Saturday, April 30, 2011

Semifinal update

The conference semifinals are in full force after two nights of action Thursday and Friday.
Vancouver opened up the second round Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Nashville. Roberto Luongo stymied the Predators' offense, and the Canucks are off to a decent start. I would like to see them score more, although this series doesn't have track-meet potential.
In Friday's action, Tampa Bay stunned Washington, 3-2, and San Jose edge Detroit, 2-1, in overtime.
Both of these results surprised me. I don't think either will be a sweep, but I see the Capitals and the Red Wings winning both series rather easily.
The Lightning came to play. They turned the game on Washington. It has always been a question of whether the Capitals can win these types of games. I still believe they will win the series in six. This served as a wake-up call.
I have been singing the praises of Detroit since the playoffs started. I still pick the Red Wings to go to the Cup. How they respond from this loss will tell the story.
Jimmy Howard was great. I question whether he can do it come playoff time, and he was fabulous Friday. Detroit gave up some uncharacteristic chances. Howard also took a dumb penalty after getting a snow shower from Joe Pavalski.
Jimmy, why do that? Let your teammates stick up for you.
Philadelphia and Boston open today in Philly, while Vancouver and Nashville will play Game 2. I'm going with the Flyers and the Canucks.

Friday, April 29, 2011

This Flag Bows Before No Earthly King

In case you didn’t hear, they had a little wedding over in England this morning.
If you are one of the millions in the States who are enthralled, enamored, and all wrapped up in this farcical fairy tale, you probably should bail out on this column right now.

You’re still with me? Good.

I do not understand why we in this Country are so smitten with a Monarchy we cast off over 200 years ago. It truly befuddles me. I take pride in our Flag, our Constitution, and our Democratic Republic. Not in some ancient regime which we discarded any allegiance to on the Concord Bridge and in the hallowed Halls of Independence.

This is nothing against the British people, but I despise the very concept of Monarchy, Nobility, and Royalty. The arcane and archaic espousal of power into a familial lineage regardless of their character or qualifications is no legitimate way to determine a Head of State. Who gives them this authority? Is it still some divine right?

At least in modern times they have had the good sense to put a limit upon the powers of this Aristocratic lunacy and the Monarchs whim is no longer the absolute law of the land. The real power is invested in their representative Parliament, and the Monarch in almost all circumstances performs only ceremonial power within the Realm. And if they choose to continue to prop up these antiquated institutions of heralded heredity, then I guess that is their endowed right to do so. Over there. Far away from me.

So why, oh why, do I ask, does the media from the United States cover this outlandish and garish event like it is our own crowning achievement? Are we so starved off from pomp, circumstance and glitterous, glorified extravagance that we need to somehow collectively tap into our obedient collective colonial roots to fixate our infatuation for foppish foolery? I, for one, am sick and tired of being bombastically bombarded with the Royal hullabaloo.

For on July 4th, 235 years gone by, we cast off these tired customs of rulership through arbitrary marriage, life, and death of far off Kings and Queens. We stood up as a nation of Free and Independent People declaring: “enough with your ancient and capricious lordship, our ennobled powers of State shall be invested in the Common Man!”

Our sacred artifacts are not those of Crowns, Carriages, and Trappings of Lordship. They are documents of ink and parchment declaring our Freedoms and Protections from obtrusive intervention by a whimsical Governing Authority. Why can we not celebrate these Freedoms, which are our sacred birthright, as extravagantly as we commemorate far-off nuptials betwixt those whom would station and allot themselves above us in life?

I say what makes our nation great is that we do not sit by and watch as subjects, but instead we take action as free and independent Citizens.

God Save the Common Man

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My second-round picks

The Penguins' season is over, but the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs live on. Here are my picks for the second round, or the conference semifinals if you want to get technical.

In the Eastern Conference, I pick Washington to upend Tampa Bay in six games. Dwayne Roloson played well in the first round against Pittsburgh, but the Capitals are a much better scoring team with a solid power play.

The Lightning can light the lamp, although it won't be enough against Washington. This could be the Capitals' year.

Philadelphia, yes I'm going with them, will top Boston in seven games. The Flyers were the top team in the league for a long time, and after surviving a scare against Buffalo, has a renewed focus.

The goalie situation is suspect in Philadelphia, although it will play tough defense in front of whoever the goalie is. This will be an exciting series.

For the Western Conference:

Vancouver takes care of Nashville in six games. The Canucks showed tremendous character against Chicago. Yes, the Blackhawks took them to a seventh game after trailing 3-0, but Chicago wasn't your average No. 8 seed.

The Predators have some tremendous players in Shea Weber, Mike Fisher and Pekka Rinne, but I believe the Canucks have too much fire power. Roberto Luongo will have a bounce back series. Nashville doesn't have the scoring punch.

Detroit has it all, and the Red Wings will fly past San Jose in six games.
The Sharks have some offensive firepower, although Los Angeles played them a little too tough for my liking.

I believe goaltending is a liability for San Jose. Although Antti Niemi won a Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, I doubt that he can lead the Sharks over the Red Wings.

I don't know if revenge is on the Red Wings' minds, but San Jose took them out of the playoffs in five games last year.

Once again, Washington over Tampa Bay (six games), Philadelphia over Boston (seven game), Vancouver over Nashville (six games) and Detroit over San Jose (six games).

Also, check out Pucks_and_Pols' picks. Feel free to respond to both.

NHL 2nd Round Predictions

More detailed analysis to come, but since the Vancouver-Nashville Series starts tonight I wanted to get my official predictions in today.

Wales Conference

1)Washington Capitals vs. 5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Capitals in 7

2)Philadelphia Flyers vs. 3) Boston Bruins
Bruins in 6

Campbell Conference

1)Vancouver Canucks vs. 5)Nashville Predators
Canucks in 4

2)Detroit Redwings vs. 3)San Jose Sharks
Redwings in 6

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Jordan Staal underrated?

My question for today: Is Jordan Staal underrated?

I say, yes. Pierre McGuire said during a Penguins game on NBC in reference to Staal not putting up a ton of points that you can't always equate scoring with success.
I always use that example, but it's fitting for Staal. He was never supposed to be a 40-goal scorer. That's not his game.
He is one of the top defensive forwards in the NHL, a Selke finalist last year, kills penalties and he can put the puck in the net during key games.
Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2009 would be a good example.
Please give me your opinions, gentlemen. Oh, and ladies are welcome, too.

2012 GOP Nomination Standings, Week 2

Here is an update on the 2012 Republican Primary Horse Race, for last weeks rankings see the bottom of this post.
This week I also plan to start including trend indications and new headlines to go along with each candidate. If you guys have anything else you'd like to see included feel free to comment or email me about it.

1) Mike Huckabee Trending Up (Last Week: 2)- In a currently tight three way race, the Huckster edges just ahead of Mitt Romney and Donald Trump in the general poll. His underlying numbers among ardent conservatives secures his bump up to the one spot.
Current Headline: Huckabee tops South Carolina poll

2) Mitt Romney Trending Down (Last Week: 1)- His poll numbers show him in a tight race with Huckabee for the early lead, Romeny remains a polished and savvy pol, but minor gaffes like his 'peacetime' comment will be exploited and recycled by talk radio and the conservative web sphere, which are already philosophically against him.
Current Headline: Mitt Romney isn't at peace after his peacetime comment‎

3) Sarah Palin- Trending Steady (Last Week: 3)- The polarizing former Governor is struggling to maintain credibility, but her name recognition will keep her alive in this race if she does run. The best thing for her would be to stay in the background and bone up for the debates to show she is a ‘serious’ candidate.
Current Headline: Complaints aside, Sarah Palin dominates GOP media landscape

4)Donald Trump- Trending Up (Last Week: 4)- I still refuse to completely believe he is truly considering entering the race, but the polls have him practically tied for the lead with Huckabee. This doesn't quite square, because his rhetoric has been far right, while his support has come from the more moderate wings of the Party. His celebrity status will serve him well for now, but assuming this isn't just for publicity, I don't see him holding up to the actual rigors of a long campaign season.
Current Headline: Donald Trump moves on from birthers, now says President Obama wasn't qualified for Ivy League

5) Ron Paul- Trending Up (Last Week: 4)- The smart, anti-establishment choice will be a player in the debates, but don’t expect his final numbers to get much better then where they are at right now.
Current Headline: Ron Paul to Sean Hannity: Stop with Your Sharia!

