson: (-151)
Sheffield: (-165)

and just for the hell of it...

Jacque Jones: (-236!)

- Maggs, Carlos and Pudge also have numbers slightly below last year's, but nothing major. In the case of the first two guys, they're still having good seasons, while Pudge, well, he's just Pudge. At least Brandon Inge's hitting has slightly improved. And for the record, I would expect the numbers of Granderson and Cabrera to improve a lot over the next couple of months.

- Leyland's decision to pull Bondo yesterday has already been a great debate. Some argue that he would've been facing the Angels' lineup for a 4th time, and that his final batter hit him pretty well, so that's apparently supposed to mean that he's done. Well, to that I disagree with the decision. It was his best outing of the season up to that point, and oddly enough it was also the fewest pitches (83) that he's thrown in any of his starts. What happened to saving the bullpen by having the starters go longer this season? I'd trust Jeremy going through the lineup once more than bringing in Cruceta. I even said aloud during the game that I wouldn't even be THAT disappointed if he gave up a game tying hit before being pulled. At least he would've had a chance to finish what he started.

- Cruceta is making me lose my mind. He's got 10 walks in 11+ innings this year, and a 1.853 WHIP. "Comfortable" is not a feeling I experience when he enters a game.

- On the mound tonight: Armando Galarraga. He started against the Angels back on April 26 and allowed 1 run on 3 hits in 6 IP. He's had some shaky outings since he came on strong in his first three starts, and I fear that the second time around against LAA will be the game that he implodes, but hopefully I'm wrong. They'll be going against some fucker named Joe Saunders who's 8-1 with 1.06 WHIP and a 2.31 ERA. Awesome.

May 27, 2008

A reason to hate the Penguins

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Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2
Red Wings 3-0 Pittsburgh


Before this series had started I felt that I needed some sort of reason to hate the Penguins. Ideally, I don't want to like anything about a team that we're trying to win a championship against. But I had little problem with them up until this point: I was rather indifferent on Sydney Crosby while thinking that he seemed kind of like a bratty teenager, but nothing to extreme. He's pretty fun to watch when he's lighting up defenses and whatnot. I don't hate the city of Pittsburgh, so that's not a viable option. I don't like the Steelers, but that's still not rational enough.

Then we had Game 2. Another total domination by the Red Wings from end to end. It has looked comical at times. I don't mean that to sound pompous -- I just find it funny that so many people could be so wrong about how good the Penguins were (including myself to an extent). If I didn't know any better, I'd venture to say that Pittsburgh's competition hasn't quite been that of the Red Wings' this season. So how does the 'Burgh respond? Goonery. Unabashed goonery. Gary Roberts, taking a sucker punch on Johan Franzen, a dude who's had concussion-like symptoms and shit for the past three weeks. I don't care if it didn't do the damage that he intended, or that that Johan clearly dove (a little gay but whatever). That was bullshit. So was Ryan Malone trying to run Zetterberg -- that whole final 10 minutes was pathetic. If they don't find another answer than to pull that stuff then this series will be over Saturday night. But hey, at least I have a real reason to not like them now. Other thoughts...

- Joe Louis Arena has been really rocking for these first two games. Not up to late '90s standards, but that goes without saying. It's just nice to see it look alive once again.

- Johan: Wow, was I surprised to see Franzen take the ice in the Versus pregame. The latest I had heard, which was roughly 1 or 2 in the afternoon, was that he was out for the game. Not doubtful -- out. So to see him added to the lineup against a team that just lost 0-4 was really encouraging. Not only did he play, but he was affective as well, having the primary assist on Filppula's goal with a tape-to-tape pass from center that helped put the game away. Babcock wasn't coddling him either -- he had 26 shifts and 16+ minutes of icetime.

- The Datsyuk retaliation on Ryan Malone for his cheap shot on Zetterberg was priceless. Then he even mixed it up with that old kook Gary Roberts. People tend to think he's like a gentlemanly knight or something given all of his sportsmanship accolades, but I think this was a concerted effort by him to sway people into NOT voting him for a 3rd straight Gayest Award In Sports: The Lady Byng.

- Filppula's goal: Definitely one of those goals that make me jump out of my chair and run around for a solid minute (although at this time of year pretty much all of them do). The replay further did it justice by showing how he deked under the defenseman's stick to protect the puck, then he capped it off with a Bobby Orr-like finish.

- Brad Stuart: When this blog was still in its infancy and Ken Holland made a deal to swing Brad Stuart, I responded with uncertainty. No, more like immaturely and without thinking. I was more than wrong. Stuart has been good to great in his time with the Wings, and I hope he stays here next season. He'd probably have to take less money, but there is absolutely no place better for him than Detroit. His game is a fit and he's a perfect pairing with Nick Kronwall. Please stay, Brad.

- No even strength shots for Pittsburgh in 1st period. That pretty much sums up how over-matched they've looked during this series so far.

- Don Cherry is losing his mind. I attempted to watch the bit on Sportscenter with he and Melrose and Steve Levy, but my mind started to go numb. Cherry is going on and on about how the Pens are doing nothing, almost like a mysterious ailment is the reason for their woes and not the Wings defense. Levy (and even Melrose, as much as it pains me to give him any credit) even tried to set Cherry up with an attempt to so much as say "the Red Wings are good" just to save face, but he just responded by saying something about Sydney Crosby instead. Just surreal.

- I realize that Osgood isn't going to get any serious praise until he shuts out the Penguins two more times, donates his entire 2008 salary to an earthquake relief fund and goes back in time to give John Wilkes Booth the wrong directions to the Ford Theater, but I still haven't heard one mention of him for Conn Smythe. Maybe I have selective hearing -- I'm throwing that out there. They may have said it and I'm a complete ass. But I've watched every game and haven't heard one thing about it.

- Pittsburgh coach Michel (I'm not even going to look up the spelling of his last name because just calling a grown man "Michel" is good enough for me) is a total cocksucker. Watch the post game material on nhl.com for proof.

- So much for Ryan Malone's presence on the top line. Four penalties and some douche bag-y type of incidents that made the line adjustment look like a complete joke.

- Evgeni Malkin: WHERE IS THIS MAN??!??

