Monday, May 31, 2010

So This Is What It Is Like To Be A Capitals Or Penguins Fan

There are frustrating ways to lose hockey games, and then there was losing that Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Flyers had chance after chance after chance after chance to even the ledger in the 3rd period but failed to do so because of the great goaltending of Niemi, and as a result, the Blackhawks stole a game in Chicago.

The game-winning goal ended up being a relatively soft goal scored by Ben Eager on Michael Leighton. But I would hesitate to blame Leighton for this loss. He made some big saves when he needed to, but in the end, the game came down to one man: Antti Niemi. Niemi played stellar in net and was the difference in a hockey game in which the Flyers otherwise dominated. The Flyers were not stellar out the gate, but were kept in the game thanks to great defense. As much crap as the Flyers defense got for their Game 1 performance, they were stellar in Game 2. Bartulis in for Parent was a move that needed to be made a long time ago and Bartulis proved why tonight. He did the job a 5-6 defenseman is supposed to do.

I said at the start of this series that the Flyers would be well served to take 1 of the first 2 games in Chicago in order to set themselves up well for the rest of the series. The Flyers have obviously not done so, but, losing the 1st 2 games on the road is never the end of any series. Look at the Penguins last year. They lost their 1st 2 games on the road at Detroit and still ended up taking the Stanley Cup. That being said, the pressure is now on the Flyers to win both games in Philadelphia. Each game is equally as important as the next one. The Blackhawks are not the Bruins. This is not a team that you can afford to go down 3-0 or 3-1 against and expect to come all the way back to win it. The team and the city are too hungry for that.

Why is this loss so frustrating? It is frustrating for the simple reason that at the start of the series, everybody and their mothers who were not named Buccigross, Burnside, and Beninati were picking the Blackhawks to beat the Flyers, some even suggesting it would be a 5-game series or a sweep. The implication there being that the Flyers are no-match for the Blackhawks. Yet that could not be further from the truth. The Flyers have not been out-matched by the Blackhawks. The Flyers have had answers for the Byfuglien-Toews-Kane line. The Flyers have gotten quality chances against the Blackhawks defense and Niemi. Tonight, the Flyers defensive corps was clearly superior to that of the Blackhawks. All things everyone thought would not happen. And yet what do the Flyers have to show for it? The same cotdamn result everyone thought going into this series. Game 1 was a complete clusterfuck on both ends that anyone could have won, but today's game was an instance of where you can do everything right, but still be wrong. The Flyers had answers for the Blackhawks. But a guy named Niemi between the pipes stopped everything in sight time after time after time again. And in doing so, he proves everyone who predicted the aforementioned things right, even if nothing could be further from the truth. Reasoning aside, the only thing that matters for them is a Blackhawks win. And the Blackhawks won. Twice.

One day I'll look back at this year and appreciate how great and improbable a run this has been for the Flyers, win or lose against the Blackhawks. Until then, I am beyond frustrated and feeling exactly like Washington and Pittsburgh felt against Montreal and San Jose felt against this very same Blackhawks team.

In case you missed it or want to relive the action, here are the highlights from Game 2.

Stanley Cup Finals Game 2 Live Blog: This Is Your Life, Michael Leighton

The career of Michael Leighton could be defined by what happens tonight. He's been a career journeyman. Play well tonight, and he will have another chance in the Stanley Cup Finals. Falter tonight, and he may never see the starter's role again. Leighton is the starting goalie. Oskars Bartulis is in for Ryan Parent. Dan Carcillo is in for JVR. Blackhawks appear to be going with the same line-up as Game 1.

We've got enough people for a live blog tonight. I will be around for occasional comments here. If you want to read more from this tense and nervous Flyers fan, you can follow me on Twitter and look for my comments at Broad Street Hockey tonight.

Game 2: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Halladay And Perfection


Now that I have finally gotten the opportunity to watch Halladay's perfect game in its entirety, I can actually write about the game instead of just posting an image with a link to highlights.

Only one problem with trying to write about: I really do not have many words to describe it. It was as masterful pitching performance as there has ever been. Often times in no-hitters/perfect games, there are some hard hit balls that somehow end up in the gloves of the defenders. Take my night at Citizens Bank Park last Saturday watching Dice-K throw 7.2 innings of no-hit baseball for example. There were 3 or 4 really hard-hit balls that could have gone for basehits if not for a tremendous catch/play. Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium, there was nary a hard hit ball. The most notable defensive plays was a throw by Juan Castro from 3rd to get out Cameron Maybin by half a step, a diving stop at 3rd by Castro, and I'd even throw the oft-replayed last out as the #3 toughest defensive play. And that was just a slow-roller heading towards the hole, but slow enough for Valdez to scoop it up, turn around, and throw out Paulino with plenty of time to spare. If you want to add lucky plays, there was luck at the fly ball in the bottom of the 9th was hit in Sun Life Stadium and not Citizens Bank Park, where it would have likely been a homerun. Yes, venue for these types of things does matter. Yes, playing in a stadium with a real deep centerfield aided Halladay in his quest of history. But you play with what you have to play with. And Halladay did just that on May 29, 2010.

The Phillies lone run in the game came on a 3-base error in the 3rd inning by Cameron Maybin. Despite working Josh Johnson's pitch count rather well and getting hits, the Phillies could not do enough to generate runs on the Marlins' ace. For those that like pondering stuff, here is something to ponder. Including Halladay's perfecto, 6 perfect games have ended with a 1-0 score. In all 6 instances, the run was unearned.

On Saturday, Roy Halladay was perfect, in every sense of the word. He was flawless. He had 2 3-ball counts in the 1st inning. For the rest of the game, he had a combined total of 5. Roy Halladay was in a zone with Carlos Ruiz and nothing was breaking it on that hot, humid night in South Florida. The result: the 2nd perfect game in Philadelphia Phillies history and the the 20th perfect game in MLB history.

MLB Video: All 27 outs

MLB Video: The final out as called by the Phillies TV announcers, the Phillies radio announcers, the Marlins TV announcers, and the Marlins radio announcers.

Imperfection, Thy Name Is Game 1 Of The 2010 Stanley Cup Finals

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks had a rocking start to the pre-season playing a 6-5 thriller.......wait, what, this was a Stanley Cup Final game? Oh my goodness what a disaster.