6) Newt Gingrich Trending Down (Last Week: 7)- The former speakers numbers in the polls speak for themselves. His is a contender, but probably doesn’t have the stuff to be the champion and standard bearer for his party once again.
Current Headline: Newt Gingrich on why he became a Catholic

7) Tim Pawlenty Trending Down (Last Week: 6)- Poor Tim seems like a decent hardworking fellow, but even his home State press in Minnesota is coming to terms with his inability to excite on a national level.
Current Headline: Pawlenty campaign efforts not showing up in polling

8) Michelle Bachman- Trending Steady (Last Week: 8)- The Conservative Firebrand can stand to gain ground if Huckabee falters and/or Palin decides not to run. With Barbour dropping out, she becomes this blogs official darkhorse candidate. She will at least make a lot of noise before (and after) this race is over.
Current Headline: Bachmann worries about ability to block debt-ceiling increase

9) Rick Santorum Trending Up (Last Week: 10)- The favorite son of social conservatives is still in the background, but has a chance to vault up, especially if the economy improves and the GOP needs to tact a different course of attack on Obama to drum up the grassroots.
Current Headline: Santorum’s Frothy Fox News Sunday

10) Mitch Daniels Trending Up (Last Week: Unranked) With his close friend Haley Barbour officially dropping out, the former Indiana Gov sneaks into the top 10. His numbers on level with Santorum, but in his support among the grassroots there is some ground to make up.
Current Headline: Does Haley Barbour's opt out mean Mitch Daniels will opt in?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mike Richards and the Flyers Goalie-Go-Round

Mike Richards is the Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers in the sense that he wears the letter 'C' upon his jersey. That is all. The real leader in that room, the one guys look to when the sailing get stormy, is Chris Pronger. For all of his badboy reputation Pronger is an Alpha Male's Alpha Male.

Richards comes off far too often as both a petulant brat with the media, and a guy whose play on the ice goes over the line and should not garner respect around the league. He makes too many borderline and dirty plays, then leaves his mates to clean up his mess and finish what he starts. He was also identified by his own team as part of a group of young players too focused on nightlife and not enough on gamenight.

On ice he has been involved in more than his share of questionable incidents, and yet he is never grouped in when 'dirty' plays are discussed. His hit on David Booth of the Florida Panthers was a carbon copy of Matt Cooke's infamous leveling of Marc Savard, both in intent, follow through, and results, yet nobody caused a fuss over it.

These playoffs Richards has been at it again, he was tossed from game four for throwing an elbow into the chin of an oncoming Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres. An elbow to the head in "self defense" is still an elbow to the head. I don't know what Richards was "defending" himself from yesterday when he sent Sabres forward Tim Connolly face first into the boards. Another notch on Richards holster, and the league's overlords once again turn a blind eye toward the Flyer's head hunter.

The Flyers as a team meanwhile continue to hunt for a legitimate playoff goaltender. They started this series with the Sabres depending on rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, but after falling down 2 games to none have switched to some unholy combination of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. It has pulled them even with the Sabres at 3 games apiece, but it hasn't been pretty. Even if the Flyers do somehow survive this first round it is only a matter of time until this weakness in net comes back to bite them in the playoffs. Again.

The Flyers have invested way too much in Mike Richards to walk away from him, in contract term, length, and naming him Captain before he was ready to act like one. Where the Flyers have always short changed themselves is in net. And it continues to comeback to haunt them.

Canucks Pushed Back to the Brink of Madness

Da-Da Daa, Da-Da Daa, Da-Da Da-Da-Da-Da Daa.
That Chelsea Dagger song the Chicago Blackhawks crank up after scoring goals at home has to be playing on repeat like a huge bass drum on overdrive in the heads of the Vancouver Canucks, their fans, and especially their all-world goaltender Roberto Luongo.
This was supposed to be the year things went differently in the CHI-VAN series that has seen the Blackhawks advancing and the Canucks skating home the past two seasons. The Hawks had gutted the role players from their Cup winning team of a year ago due to salary cap constraints, most notably gone was converted forward Dustin Byfuglien who notoriously created all kinds of chaos in front of the net. This year the defending champs snuck into the playoffs as an eight seed by default on the last day of the season after the Dallas Stars lost their game to the Minnesota Wild that would have vaulted them over Chicago in the standings.
Oh how the residents of the Canadian Pacific Northwest wished that the Stars had aligned themselves better at this point. Do you really think they would have blown a three games to none series lead against any other team but these Blackhawks? Only four times in NHL history has a playoff series even gotten to a seventh and ultimate game after a team went up 3-0. Chicago, and only Chicago, could have done this to the Canucks, who were universally regarded as the best team coming out of the regular season, and played like it in games one through three.
This is the team that haunts the Canucks as they lay awake at night. They are stuck in their collective psyche and driving them toward a calamitous breaking point. They are on the brink of stark raving madness. After game five and chasing Luongo from his crease for the second game in a row, Blackhawk forward Marian Hossa actually had some sly doubts about whether his team had gotten into Bobby Lu’s head. “I don’t know,” Hossa said. “I can’t see in his head.”
While Hossa was busy craftfully playing the literalist, the answer was made clear for us more speculative types by Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault’s stunning decision to start rookie backup Cory Schneider in net for game six. Some people are putting the crux of the blame for the Nucks recent torment solely upon Vigneault. I’d actually give the coach the benefit of the doubt here. Coaches are more in tune with their team and where their player’s heads are at then anybody in the media or those outside the organization. If he was going to bench a many times over all-star and gold medal winning hero at such a crucial moment, he did so with full and total knowledge of the circumstances which had presented themselves, and with his superiors tacit blessings.
As it turns out the cruel fates of the hockey gods would intervene and place Luongo back into game six anyways after Schneider injured himself getting twisted up in a futile attempt to stop a penalty shot by the Blackhawks Michael Frolik. So Luongo faced his tormentors again coming off the bench cold early in the third period with the game tied at three. He actually acquitted himself well through that frame and the first 15 minutes of a sudden death overtime. It actually seemed like the Canucks would exorcise the playoff demons of years past and escape the Windy City to the second round.
Then an unassuming point shot came flying in from Niklas Hjalmarsson which Luongo tried to bat away in a baffling fashion that left him splayed out on the ice belly down. Chicago rookie winger Ben Smith was there to flip the game winning rebound past the felled netminder. The horn blared and 20,000+ at the United Center roared as the all too familiar chorus rang out. Utter Madness.
Da-Da Daa, Da-Da Daa, Da-Da Da-Da-Da-Da Daa.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Penguins lay egg on Easter eve