- Oh my god, Lilja. In the 2nd period he was knocked over when he attempted to receive a pass, and apparently the momentum of like a 5 ounce puck was too much for him to handle in the open ice. It was incredible to watch. Thankfully we can laugh about this now, because Pittsburgh blew a glorious scoring chance. But still, wow.

- Game 3: biggest of Crosby's career. If they win, it's still a series, but if not -- given the expiring deals they have --that team might not be back next season. Also, they look way overconfident, and by the sounds of Crosby after Game 2, he either doesn't know what has hit them or he legitimately believes everything is A-ok. Pittsburgh now has to take 4 out of 5 against Detroit and they haven't even scored a fucking goal yet.

- I don't care about how good this series is for the NHL. I've come to grips with the fact that hockey's a regional sport, and that its enormous popularity in the 90's was partially aided with things that seemed good for the short term but instead damaged it in the long run, so getting back to where it was 10 to 15 years ago is probably unattainable. As long as the Wings win that's good enough for me.

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Unfortunately that's all the time I have for today, so I can't delve into the Pistons game. Kinda makes me look like a dick for going off when they lose and saying nothing when they win, but what the hell. Also, I'd like to document this date as the date that I have officially given up on the Tigers season. I know they'll probably suck me back in with an 8 out of 10 mini-run and I'll be making that claim all over again, but I thought I'd say it nonetheless. May 27....it's not even fucking June yet and the most hyped season in Tigers history (or at least my lifetime) is already done in my eyes. Sad, sad, sad.

May 26, 2008

This is not news

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I don't like doing posts that cover stuff that happened two days ago, because we're obviously looking forward to Games 2 and 4 of the Wings and Pistons series more so than still harking back on Games 1 and 3. But if you haven't noticed by now this can be a rather shamelessly self-indulgent blog and any credibility I've ever gained as an intelligent human being let alone a knowledgeable sports fan was washed away during Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when after a game in Nashville I suggested that Johan Franzen's play was comparable to one Robert Lang. So if you'll excuse me we had two very interesting games on Saturday night and I'd feel remiss if I passed up this small window of an opportunity to say anything about them.


Pistons 80-94 Celtics

I'm doing this one first because there's no way that I'm going to let this monstrosity of a game be the last taste in my mouth after this post. Just getting it out of the way right now.

****

It's after games like these that I wish I had the chance to ask each and every player on the Pistons squad, "What the fuck happened out there tonight?" while they're standing half-naked in their lockers wondering how a 22 year-old who looks like a 9th grader got press access (in which case I'd also have to wish for the balls to ask that question as well as an employer who would allow me to say "fuck" at every whim.) Even the guys who played well, I'd like to ask them how they feel about the situation as a whole.

You see, I was pumped as hell watching the pregame introductions. Everybody was. We were going to beat the Celtics by 30, you could just feel it. Game 1 was a loss, but it was still close even though the backcourt wasn't up to standard and aside from Dice nobody was really on their game. Then we had Game 2 -- a game that I was alternately cringing and excitedly air-punching while trying to remain calm sitting next to a hospital bed (everything's cool nobody died) as the the Pistons played one of their more entertaining playoff games of this decade. Just an all around well played game, at both ends by both teams. In particular, the 2nd half. And even more in particular, the last six minutes or so of the game, when the Pistons kept answering the Celtics with huge, arena-silencing shots and big offensive rebounds leading to more huge, arena-silencing shots. Rip's running floater in the waning minutes literally made me dizzy -- I stood up to cheer but had to completely cut my volume off as to not disturb anybody, and I'm pretty sure I turned purple. I had a nurse come in to check my vitals but it turns out I'm just an overzealous douche bag who doesn't have a relative idea of what's truly important in life, or something of that ilk. And not only did the Pistons close it out, but the much shittier-than-original Big 3 scored 75 points and still lost at home. Coming home for games 3 and 4, we knew we had them.

****

11-0 Boston to start the game. Unbelievable. As optomistic we all were before the tip, it all came crumbling down within a few short minutes. No energy at the start, absolutely none at all. Two dunks allowed to begin the game? Seriously? At home? I don't even care about the 13-0 run we had in response to it (easier to say after the fact, but still). Right after that run they let them go back to beating the shit out them to end the quarter anyway, so in the end all it did was make the score look less humiliating.

There was no interior D on display Saturday from Detroit. You would've thought that Rasheed forgot he had arms or something. Boxing out was optional, as were switches off pick-an-rolls, as was any sort of help defense from just about everybody. It was all too casual and the saddest part was how noticeable it was from the very start of the game.

I'll say this, however: Rodney Stuckey is a hell of a player. I don't know how he does what he does, taking on the likes of Kevin Garnet and Fat Baby Davis with zero % nerves and 100 % confidence. I wish I had whatever he has. He looks as calm playing in the Eastern Conference Finals as he is picking between Captain Crunch and Frosted Mini Wheats in the grocery aisle at Kroger. Not only that, but he was questioning the team's effort after the game. A rookie for fuck's sake! On a team full of veterans, a rookie has to step up and say this? And in sort of a defense for what happened in this game, I'm hesitant to question Chauncey's awful night (6 points, 1 FG). I have no idea how his hamstring feels, but I'd still like to believe he could beat Rajon Rondo with only one good leg. Perhaps I'm just a dreamer. We expect these guys to be superhuman and they can't always live up to that, I know. Not having a single bucket until late in the 4th quarter isn't all that good though. That's either on him or the coaching staff -- if he can't go, he needs to sit.

I know Flip can't be blamed for everything, but at the very least I'd like to contemplate how this team's game-to-game effort would look under anybody other than him. We saw how they played with Larry Brown, and we approved of it. We see how they play with Flip, and we're consumed with unfiltered rage that makes us eat baby kittens (come on, I know I'm not the only one. Nothing sooths the seething rage like a bowl of gumbo du monde and a side of perfectly sauteed Himalayan. Ok I'm sorry that's pretty gross.) It's easy to say, but if I was playing in this series, they'd have to sedate me with an entire box of Tylenol PM and a warm glass of goat's milk just to calm me down to the point where I was only slightly more amped up than KG pretends to be before each game. Now we're looking at an absolute must-win Game 4, and even then we need another road win to reach the finals.
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Red Wings 4-0 Penguins

Now for the good part. The Wings played one of their best games of the year to take Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and it was the way they won it that was most surprising. Pittsburgh clearly didn't show up with their best game, but Detroit clearly had something to do with that. After the first period the Penguins failed to scare the Wings in any significant way, other than drawing penalties, but without capitalizing on those chances they were toast. Above all I absolutely can't believe they didn't score. Other thoughts...

