Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A few notes

Thursday night's 5-2 loss to the Flyers was a tough one for the Penguins. Even though the games have to be played out, Philadelphia has a four-point advantage and all the tiebreaker scenario's are in the Flyers' favor with six games to go. The Penguins have five games remaining. The second period proved how quick momentum can turn in an NHL game. Pittsburgh was up 2-1, and on the verge of going up 3-1 when the Flyers scored two goals in 47 seconds. A few questionable calls could be the answer, but I am not one to complain about officiating. The Penguins played hard, although a lapse in focus cost them. Bad bounces or not. If they had taken that 3-1 lead, it would have been a whole different situation. It's great to see that Sidney Crosby can practice with the team. It's all a question of what happens when he gets hit. I think we will have to worry about that when it comes to game time. The season is not over, yet. Maybe the Flyers will stumble. I doubt it, though. Pittsburgh needs to beat Tampa Bay Thursday, lock up the fourth seed and get ready for the post season, hopefully with No. 87 on board.

All that is Solid [Brain Matter] Vanishes into Thin Air

Sometimes silence is a deafening roar. The NHL yesterday made a decision not to even hold a disciplinary hearing for the Detroit Redwings Todd Bertuzzi after he was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing the Chicago Blackhawks Ryan Johnson. The reek hypocrisy and maddening inconsistency of taking such a non stance after making a league wide whipping boy out of Matt Cooke, banishing him from play for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, is absolutely bewildering.

As Burress pointed out here in the wake of the Cooke suspension, Bertuzzi is the one guy in the league with a bigger reputational footprint from being a dirty player than Cooke himself.

“Irony would also rear it's beautifully hideous head when Matt Cooke would serve the first game of his suspension against a Red Wings team featuring the aforementioned Bertuzzi. Prior to the game, Red Wings Alternate Captain Henrik Zetterberg weighed in on the Cooke situation calling for Cooke to be shelved for the remainder of the season and much like everything else in the NHL, the Red Wings got their wish. Zetterberg clearly overlooked the fact that his choir boy organization employs a guy who once came up behind another human being, grabbed him by the back of his sweater, wound up, and delivered a gloved punch to the back of his head sending him plummeting to the ice face first. The result was merely a concussion, 3 broken neck vertebrae, facial lacerations, and 5 months in a hospital plus a year in a neck brace. Nothing major, I guess. Heck the most storied Red Wing ever, Mr. Hockey himself, was known to throw an elbow or 10 during his career, so at least they have that going for them!”

“For all of Steve Moore and his family's suffering, Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for only 3 more games than Matt Cooke for an elbow that didn't even sideline a guy for a period. Since the "Steve Moore Incident" Bertuzzi has played in nearly 400 NHL games and pocketed nearly $18 million dollars for his troubles while Steve Moore can skate, but that's about it. While his neck has healed but he still suffers from the concussion he received when Todd Bertuzzi held the back of his jersey, cocked his fist, and sucker punched him in the back of the head so hard that he fell helplessly to the ice face first and unconscious. For that, Bertuzzi got only 3 more games than Matt Cooke for his stupidity in finishing a check with a dirty elbow. Get my drift?”

And yet despite that history and prior reputation, and the heralded new found revelatory focus and immense attention paid to protecting players from vicious, brutal, concussing headshots, the league DID NOT BAT AN EYEBROW OR RAISE ITS TINIEST FINGER toward an incident that was similar in every way shape and manner to the elbow that Cooke put into McDonagh’s cranium. That duplicitous roar you are hearing is absolutely deafening. And please, spare me any sort of super slow motion instant replay analysis and breakdown establishing intention and intricacies of the incidents at hand. The bottom line: both guys were trying to finish checks after the puck had left, and both ended up inserting their elbow directly into the skull of the opposing player.

If the NHL is serious about eliminating headshots, they must take a hard stance on these flying elbows as they do on high sticks. From my understanding of the league’s rules in that situation, it is that the player responsible for wielding his stick must be in control of it at all times, and any contact, even the most unintentional and incidental, with an opposing player is an automatic penalty. Of course, my understanding of such a solid rule was brought into question last night when James Neal of the Penguins was clipped in the face by Claude Giroux of the Flyers. Giroux was following through on the puck and, under his own power, lifted his stick into Neal’s mouth and cut his lip. Instead of an ensuing 4 minute power play, the officials on the ice huddled and waived off the infraction. It was a fitting end to a perfectly baffling day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fleury outduels Brodeur