The game was back-and-forth, jittery, nervous, and never had any real flow to it. Ville Leino got the scoring going and the Flyers probably felt pretty darn good scoring right at the end of the 1st period, but Michael Leighton could not save them on the end. Not only could he not save them, Leighton's play was downright deplorable. Not every goal was his fault, but enough to make me scream and cry uncle. His angles were not sharp at all, his rebound control was bad even for him, and he just did not look confident at all out there. It had gotten so bad that they pulled Leighton for the returning Brian Boucher.

Boucher played the end of the 2nd and the 3rd, and while he played well for the most part, he was at fault for giving up the game-winning goal in the 3rd period. If he as much as sticks his right pad out, the Blackhawks would not have taken a 6-5 lead and the whole game would have been different.

Right now the Flyers have a real problem with their defensive corps. Aside from Pronger and at times Timonen, the defense played awful and got no support from the 3rd pairing. Carle struggled, Coburn struggled, and Ryan Parent proved to Peter Laviolette that he is a complete goatfuck on the ice. He played 1 shift all game, yet on that shift, he was almost by himself responsible for the Blackhawks getting their 1st goal of the game. He played 41 seconds all game and ended at a -1. With Parent's ineptness, that leaves the Flyers with 5 defensemen, with one of them, Lukas Krajicek, being only a step above Ryan Parent Goatfuck status. At this point, the Flyers need to call up Philadelphia's favorite Latvian, Oskars Bartulis, as frankly, they do not get worse than Parent, and Timonen and Pronger can't play all game, especially when Coburn and Carle have down games.

The thing that worries me the most about this game is the way that things seemed to settle down in the 3rd and for the 1st 13 minutes, the Flyers managed 2 unremarkable shots on Antti Niemi. That allowed Niemi to finally settle down into the game and weather the late barrage of chances by the Flyers. While he gave up 5 goals this game, all 5 came in the first 2 periods. Believe it or not, Niemi actually has some positive momentum going from his performance. A settled down Antti Niemi is a very dangerous and very good goalkeeper.

Another negative from this game: the officiating. I do not know what they were drinking, but they must have seen a team from Pennsylvania in the Stanley Cup Finals and automatically assumed it was Pittsburgh playing, as that is how the Flyers got treated by the officials. They got the Crosby treatment for the game. No penalties were called against them although there were at least 2 instances of very obvious non-called penalties that not even the strongest Flyers homer would have complained about. And what sucks is the Flyers were unable to win the game. As a matter of fact, the Flyers had 1 game in the regular season where they went penalty less and they lost that game as well.

Don't even get me started on how awful the Flyers were from the faceoff circle. The Flyers are not winning this series if they do not improve that.

Now moving onto the positives: the Briere, Hartnell, Leino line continues to impress. Leino scored. Hartnell scored. Briere scored. And in addition that line combined for 5 assists. Regardless of what changes Peter Laviolette decides to make, that is one line that should stay perfectly in tact for the duration of the series. Throughout the night, the Chicago Blackhawks defense did not seem to be able to consistently shut down the Flyers offense. Whether it was jitters or the Flyers solved them, I can't say for sure, but you do not score 5 goals in 2 periods with the opposing team's defense playing well.

One last thing I want to point out. For all the talk about the the stars this team has, look who scored all the goals. For the Flyers: Leino, Hartnell, Briere, Betts, and Asham. For the Flyers: Brouwer, Bolland, Sharp, Versteeg, Brouwer, and Koepcky. Noticeably absent: Richards, Carter, Gagne, Giroux, Toews, Kane, Byfuglien, Hossa. You know, all the big name players that were supposed to be scoring goals in this series.

The Flyers did not go into Chicago needing a sweep, but with Chicago being a strong road team, a split will be awfully good of the Flyers to get. They had it at times in this game but goaltending and bad defense blew it. The good news is they have one more chance to go back to Philadelphia with a real good feeling about their chances in this series. Is it time to panic yet? Absolutely not. But a win in Game 2 would provide them a real nice luxury, whereas another loss in Chicago would call upon some do-or-die situations in Philadelphia.

For those that missed the game and want to see what a sloppy finals game looks like, here are the highlights.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Perfection, Thy Name Is Roy!


Link to perfecto sealing out

May 29 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: Let The Finals Begin!

I'll be honest, there is absolutely no way I can live blog hockey with my team in the finals. It's going to be too intense and I will not be able to moderate a whole chat like that. A couple of days ago I sent out an email to some of you asking if you would want if you would be interested in taking over. Only one person replied and they could not do it tonight. I am assuming that those that did not reply either can't do it or have no interest, in which event, there is no point in setting up a live blog as my participation will be limited from nervousness and it is too difficult to watch a game, participate in other chats, and moderate my own. If you are someone who wants my instant thoughts on everything, I will be leaving sporadic comments here, but more so, I will be tweeting (if you have a Twitter account and are not yet following me, all you have to do is click here to visit my profile and click the follow button and SHA-ZAAM, you can read thoughts from me in 140 characters or less) and commenting at Broad Street Hockey (creating an SB Nation account takes 30 seconds, although once you join BSH, there is a 24 hour wait period until you can comment) throughout the evening. After each game, I will also try to write a recap here to give some thoughts, commentary, and analysis on the game. If you want to set up your own live blog, go ahead, just be sure to tell everyone you are doing so, or else, you will find yourself alone in the middle of the internet.

Okay, not that the housekeeping is out of the way, here is the broadcast information in addition to a video to get you Flyer'd up even more!

Game 1: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Rustenburg

Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Next up, Rustenburg!
Population: 395,539

Province: North West

Average Temperature in June: No data available. FIFA estimates the average temperature to be 16 degrees Celcius in their profile of Rustenburg.

Average Precipitation in June: See above. FIFA has no data for the precipitation in Rustenburg.

Brief History: While I do not mean to disrespect Rustenburg in anyway, there is not a lot of notable history here. It was founded in 1851 as a fertile farming area. While the 1st residents of the city were primarily of Indian origin, the town's history is most noted for it's Afrikaner history. Rustenburg was one of the first towns/cities to be inhabited by the Boers and future president of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger, actually lived in what is not Rustenburg for some time, having bought a 5 square-kilometer farm. During the Boer War, Rustenburg served as one of the battlefields. While nothing major happened at Rustenburg, a place in close proximity of Rustenburg called Mafiking did see some more well-known battles.