- Did Malkin play in this game? Because I couldn't find him. I looked really hard and had my eyes peeled for the whole thing, but I'll be damned if that guy didn't just stay in Pittsburgh to watch this one from his couch. It's like weird, you know, because I heard beforehand how other-worldly awesome he was and shit and I couldn't wait to see how the Pens' big two matched up with ours, but I guess I'll just have to wait for next time or something. Oh wait a minute -- says here he played and didn't do jack dick. Hmmph.

- Puck possession was a factor, but obviously once the Wings got the lead they went into more of a lockdown mode on defense and let Pittsburgh have it a little bit more to protect the net. They did so by allowing only 19 shots (nearly half of what they had: 36), and only 7 shots in the final two periods.

- Osgood was really sharp. Of course, being the international symbol of all things related to the words "fucking stupid" -- I mean -- "hockey", Barry Melrose claimed that Osgood didn't have to do anything spectacular for the Wings to win. Could he give this guy some fucking credit? Would it kill him? I feel like a mother or something sticking up for this guy: he's been a goaltending fiend for nearly the duration of this entire season. He DID have to make some big saves to prevent the Penguins from getting on the board first. If we should be so lucky as to win this series, he's your Conn Smythe winner. And most of all he didn't trip coming out of the locker room.

- Samuelsson. Mikael Samuelsson. Scored. Twice. I........?????????????.......did he.........honestly.............unassisted...........oxygen..............hurry.........

- Datsyuk and Zetterberg weren't up to their usual selves on offense, but that had little affect on the outcome of this game. This won't be trend that lasts too long. Z had a goal and 8 shots anyway.

- The disallowed goal: I can't get into it. I just can't. I'll be here all day dissecting the technical "rules" of the play and "judgement" and "humanity" and the Big Bang Theory and the meaning of life and a whole bunch of other shit that would make you want to read the Quran backwards before coming back to this blog. I'm sorry.

- For real though how do wave off that goal. How the fuck do you do it. Tell me how. Tell me how a dude from the other side of the net can make a snap judgement like that which has to be based on like 40% assumption, 50% reputation and only maybe 4% direct observation with the remainder of course being left to the fact that this gentlemen clearly is suffering from some sort of vision impairment that includes the words/suffixes "Bettman" and "itis" within its description. Somebody get me a kitten and some non-stick Pam.

- Nice to see Dan Cleary score, especially the way he did. Draper in the postgame said that it was sort of a designed play, to have Cleary shoot up the ice for a hail mary type thing if they won the draw, and then he just beat his lazy ass defender to the puck and scored. His beard is looking pretty awesome as well, I might add.

- Needs to be said: Lilja hasn't been half bad filling in for Chelios

- The whole team played well in this one, end to end. Hard to imagine the Penguins winning this series if our secondary lines are holding down Malkin like they did on Saturday. I fully expect Pittsburgh to come out firing tonight though.

May 22, 2008

Franzenstein........SKATE

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Bruce MacLeod at Red Wings Corner reported today some very encouraging news; the Mule laced 'em up today and skated with the Griffin players after practice today. He's expected to practice with the team tomorrow, but he's still "doubtful" for Game 1.

The weird thing is that Babcock says that he's "flying around 100 miles per hour", but there's still a whole lot of secrecy surrounding the situation. Nobody knows what's really going on with Franzen save for Holland, Babcock and whoever is handling him. Babcock also has been saying that he'll play the day that he's cleared to play, but I'm not so sure about that given how bizarre this thing has become.

And then there's this scary thought: Matt Saler at On the Wings (a blog that makes this one look like a 6 year-old girl's diary by comparison) had this to say...

"Now to the issue of that rumor that’s going around town. If you haven’t heard it, it says that Franzen has played his last game because of some serious brain problem and that the Wings are waiting to announce it until after the playoffs. To me, that seems to be just a little bit alarmist. Sure, there seems to be something strange about this whole thing, but I don’t see any reason to believe the worst until more comes out.

If Franzen’s career really is over, I see no reason for the team to keep up the illusion that he’s going to return for the Finals. Why not just say he’s done for the season and tell the full truth later? It’d be much easier to keep the secret that way."

Wow, hadn't heard that one. Heard the rumor that they'd be shelving him for the season but didn't want to make that info known while games were still being played. I agree though that it wouldn't make any sense for his career to be over while not having the public know. Aside from it being, like, serious shit, I doubt that: a) Franzen would just play along with a charade like that until the finals are over, and b) that a class organization like the Wings (they aren't the "Yankees of the NHL", Pens fans....nor are they the "Cowboys of the NHL"....I'm trying to avoid a tangent here, but both of those clubs are run by fucking clowns (Steinbrenner(s) and Jerry Jones) and have histories of standing for shit that opposing fan loathe when it comes to sports....sure the Wings have their fair share of bandwagon fans -- it happens when you're good for a long ass time -- but comparing them to the Yankees or Cowboys is nonsensical) would hide a career-ending brain injury. If this ridiculous rumor turns out to be true, I'll promise to post a picture of me getting dry-humped by a shirtless cowboy wearing a Yankees hat.


Was gonna say something else but some shit came up and now I'm out the door.....might not be able to post for a few days, so if that's the case, go Wings!

Other people being just plain wrong, Volume #37,549

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OK, so it's like 3:30 in the morning or something right now. I've been reading random shit on the internet -- mostly Stanley Cup/Penguins blogs 'n stuff -- for something like 5 straight hours. My mind feels so mushy that if I were to tilt my head sideways I fear that brain matter would leak out of my ears. This is just to let you know my state right now, as I've written a ton of words in the last day or so, to give you a little heads-up to the fact that what I'm about to say has zero relevance to anything that is presently going on in the world of sports. In fact, what I'm preparing to bitch about has probably already been bitched about before, since the shit I'm about to reference is 10 years old:

Amidst my browsing, I somehow came across the Hockey News' list of 100 greatest hockey players of all time, which was compiled in 1998. Steve Yzerman -- curer of polio, speaker of 26 languages including Swahili and Golden Retriever, and inarguably the greatest human to ever grace this wondrous planet -- is ranked number 77. I said fucking 77, people. Keep in mind this list was made by nearly all Canadians, which Yzerman is, and that the list was made in 1998, which was right at the height of his two-way hockey days, a 2nd Cup run for the Wings, and this was all after he put up some sick offensive numbers in the 80's and early 90's (he notched his 600th goal only a year after this list came out for fuck's sake?) Some players that are ranked higher than 77th?