Marc-Andre Fleury is the Pittsburgh Penguins' most valuable player, and made a case to the league Friday night in outdueling New Jersey's Martin Brodeur at the Consol Energy Center.
Fleury stopped 21 shots for his third shutout this season, and James Neal scored in the shootout for a 1-0 Penguins' win.
The scored was 0-0 after regulation and overtime.
Brodeur turned aside 26 shots, but couldn't stop Neal in the shootout. Brodeur did pick up 116th career shutout, even though he lost, 1-0. The shootout goal doesn't count against Brodeur's record.
The Penguins will hand out their team awards Sunday before their game against the Florida Panthers, and Fleury should grab team MVP. Not bad for a guy that was supposed to be a liability. Fleury is underappreciated and underrated.
He deserves most of the credit for Pittsburgh's success after Sidney Crosby went down with a concussion.
I was glad to see the Penguins beat the Devils at their own game.
Crosby had a 45-minute workout Friday, and the coaching staff is hinting at the superstar making a comeback before the end of the season. To not have Crosby is not only tough for the Penguins, but for the league as well.
Sometimes you question professional athletes' determination, but there is no doubting Crosby. I have always been impressed with his work ethic. He doesn't take his abilities for granted.
The Penguins are two points back of the Philadelphia Flyers, who play the New York Islanders tonight. The Flyers also have two games in hand.
Brooks Orpik is supposed to play against the Panthers.
Mike Comrie made his return to the Penguins' lineup Friday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mass Movement Continue to Rock the Arab World

It started with a fruit vendor in small villiage of Tunisia. Sick of government bureaucrats making his life miserable, he poured gasoline all over himself and set himself ablaze in front of the local municipal building. It was the pebble that started an avalanche of mass protest across the region against totalitarian governence. Tomorrow could be another big day, Libya is engulfed in a full fledged civil war with international intervention. Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain all face serious potential protests. Saudi Arabia and Iran are at a low simmer. It should be interesting to see what unfolds as thousands go out for Friday prayers. This is the biggest shakeup in the Arab world since WWII. How things play out this Spring will have effects for decades on oil prices, global human rights, and terrorist threats.


Hello all.

I am going to provide a real-time analysis of tonight's game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia enters with 97 points. Pittsburgh has 92. To say this is a big game would be an understatement.

7:08 p.m. The puck drops in Philly. The orange has never shown so bright. I predict a very physical game with lots of penalties. Marc-Andre Fleury in goal for Pittsburgh. Sergei Bobrovsky for Philadelphia.

7:13 Tyler Kennedy with a nice shot. Bobrovsky with a good save. Pittsburgh needs to get traffic in front of Bobrovsky.

7:19 The Flyers draw a penalty. First call for either team. The Penguins struggled without Matt Cooke on the penalty kill during Monday's win against Detroit. No big hits to report... yet.

7:24 Pittsburgh kills the penalty. Philadelphia has one shot on goal, but several chances to the left of Fleury.

7:26 With 7:37 remaining in the first period, the Penguins are outshooting the Flyers, 6-5. Not too many chances. Both teams playing a tight, defensive game.

7:32 Philadelphia's Mike Richards scores at 15:18 of the first for a 1-0 lead. The play is being reviewed, but should count. A possible high stick above the crossbar. The goal counts. Flyers score on their sixth shot.

7:41 One minute remaining in the period. With 22 seconds remaining, the Penguins' Ben Lovejoy draws a penalty. Pittsburgh on the PP. James Neal attempts a weak shot with one second left.

7:42 End of the first. Flyers 1, Penguins 0. Pittsburgh will have a power play when the second begins. The Penguins had a decent period, but still trail. The PP has to get going, or they'll not go far in this game, or any for that matter.

7:45 I'm at work putting together tomorrow's sports pages or I'd grab a beer and some pretzels. Instead, I'm going to use the restroom, grab a Pepsi, and yes, I can partake in pretzels. See you in a few. BYU-Florida, UConn-San Diego St. on right now if you want to watch something during intermission. I don't know the channels. Find them yourself. It's either CBS, TNT or TBS.

8 p.m. The second period should be underway. I am, however, at work and not controlling the TV. Sorry. I should be commended for doing two things at once. Plus, I'm expecting a call from a baseball coach, so I may leave for a few.

Sometime around 8 and 8:06 p.m. The Pens have tied the game at one. I believe Kennedy got the goal. I don't know if it was a PP goal or not. I will let you know later. Pittsburgh holds a 13-8 lead in shots on goal.

8:08 p.m. Big save by Fleury on a Jeff Carter shot with 15:12 remaining in the second.

8:11 p.m. Thanks to, I found out Kennedy (18) scored at 1:01 of the second on a wrist shot. Chris Kunitz (23) and Kris Letang (40) pick up the assists. Power-play goal. They must have heard me.
With 6:35 into the second, Matt Niskanen headed to the penalty box and the Flyers are on the PP.

8:15 Pittsburgh kills the penalty. Philadelphia is 0-for-2 on the PP. The Penguins' PK has been strong, and will need to remain strong. Special teams are necessary in post-season play.