The NHL doesn't use aggregate scoring in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is very fortunate for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins got blown out in Game 5 by Tampa Bay, 8-2, and have been outscored 13-3 in two losses to the Lightning.
On the other hand, their wins have been by scores of 3-0, 3-2 and 3-2 in double OT for a 17-9 advantage for Tampa Bay.
If you asked any Penguin player or coach, they would tell you none of that matters. All they are concerned with is going to the St. Petersburg Times Forum and closing it out Monday.
I would agree with that, and Pittsburgh is still in the driver's seat with a 3-2 lead, but Saturday's loss has to be a tad concerning.
For starters, why can't the Penguins close out playoff series on their home ice? I would say it's just coincidence, but not closing out a series is troubling. Cup-winning teams put series away when their opponents are down.
Also, they have to stay out of the box, or do a better job of killing penalties. The Lightning are very dangerous with the man advantage.
Pittsburgh's power play, on the other hand, has been on life support. I won't say dead because it scored in Game 4.
The Penguins have played great five-on-five, but in tight games, low-scoring games they need to take advantage of their PP opportunities.
Pittsburgh will not beat Tampa Bay in a track meet, or any team for that matter.
Not having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin takes away a great deal of offense form the Penguins. Crosby and Malkin also play as decoys that allow players like Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal to get more opportunities.
Malkin will not be back for the season and Crosby's return is in question, so they will have to win without the superstars.
Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled after the Lightning went up 4-0 in the second period. Brent Johnson relieved Fleury.
Fleury gave up four goals in a short period of time, but when Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier are getting point-blank shots from the slot, a few are bound to go in. Stamkos came to play. He had two goals and an assist. Good timing for him. The Penguins are hoping it was a one-game incident.
The defense can't give up chances like that. I believe Fleury will come back strong in Game 6. He always does.
Pittsburgh will win Game 6, and close out another series on the road. Penguins 4, Lightning 2.
NOTES: Youtube it, go on the Ducks' website or watch ESPN. Bobby Ryan's goal in the Anaheim's OT loss to Nashville was incredible. One of the tops of the year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stanley Cup playoff updates

As of 6:29 p.m. EST on April 22, the Stanley Cup playoffs are playing out with some intriguing storylines.
In the West, Detroit dominated Phoenix in the 3-6 matchup, taking all four games. The Coyotes could very well play in another city next season.
The Red Wings, who will never leave the Motor City, look very strong. Winning early gives them the opportunity to sit back, have a mineral water and watch the rest of the teams knock each other senseless. A rested Detroit squad is very scary. I wouldn't want to play them.
Vancouver jumped all over Chicago in winning the first three games, but the defending champs have shown true character in responding in Games 4 and 5.
The Blackhawks won both games in routs, and chased Roberto Luongo in the process. Luongo receives all the accolades, although he is a career underachiever in the playoffs.
Game 6 will be in Chicago and the place will be jumping. I don't think Luongo will have three bad games in a row, and the Canucks will grind out a 3-2 victory to take the series.
The Anaheim-Nashville series has been quite intriguing. Chippy play, trash talk in the media and some good games have made this a series to watch. Not to mention it is tied at 2-2.
Unfortunately, I have yet to catch one of these games. That is going to change tonight. I will park myself in front of the tube at 10 p.m. and watch Game 5 in its entirety.
If the Ducks can stay out of the box and be disciplined in their own zone, they should be able to light the lamp just enough to win this one.
The Predators are strong defensively, have a great goalie and Shea Weber is a beast, although I give Anaheim the edge.
I will delve more into this series after tonight's game.
What Pittsburgh has done without Sidney Crosby is remarkable.
It has pushed Tampa Bay to the brink of elimination and won Game 4 without the services of Chris Kunitz.
Dan Bylsma should win the Jack Adams award for the coach of the year, although I'm sure he would rather raise the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years.
There is no timetable for Crosby's return, although Matt Cooke will be back if the Penguins can advance to the second round.
Game 5 will be tomorrow at noon in Pittsburgh. I believe the Lightning will win that game, 4-3. I like the Penguins to come back in Game 6 to take the series, 4-2.
Montreal and Boston are in a dogfight with the series tied at two. Neither team has won on home ice.
The Bruins will grab a win on home ice in Game 5 before taking the series in six games. These teams don't like each other, and they're not afraid to show it.
Tim Thomas has stepped up his play, and Carey Price can't take the Habs to the promised land, which is all Montreal fans want.
Washington is up 3-1 on the New York Rangers and will close it out at home in Game 5.
The Rangers showed some heart, but gave up a lead going into the third period for the first time all season, and doesn't have enough offense to get by the Capitals.
Washington has been playing well, but these aren't the Mark Messier-led Rangers.
Ryan Miller has had to stand on his head two times for Buffalo to salvage a 2-2 split with Philadelphia after two games.
They play tonight in Game 5 at Philadelphia.
I love Mr. USA and I would love him even more if the Flyers got bounced, although I don't think Miller can do it again.
Philadelphia wins tonight, 4-2, before taking Game 6 for a 4-2 series win.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pens Vs. Lightning

In an homage to Mondesi's house's annual Pittsburgh Pirates the movie, I have decided to cast Pens vs. Lightning: The Movie:
Pens Vs. Lightning the movie:

Head Coach Dan Bylsma Played by the Verizon "Can You Hear Me Now"

Arron Asham played by the Bad Guy from Kindergarten Cop (big assist to my cousin Jeff)

Defenseman Paul Martin played by the Keebler Elf

Defenseman Brooks Orpik played by Crazy Eyes from Mr. Deeds

More after the jump........

NHL Playoff Moments 2011.V2-4.20

Another great night of NHL action last evening.
Here are video recaps of some of my favorite moments:

1) "Can you hear us?"
This one gave me goosebumps. The reason the hockey playoffs are such an epic event is because that Hockey fans are so tuned in with their teams and following so closely that it is like they are in the room with their team and along for the ride. Every win entices fans with visions of Lord Stanley’s Holy Chalice, any loss and it feels like your team will not be able to get up off the mat and never win a game again. Washington’s Coach Bruce Boudreau had taken a potshot at the Ranger fans, saying that he did not consider their home rink, Madison Square Garden, to be all that loud of a building. It was a ridiculous thing to say, but not surprising to anyone who watched Boudreau act like a total clown throughout the entire HBO 24/7 TV series. The Ranger’s fans response was just pure hockey fandom music to my ears.

2) Perry Eats Preds Souls Shorthanded:
The Anaheim Ducks tendency to play undisciplined and take untimely penalties is the key reason why the Nashville Predators were up on them two games to one. In a tie game last night the Ducks once again went down a man at a bad moment. It looked like Nashville could once again capitalize, but Corry Perry had other ideas and turned the tables on the Preds while his team was down a man. This is the kind of individual play that can really shift the momentum in a playoff round. Just awesome.

3) Marty and Vinny Hook Up:
The Tampa Bay Lightning are down 3 games to 1 in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it is certainly not from lack of effort from the smallest and most skilled player between the two teams, Martin St. Louis. After the Bolts were shutout in game one, Marty has 4 goals in 4 games and has almost single handedly kept Tampa close in this series. Don’t overlook the nice setup from his teammate Vincent Lecavalier with a tricky bank pass off the boards. The connection these two have may not be enough to get past the Pens, but it is still something special to watch.

4) Miller stones Briere, Flyers:
Last year in the Olympics Ryan Miller was the Great American Hero as a Goalie leading the underdog Americans to the brink of the Gold Medal. This year he has resumed his more unassuming role as Superman for the city of Buffalo. He was beyond spectacular in evening things with the Philadelphia Flyers at home last night with his 2nd 1-0 shutout victory of the series. He robs Daniel Briere here for one of about 3 or 4 stops that could have been shown here from the 3rd Period of that game. This save was the most impressive to me however for the mano-a-mano aspect of it.

5) Neal Finally Puts One In:
James Neal is one of those hockey forwards going through a stretch where he is snakebit. He does everything right but just can’t seem to finish the play by finding the back of the net. He finally got one to fall last night in the 2nd overtime, and there was much rejoicing.