#70 ~ Brian Leech. Come on -- he was insanely good in NHL '98 for Sega, but I doubt this 1998 panel of experts were using that as criteria.

#54 ~ Eric Lindros. Fuck off. Just fuck off. People saw '98 Eric Lindros and dubbed him better than Steve Yzerman. Give me a fucking break. The dude ended up with like 46 concussions and never came close to reaching his max potential.

#50 ~ Jari Kurri. Oh my God. Kurri had some ridiculous stats because he played alongside Gretzky on those video game Edmonton teams in the 80's, but he's not better than Stevie Y. No way.

#49 ~ Brad Park. BRAD PARK.

#41 ~ Dit Clapper. Great. I guess we're into the "fictional people" part of the list now.

#40 ~ Chris Chelios. Interesting....but still wrong.

#29 ~ Paul Coffey. I'm now officially double checking this list to see if I'm reading it in the right order.

#25 ~ Larry Robinson. No.

#24 ~ Bobby Clarke. Worthy of comparison, bu still no.


Look, I know he's not the greatest hockey player ever. He's not even the greatest Red Wing. But just look at the facts: Yzerman is 6th all-time in career points, 8th all-time in career goals, and 7th all-time in career assists -- and most of those stats were piled up before this list was made. How this was an actual list made by actual people (ERIC FUCKING LINDROS??!!??) is far beyond me. I'm still not 100% convinced that this isn't a weird dream.

OK I lied

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Tigers 9-4 Mariners


I seem to recall saying something along the lines of waiting until the hockey and basketball seasons were over for me to have any Tigers posts. Well, when you're having one of those "zombie days" where you don't do anything except sit at the computer and wait anxiously by the phone because somebody you know is in the hospital with scary spinal cord issues and you're fearing a call will come in with a voice saying something like "I've got bad news", the TV is a good escape. So are Red Wings DVDs that include Stanley Cup winning games (1997 if you're curious.) So is this thing, I guess.

****

Big news before the game: When Dontrelle gets back, he will be put in the 'pen while Armando Galaraga stays in the rotation, and Clay Rapada to the DL. I think this is a good move....I don't care how much money a dude is making -- when you only have one consistent starter through almost 2 months of a season, you HAVE to keep him in there, right? The only thing is that Dontrelle has had some serious control issues, and those are magnified when you come out of the bullpen with runners on and when you really need outs.

- Marcus Thames had his first double of the year, going the other way to right field. Him hitting it down the right field line just looked goofy.

- Fun fact revealed by Mario Impemba: most HR at Comerica...Brandon Inge (50). Makes sense, but still, it's odd.

- Rod Allen, after a laser of a hit zipped past the head of pitcher Jared Washburn: "He might want to check his britches." Sometimes Rod says things that are unintentionally funny (ok more like every time), but I actually found this to be funny.

- Great piece of hitting by Brandon when he ripped a ball down the left field line to put Detroit up 2-0. This was a rally that started with 2 outs.

- Crucial double play in the 3rd, after a blown call put Ichiro on first. These are usually the things that have sent us into a downward spiral, but not this time.

- Washburn was being hit HARD early on and never recovered. Tigers did a good job of keeping the pressure on him. An, wow, that grand slam felt awesome. 5 straight hits and then the big fly from Thames. The lefty-loaded lineup clearly scared Washburn shitless.

- Kenny was mixing speeds well early, even struck out back-to-back batters in the 4th on way to a 1-2-3 inning. Then he got himself into a bit of trouble but was taken out before he could spill an entire barrel of gasoline on the fire. This season has primed me to brace for the worst, and with the Mariners having bases loaded and down 6, I didn't feel very safe.

- Every starter had a hit.

- Zach Minor was serviceable, and hasn't been entirely atrocious during the last 2 weeks.

May 21, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals preview

I'm going to risk stating the obvious and admit that I'm really excited for the Finals to start. Fans of the Leafs or Blackhawks have obviously been waiting a long ass time since their last Cup, so if one of them happens by this site they may not want to hear me say this: 2002 feels like 3 lifetimes ago. I'm sorry. 6 years is not a long time by any stretch of the imagination. But when your team is expected to win the Cup every single year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs become increasingly unbearable to watch under the circumstances of enormous expectations. Since our last trip to the Finals, we've been swept by the Ducks in the first round only to see Sergei Federov jump ship weeks later; been upended by the Flames and Oilers; gone through a number of weird goalie changes (Curtis Joseph played for this team. Feels like ancient history); said goodbye to Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan; and suffered a heart-wrenching loss to the hated Ducks once again last year. Yeah I probably sound like just another annoying, spoiled Wings fan, but...well I don't have a comeback for that. It is what it is.

Since it's been a while (in my eyes) since winning our last championship, this is a distinctly different group than the one that won it last. While there are still some of the same faces around, this isn't a team led by a balanced veteran attack that can score with three lines night in-night out. It's a top heavy unit led by two phenomenal, reliable forwards who are nearly as good in their own end as they are at putting the puck in the opposition's net. Captain Nick Lidstrom won the Conn Smythe in 2002, and yet has gotten noticeably better since then, prompting me to start calling it the award for best defensemen the "Lidstrom Trophy" instead of the Norris. We still have Dominik Hasek, but thankfully his decrepit ass is riding the pine and the resurgent Chris Osgood has managed to start anew in Detroit in his place. With this new era of Wings, but some still around from the "old" days, I've wondered what lasting image a Cup win this year would leave on Red Wings fans' minds.

Each of the three Cups that the Red Wings won from 1997 to 2002 had their own specific feel. The first one in '97 was a culmination of getting rid of 42 years of Cup-less frustration, as well as that core '90s group of guys led by Steve Yzerman finally getting over the hump that had plagued their team for the duration of the decade. They did so in a convincing fashion; first going through the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in one of the more rewarding series victories in the last 15 years; then dismantling the Flyers in an emphatic 4-game sweep, capped off by Darren McCarty's ridiculous series-clincher that send the Joe into a euphoric frenzy. In any championship there's a sense of both happiness and relief. But in '97 it seemed like it was just pure happiness.