8:18 Commercial break. Game tied, 1-1. I smell a shootout, which wouldn't be good for Pittsurgh. They need a regulation victory.

8:21 With 8 minutes remaining, Kennedy with a nice shot that seemed to fool Bobrovsky, but the Russian is up to the task. The Penguins cycle the puck well down low. Constant pressure for about 45 seconds.

8:23 A great shot by Alex Kovalev, but Bobrovsky is up to the task, again. Geez, why do these young Russian goalies play out of their minds against the Pens?

8:27 Claude Giroux takes a penalty that puts Pittsburgh on the PP.

8:30 The Flyers kill the penalty. The Pens are 1-for-2 on the PP.

8:54 Sorry to leave for so long. Got a call from Albert Gallatin's baseball coach. That's Fayette County for all of you that don't know. Nice guy. I hope they do well.

The two are tied at 1 after two periods of play. Penguins hold a 20-15 edge in shots.

8:56 Arron Asham sent to the penalty box. Flyers on the PP. Not a good penalty. You have to stay out of the box boys.
Shorthanded chance for Pittsburgh's Max Talbot, but Bobrovsky makes a pad stop. The Penguins deny the Flyers' PP again.

9:13 With 6:54 remaining, the score is still 1-1. The Penguins need to win this in regulation. Pittsburgh needs to bury some of these chances.

9:21 The Penguins' James Neal is stopped by Bobrovsky with a nice glove save. This young kid is keeping his team in it.

9:23 One minute remaining in regulation. A point is nice, but doesn't do the Penguins any good in winning the division and the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.

9:24 Let's play five more minutes. Game tied at 1-1 after 60 minutes.

9:26 Overtime starts. Both teams have grabbed a point. I predict a shootout. I am very surprised that nobody dropped the gloves. I thought fights were inevitable when the Pens and Flyers get together.

9:31 Unbelievable puck control by the Penguins. Unfortunately for the flightless birds, no real chances were taken.

9:33 I was right. Shootout time. Flyers get several chances around the net as time expires in OT.

9:36 Philly's Ville Leino stopped by Fleury. Leino goes for the five hole. Pittsburgh's Letang stopped by Bobrovsky. Fleury stops Giroux. Alex Kovalev scores on the forehand to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the shootout. Danny Briere answers for Philly to tie it at one. Briere finds the fivehole. Neal stopped by Bobrovsky. Richards stopped by Fleury. The Penguins can win it.

9:39 Chris Kunitz beats Bobrovsky as the Flyers goalie can't block the five hole. Kunitz continues to impress in Sidney Crosby's absence.
Final score: Pittsburgh 2, Philadelphia 1, SO. The Penguins (94) pick up a point on the Flyers (98).

NOTES: Briere's goal was only the second time in Fleury's career that he didn't stop a game-winning attempt in the SO.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

.....And Justice For All

Sing High Praise: Matt Cooke has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his indefensible and incomprehensible elbow to the face of the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh. For those scoring at home, that would lead to total suspension of 17 games if the Penguins first round series goes the distance. For those with a memory and scoring at home, that is 3 less than games than Todd Bertuzzi received for ending Steve Moore's career. It's also 17 more than Zdeno Chara got for  more-or-less paralyzing a guy, but let's not split hairs.

If you know me, I love and appreciate irony. I love that the Winklevoss twins are being sued by somebody for allegedly cutting him out of profits for the sale of ConnectU to Facebook after they sued Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly cutting them out of Facebook altogether. I love Mike Huckabee saying it was inappropriate to comment on Bristol Palin's out of wedlock teen pregnacny in 2008 yet blast Harvard grad and 29 year old Natalie Portman for also being pregnant out of wedlock. Irony would also rear it's beautifully hideous head when Matt Cooke would serve the first game of his suspension against a Red Wings team featuring the aforementioned Bertuzzi. Prior to the game, Red Wings Alternate Captain Henrik Zetterberg weighed in on the Cooke situation calling for Cooke to be shelved for the remainder of the season and much like everything else in the NHL, the Red Wings got their wish. Zetterberg clearly overlooked the fact that his chroiboy organization employs a guy who once came up behind another human being, grabbed him by the back of his sweater, wound up, and delivered a gloved punch to the back of his head sending him plummeting to the ice face first. The result was merely a concussion, 3 broken neck vertebrae, facial lacerations, and 5 months in a hospital plus a year in a neck brace. Nothing major, I guess. Heck the most storied Red Wing ever, Mr. Hockey himself, was known to throw an elbow or 10 during his career, so at least they have that going for them!