If any people of Rustenburg are reading this (and before you Americans scoff at that notion, I did have someone from Pretoria comment on my Pretoria post), or just happen to know more than I do about Rustenburg, and there is something notable about Rustenburg that I left out, please let me know in the comments and I will be happy to add it. I have not been able to find much on Rustenburg, so any and all help will be appreciated.

United States Sister City: None.

Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium

With a capacity of 44,530, Royal Bafokeng Stadium will be the smallest stadium in the 2010 FIFA World Cup (smallest in Germany in 2006 was the stadium in Leipzig). Opened in 1999, Royal Bafokeng Stadium currently plays host to their permanent tenants, the Platinum Stars of South Africa's Premier Soccer League. If this city and stadium sound familiar, well, it should. Rustenburg and Royal Bafokeng Stadium was one of the 4 stadiums to host games in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Games being played in Royal Bafokeng Stadium
June 12: Group C: England vs. United States
June 15: Group F: New Zealand vs. Slovakia
June 19: Group D: Ghana vs. Australia
June 22: Group A: Mexico vs. Uruguay
June 24: Group E: Denmark vs. Japan
June 26: Round of 16: Group C Winner vs. Group D Runner-up

Lastly, some pictures of Rustenburg




The Flyers Goalie Carousel Continues: The Return Of Boosh?

Goalies that have dressed for the Philadelphia Flyers this season:
Mike Emery
Brian Boucher
Michael Leighton
Johan Backlund
Jeremy Duchesne
Sebastion Caron
Michael Lee Teslak
Carter Hutton

For the Eastern Conference Finals, the starter was Michael Leighton while Backlund backed him up. This Stanley Cup Finals could see a different back-up goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers. It's the same guy who started the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Flyers: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH! From CSN Philly
Goalie Brian Boucher practiced with his team again Friday, and is 99 percent certain he’ll back up Michael Leighton when the Flyers open up the Stanley Cup Final Saturday at the United Center.

“Today was another day,” he said. “Every day, it’s gotten stronger. I feel a lot more confident every time with my situation on the ice. I haven’t had any problems.”

Boucher sprained the MCLs in both of his knees in Game 5 against Boston. He still has a noticeable limp, but said he has felt more comfortable the more he has practiced, and that he would be ready to go for Game 1.

“He looks good,” Danny Briere said. “I think just like everybody else, he’s excited. He’s excited to be back on the ice. Just like Jeff (Carter) and Simon (Gagne) and Ian (Laperriere), he thought his season was over. But as we’re moving along, all these guys have the chance to keep playing now.

“Brian looks like himself. Just like the way he was before. So that’s very encouraging going into the Final. We have both guys, I don’t know their records – who has how many wins other than 12 that we have – but it’s got to be pretty close. We’re comfortable with both of them.”
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

Something that will be interesting to see is how this affects Michael Leighton at all. Whereas Backlund got 40 minutes of NHL ice time during the season (and a little over a minute during this post-season) and was likely there only in case of an injury, Brian Boucher has been a proven commodity for the Flyers in goal this post-season, and maybe be more likely to be called upon if Leighton struggles. What will this do to Leighton, knowing that a plug could very well be pulled if he can't play well? Will he wilt under the pressure and force Boucher to finish up this playoff run that he started, or will Leighton rise to the occasion and thus go from being placed on waivers earlier this year to starting goalie in the Stanley Cup Finals who keeps his team in the game?

Only one thing is for sure: Tomorrow's Game 1 can't come soon enough! LET'S GO FLYERS! (CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP)

The Hunger Strike Heard Round The Phillies Blogosphere

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (or follow my tweets with my handy-dandy Twitter widget along the side bar), are probably already tired of me talking about this. But on Wednesday at 5:05 The fearless leader of the Phillies humor blog, The Fightins, Mike Meech (meech.one) had his last meal. Later that day, as the Phillies were being shutout by the Mets, Meech tweeted that he would go on a hunger strike until the Phillies scored their next run. Per an interview he did with 97.5 The Fanatic this morning, it started out as a joke, but then people started egging him on, the Phillies kept not scoring, and Meech's pride got in the way of things. Now, it is nearly 48 hours since Meech last ate.

Last night, Meech went to a restaurant/sports bar with the Phillies on. Before the game, he ordered a stromboli in anticipation of when the Phillies scored, he would have something instantly to eat. The Phillies never scored. The stromboli now has a Twitter account.

After the game last night, Charlie Manuel gave what could be the best Phillies quote since Matt Stairs talked about how awesome it is to have guys hammer his ass, "Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you. Panicking ain't going to do no good."

Naturally, Meech replied: "And sometimes, you don't eat period."

The Phillies are playing the Florida Marlins in Florida tonight. If the Phillies score, Meech will finally eat again. If they don't score, Meech can add on to the purported 10 pounds he has lost in the past few days (tip for all you weight loss junkies: you wanna lose some lbs? go on a hunger strike!). In the meantime, in showing my solidarity with Meech, if the Phillies do not score a run tonight I will take a pair of shears and chop off my penis. That last sentence is a joke by the way.

(For constant updates throughout the night, follow @meechone on Twitter)
(For more information, read Dan Levy's excellent write up and quasi-interview with Meech at The Sporting Blog)

The Tampa Bay Rays Still Harbor Animosity From The 2008 World Series

Some people just harbor so much of inane bitterness that it comes out in most ridiculous ways. Surely the umpiring was not the best during the 2008 World Series and sure I could see how the Rays may not be totally chill with the Phillies, but is that any reason to root for a team over a thousand miles away from you in a championship of a different sport?

Joe Maddon and his Tampa Bay Rays are fairly well-known for their themed road trips. So when they go up to Toronto on Monday, they are making this road-trip a hockey themed road trip. So whose jerseys is this Tampa Bay Ray team going to where on their road trip to Toronto for a baseball series? They are going to be wearing Chicago Blackhawks jerseys, of course! From USA Today's Daily Pitch.
Maddon, who previously has asked his players to dress appropriately for "white-outs," a Western trip and even a Johnny Cash trip, decided hockey jerseys would be in order since next week's trip begins in Toronto.

"It's the national pastime of Canada," he said, noting that the NHL's Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers begin Saturday.

Maddon was planning to wear a St. Louis Blue jersey and other players were scrambling to find hockey garb.

Enter pitching coach Jim Hickey and the Blackhawks. Chicago native Hickey has a nephew, Jacob Tuton, who works in the Blackhawks ticket department. A couple of e-mails later, a sign was posted today in the Rays clubhouse that the Blackhawks would make jerseys available for anyone who wants them.