'98 is remembered for a few things, but most obviously it was all about Vladimir Konstantinov. You just knew they weren't going to lose. It was about sustaining success for hockey in Detroit, about Chris Osgood taking the goaltender reigns, about a championship defense, about random dudes like Brent Gilchrist and Jamie Macoun lifting the Cup. This was about a possessed team playing dominant hockey, and in doing so they ended up as one of the best Red Wing teams of all time.

2002 felt like nothing else that I had ever experienced as a fan. After all of the major off season acquisitions, Luc Robataille summed it up best by saying that if the team made it to triple overtime in the 7th game of the Finals and still lost, it would be a bad year. And that was pretty much it -- win the Cup, or you suck. It was the 65 million dollar team against the rest of the league. And along the way there were some serious doubts about whether this team was going to pull through. There was a long lull between the final month of the season when the the team clinched the Presidents Trophy and the first round of the playoffs, and the rust was evident as they nearly choked to Vancouver. They survived, trampled through St. Louis, beat Colorado in another memorable series, then swatted away the Canes. Enjoyable, yes, but also there was a great sense of relief, and an acknowledgment that this could be the last go-around for this group of players.

So this has all got me thinking about how the 2008 Wings could potentially be remembered. Will they be the team that fell to Sidney Crosby en route to his first Stanley Cup? Or will they be remembered as the team with the two-headed offensive monster led by the greatest defensive defenseman of all time? If they do win, Lidstrom will add another chapter to his already historic career, Datsyuk and Zetterberg will hopefully get a boatload of national attention that they deserve, and Chris Osgood would put an exclamation point on a wild, wave-like career -- from early 90's potential star-in-the-making to not having enough experience to winning a Cup to being casted aside in favor of Hasek to being recalled and ultimately favored over Hasek. What a weird trip it has been.

****

So here we are. How will the Wings defend the Pens centers and how will Pittsburgh blue-liners handle the Pav-Hank-Homer line? Here are 10 thoughts...

#1 ~ The Pittsburgh setup is different than the Wings' in that they split up their two best players, Crosby and Malkin, instead of keeping them together. The result hasn't exactly been bad (Crosby has 21 points, with 17 assists), so he's clearly making his wingers better, and Malkin
has 19 points of his own. Draper and Drake are going to have to play a terrific defensive series.

#2 ~ The +/- leaders are Zetterberg (+15) and Datsyuk (+12), further showing how well they play at both ends of the ice. Ray Whitney is the closest Penguin with a +8. Age factors aside, I'd take D and Z before Crosby and Malkin anyday with the way that they cover the entire ice.

#3 ~ Malkin got beat up a little bit in previous series' by more physical teams, so it will be interesting to see how he does against a team defense like Detroit's.

#4 ~ I've read in a couple places about how the goaltending is pretty much even for this series, but I have no problem taking Ozzie. He's first in GAA with 1.60 (although Marc-Andre Fleury is right behind him) and he's been an absolute rock from the start of the season til now, save for a short stretch after the All Star Break.

#5 ~ Johan Franzen. My gut tells me that if he isn't playing Game 1, he's done for the year. I have no idea what's going on with him. How can he be out for this long with no serious progress if it's just concussion-like syndromes? I want to know, dammit. And if he's out, the Wings are going to need 6 or likely 7 games to win this thing because the scoring has been too sporadic without him in the lineup. Sure as hell ain't depending on Sammy and Flip.

#6 ~ Not that this is related to the game itself, but I'm a just a liiiiiiiiiittle upset about the first three Finals games going on at the same time as the Pistons' games. Fucking awesome.

#7 ~ In the matchup of blue lines, Detroit has the big edge. Pittsburgh's is just now coming along whereas the Red Wings unit has been in top form all season long. The Pens defenders are going to have a much tougher task with Pav and Hank than any other team they've faced, and even though the same goes for the Wings with Crosby and co., they're built to handle it.

#8 ~ Both teams like to hang onto the puck, but Detroit is more balanced for that type of attack because their outlet passes from their own end are pristine. How the Pens forwards handle this and adjust to it throughout the series will be big.

#9 ~ With Franzen potentially out, Detroit is inevitably going to struggle at some point in this series to score goals because as good and the top line is, they can't do it every single night. Hudler needs to score; Filppula needs to score; CLEARY needs to score....just somebody, help. If they don't step up this series is likely going to go deep as both teams should win some games, and if we've seen then end of the great 2008 run for the Mule, then a Penguins' Cup victory is entirely possible. As for a prediction:

#10 ~ Red Wings in 7, Hank Zetterberg your Conn Smythe winner. Like I'm fucking picking against the Wings.

May 20, 2008

Let the ESPN/Boston jerk-fest begin

Eastern Conference Finals, Game 1
Pistons 79-88 Celtics


Well, after the jubilation that ensued after winning the NHL's West, Detroit was back at it tonight in B-Ball, trying to get a jump on the Boston Celtics. And they couldn't. Flip Saunders, in the post game, credited the Boston defense and the lack of "flow" that was missing from the Pistons offense. Isn't that your job to fix, Flip? Okay, I won't start the Flip bashing just yet. We're only one game in for crying out loud. Anyway, I'm sure my feelings on my Celtic/Boston/New England/practically-anywhere-east-of-where-I-live hatred will shine through in the next week or so, and to get myself all hyped up and whatnot, let's get my biased thoughts about one Kevin Garnet out of the way: He's truly unlike any other talent in the NBA, or professional sports for that matter, in that without really ever winning anything, he's somehow managed to carve out a reputation as a maniacal, obsessive, crazed lunatic of a competitor. We've heard a bazillion stories this year about how he has "transformed Boston" back into a basketball city, how he's made the sport "matter" again, and all that other crap that surrounded his arrival. He literally looks like his life is depending on winning, and people seem to want to get in bed with him because of this. And yet, the guy avoids the basketball late in games like it's carrying the HIV virus. I don't get it. He has a stupid level of talent and game after game you don't see him using it. It's Paul Pierce or Ray Allen taking the last shot when KG is the one with the most skill, the savior, the one who resurrected basketball in Boston. I'm sick of hearing all of this. It's beyond annoying. I don't hate Kevin Garnet, but what I can't stand is the insane amount of attention and credit he gets when he's so passive that you forget he's in the fucking game in the 4th quarter. Above all, something just doesn't add up: He's a crazy competitor; he wants nothing more than to win the game; he yells a lot; but he's also unselfish to a fault. I'm feel like I'm missing something. He had a good game tonight, but it was Paul Pierce who was their best player. Other thoughts...