For all of Steve Moore and his family's suffering, Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for only 3 more games than Matt Cooke for an elbow that didn't even sideline a guy for a period. Since the "Steve Moore Incident" Bertuzzi has  played in nearly 400 NHL games and pocketed nearly $18 million dollars for his troubles while Steve Moore can skate, but that's about it. While his neck has healed but he still suffers from the concussion he received when Todd Bertuzzi held the back of his jersey, cocked his fist, and sucker punched him in the back of the head so hard that he fell helplessly to the ice face first and unconscious. For that, Bertuzzi got only 3 more games than Matt Cooke for his stupidity in finishing a check with a dirty elbow. Get my drift?

Truthfully, I feel that the Cooke suspension is exactly what he deserved for his selfish actions. He has had umpteen chances to keep his focus on winning puck battles and doing the things that make him a valuable hockey player  and he only has himself to blame for being out for 17 games. Bertuzzi, as far as I am concerned, got off light. So did Chara and Heatley amongst many, many others in the league.But Cooke, and the Penguins for that matter, are the only ones who face league wide scorn. The Pittsburgh Penguins are not the only team who employ a Matt Cooke type player and frankly it would be a shorter list of teams who don't and anybody who says otherwise is a bigger homer than I am.

With the Cooke punishment handed down from the father of Boston Bruin Gregory Campbell ( just thought I would mention that tidbit), the NHL has set a precedent that targeting the head is not going to be tolerated. That is awesome, that is progress. BUT, the NHL has also put themselves in a precarious position for future suspensions. Will Alex Ovechkin get the book thrown at him the next time he leaves his skates to hit somebody? Will Mike Richards finally get a suspension for one of his trademark blindside hits to an unsuspecting opponent? Will Zdeno Chara get off scot-free the next time he hospitalizes a player with whom he has a grudge and no longer has the puck? I would have to go with an emphatic NO on that one. If there is one thing we can ascertain about the NHL's policy on consistency, it's that there doesn't seem to be one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NHL Injury Updates and thoughts on NATO

The Washington Capitals announced today that Captain Alex Ovechkin will be out 7-10 days with an undisclosed injury. The team has also been missing Mike Green with a concussion, but he should be back within the week.
Brooks Orpik should be returning to Penguins practice soon from a hand injury. The huge news for the Pens is that Sidney Crosby has been skating and working out with no return of symptoms from his concussion. There are also whispers in the Burgh that Evgeni Malkin is making 'amazing' progress rehabing from his knee surgery.
The Conference leading Flyers will be missing chief pugilist Chris Pronger with a broken hand till early April. Jody Shelley also went hard into the boards and is suffering with facial injuries.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are missing foward Ryan Malone who hopes to get back at some point in the playoffs.
The Detroit Redwings have been dinged up for months, but the vet heavy squad expects to have pretty much all hands on deck come playoff time.
The Wings primary rival, The Chicago Blackhawks, lost leading scorer Patrick Sharp to a 'lower-body' injury for the next two weeks.
The Vancouver Canucks lost Center Manny Malhotra for the rest of the year with an eye injury that required surgery. The Nucks have also has a boatload of blueliners go down.
Finally: The Edmonton Oilers have lost Ryan Whitney for the season with an ankle injury. But the last place squads loss has been the world's gain as @ryanwhitney6 has officially surpassed @BizNasty2point0 as the most amusing hockey player to follow on twitter.

NATO was set up as a defense pact by Western Nations during the Cold War in order to coordinate and provide symmetry for the defense strategies of Western Europe and the United States. Its mission was very clear: to keep the West safe despite its disadvantage in conventional forces by leveraging its members advanced weapon systems in a unified manner. Now the Cold War is over two decades gone, and the once elite status of NATO membership has given way to a sprawling bureaucratic nightmare of cross purposed nations. It is a relic that has outlasted its political usefullness and is only strategically valuable for the command stucture it gives its member nations in joint military operations. If the combat in Libya has proven one thing, its that NATO has become unruly and redundant and needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history next to the Warsaw Pact.

Great response by Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded from two tough losses, one being a game, the other being Matt Cooke, to pick up a 5-4 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, scored two more, chased Jimmy Howard, allowed the Red Wings to tie the game in the third before James Neal won it in the shootout.
I was very impressed with how Pittsburgh responded after losing to the New York Rangers Sunday. Also, Cooke's suspension, although warranted after another cheap shot by the LW, gave the Pens a "us against the world" approach.
Cooke was suspended by the NHL Monday for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his elbow to the head of the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh Sunday.
Cooke got what he deserved, Mario Lemieux and Ray Shero had to support it, but the players will go that extra mile for their teammate, even if they're upset.
Chris Kunitz had another great game. Kunitz and Jordan Staal have elavated their game. Brent Johnson was strong, and didn't really let in any bad goals. The Red Wings started to take control in the third. I believe that can be attributed to the Penguins playing back-to-back games against two quality opponents, but take nothing away from Detroit. That team is loaded with talent and Mike Babcock is one of the best coaches around.
Pittsburgh has big games coming up against New Jersey and Philadelphia. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the game with the Flyers is important. (Understatement of the year). I don't think the Penguins will win the division, but who knows. I doubt Philadelphia will struggle going into the playoffs.
We shall see.
Keep your head up!