6) Chimera Flips it Home to Close Things Out:

Alas for Ranger fans, the magic night at MSG did not have a happy ending for them. While Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik played a game of “You got it, I’ll take it” in the crease, Jason Chimera cooley swept in and banked it home for the OT winner and put the Blueshirts on the brink of elimination heading back to Washington.

7) Shane Doan Shakes Lidstrom's Hand:
Shane Doan has only played for one franchise in his entire career. He played his rookie year as a Winnipeg Jet. The next season that team packed up and moved South of the Border to Phoenix and was re-branded the Coyotes. Now the future of the team in Phoenix is in serious doubt. The Dessert Dogs have never been the most popular of tickets in the Valley of the Sun, but I do feel for the diehards who have been drawn in over the past decade and now look to have their team pulled out from under them, just as they are starting to gain some traction as a legitimate contender. I know a lot of hockey fans are pumped up to see the possibility of another team moving to back to the Great White North. I however hate to see any team relocate. It is not the fault of the dedicated fans that their fickle ‘casual’ counterparts are not coming out to support a team. They are there every game, watching road games on TV, buying jerseys, and doing all they can to support their club. It is much harder to be a fan in a market where hockey is not the most popular thing to follow, so I’d like to take this time to salute all Coyote fans, regardless of how this turns out who have been there through thick and, far too often, thin times. You did not fail hockey, hockey has failed you.

King Nothing

I'll make this much clear right now: any time you see one of my posts stealing it's title from a Metallica song, it's going to be an incessant rant railing against the NHL's administration. Today's current target is Colin Campbell, possibly the worst example of a top-level administrator in any of the Big Four sports in America. If you wanted to base Campbell's qualifications, or lack thereof, strictly on his playing career, it would be similar to promoting a far less talented  version Dale Hunter to such an elevated position. For those who don't follow hockey closely, that would be like having the town drunk handing out DUI's. Now, Campbell is drunk with powr and

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A royal collapse

The Los Angeles Kings became just the fourth team in playoff history to blow a four-game lead in losing Game 3 to the San Jose Sharks, 6-5, in overtime.
The Kings jumped out with two goals, 13 seconds apart in the first period. They added another at 18:22 of the first to take a 3-0 lead.
When Brad Richardson scored for LA 44 seconds into the second, Antti Niemi gave way for Antero Nittymaki.
At that point, I was considering changing the channel and watching some NBA basketball. I'm glad I didn't.
The Sharks got on the board when Patrick Marleau scored on a tip-in at 3:08. I figured, no biggie, the Kings still have it.
Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture added goals at 6:53 and 13:32 to cut the lead to 4-3. Clowe's goal was on the power play.
Ryan Smith scored 15 second later for Los Angeles, but I knew that the game wasn't over.
However, being the dumby that I am, I flipped over to the NBA game. When I came back to it, I saw it was 5-4 LA. Clowe scored his second goal.
Joe Pavelski tied the game at 5 with 31 seconds remaining in the period. Remarkable.
The Sharks scored five goals in the second period.
Ironically, no goals were scored in the third, and the game went into overtime.
I was just settling in with my popcorn when Devin Setoguchi took a pass from Marleau and scored on a wrist shot off a 3-on-2 rush to finish a remarkable rally for the Sharks at 3:09 of overtime.
I really thought the game would last longer due to the conservative approach teams take in OT, however it was only fitting for San Jose.
I don't know what happened to the Kings. They didn't appear to take the foot off the gas. Or maybe they did. I believe psychology plays a big part in sports. Yes, they're amazing athletes, but they're also human. Whatever it was, LA will not recover. It's over.
For those of you who have jobs in the morning, the game was over around 1:30 EST, the NHL Network will replay it at 2 p.m., but you don't need that, just read this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ongoing NHL 1st Round Series + 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates

As we wind on through the primary round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, we also are on course for the determination of the 2012 Republican Party nominee for President. Both races have frontrunners, darkhorses, underdogs, and those barely hanging onto hope.

*For some reason the Phoenix Coyotes remind me a lot of Rick Santorum. Both face remarkably daunting odds, mainstream media irrelevance, and too little support from their home base. Yet I get a feeling for some reason that we have not heard the last from either of them. They are both spunky and plucky, so I wouldn’t be surprised if either carries on the fight longer than anybody is anticipating before ultimately falling short. At least if Santorum doesn’t grab the nomination there is no threat of him being forced to permanently move himself and his family to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

*The Western Conference is pretty much setup for the next round, at least in my head. I think the Detroit Redwings will ultimately dispose of the Coyotes, there is no way the San Jose Sharks will lose to the LA Kings, and the Nashville Predators/Anaheim Duck series is a tossup, but the winner will end up trekking up to Vancouver for the first game of Round 2. That is because the Canucks have totally wiped the floor with the defending Champion Chicago Blackhawks. I expected this would finally be the year that Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins would break the “Curse of Chelsea Dagger,” but I certainly didn’t think they would be up 3 games to none and poised to sweep the current Cup holders out of the 1st round. Regardless, the 2nd round is shaping up as Canucks vs. Ducks/Predators and Sharks vs. Redwings. Those should both involve some very good hockey, and take heart San Jose fans; if the Canucks can beat the Blackhawks maybe this is finally the year your team can get over its 2nd round jinx. I won’t make official predictions yet for a round that hasn’t even started, but I have a feeling the best Twin combination in the league will be scraping up Octopi off the ice as their opponents raise (skate away from) the Clarence Campbell Bowl.

*Is Donald Trump a for real candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, or is this just a publicity stunt? The poll numbers actually look good for him right now, but I can’t imagine that he will seriously delve into a run here. He has a more than a few skeletons in his closet, and much more to lose than to gain in what will inevitably be an unsuccessful bid. He came out firing with the “Birther” card, openly questioning President Obama’s citizenship. That has made him a polarizing figure among the Tea Party crowd, who appreciate that incredible message, but in the end I cannot see them getting behind the epitome of elaborately suited corporate executives as their standard bearer. Donald Trump is about as far from being Joe the Plumber as I am from being Bob Woodward

*Tim Thomas is not a playoff goalie. He’s just not. His unorthodox style suits him well in the regular season when you only play the Boston Bruins once or twice a month. When he gets into a playoff series however the opposing team will eventually figure him out and crack him. That is why the Montreal Canadiens will get by the Bru-Crew in the 1st round. That and because, well they are the Habs and will always come out on top over Boston. Also, how on this green earth did Zdeno Chara miss game two due to “dehydration?” It seems to me that the Bruins are either hiding an injury or he must have been ridiculously sick to have missed such a crucial playoff game. There is no way a professional training staff would let their Captain miss a game of that magnitude because of lack of fluids.

* The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning has been a fascinating series because of the contrasting styles of play. Pittsburgh is a strong forechecking even strength team who plays best when the game rolls along for extended periods of five on five action. Tampa has been dominant on special teams, lighting up the scoreboard on their powerplay and completely shutting down the Pens turns with the man advantage, and setting up a stifling 1-3-1 trap when they get in front. The first goal is extra crucial in games for this series, because both teams play much better with the lead then coming from behind. It’s been pretty even hockey so far, and if Tampa can hold serve at home in game four it becomes a 3 game series where the Pens have the two home games. It should go right down to the wire.

*Finally, here are my initial top 10 rankings for the GOP nomination for 2012:
1) Mitt Romney- He’s the front runner for now, but I don’t think he will be there the winner in the end

2) Mike Huckabee- The former Gov of Arkansas is my pick from right here to take the nomination. Solid mix of tea party cred without seeming like a far right ideologue. He will get the crucial support of the Southern Evangelicals as well.

3) Sarah Palin- The most polarizing figure on the GOP landscape, but her supporters will be the most energetic of any candidates if she does end up running.

4) Ron/Rand Paul- Whichever one of them ends up seeking the platform will split the tea support with Palin. They don’t have her charisma, but have more intellectual credibility. Unfortunately that is not what you need to become President.