- If the Independence Day clip at the Wings/Stars game wasn't bad enough, the Celtics had a retarded, contrived (like there'd be any other kind in this scenario) video of Kevin Garnet screaming into a camera to get the C's fans riled up and to put the Dallas Stars A.V. crew to shame.

- There was a good 3 to 4 minute portion of this game where the 3 announcers were reminiscing about their trip to Fenway Park last night, where they witnessed Jon Lester's no-hitter, and Jeff Van Gundy went on and on and on about baseball. I thought it would never end. This was then supported with video evidence of their presence at the game where they cheered from their expensive seats like complete idiots. Coincidently, there was a similar 3 to 4 minute portion of the game where I wanted to kill myself.

- Boston was way more aggressive in the 3rd than the Pistons. On one offensive possession, Detroit perfectly executed a ball reversal to the corner for a wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open Tay.......who timidly froze and settled for a contested shot 1 1/2 feet closer to the basket, which he missed. Apparently KG glaring at him from 6 feet away was enough to make him shit his pants and hold onto the ball.

- Dice was shooting the lights out, and overall had a great game: 14 points + 11 boards.

- Chauncey, in his first game back played 31 minutes and only mustered 9 points. We need him to be big in this series. Stuck had the same point-output in only 23 minutes.

- There were some terrible passes in the 3rd quarter. Like, "are you fucking blind?" type of passes.

- Holy Moses, the 2nd half turnovers.....incredibly frustrating. Gave the game away.

- ESPN announcer Mark Jackson, 3rd quarter: "I don't know if it's possible for Paul Pierce to play any better." Pierce's stats at the time of this dick-suckingly shameless decree? 14 points on 6-10 shooting with 4 rebounds. Good stats, yes. But by no means was the Earth thrown off its axis or anything.

- More Jackson, 4th quarter: (after a made 3-pointer from Lindsey Hunter) "He's a knock-down shooter." If by that you mean he knocks down innocent by-standers in the 7th row with his air balls, then yes -- he's a knock-down shooter.

- Sheed has had some bad shooting nights recently. Really not a good sign. 11 points, no 3's.

- Rip elbowed Garnet in the 4th, drawing a foul, leading to this exchange between announcers Mike Breen and Van Gundy:

Breen- (surprised) "Hamilton is not that type of player."
Van Gundy- (nearly offended) "If he's not that type of player, then why would he do it?"

Because he's obviously a complete fucking asshole who murders and eats human beings -- that's why, Jeff.

- Ray Allen...............just................good lord. Did he like die or something?

- Doc Rivers: clearly infatuated with the word "pace". Said the word 3 times after a Celtic run in the 2nd half, mentioned it during a "mic'd up" timeout clip, and Michelle Tafoya reported in the 4th that he was asking his team to keep up the pace once more. And they say this guy can't coach.

- Key moment of the game: 6 point lead for the Celtics and Sheed takes a deplorable 3 with TWO guys wide open. Paul Pierce then makes a bucket with 3:30 to play. Game over.

- Bandwagon fan, perhaps? Late in the game a fan held up a large photo of Kevin Garnet screaming mindlessly. Nothing unusual about this -- aside from the fact that KG was wearing a fucking Timberwolves jersey in the picture. A true douche bag Boston fan would at least have his shit up-to-date.

- Celtics pick-and-roll + the Pistons trying to defend it = dqwief;jakdjc;coijq9ru9q3riecjpaer84r

- The Pistons clearly have some adjustments to make. Like, defending shit. And also, how to generate offense that doesn't rally around just jump shots, because clearly Boston bases their defense on limiting teams to only doing that.

- only 15 Piston assists, compared to 27 for Boston.

- I'd rather be rusty and rested than coming off the 2nd Game 7 of a playoff season, even after tonight. But the Pistons blew a quality chance in this one.

So relieved I could wet myself

NHL Western Conference Finals, Game 6
Red Wings 4-1 Stars

- I knew we had this game before the opening faceoff....during the intro of the Versus telecast, I could overhear a familiar, cheesy speech from a cheesy movie being played on the scoreboard at American Airlines Center: It was none other than President Whitmore's pre-air fight rally from Independence Day. "We will not go quietly into the night!!" Oh, silly Dallas. I guess the Rick Moranis half time speech from Little Giants was unavailable.

- It felt really good to get the opening goal. It was said a thousand times, but the first one was going to be huge for the team that scored it. Dallas' arena was silenced for the majority of this game and getting a goal only 4 minutes in was helpful.

- That first goal just so happened to go in off of Kris Draper's face. That's probably the first time that I've ever seen that, and if I had to guess beforehand which player that would've happened to, I would've guessed Draper.

- Dallas Drake scored a goal. I wasn't sure what to do with myself after that one.

- Detroit owned the ice for the better part of this game. It resembled Game 3 defensively for the Wings, as Dallas couldn't sustain any offensive attack for the first 2 periods.

- Uncontested shots were the story of the game: Draper was disregarded and left at the side of the net; nobody put a body on Datsyuk off a rebound; and then Marty Turco pulled a Patrick Roy and thought he had the puck when he stood up right in front of Dallas Drake, the gift-wrapped a goal for him by dropping it as his skates.

- Every single guy seemed to play better than he did in Game 5.

- The only gripe is the amount of penalties the Wings took. It seemed like they were daring Dallas to get back into the game, but the penalty kill was so good it didn't affect the game.

- Bring on the Pens. I'm sure Don Cherry will have a fit with all the visors in this series. And my condolences go out to Barry Melrose, who clearly wanted nothing more than to see the Wings lose this series.

May 18, 2008

Red Wings 1-2 Stars: Conference Finals, Game 5

Just a short one from me today as I get this sick taste out of my mouth. Typos expected.