Obama should put Libya engagement before Congress

The international mission in Libya seems to be extending well beyond enforceing a UN mandated 'no-fly zone.' President Obama has come out and stated that it is U.S. policy that Muammar Gaddafi has lost legitimacy and should go. When the President has made such a declaration and has the military involved in targeting forces supporting the leader to be disposed, it is clear and obvious that we are engaged in an all out war in a foreign land. That being the circumstances as they are, Obama would be gravely remiss not to put this matter before a vote in Congress for authorization to carry out these actions. As Commander in Cheif he has some wiggle room to function without Congress, but the longer this goes without a vote, the more it strays into a major violation of the seperation of powers. Even as President of the United States, Obama is still legally obligated to abide by the Constitution he has sworn to protect and uphold.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monday Morning Notebook (03.21.V3-3)

*The US lead an all out air assault over the weekend on Muammar Gaddafi's forces in the Libyan civil war. The UN resolution gives nations carte blanche to do whatever is necessary in order to stop Gaddafi from attacking civilians in his bid to retain power. This is a bold gambit by the Obama Administration to spread and cultivate the new found freedom and Mass Movement power in North Africa. The attempt to so audaciously spread core American values is a grand goal, but is military intervention really the best route to do so? One can only hope for the best results from this adventure for US forces and sincerely wish them success in their mission. The prudence of this undertaking must be brought into question in light of the already ongoing conflicts our all-volunteer military is currently serving in. It is not to be suggested that the (so far) limited engagement airstrikes will truly strain our armed forces readiness. As we saw in Iraq however, not only the worst case, but sometimes totally unpredictable scenarios unfold from these actions. It would be a shame if a decade from now we are looking back with regret on this moment of well intentioned intervention because of these unforeseen demons yet to be encountered. The cause against Gaddafi however is just, and hopefully in this case justice prevails for the people of Libya, the people of America, and the people of the world.

*Matt Cooke's hit yesterday on Ryan McDonough of the New York Rangers was ill-timed, dirty, and really selfish when you consider the situation both within the game that was in progress and efforts at large by his team, and others, to eliminate these cheap shots from the game. The fact that McDonough was okay should be no consolation to anyone with the power to determine Cooke's fate. The Penguins should step up and send their own message to Cooke that these actions will not be tolerated on top of the already certain forthcoming league discipline. The GM and coaching staff of the Penguins must also take into serious consideration whether Cooke is a potential liability come playoff time with these increasingly frequent unnecessary hits that cost his team significant penalty minutes.

*Yemen seems to be the next Country in line after Libya to go down the road toward political freedom through mass movement protest. The army today announced they will support the protesters legitimate complaints in that nation, and several of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s administration members are also turning against him quickly. Saleh, who could be out of power by tomorrow, has been an ally of the United States in trying to root Al Qaeda out of his Country, but perhaps a more free, open, and prosperous society in Yemen will reduce the recruiting base of the terrorist forces in that region long term. Yemen is the most poor and desolate Countries in the Arabian Peninsula, and one of the most beleaguered in the world. It would be the first Country outside the geographical barrier of Africa to succumb to the protest movement that has rocked the Arab world.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Another Twist in Libya

Libyan Foreign Minister declares that forces under control of Muammar Gaddafi will comply with a cease fire to come into compliance with UN Resolution. Is this a head fake to delay implementation of a no-fly zone by Western forces or a genuine case of the threat of force ending a conflict? Reports from the ground would indicate that the fighting is continuing, so it seems that the UN will have to interject itself into the civil war in that Country. Great Britan, France, and now Canada have all decared that they will join in operations to enforce the UN resolution.

UN Authorizes Action in Libya

The UN Security Council past a resolution today approving swift military action against Gaddafi's forces in Libya. A no fly zone is expected to be enforced by the United States, France, and Great Britan. This was a big diplomatic win for the Western block on the Security Council, I'm not sure what they had to do to get Russia and China to go along, but they did a good job getting them to sign off on the resolution. My take is that this will be a truly international operation and not a US led force with token European support. I'm not sure stategically how much this effort will help rebel forces on the ground, but it should at least re-moralize and re-energize a resistance movement that has been in retreat over the past week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quick Hits on Budget Battles; Clinton in Eygpt

*Hardline conservatives break with Speaker Boehner on bill to continue funding the government. Middle of the road Democrats come in to save the bill. What does this mean for the budget and GOP control of the House going forward?

* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a compelling speech yesterday in Eygpt, then announced today she wouldn't seek a 2nd term as Secretary, nor would she run for President in 2012. Her speech is worth going to CSPAN and listening to, it is a perfect blend of pragmatism in approach, while holding up the best of American ideals and values for the rest of the world to live up to and for people seeking freedom anywhere tyrants rule to strive for. Poweful stuff from someone whose role in this administrations foreign policy efforts has been massively under reported.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Monday Morning Notebook (03.14.V2-4)

*The devastation in Japan over the weekend once again shows us, as humans, that no matter how complex and advanced we build our societies, that there are forces of nature much more powerful then we can ever control. What we do and say here in the long run may prove quite insignificant, but it is all we have so we continue on in the face of this harrowing tragedy.

*Right now, no news is bad news for the Pittsburgh Penguins in regards to Sidney Crosby's health. With him still suffering symptoms this long from a concussion that occurred in early January, I now have significant doubts we will see him play again this year. You can't rush back a franchise guy for this year’s playoffs; it’s too risky long term for his health. Without Crosby, or fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin, the Pens should be an easy first round out for the Bruins, Capitals, or Lightning.
Crosby did skate today for the first time since early January, a sign that off ice work has been going well for at least a week. If he continues to progress with no setback of symptoms you can expect him to practice with no contact in about another week.

*Fridays "Day of Rage" in Saudi Arabia passed by without so much as a whimper. "There were so many police in the streets you could not even think of protesting," said one anonymous dissident. Security forces got way out in front of this one in the Oil Kingdom, but the question remains, how deep is the bottled up rage in the world's leading oil producer?

*The New Jersey Devils won yet two more overtime games over the Thrashers and Islanders over the weekend, proving my law of averages predetermined downfall theory for them off once again. They have climbed back to .500 for the year and are within definite striking distance of the 8 seed in the East with 14 games left. I still predict they fall short of getting in, but only because the also hot Maple Leafs do...

*The massive triple disaster earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan pulled all attention away from the crisis in the Arab world. Absolute total destruction from nature has all humanity feeling for the Japanese, but the stock market was up on Friday with hopes of $$$ from reconstruction efforts. Ladies and Gentleman: Market Capitalism at its finest.

*The 4-12 spots in the Western Conference are so tightly packed that there is no way of telling how it will shake out. The only thing we can do is wait, watch, and enjoy the race.

*It looks like the showdown over funding the Federal Budget for the rest of this fiscal year will continue to drag on in a week to week mode. Both long term plans failed to even come close to garnering the needed 60 votes in the Senate, so another 3 week short term plan has been floated to keep the government running. Who knows what it will take to find a middle ground between the GOP house, White House, and something 60 Senators can agree on. Right now they aren't even touching the vast majority of the budget and haggling to death over domestic discretionary funds, which is like an argument over the change jar while the fiscal house burns down around them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And so it begins...

Security forces are clashing with protesters in the Shitte majority Eastern city of Qatif. Police have fired on protesters in the oil rich Kingdom where all public demonstrations are banned. Calls have gone out for a "Day of Rage" tomorrow after Friday prayers. As far as international oil prices are concerned, Saudi Arabia is THE big one, so if the protests there have any sort of a whiff of destabilizing the established order... Well, as Samuel L. Jackson would say: "hold onto your butts!"

What place has a worker?

Last night in Madison WI a heavy punch was thrown not just at the teachers and public employees of that State, but at the labor movement of the entire Country that has been down on the mat for at least the last two decades. What occured when the State Senate in Wisconsin moved forward with a bill stripping public employees of their ablities to collectively bargin was precise and strategic tactical blow in the direct heartland of one of organized labor's former strongholds. What it brings into focus is the existential threat that has been engulfing unions for much longer then the past few weeks in the upper midwest: the disconnect of working people across the country from identifying themselves as an interconnected and united political, social, and economic powerbase. Voters in our Country are much more likely to identify themselves with Race, Gender, or Relgious/Cultural principles, then they are with the bottom line of their pay-stub.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sports, Politics, and Partisanship

It was about a year ago that fans of the Boston Bruins were up in arms about a hit placed by Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins upon their forward, Marc Savard, which lead to a serious concussion for Savard. The outrage and venom from Bruins fans and their media was off the charts. Even though an almost carbon copy identical hit had felled David Booth of the Florida Panthers and no action was taken to punish the perpertrator, Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers, you would have thought that Cooke playing for the rest of the season was the grossiest miscarrage of justice for decades in the league to hear a Bruins fan tell it.

Now the Bruins are on the opposite side of a controversial hit. Mamouth Defenseman and Captain Zdeno Chara was thrown out of a game last night against the rival Montreal Canadiens after shoving Max Pacioretty face first into the divder between the Bruins bench and the score keepers booth. Like Savard, Pacioretty had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher and right to a local hospital. I want a Bruins fan to come forward and really explain to me how the Chara hit on Pacioretty was different from Cooke’s hit on Savard. Neither was done with an intent to possibly end a guys career, but both were dangerous hits in the “gray area” between establishing a physical game and gladiatorial chaos on ice. I’m not saying this to condemn Chara, I’m saying it because I’m sure the self-righteous and pious Bruin fans will see no problem with the hit last night, while they continue to push for public flogging, Abu Ghraib styled tortures, and ultimate crucifixion of M. Cooke.