5) Donald Trump- I’m stunned he is even on this list, yet alone so high, but if he does run his name recognition alone will make him a force to be reckoned with.

6) Tim Pawlenty- Very non-controversial former Governor of Minnesota. Very vanilla and bland candidate.

7) Newt Gingrich- The former Majority Leader was the architect of the 1994 wave and revolution. The firebrand probably has too much negative baggage to be a serious contender for 2012.

8) Michelle Bachman- Is great for making outrageous statements for Cable clip shows, will carry some favor with Tea votes, but nothing close to enough to crack the top 5.

9) Haley Barbour- The Governor of Mississippi has been called one of the smartest pols in the Republican Party. It will take quite a bit of maneuvering for him to get up this list, but don’t write him off as a darkhorse.

10) Rick Santorum- The former Senator from Pennsylvania will carry some support among the religious right and is a tireless campainger. Is he angling for a VEEP nod coming from a crucial battle ground State?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rangers back in series with Capitals

The New York Rangers returned to the comfort of Madison Square Garden and pulled out a 3-2 victory over Washington Sunday.
The Rangers struggled to score in the first two games, but were able to get a few pucks past Michal Neuvirth. Erik Christensen scored on a funky shot.
Washington is one of the favorites and I still believe they will win the series in five, although New York will play them tough in Game 4. I predict a close win for the Capitals Wednesday, and they will close it out on home ice.
In other games, Vancouver beat Chicago, 3-2, to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. It looks like a new champion will be crowned this season.
Also, Nashville knocked off Anaheim, 4-3, to lead 2-1 in the 4-5 matchup in the West. This series is shaping up to be a good one. I picked the Ducks to win this one easy, but it is shaping up to being a solid series.

Stanley Cup playoffs update

After four days of action in the Stanley Cup playoffs four teams have a 2-0 series lead and three series are tied at 1. One game is in progress.
In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens have a 2-0 series lead, while the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay and Philadelphia-Buffalo series is tied at 1-1.
In the West, the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings hold 2-0 leads. The Anaheim-Nashville series is tied at 1-1.
With 12:20 and counting in the third period, the Los Angeles King are on the verge of tying their series with the San Jose Sharks, as they hold a 4-0 lead.
The Canucks look to be the strongest team in the West in terms of their play so far. Roberto Luongo has been stellar in goal, and the defense is playing well against a high octane offense in Chicago.
The Canadiens have played very well in their first two games against Boston, and are on a mission to get back to the Cup finals.
The next week should be exciting. I see a seven-game series between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. The others should go six or less.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Game 2 is key for Lightning

For Tampa Bay to make this a series, it must win Game 2 tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center. Usually, the experts don't go for must wins until a team is down 0-2 heading into Game 3, but the Lightning need this game. They played a solid game Wednesday, but Marc-Andre Fleury was too good. The Penguins play very well on the road, and should have a majority of fans at the St. Pete Times Forum, so it is very important for Tampa Bay to steal this one. If they do, I see a seven-game series. If Pittsburgh wins, this one may only go five. For the Penguins to win the series early would be in its favor. I predict at least one of the other series will go six or seven games, and Matt Cooke could get on the ice for practice after his suspension. It is also possible that Sidney Crosby could return. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay will come away with a 3-2 victory tonight. Steve Stamkos, who was basically nonexistant in Game 1 after Brook Oprik lit him up, will net the game winner. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fleury steals the show

Pittsburgh earned a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center, although Marc-Andre Fleury probably stole it for the Penguins with 32 saves for his fifth career playoff shutout. From stopping former temmate Ryan Malone, to denying another former Penguin, Dominic Moore, who actually raised his hands in celebration, the "Flower" was the difference from the opening faceoff. Fleury also stopped Vincent Lecavalier on a shot by the forward between his legs early in the second period. Pittsburgh came out swinging when Brooks Oprik's hit on Steven Stamkos set the tone. The game was hard hitting and low scoring with good goalie play. It was the typical playoff game, and we could be in for possibly six more. Alex Kovalev scored the game winner. The playoffs are nothing new to Kovalev. The Lightning's Dwayne Roloson was impressive in goal, although the night belonged to Fleury. Fleury's greatest asset is his mental makeup. Nothing fazes him. Go back in time to Game 5 against Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals in 2009. He was chased after the Red Wings built a 5-0 lead in the second period. He licked his wounds, came back three nights later, and was the No. 1 star in a 2-1 Penguins' victory in Game 6. He was equally stellar in Game 7, and Pittsburgh won its third Stanley Cup. There is no questioning Fleury's ability, however Tampa Bay will come back. They didn't come this far to fold. The Lightning could very easily take Game 2 and head home with the momentum. That's what they're thinking. The objective for the road team is to split one of the first two, and then it becomes even. Fleury will give up a goal in this series, but I still believe he will be the difference. This all coming from a guy who was supposedly not good enough in October.

NHL Playoff Moments 2011.V1-04.13

As the years go by individual playoff games, and even whole series, seem to blur together in my head as one big mix of sports euphoria. Out of the meddled junkyard of my mind however, certain moments stand out to me as Big Playoff Moments, segments of action that just embody what makes the NHL postseason the greatest in all of sports. These moments are what the playoffs are all about to me, and I can pull them up in the internal clip reel of my mind, as clear as the day they happened, years later. It is to the point where I will be watching a playoff game now and as a sequence unfolds I will check it off in my head as a Playoff Moment. In the spirit of these moments I would like to start a video journal of the 2011 NHL playoffs here on the blog of plays that encompass what I feel the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup is all about.

Here we go with the 1st night of action, I'm not planning on necessarily doing one of these entries after every host of games, but last night there were certainly enough big moments to put together a solid list of 5: (All video's courtesy and copyright of

1) Welcome to the NHL Playoffs Steven Stamkos

Brooks Orpik took a moment right off the bat of the 1st Round Series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning to show the Bolts standout sniper playing in his first playoff game what this voyage is all about. The bone rattling hit seems to have thrown Stamkos off his game a bit too, as he only recorded a single shot on the night, late in the 3rd period.

2) Fleury robs Lecavalier

An absolutely stunning save by Pensguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after a remarkable between the legs move by Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier. Great shot, better save. Fleury kept the Pens in the game early and eventually earned the victory in a 3-0 shutout win.

3) Weber makes the Ducks pay

Shea Weber slapshots are awesome things to behold. He is a crucial part of the Nashville power play and a big reason why the Anaheim Ducks would be wise to drop all shenanigans and stay far away from the penalty box in their 1st round series. He just unleashes a pure howitzer here from the top of the offensesive zone and the next thing you know the puck is trickling out from the back of the net.

4) Luongo stones the Hawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have been the arch-nemesis of Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks for the past two seasons, bouncing them from the playoffs both times. For one night at least Luongo and his squad exorcised those demons and slammed the door the Hawks to take a 1-0 series lead.

5) Semin wins it in Overtime

There is nothing better than sudden-death playoff overtime. With no commercial breaks it glues you to the TV for a duration where any bounce, break, or dazzling play can bring the curtain down. The Washington Capitals Alexander Semin has struggled to make his mark in the playoffs after putting up gaudy stats in the past few regular seasons. Last night he was the beneficiary of a great takeaway a setup by teammate Jason Arnott and Semin buried the one timer into the back of the net 18 minutes and 24 seconds into the bonus period. Game over.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NHL Playoff Previews (West)

For the Eastern Conference picks click here.

Be sure to check out JMG's 1st round predictions as well, for the East, and the West.