Pretty much in every place that I've read about this game is the observation that the Wings simply didn't show up for this game. They looked out of it, lackadasical at times, and entirely clueless as to the fact that a win put them in the Stanley Cup Finals. I'm not going to go that far -- I'll reserve that for a November game against the Blackhawks later this year when I'm around 100% certain that that's the case. To me they looked waaay too tight. Maybe it's just the sane portion of my brain convincing me that there's no fucking way that they'd take a mental day off in a game of this magnitude, I don't know. But the scary thing was that this was something I noticed within the first two minutes of the game. Never a good sign. The next thing that stood out was just how slow they were hitting the blue line. Instead of blowing through the zone like usual they were tip toe-ing their way in like they were weary of land mines or something. They just looked too damn timid, and I have absolutely no understanding for how that can happen against a team (and a goaltender) that you've owned this series and in the past. Other thoughts...

- God Chelios looked awful. He's looked alternately wizard-like and inept in these playoffs. Shit, he's looked alternately amazingly good and bad in just the last three games.

- Detroit outshot Dallas by 18, but if you watched the game you realize that it didn't mean much. The Wings missed what felt like 150 shots, and not enough of their 39 that hit the goal were ideal chances. Dallas did a good job of keeping the action to the outside.

- Can a brother get a rebound?

- The way that they scored both of their goals made me a little queezy. Iffy line changes and Marty Turco acting like a 3rd defensemen, picking up 1 assist.

- Holmstrom took a senselessly awful penatly late in the 3rd, hitting a member of the Stars' bench. I don't have enough time to describe how dissappointing that felt to witness on replay.

- This game was about as disheartening as any that I've watched as a Wing fan. Is Lidstrom partially to blame, as captain, for not having the team fully prepared? If that's the case, go somewhere else because I can't bring myself to write even one negative thing about him. He could kill my whole family and as long as he did it in a proffesional, positionally sound manor I'd have nothing but kudos for the guy.

- Was the ice fucked up or something? I know the team looked really wound up and stuff but they were missing passes left and right. All of them -- not just a few guys.

- I'm not going to go over the edge and say that it's going to feel like a complete loss if we have to win this thing in 7, but if that happens and the Pens or Flyers beat us in the next round, a shit-ton of talk will be had about this series. Think 'Pistons-Cavs in '06', where Detroit could've put Cleveland away in 4 or 5, and instead had to come from behind 3-2 to win the series, then looked out of gas against Miami. I don't even want to contemplate a Game 7 for Wednesday. I think it would literally kill me.

- Lastly..........WE NEED FRANZEN!!!

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Tigers won. Yahoo. I'll be saving Tigers comments til after the Pistons/Wings seasons are over, most likely. It's just too much of a chore for me to talk about their woeful ways while there's two massive playoff runs going on.

May 15, 2008

Punch in the throat

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Red Wings 1-3 Stars


I thought it was a joke. Pavel Datsyuk had scored a goal to once again put the Wings up 1-0 against the Stars, getting on the board first for the fourth straight game of this series. TDHQ erupted in a jubilant manner that can be accurately described as childlike and offensively loud to anybody within earshot. Because as we all know, a 1-0 lead against the Dallas Stars might as well be a 3 goal cushion. They started this game a whole lot better than the others, but even they admit to "needing" that first goal just to gain any measure of confidence. The collective buzz started to die down amongst my comrades and I as we brought our attention back to the television for the center ice faceoff. But the scoreboard read "0-0" as they were dropping the puck.

"What the fuck happened??"

*****

First off, we could barely wait for this game to start. In Game 3 the Wings played one of the 10 best games I've ever seen them play -- it was a complete clinic from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer. Offensively they were overpowering: scoring on charges to the net, pouncing on Dallas mistakes with assassin-level precision, and exhibiting supreme individual efforts while playing like a 5-man machine at all times. Dallas couldn't get anything consistently going....they'd dump the puck in, and in 3 seconds the puck was send right back out. It was like watching a toddler reach for the cookie jar and having his hand smacked away by his mother, only it was happening about once a minute for the better part of 3 hours. As Gordon Bombay over to your right would tell you, it was reminiscent to the first time that Team USA played Iceland in Mighty Ducks 2 (Without the unfathomable amount of no-calls from the Junior Goodwill Games referees. Seriously, watch that movie again. I know it's a stupid kids flick, but seemingly every fucking scene contains a glaring infraction that goes by unnoticed. People were literally being tackled to the ice in that movie. And then there's the preposterous case where an Iceland player took an unprovoked, two handed, wood-splitting ax chop over the wrist of Adam Banks and got called for a fucking 2 minute minor. D2 contained every unrealistic scenario possible aside from having Wolf "The Dentist" Stansson hit Bombay across the face with a flaming 2x4 wrapped in barb wire.)

Yesterday, being in the hockey season spirit, I dusted off the Red Wings "Celebration of Champions" DVD box set, took out the 2002 season review disk, and we all watched as the Wings denied Vancouver, embarrassed the Avs, and put away the 'Canes for their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 years. Good memories. So good in fact that we wanted Game 4 to start right then. We were anxious to see Detroit win the Western Conference and solidify a spot in the Cup finals, likely to be against Sydney Crosby and the Penguins. After the horrible feeling that was left in every Wings fans' stomach after last year's playoff exit, winning the West would be feel pretty damn good. I'm sure that it will be an epic showdown, no doubt, but we'd still like to make it official and end the Stars season as early as possible. There was a maximum level of excitement to say the least.

*****

I think this was the first instance in my career of watching hockey where this much time had passed before I realized there was no goal. After Datsyuk beat Turco, my head was spinning...it was probably the first time where a 1-0 lead felt as huge (and safe), considering Dallas' troubles with responding and the security of having a stable Chris Osgood manning our net. I was numb to anything going on on the TV until after the next faceoff. It had to have been at least 2 minutes before I saw that the score was still 0-0. So, "What the fuck happened?" was the natural reaction.

What happened was a very good player did what he was doing better than anybody else in the NHL in front of the net -- legally -- and the referees decided that if he was within FedEx-overnight delivery-proximity of Marty Turco, they were going to call off the goal. In the Western Conference Finals. With the Campbell Bowl in attendance. Incredible.