"I think we're going to get 20, maybe 25 guys to do it," Hickey says. "Nothing like a little pro-Chicago, anti-Philadelphia sentiment. I thought we could share our mutual dislike for Philadelphia sports teams."
Chicago has a dislike of Philadelphia sports team? Huh? Since when is there a big sports rivalry between Philadelphia and Chicago to begin with anyway? Does Santa Claus make a part-time home in Chi-town? All I know is that my feelings toward Chicago are not the same. I have no problems with Chicago sports teams. Heck, one of my childhood best friends and old neighbor was originally from Chicago, lived here for a few years, and then moved back to Chicago. This "dislike" of us from Chicago sports teams is certainly news to me.

As far as the Rays go, I think it is an appropriate time to borrow a phrase Charlie Manuel used when talking about Jim Tracy and the Rockies accusations of sign stealing: Stop crying. No, Rays, seriously. I don't hate you guys, but you are embarrassing yourselves now and are best off not carrying a grudge the rest of your lives.

Why do I all of a sudden feel like I am going to get a call soon from some TV producer calling me Dr. Phil, Jr.?

(Hat tip to Puck Daddy)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Finals Schedule

NBC has finally held their conference call and the names that NBC will be using have been officially announced. CBC had their announcement a few days ago. The only thing I am missing is the press release for Versus, but I suspect it might be a few days until they do theirs and I am not holding this up for their naming of sideline reporters. Realize that why I currently have 0 sideline reporters listed next to Doc and Edzo on Versus, in all likelihood, they will be there, and I will add them when they become available. (all times eastern)

Stanley Cup Finals

#7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #2 Chicago Blackhawks

Game 1: May 29: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 2: May 31: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 3: June 2: Chicago @ Philadelphia 8:00 (Versus - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 4: June 4: Chicago @ Philadelphia 8:00 (Versus - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 5: June 6: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 6: June 9: Chicago @ Philadelphia 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 7: June 11: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Mike Milbury will be regularly joining Pierre McGuire during the intermissions. In addition to McGuire and Milbury, Ryan Miller will be joining them for Game 1 and Jeremy Roenick will be with Milbury and McGuire for the rest of the Cup Finals games on NBC. Yes, Roenick will have one more chance to do to Milbury what most of America (and most of all Islander fans) have wanted to do to him for years: knock his lights out.

Do be prepared to listen to very biased NBC broadcasts. Eddie Olczyk is the regular analyst for the Chicago Blackhawks during the regular season and Pierre McGuire can't stop talking about how awesome Mike Richards is.

Is Boston On The Verge Of An Unforgettable Three Party Of A Different Sort?

The Boston Bruins ECHL affilate, the Reading Royals, blew an 3-0 series lead and lost to the Cincinnati Cyclones.

The Boston Bruins blew an 3-0 series lead and lost to the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Boston Celtics were up 3-0 in the series to the Orlando Magic. It is now 3-2, the Celtics have injuries, and who knows what will happen to Kendrick Perkins.

I’m a little torn here. Because on one hand, I do enjoy seeing Boston sports fall back to earth after the ridiculous decade they just had of nothing but championships, but at the same time, I do not want the Flyers comeback to be forgotten about. If the Celtics manage to make 3 for 3 this year on 3-0 series leas choke jobs by a team from or affiliated with Boston, would casual sports fans and the mainstream media forget all about the Flyers? Would it diminish the feat at all? And if you are a Flyers fan who wants their epic comeback to be remembered by more than just yourself and fellow Flyers fans (and for that matter, Bruins fans), is this a comeback/collapse that you want to see happen?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Your 2010 FIFA World Cup Announcer Assignments

Here's another step as we inch closer to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The announcer pairings for the first 11 days of games has been released. Now ESPN is going to make this very hard on me and are not having constant pairings, but instead, will be shuffling them around like crazy. I guess with the World Cup being 1 month, ESPN is not revealing announcers too far in advance, but will do this in various chunks. So here ya go.


June 11
Group A: South Africa vs. Mexico 10:00 AM (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku)
Group A: Uruguay v. France 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Ally McCoist)

June 12
Group B: South Korea vs. Greece 7:30 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group B: Argentina vs. Nigeria 10:00 AM (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and Efan Ekoku)
Group C: United States vs. England 2:30 (Rustenburg) (ABC - Martin Tyler and John Harkes)

June 13
Group C: Algeria vs. Slovenia 7:30 AM (Polokwane) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group D: Serbia vs. Ghana 10:00 AM (Pretoria) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)
Group D: Germany vs. Australia 2:30 (Durban) (ABC - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

June 14
Group E: Netherlands vs. Denmark 7:30 AM (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group E: Japan vs. Cameroon 10:00 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group F: Italy vs. Paraguay 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)

June 15
Group F: New Zealand vs. Slovakia 7:30 AM (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group G: Ivory Coast vs. Portugal 10:00 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)
Group G: Brazil vs. North Korea 2:30 (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

June 16
Group H: Honduras vs. Chile 7:30 AM (Nelspruit) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group H: Spain vs. Switzerland 10:00 AM (Durban) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group A: South Africa vs. Uruguay 2:30 (Pretoria) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and McCoist)

June 17
Group B: Argentina vs. South Korea 7:30 AM (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group B: Greece vs. Nigeria 10:00 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group A: France vs. Mexico 2:30 (Polokwane) (ESPN2 - Adrian Healey and Efan Ekoku)

June 18
Group D: Germany vs. Serbia 7:30 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group C: Slovenia vs. United States 10:00 AM (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group C: England vs. Algeria 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN2 - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

June 19
Group E: Netherlands vs. Japan 7:30 AM (Durban) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group D: Ghana vs. Australia 10:00 AM (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group E: Cameroon vs. Denmark 2:30 (Pretoria) (ABC - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)

June 20
Group F: Slovakia vs. Paraguay 7:30 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group F: Italy vs. New Zealand 10:00 AM (Nelspruit) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Ally McCoist)
Group G: Brazil vs. Ivory Coast 2:30 (Johannesburg SC) (ABC - Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku)

June 21
Group G: Portugal vs. North Korea 7:30 AM (Cape Town) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group H: Chile vs. Switzerland 10:00 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group H: Spain vs. Honduras 2:30 (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

All in all this is a very good line up of announcers. When your biggest complaint is John Harkes, you know that ESPN has assembled a good roster. Some people would prefer JP Dellacamera to do the U.S. games, and while he probably knows the U.S. team better than most any other soccer PbP announcer alive, I'd prefer a more neutral voice. I have no problem with Martin Tyler and Ian Darke doing our games. Don't get me wrong, I like JP, but in the end, he has nothing on the guys ESPN is bringing in. He will be working the U.S. games on radio though, so don't feel too sorry for him.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Is All This Such A Big Deal To Me?

