Archive for April, 2010

Penguins Vs. Canadiens: The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Confident

April 30, 2010

I find every reason to be worried about the Penguins at all times. This prevailing mindset exists in all fans of all sports teams, regardless of the quality or recent performance of that team, for two main reasons:

1) As a devoted fan to a particular team, one is uniquely privy to that team’s subtle weaknesses.

Commentators and casual Penguin-watchers might remark that Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the best clutch goaltenders in the NHL, or that the Pens are loaded with offensive firepower on the blue line with Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski, and they wouldn’t be wrong. People who watch and root for the Penguins on a nightly basis, however, know that Fleury is capable of going into “Fleury…what??” mode and letting in unscreened wrist shots from any concessions stand on any given night, and that Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski all occasionally forget how to play the sport of hockey and become unable to stand in front of other human beings while in their defensive zone. These concerns aren’t extreme pessimism on the part of fans; they’re legitimate aspects that we notice and worry about because we’ve seen them happen hundreds of times.

2) Fans are always reserved about praising their own teams too highly for fear of jinxing them by celebrating prematurely.

Part of this is in a joking, supernatural “don’t want to jinx them!” kind of way, which people don’t actually believe (but dammit, we’re not deviating from it in the playoffs), but on a more practical level, fans also don’t want to appear overconfident and gloat and then have their team ultimately lose, which would make the situation far less digestible on all levels. By curbing our expectations in advance, we give ourselves an emotional safety net if our team loses, rather than the devastating free-fall we’d experience if we were positive the team was going to win and they didn’t.

Both of these reasons are completely legitimate and almost completely universal — you want to scream at Yankee fans when they get nervous when Mariano Rivera comes into the 9th inning of a game when the team’s up 3-1 in the playoff series, but that’s just what fans do. Who wants to be confident and rational about their own team? Douchebags, that’s who. Also rational people, I guess. No, only douchebags. There – proved it!

My point is, I am very much one of these always-worried people. I am extremely one of these people. And yet, having explained in depth all of this jargon about all fans making themselves worried at all times, I am extremely, almost dangerously confident about the Penguins heading into the Montreal series, and here’s why:

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Game Seven: Canadiens 2, Capitals 1

April 29, 2010

Thanks, Internet – I don’t think I could’ve put it better myself:

Pirates 6, Brewers 5: Bucs Take 2 Of 3 In A Fashion So Unorthodox, It Burnt Down Three Orthodox Churches

April 28, 2010

You know it’s an exciting game when the Fangraphs Win Probability Graph looks like the electric gremlin from Gremlins 2

Here’s the Fangraph of how topical that Gremlins 2 reference was:

There was a lot of crazy crap in this game and this series — Andy LaRoche’s sudden explosion, D.J. Carrasco’s rubber-armed dominance, Andrew McCutchen continuing to stave off his sophomore slump, Ryan Doumit going from doing nothing to doing everything, and the Pirates still having a serviceable record despite by far the worst run differential in the majors — I could go on, but I’ll save my all-out 2010 Bucco analysis for another day (when the NHL Playoffs aren’t in full swing).

But perhaps no single aspect of today’s game was stranger than this sequence, during which, according to ESPN Gameday, Jim Edmonds walked, stole second, then tried to score on a double, got thrown out at home, then advanced to third:

That’s how crazy this series was.

Gregg Zaun Looks Like An Old Sea Captain

April 28, 2010

My Pirates analysis for the day:



You’re Killin’ Me, Fantasy BaseSmalls

April 27, 2010

Team Hopper’s very own Jorge De La Rosa is heading to the DL, so I hopped (joke!) on Yahoo fantasy baseball today to find a pitching replacement, and within seconds, was doing a cartooney pitching-related double-take, complete with Masklike sound effects (and kept yelling “Not Smokin’!” at my computer screen).

Why the crazy? Because these are the Top 4 starting pitchers available in my 9-team Yahoo league:

Hey Major League Baseball, 2006 called, it wants its pitching performances back! ZINGGG!!!! AWWW SNAPP, I sure showed that screengrab of Yahoo Fantasy Baseball who is the boss of it!

Seriously? Barry Zito? Livan Freaking Hernandez? I cannot in good conscience click on any of those little green plus signs, because I know Yahoo will instantly forward my information to the FBI’s “Flight Risk” list, plus I’ll lose my fantasy baseball pool, though the latter outcome is a lot less severe than my imminent Guantanamo detainment and torture. That’s right, they’re reconvening Guantanamo Bay solely for the purpose of torturing me for considering picking up Carlos Silva. Sounds extreme? This is BARRY ZITO, people.

Aggrgrrrrhhhhhrhhrhhhh!!

[Stares blankly at entry fee in a pillar of flame]

“Another [BLEEP]ing Game 7.”

April 27, 2010

Montreal beat Washington 4-1 last night despite being outshot 54-22 to stave off elimination for a second straight game and force an unexpected Game 7 this Wednesday night, prompting Caps GM George McPhee to exclaim, “Another [EXPLETIVE] Game 7.”

