Archive for April, 2009

The Matchup Every Hockey Fan Was Waiting For…

April 29, 2009

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Brewers 1, Pirates 0 — We Better Hurry If We Wanna Throw That .500 Party

April 29, 2009

The Milwaukee Brewers completed their three-game sweep of the Buccos this afternoon with a 1-0 victory in which Yovani Gallardo pitched 8 shutout innings, gave up only two hits, struck out eleven batters, and HOMERED to give the Brewers the only run in the ballgame. On the plus side, the Brewers’ lineup featured both Jason Kendall and Chris Duffy — it’s like the Pirates got the crap beat out of them by a rival neighborhood kid, but at least managed to stick a “KICK ME” sign on him as he was walking away.

The win marks the Pirates’ astonishing nine millionth consecutive loss at Miller Park; frankly, the fact that they lost all nine million games isn’t quite as baffling as the fact that MLB even scheduled them for nine million games in the first place, as that number constitutes an entire baseball season many tens of thousands of times over.

Pens vs Capitals — NHL Finally Gets Its “Rob Scuderi vs David Steckel” Dream Matchup

April 29, 2009

Uh oh, Pens and Capitals in the second round, I think we all know what that means: over the next two weeks, we’re gonna hear nothing but “Rob Scuderi vs David Steckel” this and “Rob Scuderi vs David Steckel” that and “who’s better right now, Rob Scuderi or David Steckel?” and is “Rob Scuderi a better leader than David Steckel?” and “is Rob Scuderi a more complete player than David Steckel?” on and on and on until we’re totally sick of it.

And the fans? “Ohhh, Rob Scuderi is a diver,” “Ohh, David Steckel takes runs at people and gets away with it cause he’s a superstar,” “Rob Scuderi’s such an above average defensive defenseman,” “Steckel has great size and can move alright for a big guy” — the series hasn’t even started yet and I already want to puke. Not sure if you noticed, NHL, but there’s OTHER PLAYERS on these two teams besides Rob Scuderi and David Steckel — get over it.

Steelers’ September 27th Game Changed From 1:00 To 4:15 — Adjust Your Lives Accordingly

April 28, 2009

Dammit, NFL, if you want to go changing Steeler game times, could you at least give us some advanced warning? I already sent out my Evite for my annual September 27th Bengals Game Brunch and told everyone specifically to show up at 1:00. Now I’m gonna have to message everyone about the time change, and go back to Kinko’s to reprint my giant “It’s 1:00 And Let’s Beat Those Bungles” banner, and completely scrap my Bengals-themed brunch menu that I spent soooo much time preparing. I was gonna serve Cedric Bacon and  Shayne Gra-ham and Laveranues Cole-d Oatmeal and Da-Honey Nut Cheerios Jones and Chad Ocho Cinco Eggs, but now that’s over with, cause the game’s at 4 and no one wants to eat brunch at 4 because it’s tacky. You hear that, NFL?? Four o’clock brunch is TACKY — did that ever even cross your mind when you personally changed this game time, Roger Goodell??? I quit football.

Also, the Steelers are set to release Larry Foote. We’ve all seen this coming since the Timmons/Woodley draft, but he was a solid player and an absolute quote machine, and he’ll be missed — hopefully someone can pick up the slack on firing up the team during the pregame huddle. Jeff Reed?

Penguins To Not Fire Bylsma For At Least A Few Months Into 2009-2010 Season

April 28, 2009

Ray Shero today scratched the word “Interim” off of Penguins interim head coach Dan Byslma’s film noir detective Plexiglas office-door, officially naming him the team’s head coach and signing him to a multiyear contract. This move comes as a shock to the head of the Keep Pat Quinn Employed For Eternity Fanclub, but to no one else, including the other members of the Keep Pat Quinn Employed For Eternity Fanclub.

Terms of the deal, including how awkward the room got when Shero spent ninety minutes explaining what would happen if Byslma were to be fired by the Penguins long before his deal expired, were not immediately available.