For those that have not noticed, and by not noticed, I mean, not read anything here yet today, I have done quite a good amount of piling on today. So for those of you wondering why I am seemingly making a bigger deal out of this, the answer is because, frankly for me, it is.

I know the Flyers have only won the Eastern Conference, and not the Stanley Cup (and if you thought today was bad, I would suggest avoiding this place for the next 48 hours should that happen), but the fact remains that this team means more to me than any other sports team.

Consider the following:
  • The first sports team (professional and college combined) that I was ever a fan of was the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • The first sports memory that I have in my brain is watching a Flyers-Lightning game on PRISM.
  • I have been to more Flyers games than Phillies games, Eagles games, and Sixers games combined.
  • I would even venture to say that I have been to more Phantoms games than Phillies games, Eagles games, and Sixers games combined.
  • In my room, I have framed 8" by 11" photos of Roman Cechmanek, Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Craig MacTavish, Justin Williams, Rod Brind'amour, Simon Gagne, Ron Hextall, Kevin Dineen, Chris Therien, Eric Desjardins, Dave Brown, Luke Richardson, Dan McGillis, and Brian Boucher.
  • My biggest sports heartbreak came as Patrik Elias scored the GWG in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals with me sitting less than 100 feet behind the net and Brian Boucher.
Before Gary Bettman was an idiot and the lockout occurred, hockey was my #1 favorite sport. Once the lockout occurred, I needed to find somewhere else to fix my sports need. That's where football comes into play.

While I remember watching some games of the terrible Eagles teams of the late 1990s, the first season I was really a fan of the team and watched every game was in 2000. Now just to put things into perspective here, in September of 2000 I turned 11-years old, so it's not like I am a bandwagoner. But from September 2000 to June 2004, I was mostly just a fan of the Eagles, and not yet a fan of the league. The football games I watched would just be Eagles games and all playoff games. I caught up on the other teams by watching NFL Primetime. Now when the NHL locked out, I needed something to fill that gap. Here comes being a fan of the league and watching other teams and having the Chargers and the Bengals becoming my 2nd and 3rd favorite football teams. It is also through this that I really grew my knowledge about football and how I have come to be able to analyze it better than any sport.

Baseball was always the enigma for me. I loved going to Phillies games, but as much as I loved Harry Kalas, as a kid (and even a young teenager), baseball on TV was too boring for me. Nothing about Harry, but I just enjoyed much quicker games like hockey (and even football). Going to the games at the Vet was much different than watching the Phillies on TV. I wanted to get into it, but I couldn't. I had my favorite players (Mickey Morandini and Mike Lieberthal) and I have autographs from said players, but I could never really get into it on a day-to-day basis. It also did not help that the Phillies of my childhood were beyond awful. You say 1993, I say goo-goo ga-ga being a 3-year old was good times. The only memory I have of 1993 is staring at a calendar that says 1993 on it. That's how I know it is from 1993. That's not to say that I did not follow the team and keep updated on them. As a kid (and even today) I loved reading newspapers. Well I take that back, today I love reading newspapers, back then I just loved staring at all the baseball standings and scores in the sports page. I just could not did not have the patience to watch a full baseball game for most of my childhood. I really only started watching the Phillies on a more consistent basis and following baseball baseball as a sport more around 2006 (again, perspective here, folks, this places me as a high school underclassman). The Phillies were then a young and upcoming team with a lot of promise, and frankly, I had grown the attention span to follow baseball on a more regular basis. I can sit down now and enjoy baseball games on TV. But the attachment I have for the Phillies is nothing like I have for the Flyers. Don't get me wrong, I was beyond ecstatic when they won the championship back in 2008, but I think it is a fair and accurate assessment that at that point, I would have preferred the Flyers or the Eagles to break the curse. It would have made what was a sweet victory (the first major Philadelphia sports championship in my lifetime) that much sweeter.

I tell people today that my three favorite professional teams are the Flyers, Eagles, and Phillies. And that's true. Today, I follow all 3 teams equally and try my best to devote equal attention to them. But at the same time, due to the time I spent with the Flyers as a child when no other sports team warranted such attention, I can't help but feel a greater sense of pride than I did with the Phillies winning the NLCS in 08, World Series in 08, and NLCS in 09.

I only vaguely remember the run in 1997. Maybe it's me blocking out the memories of that sweep over time? I don't know, but off the top of my head I cannot even name the teams they beat that year to get to the finals. I just remember Detroit and I remember ugly sweep and how much I still detest Mike Vernon to this day. That, 2000, 2004 are all with me. The Flyers are going to the Stanley Cup Finals and I am going to remember it this time.

Yeah, I am prideful in this moment. Did I think they could get where they are 2 months ago? No, I did not, but I never gave up on this team. Even when they were down 3-0 to the Bruins, I was going to watch Game 4 regardless, whether it meant a win for pride or a sweep. I was with them to the end. And I am damn proud of them and getting to this point.

But as fun as winning the Eastern Conference is, the job is not over yet. They still have 4 more wins left if they want to win hockey's holy grail.

VIDEO OF EPICNESS: It Really Felt Like '93, Featuring The Most Awesome Video Ending Ever

I pimped this at the end of the last post (I told you there would be a shitload of posts on this today), but a part of the Habs Puck Daddy eulogy deserves it's own spot here. In order to understand any of the DGG/Bloge Salming eulogy, you need to stomach these 3 and a half repulsive minutes. I apologize in advance, but it will be for the best.



Well now that you have all successfully vomited (and laughed at how untrue it was), get ready for it's parody that was featured in Puck Daddy's Montreal Canadiens eulogy. If you are a Flyers fan, I strongly warn having a handkerchief, especially at the end. The first time I saw this, I was literally standing up cheering in my room, in front of my computer, with tears in my eyes. Yes, it's that awesome.