Western (Campbell) Conference

1- Vancouver Canucks vs. 8- Chicago Blackhawks
Quick Summary: The Canucks were far and away the best team in hockey during the regular season. They won the President’s Trophy for most total points, had the most goals scored of any team, and the least goals allowed in the same season. They are headlined by the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik on offense, and have perennial all-star Roberto Luongo in net. The Chicago Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions, but struggled mightily this year after cap issues forced them to jettison quite a few of their role-players from their championship club. They backed into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season after the Dallas Stars failed to beat the Minnesota Wild. It has set up an intriguing 1st round matchup between the former Champs trying to regain form and the team that has absolutely been dominate thus far in 2011.

Canucks Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Luongo won the gold medal for Canada last year so he can pull off the big games, Awesome combination of size and skill up front, Most talented top to bottom roster in the league
Liabilities: The President’s Trophy Curse, Recent history of losing to Chicago in the Playoffs the last two years, Some injuries on a banged up blueline are a concern.

Blackhawks Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Skilled forwards and lots of them, The swagger of being the defending champs and owning the Canucks, A very good group of defensemen
Liabilities: Corey Crawford is a rookie goalie going up against a juggernaut, lack of depth guys who carried them to last year’s title, offensive has sputtered a bit down the stretch.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

2- San Jose Sharks vs. 7- Los Angeles Kings
Quick Summary: San Jose Won the Pacific division crown and as always brings a solid squad into the playoffs. It is matter of whether or not they can finally play up to their talent level when it matter most. The Kings are still a young and talented squad, but are reeling from the late season loss to injury of superstar Anze Kopitar.

Sharks Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Great talent top to bottom, last year’s cup winning goaltender in Antti Niemi, Logan Couture is quite an impressive young forward.
Liabilities: History of choking in the playoffs, Ryan Clowe is banged up, Lack of shutdown defensemen

Kings Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Jon Quick is a fabulous young goalie is the only hope for the Kings to steal the upset, decent group of forwards even without Kopitar led by Dustin Brown’s in your face attitude, Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty give them two legit playoff pairings on D
Liabilities: Did I mention Kopitar is out?, So is winger Justin Williams who is their 3rd leading scorer, Quick was shelled in the final 3 games after going up 2-1 on the Canucks last year

Prediction: Sharks in 4

3- Detroit Redwings vs. 6- Phoenix Coyotes
Quick Summary: The always contending Redwings got back to form this season after a disappointing 2010 by their lofty standards. They have a 1st round rematch with the Phoenix Coyotes, who may not know where they are playing next season, but have been very focused on the ice under Coach Dave Tippet for the 2010/11 campaign.

Redwings Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Tons of experience and a rock solid system, Tons of firepower up front, The ageless wonder Nick Lidstrom leading a very good d core.
Liabilities: Age and injury concerns abound, Jimmy Howard has never backstopped an NHL team to a long playoff run, Do they still have the burning desire to get through 4 grueling rounds?

Coyotes Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Shane Doan is a lifelong Coyote and fiery leader on and off the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov can play lights out in net, Good group of 6 defensemen.
Liabilities: Lack of talent up front at forward, no real gamebreakers beyond Doan and Bryzgalov, Very little playoff experience in this squad against a team who knows exactly what needs to be done this time of year.

Prediction: Redwings in 5

4- Anaheim Ducks vs. 5- Nashville Predators
Quick Summary: The Ducks have successfully rebuilt from their 2007 Cup team with a solid core of young forwards including Rocket Richard winner Corey Perry. They are a tough, physical team who can score goals in bunches. The Nashville Predators field their annual playoff squad of young guys almost nobody has heard of. They do this every year with a great team defense and all for one concept instilled by longtime coach Barry Trotz.

Ducks Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Their forwards can both score goals and punch you in the mouth, Teemu Selanne’s fountain of youth, Ray Emery’s reemergence as a legit star goalie.
Liabilities: Blueline and goaltending is a little suspect, Emery’s health/mental approach, May take a few too many dumb penalties and pay for it

Predators Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Pekka Rinne seems like a goalie who steals playoff series, no prima donnas or head-cases just a solid top to bottom team, Shea Weber’s shot.
Liabilities: Lack of offensive firepower/skill, Have never got over 1st round hurdle, Questionable blueline after Weber and Ryan Suter.

Prediction: Predators in 7

Monday, April 11, 2011

NHL Playoff Previews (East)

For the Western Conference picks click here

Be sure to check out JMG's 1st round predictions as well, for the East, and the West.

Eastern (Wales) Conference

1- Washington Capitals vs. 8- New York Rangers
Quick Summary: The Capitals have been a great team since the trade deadline and vaulted to the top of the Conference standings. Their offensive superstars have been reined in this year and they have shown a much greater attention to defensive details. The Rangers have alot of gritty forwards who aren't afraid to mix it up, a young talented defensive core, and a solid goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers are the only team they Capitals have beaten in a playoff series in the “Ovechkin Era."

Capitals Assets vs. Liabilities:
Assets: Ovechkin, Much More rounded overall game, More Focus
Liabilities: Ghosts of previous early round exits, Will new found structure maintain itself under playoff pressures?, injuries to Green, Wideman, and Poti leave blueline a bit thin

Rangers Assets vs. Liabilities:
Assets: Lundqvist, Defense, Tortorella's crazy like a fox attitude and forwards who will go to battle with him
Liabilities: The bad side of crazy is undisciplined play, Lack of firepower, Ryan Callahan being out leaves a lot on Marian Gaborik's plate offensively.

Prediction: Caps in 5

2- Philadelphia Flyers vs. 7- Buffalo Sabres
Quick Summary: The Flyers come off a Stanley Cup run that fell short in the finals last year, they looked like world beaters in February, but have fallen off their game since then. The Sabres are back in the playoffs for the second year in a row behind the stellar goaltending of Ryan Miller. They have been quite hot down the stretch, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

Flyers Assets vs. Liabilities:
Assets: If Pronger is healthy they have the best blueline in hockey, Great scoring depth through some very talented forward lines, fantastic mix of toughness and skill among their skaters
Liabilities: Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending

Sabres Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Ryan Miller, A bunch of hardworking guys, Lindsay Ruff always gets alot out of his sometimes limited talent.
Liabilities: Lack of firepower to match offensive tallies, no real superstars outside of Miller, the tormented hopes of generations of Buffalonians weighs heavy upon them.

Prediction: Sabres in 6

3- Boston Bruins vs. 6- Montreal Canadiens

Quick Summary:
Two of the most storied franchises in the NHL meet up for yet another knockdown, drag out playoff battle. New fuel has been added to the rivalry this season, with Zdeno Chara's brutal hit on Max Pacioretty and games featuring linebrawls between the clubs.

Boston Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Best Defensive goals against in the Conference behind Tim Thomas, Chara is a force on the blueline, Everyone pulls their weight in their balanced offensive system
Liabilities: Thomas unorthodox style will be exposed once again in a playoff series, lack of a game breaking forward up front, Long history of losing against the Habs in the playoffs.

Canadiens Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Habs Mystique, Same core group of skaters from last year’s giant slaying squad, the 'win this one for Max' card
Liabilities: No Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price's past big game meltdowns, undersized and slightly underskilled squad

Prediction: Canadiens in 7

4- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5- Tampa Bay Lightning
Quick Summary: The Penguins managed to overcome injuries to their two all world superstar forwards, Sidney Crosby and Evegeni Malkin, and secured homeice for the first round playoff series with solid defense and all around contributions from the 'bottom half' of their roster. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a rejuvenated bunch with quite an impressive collection of offensively gifted forwards up front.