"That's a reputation call, totally," Mike Babcock said afterward. Agreed, coach, agreed. I know refs get calls wrong all the time, and dammit do they ever in the NHL, but come on now. This is a regularly seen play in hockey. A player stands at the top of the crease and restricts the goalie's sight. And because you know this, you should be able to see (perhaps even with peripheral vision) that Holmstrom was not in the crease; that he's doing what he always does when we score goals legally in this fashion. It's not a difficult call...or "no-call" in this case. Marty Turco, on the other hand, acted like a complete tool after the game:

"I couldn't move freely to make that save on the shot. I really don't think it's a bad call. I don't think it's black-and-white like it used to be. It's the referee's discretion."

Oh shut the fuck up. You couldn't move freely because you couldn't see the puck, went out to cut off the angle, and came out of the crease with your blocker to make contact with the screener. That's the only interference that occurred on that play: your arm not being able to move through a solid object.

So instead of stepping on Dallas' heart and getting the jump on them, the game remained tight until the last minute of the 2nd period. Then, a less controversial but still notable goal was scored, this time by the Stars' Loui Eriksson. Eriksson entered the crease before the puck got there, and as Chris Osgood described, "he was right on top of me." Not only that it seems weird to me that a preeminent NHL goaltender isn't even sure of one of the biggest rules concerning his domain on the ice.

"I don't know if there's a force field around the crease or how it works...I'm not quite sure about the logic or interpretation." Awesome.

Look, Dallas played really hard, perhaps with a greater desperation than Detroit played with killer instinct, but not by much. Everybody is saying that one goal doesn't determine the outcome, but if the Dallas players themselves site that they need that first goal to get a confidence boost, it's a big fucking deal. In any event, I think the Wings will annihilate the Stars Saturday night. Annihilate them.

May 13, 2008

Orlando runs out of magic

For whatever reason it seems hard to take a week and a half off from this and write that first entry post-vacation. It's not like it's "work" so it's a little weird. To get back into the swing of things (and to build our readership back up to a staggering three visitors per week) I'll delve into the Pistons-Magic game. And just so you know, the title for this post is a total cop-out for coming up with something creative and in no way is a reflection of something that I would deem humorous. It's just an absurd, off-the-cuff pun that would embarrass even the cheesiest of espn.com headline writers.


Pistons 91-86 Magic

The Orlando Magic have to be the least threatening "good team" that the Pistons could have faced. They are pretty entertaining to watch when they're playing a team they can run out of the building (2nd most made-3's in NBA regular season history), but their three best players all have flaws that can be successfully exposed with Detroit's roster. Dwight Howard is obviously a physically imposing low-post force, but he can't hit free throws and the Pistons have a number of bigs to throw foul after foul at him, and they also did a good job of limiting his offensive opportunities by denying entry passes for extensive stretches at a time. Hedo Turkoglu is a unique case in that, at age 29, he's transformed his game and is just now realizing how versatile he can be, taking the ball to the basket and drawing contact (he shot 2 more FTs more per game this season over his career average), but against Detroit he was prone to giving up soul-crushing turnovers that nearly caused Stan Van Gundy to pull his mustache off in a fit of fury. And Rashard Lewis is a good outside threat, but his lack of size and the fact that he's playing PF instead of his true spot at SF plays right into the Pistons hands. On top of all that, Orlando's biggest problem when facing Detroit is how over-matched they are at the point and shooting guard positions, but even with Chauncey out they couldn't manage more than one win in this series. Game 5 thoughts...

- Chauncey is our best player, and he's "Mr. Big Shot", but Rip has been so consistently good that I have no problem with handing him the ball when we absolutely need points (especially now that Chauncey relies more on drawing fouls than anything late in games). Rip finished with 31 points, went 16-16 from the line and had 4 steals to help fill the void left by our injured point guard. He's also now the franchise's all-time leading playoff scorer.

- The Pistons set an NBA playoff record with only 3 turnovers. Orlando, on the other hand, looked like they were doing everything in their power to give the game away.

- We took care of the ball, but in the early going, other things weren't going so well....it actually looked kind of ugly. There were a lot of missed open shots (Sheed 0-6 on 3's) and we weren't taking advantage of a whole lot of those Magic mistakes.

- Offensive rebounds were hurting Orlando at key moments of this game. Dice had 6 of them and Theo grabbed 3 in only 4 minutes.

- Rodney Stuckey had 15 points, 6 assists and above all -- no turnovers. It's remarkable that a rookie can step in for our all-star point guard in a playoff game and not turn the ball over even once.

- 6th consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. And even more amazing, the second straight year that we've had both the Wings and the Pistons in the semis. Regardless of the outcomes, Detroit fans have been relatively spoiled when compared to other sports cities.

- Flip Saunders had a good series. He exploited matchup problems and made adjustments all series long, and managed to make Dwight Howard a non-factor for nearly the duration.

- It was convenient how things worked out for me watching this series. Part of my Florida vacation included my girlfriend and I visiting her Uncle, who happens to be a huge Magic fan. I'll give him credit too -- he's not a bandwagon Floridian fan, he's a die-hard, former season ticket holder. So it was fun watching a few games with him as we cheered on our respective teams.

- Speaking of Florida, I have a sports-related story: We were walking toward the line for clearing our carry-on bags, and saw that the line was incredibly long. We had some time to waste, so we decided to sit down on a bench for like 10 minutes to see if the line would go down a bit. As soon as we sat down, though, I noticed a familiar looking man heading for the back of the line. After a short few seconds I realized that it was, indeed, ESPN's Ric Bucher. He had done the sideline reporting for the Pistons-Magic game just the night before. So we got up off the bench and rushed to get behind him, to, well, I don't really know what the purpose of this was -- it's not like I was going to talk to him or anything. But these are the kinds of things that happen when you've seen like 4 famous people in your life. Anyway, we were kind of just standing and smiling, and of course, looking in wonderment of his perfectly slicked back blond hair (yes, it looks as gelled-up at 6 in the morning as it does on national television), and to be funny I leaned in to about one foot from his back and sniffed him (I swear to god it was funny in person -- it looks really gay in print but I'm in a goofy mood and I'm keeping it in here.) So to capture the moment, I snapped a picture of him with my cellphone. And now, I have a terrific picture of Ric Bucher's back.

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Red Wings vs Stars in just under an hour. Fucking ecstatic.