While I still can’t imagine the Caps are gonna blow the series, especially given how badly they dominated Game 6, that shouldn’t stop us from ripping on them in the form of topical Ace Ventura themed Photoshops:

Simpsons Did It: ESPN’s Fat Ryan Howard Headline

April 26, 2010

Here’s the original ESPN.com headline for Ryan Howard’s contract extension:

Here’s the Simpsons headline when Homer accompanied Ned Flanders to a soup kitchen:

Is it ridiculous to think that an ESPN homepage editor would very subtlely reference a Simpsons episode from 15 years ago on the off-chance some random nerd might post a screengrab of it on his thematically unrelated Penguins blog? Because clearly, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Steelers Uncover Massively Significant Inside Info On SMU Receiver Sanders

April 26, 2010

This revelation about SMU wide receiver and Steeler third-round pick Emmanuel Sanders sounds exciting:

Oooh, oooh, what kind of inside info? He had a minor injury during the combine that no one else knew about, so he’s actually faster than his 40 time reflected? He was heavily recruited by bigger colleges but only went to SMU cause of some specific connection? He’s changed his workout regimen from his college career and is primed to enter the NFL far stronger than when he was originally scouted?

So what’s the INSIDE INFO?? Gimme the juicy details!

…During the process of evaluating Sanders as a possible replacement for Santonio Holmes, the Steelers received a character reference and scouting report about the 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver from an unlikely source…

“I’m pretty proud of Emmanuel,” [Pitt Defensive Coordinator and former SMU coach Phil] Bennett was saying the other day, less than 24 hours after the Steelers selected Sanders with the 82nd pick in the National Football League draft. “He was gung-ho from the day he got on campus. He made everyone around him better. He loves to play the game of football. We used to call him ‘Go-Go’ because he never stops.”

WOW! His nickname was “Go-Go”??? That is some SERIOUS inside info, Steelers. If that inside info was on ESPN, it’d be in their Inside Insider section, the section where Insider subscribers have to subscribe to an even more Inside service because the info is so inside, it’d be too outside if it was just on regular Insider.

AND he loves to play the game of football? This guy’s the total package! In your FACE, teams that passed on Sanders because you thought he did not like to play the game of football! The Steelers got the INSIDE INFO on his football love from his former coach, the only one who could know or assume that!

Good thing for the Steelers that these bombshells never leaked to the press, cause Sanders would’ve rocketed up the draft charts and ended up with some team that values football-liking and nicknames about going above all other football skills. Meaning, he’d be a Raider.

The Real Rock Bottom For The Pirates

April 23, 2010

That 20-0 loss to the Brewers yesterday was sad.

This Accuscore projection may be even sadder:

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (Triple OT): I Am So Happy Right Now :) :) :)

April 23, 2010

Watching a triple-overtime loss is like watching The Passion of the Christ twice back-to-back and not realizing until the final minute of the second viewing that the movie totally sucks.

Still, the Pens totally dominated this game aside from the first ten minutes and most of OT1, finishing with a massive 59-44 edge in shots, and have dominated about 90% of the series since Game Two, a higher percentage than one could reasonably expect from any NHL playoff series, let alone a theoretically close-matched 4-vs-5 matchup. Marc-Andre Fleury posted his best game of the Pens’ entire season, easily, stopping several “well, there’s the game” tap-ins (and getting a little help from Matt Cooke on another sure goal).

Comparing this game to the Pens’ infamous multiple-OT loss to the Flyers or their Petr Nedved win against the Capitals and the results in those series is nonsensical; not only are these totally different players we’re talking about, but it’s also a totally different situation than the Keith Primeau series, which was 2-2 and heading back to Philly after the overtime backbreaker (plus Game 6 of that series was really close, it’s not like the Pens just folded after losing the OT game, even though it’s convenient to simplify the situation in retrospect by saying they lost because they were emotionally devastated.)

Also, Peter Regin is totally the new ’09 Claude Giroux — the dude had 29 points in 75 games this season, and now he’s by far the most dominant offensive player on the Senators, totally eclipsing the anonymous performance Daniel Alfredsson has turned in with his apparently unstoppable-from-50-feet shot. Let’s cover him! [Spoken in patronizing talking-to-puppy voice]

Not to jinx anything, but it’s almost inconceivable to imagine the Penguins blowing this series. You can’t view a 3-2 series as though Ottawa is still trying to dig out of a 3-1 hole, that’s mathematically flawed, but with the way the Pens have asserted themselves in this series when they’ve had to, I think they’ll put this thing away in Canada’s capital Saturday night. I’m gonna miss the game cause I’m doing a show, which actually might be good — either they win, and I’m glad it’s done with, or they lose and I will have saved myself hours of precious swearing breath. It’s win-win! (But seriously, win Saturday.)