Penguins Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Marc-Andre Fleury is a proven playoff goalie, Great team effort in the face of adversity, very solid blueline and top ranked penalty kill
Liabilities: Power Play is punchless, lack of top notch scoring with Crosby and Malkin out, Injuries

Lightning Assets vs. Liabilities
Assets: Firepower and lots of it, St. Louis and Stamkos, Great power play
Liabilities: Blueline is a little suspect, is Roloson going to carry this team at 41, where is Vinny's head

Prediction: Lightning in 6

Western (Campbell) Conference
1- Vancouver Canucks vs. 8- Chicago Blackhawks
2- San Jose Sharks vs. 7- Los Angeles Kings
3- Detroit Redwings vs. 6- Phoenix Coyotes
4- Anaheim Ducks vs. 5- Nashville Predators

Monday Morning Notebook (04.11.V5-1)

*The US Government averted a Federal partial shutdown that would have been short sighted, harmful, and done nothing to deal with our Country's long term issues. If you want to applaud barely functional govt. go ahead, but I will continue my plan to fix Congress after a short delay to write about the upcoming NHL playoffs.

*Cory Clouston was fired as head coach of the Ottawa Senators, but GM/past and future coach Bryan Murray was extended 3 years by the team, which is a bit of a surprise. I think the Sens are a club screaming for new blood and a fresh approach. Murray should have been canned as well.

*The African Union, an organization that Muammar Gaddafi has worked well with in the past, is trying to broker a cease fire in the Libyan Civil War. Rebel command in Benghazi counters that nothing short of Gaddafi stepping down will bring an end to this conflict.
*Jacques Lemaire will go back into retirement and will not come back to coach the New Jersey Devils next season. Lemaire almost rallied the Devils to a miraculous playoff apperance after a putrid start to the season, but fell short. No tears will be shed here for the loss to Swamp Hockey.

*Peter DeBoer was also let go by the Florida Panthers, who have been without any clear direction for years. They need something big to change the direction of that franchise in South Florida.

*Congrats to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs on winning their 1st NCAA hockey national title, beating the Michigan Wolverines in overtime for the championship game.

Second Place Is the First Loser

Late last week, we learned that Pennsylvania has come in second nationally in something. However, this is not an achievement but a rather dubious distinction: PA ranks second amongst the 50 states in smog-producing pollution. Texas, naturally, was first.

Today, we learn that PA's new governor has a solution to this 2nd overall ranking and that solution is to hire C. Alan Walker to oversee expedition of permits to Marcellus Shale drillers. Mr. Walker, a coal mogul and hefty donor to Gov. Corbett's campaign, certainly has an interesting record with the environment. According to State Records, Court Documents, and Mr . Walker's own admissions, his companies have been responsible for polluting at least 15 water ways since the late 1970's. In regards to his new position, Mr. Walker holds that he will not attempt to override regulations or personally issue permits to potential drillers but his record obviously sings a different tune.

When asked for comment on Mr. Walker's environmental record, both Gov. Corbett and Mr. Walker had none. Color me shocked. After all, Gov. Corbett has never hidden the fact that he could care less about the environment, so why should anybody be surprised by this latest move? There is no plan in place to impose an excise tax on Marcellus Shale driller and the proposed job creation side of the spectrum is not as black and white as some may think.

In reality, natural gas drilling will certainly create jobs in PA. But will these jobs go to PA residents or will they simply go to outside contractors who will bring their own workers in temporarily, drill until there's nothing left, and leave the tax payers holding the bag on cleanup? It's happened before: Range Resources makes it appear they are going to swoop in and save PA's economy with jobs but the reality is that hey are just bringing up workers from Texas, so how is that creating jobs for PA Residents?

Only 3 months into his tenure as Governor of PA, Tom Corbett's approval rating is falling. If he continues to give big salary jobs to his rich donors while cutting spending on education and eliminating other blue collar positions, it is going to hit a point where it can't get much lower.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First-round picks for the Eastern Conference

The first-round playoffs in the Eastern Conference will be quite intriguing.
For all you Penguins fans out there, get ready for the ride.
I have already started my playoff beard, but I may shave it soon because I am going on vacation in Las Vegas in May, and I have to look good for the ladies.
I hope it doesn't jink the Pens.
As for the first round, Pittsburgh will host Tampa Bay in the first two games at the Consol Energy Center. The Lightning are dangerous offensively with Steven Stamkos and Co., although they are underrated defensively. They feature the eighth best penalty kill in the NHL.
That said, Pittsburgh has been playing playoff-type hockey since Sidney Crosby went down. The difference: Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is the Penguins' MVP, and should be in consideration for the NHL MVP award. He knows how to play in the playoffs, and nothing fazes him.
Sidney Crosby is probably out for this series, although he may return if Pittsburgh beats Tampa Bay.
Matt Cooke would also return for the second round should the Penguins advance.
I think Fleury will will Pittsburgh to a Game 7 victory.
Washington won't let its second No. 1 seed in as many years go to waste. The Capitals will top the Rangers in five games.
Philadelphia, the Atlantic Division champion, will dump Buffalo in six games in the 2-7 matchup.
Boston will defend its No. 3 seed by beating Montreal in five games. The Canadiens had a tremendous run last season, however the Bruins will make short work of the Habs.
There you have it. Sit back, drink a few Labatte's or Molson's, watch some great hockey and be safe. I think the first-round games are very exciting. It gives fans the opportunity to watch all the games.
If you don't have Versus, find a cable, satellite, or Direct TV company that carries it. Also, most bars put on all the games.

First-round picks for the Western Conference

After a 5-3 loss to Minnesota Sunday, Dallas will be watching the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. It was a good effort by the Stars to try and get back in the race, but the defending champs, the Chicago Blackhawks, will have the opportunity to defend their championship.
The 1-8 matchup in the West will be Vancouver-Chicago. I know this is a long shot, although I believe the Jonathan Toews and Co. will top the Canucks in seven. Vancouver is a talented team, won the Presidents' Trophy and has been in the playoffs before, but I like the Hawks.
They have been playing well, and know what it's like to win the Cup.
San Jose meets Los Angeles in a 2-7 matchup. The Sharks will advance to the second round in five games. I don't see this series as being too exciting. I like the Kings, and they have a good nucleus, although they're not ready to advance just yet.
Detroit, who is always in the mix, will take on Phoenix and advance to the West semis in six games. The Red Wings have talent, experience and the desire to win. Jimmy Howard may be inexperienced compared to most of his teammates, but he is ready to step up.
I believe Detroit has incentive to win for Nic Lidstrom, who has announced he will retire at the end of the season. It would great for Lidstrom to go out on top.
The Coyotes played the Red Wings tough last season, but I think the Wings will get by them again.
Anaheim and Nashville meet in a 4-5 matchup. I like the Ducks in this one. I predict a sweep in this series.
I have always enjoyed the Ducks' gritty style of play, and Corey Perry is sure to light the lamp once or twice in this series.
So, there you have it. I like the Blackhawks over the Canucks, the Sharks over the Kings. the Red Wings over the Coyotes and the Ducks to beat the Predators in the first round.
I will update this as the playoffs go along.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Preparing for a Government Shutdown

Unless a last minute deal can be struck today the Federal Government will shut down tonight at Midnight. All services deemed 'non-essential' will be halted untill Congress can approve a budget for the rest of the fiscal year through September. This is one of the most short sighted and disapointing failures of Congress in a long time. None of our long term problems go away by taking this stand on such near term funding, and it can only hurt the economic state of the Country and the individuals affected by this inane squabbling. Beyond that, it once again signals to Americans that Congress is ineffective and disattached from the real world and real problems we face in this Country. We need to reestablish a bond between the People and their representation. This is not the way to do so.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Great idea by Penguins