In other coach-related news, the San Jose Sharks have fired Ron Wilson for the second straight year after another early postseason dismissal. Said the shocked Wilson, “They can do that? I coach the frickin’ Maple Leafs now. I guess they really needed someone to take the fall.”

Sporting News Gives Steelers’ Draft An “F” For Taking Nice D-Lineman, Intriguing Deep Threat

April 27, 2009

The NFL Draft is over, meaning we’ve entered the period where everyone who can speak the word “sports” levies opinions on college players we hadn’t heard of on Thursday. Obviously such a practice is open to wide subjectivity and speculation, but most professionals appear to agree that the Steelers’ draft fell somewhere between a B+ and a C, with the notable exception of the Sporting News’ Clifton Brown, who seems to believe the Steelers had the single worst draft of any NFL team:

Pittsburgh Steelers: F

Wow, an F? You only gave the Raiders a D-Minus — it must have been some hellish nightmare of a draft for the Steelers huh? I’m sure you have a sufficient explanation…

It’s hard to have an impressive draft after you win the Super Bowl and pick 32nd. Defensive tackle Evander “Ziggy” Hood could be a nice pickup on a line that needed to get younger. Wideout Mike Wallace is an intriguing deep threat.

…That’s it? That’s your entire argument for why the Steelers had the worst draft of all 32 NFL teams, tied with the Chargers?? Because Ziggy Hood could be a “nice pickup” and Mike Wallace is an “intriguing deep threat?” Do you know what the words “nice” and “intriguing” mean?

I thought for sure he’d say something like “I watched Hood’s camp in person and I noticed this specific thing…” or “historically these types of players from this conference don’t pan out…” or at least come up with some ideaology behind the “F” grade, even if it went against the general consensus. Instead, his grade is directly contradicted by his OWN WRITEUP, meaning he either typed an “F” instead of a “B” and didnt change it, his writeup is actually super-sarcastic and dry but I just didn’t pick up on it, or Clifford Brown is secretly Tom Donahoe.

Game Six: Pens 5, Flyers 3 – Ohhhhhhh, HOCKEY, Yeah, We Can Play That

April 26, 2009

In between the first and second periods of Game 6 in Philadelphia, I sent my friend a text that read “[BLANK]ing finish you [BLANK]s”. I won’t get into the specifics about whether or not the first word began with F or if the second word was a term for ‘penis,’ but I will say that the Pens sure took my in-depth advice to heart and played two periods of legitimate playoff hockey: they got pucks to the net, they got rebounds, they tested Biron (he failed), Fleury came up big when he had to, they won almost every single loose puck, and stars like Crosby and Malkin looked like Crosby and Malkin and not, as they have at times in this series, imposters in replica jerseys who make commission on turnovers.

Ed Olczyk and a number of my Philly friends were all over Daniel Carcillo after the game for agreeing to drop the gloves with Max Talbot in the second, calling him undisciplined, but I wonder how much of that momentum swing can be truly attributed to the fight. Yes, Crosby did compliment Talbot after the game, but I think it’s a little easy to just say “before fight = no goals, after fight = four goals, therefore the fight led to goals.” The Pens actually played a solid first period in terms of puck possession, they just had some isolated mind cramps and continued trouble with basic puck clearing, but if the Pens were really waiting for the spark of Max Talbot getting the crap beat out of him to actually start getting pucks to the net, then I’m severely skeptical about their motivation for upcoming playoff games.

The goals the Pens did give up did appear to be on independent breakdowns as opposed to a lengthy period of being dominated or anything, but that still hardly bodes well for future series; Talbot getting his stick lifted by Mike Richards looked like something that an uncle would do to mess with his toddler nephew in a driveway hockey game, Goncher was pathetically out of position when he got back too late to do anything to Richards but also too soon to account for Knuble on the rebound, I still don’t know how the Pens’ D let Briere get behind them on a frickin’ penalty kill (we thought they were gonna just dump and change!), and Hal Gill, who’s actually had a strong series for the Pens, caused more than a few heart attacks with his pass from behind the net to a wide-open Flyer in the slot to set up a picture-perfect scoring chance that somehow didn’t go in. Give the Flyers credit for burying chance after chance in this series (besides Game 4), but it’s the Playoffs, and the Pens aren’t gonna be able to win by making it that easy for a team to rack up numbers on the scoreboard regardless of how many long cycling shifts they muster in response.