In this way sports is alot like politics. If a guy (or girl) on your team, party, or side of the aisle or spectrum, is embroiled in a scandal its always viewed as a rightous public servant being harrased or persecuted by the other side, media, corporations, unions, or whatever boogeyman is a plausible explanation. While if it is someone that you don't like, they are a dirty, rotten, corrupt politician who oozes slime as they slither down the hallways of power making shady backroom deals by the dozen as they go. Like so many things in life, perspective plays a larger role in our judgements then any sort of objective evidence. Some days it seems like the worlds of both sports and politics can be boiled down to a giant rorschach test in which we view exactly what we always want to see.

Understanding Iran and the North African Uprisings

Iran is not part of the Arab world, and in fact if you were to call an Iranian an Arab they would be quite insulted by the label. They are their own unique and seperate Persian culture. Yet Iran is certainly involved and intertwined with events in the Arab world, the Muslim world, and the Greater Middle East from North Africa down through Pakistan. It is an entire region of the world that is in total upheavel at the moment with U.S. led wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq; the governments of Eygpt and Tunisia falling under the protests of mass demonstrations; Libya and Behrain engaged in Civil wars to keep from going down same that path; Al-Qaeda operating out of its new stronghold in Yemen; and the omni-present Isreal-Palistine conflict.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Morning Notebook (03.07.V1-4)

*On the international scene, Libya remains the global hotspot that everyone is watching, but nobody is doing much of anything about. Muammar Gaddafi, the long standing tyrant, remains in security control of Tripoli, with his blue shirted thugs enacting violent repression against protesters. Those in revolt from his regime remain in power in Benghazi and the Eastern side of the Country, and the two forces are conflicting in the lightly populated, but oil rich, middle sections of Libya. There is little doubt that Gaddafi has initiated violent assaults upon his own people using terrible weapons of mass warfare to quell internal discord. The international community has done little to stop him from doing so, outside of sending much needed humanitarian aide to the Eastern border of the Country where streams of refuges are fleeing the violence. This inaction by the rest of the world may be a course of prudent wisdom from an international affairs standpoint, but it certainly leaves those seeking a more free and fair society in Libya at the diabolical whims of a violent madman who will stop at nothing to retain power. The situation has reached a point where it is already functioning as a low level civil war, and if we have learned anything from misadventures in Iraq, it is that these sectarian styled conflicts are not often resolved quickly or peacefully, and outside intervention may do more harm than good at this point.

*Ryan Callahan had the game of his life on Sunday afternoon as the New York Rangers whitewashed the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers, who all of a sudden seem eminently beatable after dominating the first five months of the season. Goalies in Philadelphia tend to thaw out as the birds return and the flowers bloom, and April, May, and June are the harshest months for Orange and Black clad netminders. Henrik Lundqvist meanwhile remains a rock solid rubber stopper for the Blueshirts and hasn’t let up more than 3 goals since January 25th, the thinking here is that he may be able to vault the Rangers into darkhorse Cup contenders this Spring.

*The US Senate will take up two proposed bills to provide funding for the rest of the federal government's fiscal year, the GOP passed House Bill, and the New Democrat compromise plan. Both cut billions from President Obama's budget, but neither is predicted to bridge the 60 vote threshold needed to get out of the Senate. They are however expected to lay out the groundwork for future debate and compromise.

*The New Jersey Devils continue their most unlikely of quests for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East, which if they could claw their way into, would be one of the most incredible in-season turn around stories in the history of professional sports. I still believe they will burn out from playing each and every game as if it is the 7th of the Stanley Cup finals, and the law of averages states that they inevitably will start losing some of these 1 goal decisions. The authoritative statistical probability website, Sports Club Stats, still only has them listed as being a 1.8% chance to make it into the playoffs this season, but if they can complete this absolutely astronomical turnaround, the Devil will be a very scary matchup for one of the top 4 seeds in the East.

*Speaker of the House John Boehner is putting together his legal options to challenge Obama's plans to not enforce DOMA laws. This little culture war salvo is a bit unexpected given the current focus on fiscal issues and the laser-like focus on job creation promised by GOP leadership.