On Apr. 6 at 10 a.m. roughly 2,000 tickets will go on sale for each of the first playoff games at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins have done since they returned to the playoffs in 2007, and I think it is a wonderful idea by management. I personally have been sucessful five times in attempting to score tickets, including two finals games. I love the idea, and it lets non season-ticket holders have the opportunity to see some playoff hockey, which is the best of all four of the major sports. If you have the opportunity, and a load of cash, park yourself in front of a computer, go to the box office of trying the Ticketmaster outlets at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Be aware that there is a lottery at the Ticketmaster window and the box office. Also, if you are trying on a computer, don't quit if it says all seats are gone. Keep trying for as long as you can. I did it on a computer for a regular-season game, and I tried for about an hour before I was sucessful. Good luck and enjoy the playoffs. I could say they are just as exciting from the comfort of your living room, but that would be a lie. You can always try Stubhub. Keep in mind that sports isn't all there is in life, so don't get too down if you miss out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Morning Notebook (04.05.V4-3)

*The US is getting ready to end combat missions flying over Libya in the next few days. Is this a "mission accomplished" moment like we had in Iraq, only to be followed by escalating violence, or is the current President really ready to walk away from this fight and wash his hands of whatever the results are of the ongoing civil war in that North African nation? Barrack Obama should be credited with preventing a near certain mass murder in Benghazi, and NATO forces, including the US I would assume, will continue to moniter and enforce the UN sanctioned 'No-Fly Zone.' The ultimate effect of this effort on the ground is far from certain in Libya however. Muammar Gaddafi and the Rebel Forces in Libya are basically fighting to a stand still and neither will seem to be able to 'finish the job' of disposing of the other.

*After watching the Philadelphia Flyers-New York Rangers game yesterday, I can't help but feel that the Flyers are really on their heels backing into the playoffs. Something doesn’t quite seem to be clicking right with that team right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a tough time getting out of the first round, especially against a team with a tough goalie like the Rangers or the Buffalo Sabres. I feel the Washington Capitals will win the #1 overall seed and be the team to beat in the East. They have been on fire since adding a few pieces at the trade deadline, and have the most complete healthy team in the Conference right now.

*The Budget Showdown will be dragging on in Congress for another week of D.C. melodrama. Will this be the week that Senate Democrats, President Obama, and whatever caucus Speaker of the House John Boehner can muster will come to an agreement on the temporary budget for the remainder of the fiscal year through September, so that they can get onto bickering about a long term budget solution for the future years? A Government Shutdown, such as occurred in 1995, is looming if a temporary solution cannot be reached. Of course most of the 'essential' functions of the Federal Government would still be funded, but it would be a black eye in the face of a spawning economic recovery. Something that is important to note: this fight is not the Big One. The argument (and an ongoing simultaneous debate that will also focus on the Country’s Debt limit) that occurs this week will not do one single iota to fix our Nation’s long term fiscal crisis. The real strong leadership that the American people crave will be those who dare to crack open the “untouchable” issues of Social Security and Medicare. The current debate over non-defense discretionary funding will do nothing to alleviate the big picture issues surrounding those programs, and can only hurt us in the short term economic forecasts, because cuts in spending will mean cuts in jobs. It is that simple folks. The British are learning this to their peril as their economic recovery sputters out in the face of large cut backs in spending in the name of fiscal austerity. There is some simple math out there that shows that cutting government spending reduces the employment situation for workers on the ground. Eric DuVall of the Tonawanda News breaks this down very precisely and succinctly in his editorial piece yesterday:
“This might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. The Republican Party’s official position on job creation is this: If the government lays off workers on a mass scale, it will help employment.
How is this possible? Someone in the House GOP caucus has missed their calling as a fantasy novel writer, for starters.”
Read the rest here

*It became official over the weekend, the New Jersey Devils will be missing the NHL’s postseason for the 1st time since 1996. Count me as one who will certainly not weep for the absence of the Devils in this year’s playoffs. They are the organization that is more responsible, in my eyes, than any other for bogging down the game with their neutral zone shutdown “swamp hockey” that became the trendy defensive style of play from the Mid 1990’s to the early 2000s. They may have won 3 Stanley Cups in 9 years with this accursed style of play, but have only won 2 playoff games beyond the 1st round since they hoisted the Holy Grail against the Anaheim (then Mighty) Ducks in 03. So this has been a team and a style of hockey in decline for the better part of a decade now. Hopefully 2011 will be remembered as the year swamp hockey was finally laid to rest.

*Former President Bill Clinton has suggested in public that the world should furnish arms and supplies to the Rebel Forces in Libya. Privately I guarantee he knows that something of that sort is already going on. This entire intervention in Libya has a very Clintonesque feel to it, and with his wife represented in the Administration as Secretary of State, it seems very likely to me that she is pulling some of the old levers that Bill left behind in the International Community. To think that the two are not cooperating and interconnecting their influence and powers to get Gadaffi out of Libya would be foolish indeed.

The Rich Get Richer

At least in New York, they will be. Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to allow a surcharge on wealthy taxpayers to expire at the end of this year. The tax applied to high earning individuals and joints filers, starting at $200,000 annually for single filers and $300,000 for married couples. For a married couple earning $350,000 per year, the surcharge was $3,500 or 1%. If this "give back" is supposed to help stimulate the New York economy, then Governor Cuomo may be barking up the wrong tree.

In a recent New York Times article regarding the tax cut, nearly every person with whom the writer spoke said they do not plan to spend any of it but instead will put it into college savings. One individual mentioned that he did not even notice the additional tax when he paid it and didn't mind because he does well financially. Another individual mentioned he won't be spending the extra cash on fancy lunches or extravagant items because he already does that now. While that certainly shows two completely opposite views, a majority of those interviewed still had no plans to further stimulate the economy with their minor windfall.

What I have learned about situations like these, tax cuts for the rich, is just how extremely polarizing they can be. There are many people who are not even close to the top earning brackets, and probably never will be, who blindly support these tax cuts because they envision themselves there someday. There are others, like myself, who know that $3,500 to a couple earning over $350,000 per year means a lot less to them than it would to a couple earning $90,000 per year. I also know that the couple earning $90,000 per year is feeling a lot more of the financial burden in terms of inflation, out of control interest rates, and soaring higher education costs.But with people so quick to side with the "haves" in a nation made up mostly of "have nots", it's unlikely that situation will ever change.

For being one of the richest nations in the world, America is not filled with many people who are actually rich at all. In reality, we have a staggering number of  individuals, nearly 13%, living at or below the poverty line and many well regarded experts feel that is grossly understated. Only 15% of Americans earn over $100,000 per year and only 1.5% over $250,000, yet  there is an abnormally large contingent supporting tax cuts for the highest earning rich despite only making up 1.5% of the population? As someone who works with numbers, that simply doesn't add up but it certainly follows the Golden Rule which states: " The one who has the gold makes the rules".

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Will the Flyers collapse?

With four games to play, I have started to wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers will be able to hold on to win the Atlantic Division? They have played well against the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning all their games at the Consol Energy Center, including a 5-2 victory on Mar. 29, but have faltered a bit since that win. They have 102 points, one back of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Eastern Conference race, and are just two ahead of the Penguins, who won Saturday night in Florida. Pittsburgh has three games remaining. If they win out against the Devils, Islanders and Thrashers. The Penguins can win all these games, although New Jersey is always tough, how will New York respond after the two teams battled it out the last time in a game that more resembled an MMA card. They should beat Atlanta easily, but you never know. I believe it depends what's on the line. If Pittsburgh needs to win to secure the division title or keep the No. 4 spot, it can take the game. The Flyers are tied 1-1 with the Rangers at 8:40 of the second period as of 1:59 p.m. EST. They have remaining games with the Senators, Sabres and Islanders. They wrap up with the Isles on Saturday, which will let the Penguins know if they will have the opportunity to play for something Sunday in their finale. If not, I would rest some people and get ready for the playoffs. I preview a series with the Tampa Bay Lightning to start Wednesday, April 13. I guess the answer to the question: Will the Flyers collapse is no.