Still, there were a lot of positives to come out of this game; the first period of Game Five combined with the second and third of Game Six comprised a wholly dominant three-period span of Playoff hockey, and yes, as all locker room postgame quotes love to remind us, games are 60 minutes, but the Pens should at least be able to build off the notion that when they’re hustling for pucks, banging for rebounds, and playing competent defensively, they’re right there with any team in the East.

Also, did any one notice that for all the Flyers fans’ unhealthy obsession with Crosby whining and diving and baby-murdering, there wasn’t a single penalty in this series called as a result of something done to Crosby after Game One? Not saying there should have been, but it amuses me that Crosby’s “NHL special treatment,” the absolute #1 preoccupation of Flyer fan animosity, ended up being the single least relevant aspect of the series. Even behind Mark Eaton’s offensive prowess.

Where does the loss leave the Flyers? De facto Flyers owner Ed Snider says the team doesn’t need major changes, just “tweaks”, but we can assume the departure of the UFA Biron and likely pursuit of Florida’s Tomas “I Glove More Things Than The Power Glove Dude From The Wizard” Vokoun or Atlanta’s Kari “Good When Healthy But Never Healthy Or Even Good” Lehtonen, but they’re gonna run into some serious cap issues if they’re not able to move/buy out Simon Gagne or Daniel Briere, even with the expiring deals of Biron and the merciful end of Derian Hatcher’s Philly tenure. Knuble is also a free agent, but he’s likely expendable because of the low-cost rescue offered by Claude Giroux, their best forward in the postseason by far, until he signs his first major RFA deal. But even though John Stevens deserves tons of credit for turning this team around, they’re not going anywhere with him as their head coach, as he’s clearly entered the dreaded NHL “Good Coach But Time With Team Is Up, Sorry Dude” Zone.

Hey, I made it through an entire Game Recap without mentioning the power play OHMYGOD I JUST DIDDDDDDDD [Puking uncontrollably for seven hours]

Troy Polamalu’s Annual Injury To Be Blamed On Madden 2010 Cover

April 24, 2009

Troy Polamalu is on the cover of Madden 2010 opposite Larry Fitzgerald — nice to see that EA managed to account for Fitzgerald’s explosiveness, unlike the Steelers’ secondary:

madden-coverHere’s a philosophical question: If Troy Polamalu gets injured every season already, does the Madden Curse mean he won’t get injured this year? Or does it mean that he’ll set himself on fire and fall off Mount Washington onto a bed of cancer-tipped spikes?

Let’s just play it safe and keep him away from any motorcycles this season. And photographs of motorcycles. And any other moving vehicles. And the movie Cars. And especially Richard Scarry’s Cars And Trucks And Things That Go.

Pirates Raise $76,000 For Slain Police Officers’ Families, Delaying Fan Outrage For 24 Hours

April 24, 2009

Bob Nutting: I am proud to announce that we’ve raised $76,103 for the families of the slain Pittsburgh police officers…I would like to personally thank all of our fans, employees and players who donated their time and money to assist these families.

Pirates Q&A Fan Submitter: OMG why dont we use that money on a starting pitcher the pirates could compete if we just had cc sabathia GOD why doesnt this team evr spend money im tired of this ur a joke an im never going to games again!!!1!

Bob Nutting: Dude, just…not now. Seriously.

GAME 5: Flyers 3, Pens 0 — Or Maybe We’ve Been Outplayed Four Straight Games?