*It seems like Mario Lemieux was once again right, and the NHL and pompous Canadian media blowhards were wrong in regards to a situation with the League. After Mario blasted the league for not throwing the book at Trevor Gillies and the New York Islanders in the wake of an absolute travesty of a contest on February 11th which saw Gillies concuss young forward Eric Tangradi with a blindside elbow to the head, continue to pound on him as Tangradi lay helpless on the ice, and mock him from the runway as the training staff attended to the injured skater. Tangradi has yet to return to action, but after the league mandated 9 game suspension, Gillies was back at it again on Wednesday night. He saw less then 4 shifts and 2 minutes of ice time before he once again took a blindside flying elbow to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck, who is now out with a concussion “upper body injury.” What did the league determine was just reprieve for a thug who obviously didn’t learn his lesson the first time around? 10 games measly games this time was what they saw fit to lay at his doorstep for his grevious misdeeds. He should have been gone for the year, and possibly all of next season as well. There is totally no place for him in this league. For those who claim the game of hockey is nothing but a circus freakshow on skates, all they have to do is point to Trevor Gillies being back out there on March 26th against the Philadelphia Flyers and I will have absolutely no rebuttal.

*Both sides in the debate over the State budget and the future of public sector unions remain entrenched in their hardline positions. Governer Scott Walker continues to insist upon stripping the unions of their collective bargaining powers and forcing them to recertify every year. Democratic State senators stay in self imposed exile so that legislation remains at a standstill in Madison.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Free Speech and Manners of Life and Death

This will be the first, and I sincerely hope the only, time I mention the Westboro Baptist Church on this blog. They are a despicable "church" group that travels around the Country protesting funerals of Armed Service Members who have been killed in the line of duty. Their message, as far as I understand it, is that these brave men and women have died because God is punishing our country for our tolerance of homosexual lifestyles. The logical, moral, and tactful gap in their argument is so enormously wide that I will not even bother to go into further discussion in regards to their 'message'. These folks, to me, are the scum of the earth. My primal reaction, if I would encounter these folks at the funeral of someone close to me, would be to take a ballbat to their knees and kick them a few more times for good measure. This emotional response is exactly why an impartial Judiciary is such a crucial part of our free country.
The Supreme Court today upheld the Free Speech rights of this extremely unpopular minority view. Did it hurt to see those bastards 'win' a victory in the Highest Court in the Land? Of course it did. As I mulled it over however, I came to a recognition that it was the right decision. The Courts are not there to protect popular people saying popular things, they don't need the help. The Courts are there to protect the rights of unpopular people who do not violate any laws. As much as I despise their point of view, the church protestors have been very careful not to violate any established laws while making their obnoxious and rancid statement at the worst possible time and place. The right to free speech supersedes good taste.
The importance of this point was really driven home by another event half way around the world in Pakistan, where Shabaz Bhatti, the Government Minister for Religious Minorities, and the only Christian in the Government was brazenly gunned down and murdered for his vocal opposition to the countries harsh blasphemy laws. Here was someone who willingly forfeited his life over a manner of speech. It is obvious from what happened to him that his message made him extremely unpopular with some in his homeland. But he was willing to take a stand and die for his deeply held convictions in the power of free speech. That we all could be so bold.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The U.S. Government will stay open. For now.

U.S. House passes temporary resolution to keep the Government funded for another two weeks. Passage expected to come quickly through Senate to avoid Government shutdown. Long term compromise still being worked on to fund gov. for the rest of the year and next years budget.

Six Times Steckel

With the trade between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals that sent Dave Steckel to the Pine Barrens for Jason Arnott, the Penguins will now see the man who injured Sidney Crosby six times a year. In case you have been living on Mars or in the Charlie Sheen Porn Family for the last 2 months, Steckel may well have ended Crosby's season when he hit lowered his shoulder and blindsided him in the head while the puck was the other end of the ice during the waning moments of the Winter Classic's second period. Crosby, slow to get up, would continue in this game and also play the following tilt against Tampa Bay but suffered another cheap head shot via Victor Hedman ( who received a boarding minor for his troubles) and has been missing from the lineup since.

According to a DC sportswriter being interviewed by Mark Madden last Monday, Capitals bench boss and resident NHL whiner Bruce Boudreau apparently gets hot under the collar anytime a reporter merely mentions the Steckel hit. Of course, there is not shortage of subjectsthat raises Boudreau's blood pressure; standing up is probably a daunting task for him. But my misguided point in this post is whether or not the Penguins will seek any further retribution against Steckel now that they will see him six times a year?

My guess is NO. The shorthanded Pens have already met the Caps twice since the Winter Classic and while the Penguins tough guys continued to challenge Steckel to a fight during the first matchup( Much to the ire of Boudreau of course), he did finally drop the gloves against the much smaller Tim Wallace. That would seem to settle the score if there is such thing as a finite hockey code, but as we learned last month on Long Island, enough is not enough for some people. The Bruins haven't gotten enough of Matt Cooke still challenge and target him every chance they get so what's to say the Pens don't call up Ogie Ogilthorpe and have him take a Flying Gillies at Steckel before pummelling the back of his head while he is unconscious on the ice? the answer to that would be simple : organizational class.