Jeff Carter's empty net goal played to the "Don't Stop Believing," music, yeah, that'll get me every time, especially if the Flyers can go on and win the whole thing.

Click here for lyrics of the parody.

History Will Be Made: 2010 Eastern Conference Finals Edition

The following is a collection of History Will Be Made videos from the NHL that were made of the Philadelphia Flyers during the Eastern Conference Finals. The last one is without a doubt the best. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the Flyers making history.







The only thing better than that Richards shortie is seeing it backwards and slo-mo.

Not really related to any of this, but if you want to read one of the funniest blog posts in the history of online blogging, check out the Puck Daddy Eulogy of the Montreal Canadiens written by Down Goes Brown and Bloge Salming. If you don't read that and bust a gut, then something is seriously wrong with.

CSN Philly Makes Fun Of Their Own Embarrassment

Now this, is fucking amazing. This video was actually made by CSN Philly, and is not a parody made by some Joe Schmo on the Internet with a lot of creative software that I don't have.



It's also nice to see networks take these things in stride, but wow, that video is fucking amazing.

Mike Richards Touched The Prince Of Wales Trophy......Oh Noes?



OMG HE TOUCHED THE TROPHY SUPERSTITION SAYS WE ARE LOSING THE TROPHY BECAUSE RICHIE TOUCHED IT AND TOEWS DID NOT!!!!!!!!, right?

Maybe not so right.

Out of the past 8 Stanley Cup winners, 4 of them have touched their respective conference championship trophies. You see, that, superstitious people? 4 of 8. That's 50-50. The superstition does not work either way. He took a well-earned trophy, saluted the fans, and skated it into the locker room. There ain't nothing wrong with that.

Sticking specifically to the Prince of Wales trophy, the following is a list of people that touched that trophy and went on to win the Stanley Cup that same year.

1991: Mario Lemieux
1992: Mario Lemieux
1994: Mark Messier
2003: Scott Stevens
2009: Sidney Crosby

That's some pretty exclusive company. Now I am not saying that the fact that he touched the trophy means the Flyers are winning the Stanley Cup, but it does not guarantee a loss either. Unless you are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have went on to win the Stanley Cup every year they touched the Prince of Wales trophy.

Post-Game Celebrations On CSN Philly Are Extra Cussy

Oh man, there is so much I want to write today (and probably will), yet where to start has me baffled at the moment. Don't worry, I will have a Stanley Cup Finals schedule up sometime, however, instead of posting the same schedule that can be found here, here, here, and even here. I'll post my schedule when all the specific announcer assignments become available.

Anyway, I guess there is no better place today's posts then with this "fucking amazing" video from CSN Philly's post-game show last night.



The best part was that Michael Barkann directly told Coatesy to interview that girl. Actually scratch that, Coatesy's reaction was best, "OH MY GOD!" I think a part of him was secretly hoping that interview was not live. Good times over at CSN Philly last night.......goooooooooooooood times.

Monday, May 24, 2010

THE PHILADELPHIA FLYERS ARE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP!!!!!!!!!

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My 1st favorite team is now 4 wins away from giving me the greatest sports moment of my life.

LET'S GO FLYERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

LET'S GO FLYERS!
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LET'S GO FLYERS!
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LET'S GO FLYERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

LET'S GO FLYERS!
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LET'S GO FLYERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

LET'S GO FLYERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

LET'S GO FLYERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

LET'S GO FLYERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE'RE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP, BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOORAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HUZZAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 24 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: I've Been Waiting For This Day Since 2004

LET'S GO FLY-ERS!
CLAP-CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP

Game 5: Montreal @ Philadelphia 7:00 (Versus - Joe Beninati and Daryl Reaugh, SR: Charissa Thompson) (CBC - Bob Cole and Garry Galley, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Look Back At Montreal's Past 5 Elimination Games

(Originally posted at Broad Street Hockey)

There has been a lot of talk in the past day or so about Montreal's come from behind nature and how they are 5-0 in elimination games this post-season, as there should be. This is a very resilient Habs team that has not been easy to put away. Something that I wanted to investigate was whether or not there were any trends in those elimination games. Has there been a consistent factor like an early goal or 2 that gave them momentum and/or confidence in each game? Seeing as I do not have these full games available to watch (and even if I did, I do not have the time to watch 5 full hockey games and analyze them), the best I can do is watch the highlights video supplied by NHL.com. While I watched the whole highlight package, I paid special attention to the first and second goals, as when it comes to grabbing momentum early in the game, nothing is more important. Yes, I am aware that I could have found all this out by just looking at the box score, but that would not given me the visual imagery I wanted when conducting my analysis. Videos are included below followed by a summary of events, for those that do not have the time to watch them.

Game 5 @ Washington



1:30 into the opening frame, Mike Cammalleri scores a quick opening goal to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. Varlamov never saw it. The goal noticeably took the crowd at Verizon Center. Still in the 1st half of the opening frame, Travis Moen scores to make it 2-0 Montreal, giving the Habs confidence and a bit of a cushion to work with in their first elimination game of the 2010 playoffs. Some great saves by Halak followed and the comeback was noticeably on. The Capitals would get one back in the second, but several great Halak saves would ensure that the Caps get no more. Montreal wins 2-1. GWG = 2nd goal of the game.

Game 6 vs. Washington



Jaroslav Halak made some big saves early as the Habs would once again get on the scoreboard first. Once again it is in the 1st 10 minutes of the game and once again it is Mike Cammalleri scoring the goal. The 2nd goal of this game is also scored by Cammalleri and is also in the 1st 10 minutes of the game. This goal was a real softie on the part of Varlamov, but a goal is a goal is a goal, and a 2-0 Habs lead in Bell Centre in the 1st 10 minutes of the game, had that crowd rocking. Maxim Lapierre would add a goal in the 3rd to cement the game, though Eric Fehr would tally on with less than 5 minutes left. The Habs responded to that with a Plekanec empty netter. Words can't describe how well Jaroslav Halak played in this game. Habs win 4-1. GWG = 2nd goal of the game.

Game 7 @ Washington



No goals were scored in the 1st 10 minutes of the 1st period, but Marc-Andre Bergeron found the back of the net in the last minute of the 1st period to give the Habs a lead they would ultimately never relinquish. After another incredible performance by Halak, Dominic Moore scores with 3:36 left in the game. A little over a minute later, Brooks Laich scored to make it a 1-goal game, but the Caps would be unable to get an equalizer, thanks to the Montreal defense and Jaroslav Halak. The Canadiens win Game 7 2-1. GWG = 2nd goal of the game.

Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh



Mike Cammalleri scores the opening goal only 1:13 into the game to give the Habs the early lead. The Habs could not get out of the 1st 10 minutes of the game though with the lead as Sidney Crosby evened the ledger with 12:38 left in the first. Kris Letang would then give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the 2nd period, forcing Montreal to face a deficit for the first time in an elimination game. But they would only face that deficit for a short time as Mike Cammalleri evened the game back at 2 up only 5 minutes after Letang put Pittsburgh in front. Still in the 2nd period and just a few minutes after Cammalleri's goal, Spacek puts Montreal ahead 3-2 with a rocket from near the blue line. Then in the 3rd period, Maxim Lapierre would put the game away with a goal to make it 4-2 and send the Montreal crowd "OLEing". Sergei Gonchar would make it interesting with a goal with 1:24 left in the game, but that would not be enough. Habs win it 4-3. GWG = 5th goal of the game.

Game 7 @ Pittsburgh



Montreal does not waste any time, thanks to PK Subban scoring in the very 1st minute of this game. Still in the 1st period, though past the halfway point of it, Moore scores to put the Habs up 2-0. In the 2nd period, Cammalleri made it 3-0 then Travis Moen made it 4-0 thanks to Sergei Gonchar's somewhat questionable defense. Pittsburgh would get 2 back in the 2nd thanks to Kunitz and Staal, but the momentum from them would be erased by a 3rd period goal by Brian Gionta to clinch the game and the series for the Montreal Canadiens. Habs win 5-2. GWG = 3rd goal of the game.

Conclusion

In all 5 elimination games, the Montreal Canadiens scored the 1st goal of the game. All of them were in the 1st period, 4 of the 5 of them were in the 1st 10 minutes of the game, and perhaps most stunningly of all, 3 of the 5 were scored in the 1st 2 minutes of the game!. That being said, none of those goals proved to be game-winners. We brought this up before Game 7 of the Flyers-Bruins series, but for all the stress on the importance of the 1st goal, the 2nd goal of the game has once again proved to be even more important as thrice the 2nd goal of the game was also the game-winner for Montreal. Conversely though, the Habs got the 2nd goal in only 4 of the 5 games, so despite it being a game-winner 3 times, it was scored by the other team once. Montreal has scored more than 1 goal in all of its elimination games. Jaroslav Halak has given up at least 1 goal in all of Montreal's elimination games. In all 5 elimination games combined, Montreal has trailed for a grand total of 5 minutes and 24 seconds.

So what are the implications of all this to the Flyers? The answer is simple: Weather the early storm. If the past 5 games tell us anything, Montreal will come out early and try to generate chances right off the bat and get a real early goal. And yes, I do realize the Flyers are a different team with a much different style of play then Pittsburgh and Washington, but Montreal's objective will still be the same. In their past games, the Habs have benefited from the momentum and the confidence that comes with getting the early goal. Even though none of them have been game-winners, they have all been tone-setters. Whether it be taking the crowd out of the game in Washington and Pittsburgh, or jacking them up even more in Montreal, the 1st goal has dictated the game, and ultimately who wins it. It will be up to the Flyers to play defense and make sure that does not happen. From here on out in this series, the longer the game remains scoreless, the more it will benefit Philadelphia. And if the Flyers can actually turn the tables and get the first goal themselves, that could go a long way in taking air out of Montreal's steam, especially seeing as it will put them in a situation they are unfamiliar with; trailing in a game that they cannot lose if they want to see another playoff game.

But as we have all seen this post-season, while history can give us patterns and trends, it does not, cannot, and will not determine what happens in the present. That being said, it will be interesting to see if these patterns play themselves out in Game 5 and any other potential game that may be played in this Eastern Conference Final.

May 23 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: The Clarence S. Campbell Trophy Is In Town

Will it be awarded to the Blackhawks? Or will the Sharks attempt to start a historic comeback that hasn't happened in 9 whole days?

Game 4: San Jose @ Chicago 3:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, SR: Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey)

Did Someone At The Bell Centre Try To Sabotage The Flyers Yesterday?

Now whether or not this was just an accident or an actual case of sabotage on the part of someone from the Canadiens organization, Bell Centre staff, or Habs fan(s) will likely never be known. But an interesting there was a rather interesting discovery in the walkway leading from the Flyers locker room to the ice at Bell Centre. Littered across said walkway was sand or a sand-like substance. Now for those not sure what impact this has to do with anything, sand can dull skate blades, and its impact on the Flyers win in Game 4 was very noticeable. Several Flyers needed to head to the locker room to get their skates sharpened (Mike Richards led the most times sharpened with 5). From myFoxPhilly.
Broadcasters at NBC first pointed out during Game 4 on Saturday that the Flyers' key players kept disappearing to get their skates sharpened during the game, which the Flyers won 3-0.

In fact, Mike Richards and Claude Giroux missed stretches of game time, with Richards having to get his skates sharpened five times.

At one point, Richards was spotted standing in his socks. He missed about 3 minutes of game time, because he had to wait for teammate Kimmo Timonen, who was also having his skates sharpened.

The possible culprit: a large amount of a sand-like substance found on the access area to the Flyers' bench, which the Philadelphians had to walk through to get to the ice.

The sand may have put large nicks in the Flyers' skates until the team put towels over the walkway.

In Montreal, there is no mention of the tampering in the Montreal Gazette. The NHL had no comment to the AP about the incident. Some Flyers coaches and players downplayed the incident.

But in other parts of Canada and in the U.S., the incident has raised a lot of questions of how the sand got near the Flyers bench during such a critical time.

In the Toronto Sun, one writer questioned if it was the lackluster Habs who were stuck in a sandstorm.

"The Montreal Canadiens looked like they were skating in sand in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals," said Chris Stevenson.

Frank Seravelli from the Philadelphia Daily News brought up an obvious question: How did sand get into the Bell Center when the nearest beach is 180 miles away?

He says at least five Flyers players had to leave the game at one point due to skate issues.

Adding to the mystery are comments made by Richards, who said Flyers assistant equipment manager Harry Bricker believed the substance on the floor was “a little too big for being sand pellets.”

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette didn't point any fingers at Montreal for the sand problem and said he wasn't aware of any issues. He would only acknowledge that some Flyers players had "skate issues."