April 24, 2009

You’re out drinking with friends on a Wednesday night, and it’s around 12, you’ve had a couple beers, but you’re getting ready to go home so you can wake up for work, then you get a text from another friend who’s clearly drunker than you are but implores you to come to some other awesome bar to meet up with a high school friend of yours you haven’t seen in years, and you end up saying “ah, screw it” and taking a cab there, drinking til 4, getting way drunker than you intended, then rolling into work at noon the next day unshowered and really obviously hungover (and still semi-drunk), only to learn that your boss had to leave for the west coast the night before and isn’t in the office, and nobody’s doing real work, so nobody cares. You traipse through the day without a problem and talk to your friend online about how your alarm was going off for an hour before you even noticed it, and how you woke up with a 90% uneaten box of White Castle chicken rings, and you both laugh for a long time but agree that it was probably a dumb idea and you shouldn’t do it again.

One week later, the exact same thing happens, and the next morning your boss happens to be out sick, and you still laugh about it with your friend and you’re not in any trouble, but it’s not as funny as the first time, and your headache is significantly worse than the first time and it doesn’t go away. Then you do it again two nights later, then again the following week, then finally one Thursday morning at 11:30, your cell phone has seven missed calls from your boss and it finally hits you — “Oh crap, I’ve been living like an alcoholic. I really can’t keep doing this.”

So here’s the Penguins, still up 3-2 after playing four straight subpar hockey games, but instead of looking at a 3-1 series and laughing about how lucky they’ve gotten with their two late power play goals in Game 2 and Fleury’s 45-save Game 4, they’re instead heading back to the road forced to stare at their complete lack of a power play and total inability to finish. Besides the first period in Game 5 (which ended 0-0), the Penguins have not outplayed the Flyers convincingly in a single period since Game 1, and with a chance to even the series for the Flyers in the balance, all notions of “the Pens just found a way to gut it out” are giving way to “oh wait, the Pens are playing crappy hockey and if they continue to play crappy hockey they will be beaten at the game of hockey.” A sobering loss makes things that much simpler.

Crosby had his worst game of the series, following up an inspired Game 4 by being an essential nonfactor on offense and directly causing the Flyers’ backbreaking third goal with a lame, predictable backhand pass to the point where three Flyers were stationed. Malkin fared better, at least managing to kick a goal in, but still ended up stuck in far too many 2-minute shifts that ended with him being tired and unable to battle for pucks. Satan’s upgrade over bizarro-Sykora was minimal, though he did blow two moderate scoring chances, Phillippe Boucher failed to clear an easy puck on the second Flyers’ goal and his shoot-first power play approach wasn’t nearly as effective as the “shoot it!” yelling home crowd would’ve loved for it to have been, and even the lengthiest puck-possession cycling shifts by the Staal line rarely led to a legitimate scoring opportunity in the last two periods.

I recall a friend of mine suggesting at the beginning of the playoffs that the Pens wouldn’t be able to maintain Dan Bylsma’s much-lauded aggressive style of play through the entire postseason, which I dismissed as ridiculous, because these are impeccably-conditioned professional athletes and the Pens’ newfound depth after the deadline would set them up ideally for a long Cup run. Instead, the Pens really have looked tired the past couple games, they haven’t maintained their aggression at all, they’re barely forechecking on the powerplay, they’re not making the Flyers’ defensemen work, they’re sure as hell not making Biron work (aside from the past first period, which Biron handled admirably), they’re not connecting on extremely simple neutral zone passes, and aside from the third line at times, none of the talent and chemistry that defined the past month of Penguins hockey has been prevalent in these past couple games. Yes, it’s the playoffs, so there’s theoretically going to be less room to make plays and uglier goals and a greater emphasis on special teams, but the Flyers ought to be just as tired as the Penguins and they’re simply not showing it anywhere close to as obviously, and the Pens are now undeniably fortunate to be on the brighter side of their 3-2 series.

So what to do in Game 6? I would say “more urgency on the power play” and “bury your chances,” but I’ve been saying that for three games and it hasn’t happened. Instead, let’s start with “stop being complete retards in the offensive zone,” same thing in the defensive zone, and from there, we’ll work up to the complicated stuff (e.g. completing passes, breakouts, ever getting traffic in front of the net, ever getting rebounds, hitting the net, not having every single shot blocked by three dudes, and so on.)