Off the record, two Flyers told Anthony Sanfilippo of the Journal Register that someone may have been up to no good in Montreal.

“I don’t know where it came from,” one Flyer told Sanfilippo. “But it was definitely getting in our skates. To have that many skate problems in one game is rare, no, more than rare, it’s unheard of.”
It is important to note that sand does not show up out of nowhere. Montreal is not Atlantic City. The Bell Centre is not Boardwalk Hall. I am not going to point any fingers to anyone, but I am going to bring up the question of how a foreign substance resembling sand finds its way to the Flyers walkway (and only the Flyers walkway) inside the Bell Centre, especially when the closest beach is over 2 hours away from the arena. Is it possible that there is an explanation that this is some sort of freak accident? Yeah, it is possible, though knowing Montreal and some of the shit they have tried to pull in this series alone, it would not wholly surprise me if someone from the organization, close to the organization, or even an unruly fan decided it would be a good idea to blatantly sabotage the Flyers. The good news that comes out of this: if it was sabotage, the plan clearly backfired as even though they had skate problems, the Flyers still went on to win the game 3-0.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Pretoria

Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Next up, Pretoria!
Population: 2,345,908

Province: Gauteng

Average Temperature in June: High: 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 Celcius). Low: 44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celcius).

Average Precipitation in June: .30 inches (7.6 mm)

Brief History: Pretoria was originally founded as a farm in 1855. The name of that farm: Pretoria Philadelphia. I kid you not. But when it became time to turn the farm into a town, they decided to drop the "Philadelphia" part of the name and name it Pretoria. When the British annexed South Africa in the late 1800s, they made Pretoria the capital of the Transvaal Colony.

Once South Africa was completely unified by the British, Pretoria was named the capital of the South African Republic. During the Boer Wars, Pretoria was a highly featured city. The treaty to end the first Boer War was signed in Pretoria. Before the Second Boer War, numerous forts were built in order to protect the city. In fact, during the Second Boer War, Winston Churchill was actually imprisoned in Pretoria. After the wars when the British ruled the Union of South Africa, they turned Pretoria into the administrative capital of the whole Union (as opposed to just the Transvaal Colony), a title that it still holds today, only minus that whole part about the British. Yes, Pretoria is modern day executive capital of South Africa. But back then, Pretoria was given the image of "capital of Apartheid South Africa." So yeah, this city can bring back some rather unkind memories for the South African people.

There is a current controversy and that involves, of all things, the naming of the city. There is currently a movement to change the name of the city from Pretoria to "Tshwane", which is currently the name of the metropolitan municipality in Pretoria. The idea here is to get the whole area currently under the name Pretoria to be called Tshwane, and not just the one sector of the city. The Afrikaners have been protesting it and while are already beginning to refer to the whole city as Tshwane, nothing is official yet and the issue remains very controversial in Pretoria.

United States Sister City: Washington D.C.

Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium

Originally opened in 1906, Loftus Versfeld Stadium has undergone quite a few name changes between now and then. Today, it's capacity is 51,762 and is used as both a soccer and a rugby venue. Recently, Loftus Versfeld Stadium was one of the 4 venues used in the FIFA Confederations Cup. It played host to the Group B matches between USA and Italy, USA and Brazil, and Brazil and Italy.

World Cup games being played at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
June 13: Group D: Serbia vs. Ghana
June 16: Group A: South Africa vs. Uruguay
June 19: Group E: Cameroon vs. Denmark
June 23: Group C: United States vs. Algeria
June 25: Group H: Chile vs. Spain
June 29: Round of 16: Group F Winner vs. Group E Runner-Up

And lastly, some photos of Pretoria!




May 22 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: Carter And Lappy Return

Philadelphia @ Montreal 3:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Bob Cole and Garry Galley, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Lappy AND Carter To Play In Game 4

OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gus Johnson To Be Featured In Madden 2011

Pat Summerall, Al Michaels, Tom Hammond, and now, Gus Johnson.

This year, Gus Johnson will be joining the above group of announcers who have done play-by-play for EA Sports' Madden video game franchise. From USA Today.
CBS Sports announcer Gus Johnson has been named the play-by-play announcer for Madden NFL 11, publisher Electronic Arts has announced.

Johnson will join Cris Collingsworth as part of the two-man broadcast team slated to call games on EA's NFL simulation.

Johnson, known for his high-energy playcalling, breathes some new life into an audio presentation that had been criticized for lacking punch.

"Taking a step back, we really looked at -- this has to be one of the most important parts of the game," says Madden art director Mike Young in a video documentary on the developers' emphasis on audio for Madden NFL 11.

The game will also feature more authentic in-game sounds such as team chants, fight songs and music piping into the stadium between plays. Madden NFL 11 is slated for release in August.
While in the past, EA Sports has turned Al Michaels and Tom Hammond into completely boring robots, Gus Johnson is a fresh voice whose excitement is just contagious and will almost certainly sound more into it than any of the above announcers were. Now granted, when playing sports video games, I turn the announcer audio all the way down and do all the commentary myself, but at the same time, I do like to feature the in-game announcers as a change of pace, and each time I do it, I find myself bored to tears. Congrats to Gus and here is hoping he can liven up the Madden franchise and make it a much more enjoyable listen when I am not doing the games myself.

May 21 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: Can The Sharks Attack On The Road?

San Jose @ Chicago 8:00 (Versus - John Forslund and Darren Eliot, SR: Charissa Thompson) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert and Pierre McGuire)

News That Is Sure To Surprise You: The NHL Favors NBC Over CBC

Stunning. I know. But it is quite clear that by what the NHL is doing on Saturday, they care much more about NBC and their American audience than CBC and hockey's Canadian audience, even though hockey is a much bigger sport in Canada than it is in the United States. So what has Garry Bettman done this time? Well....Hockey Night In Canada won't exactly be Hockey Night in Canada this Saturday. Instead, it will be Hockey Afternoon In Canada. From The Hockey News.
If there were ever any doubt the NHL has almost no regard for Canadians and the network that broadcasts games to them, let there be doubt no more. The league’s decision to cater to NBC by having Game 4 of the Montreal-Philadelphia Eastern Conference final at 3 p.m. Saturday is nothing short of an outrage.

You see, the Saturday night slot for Hockey Night in Canada is sacrosanct. The last time the league pulled this, in Game 2 of the first round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Canadiens, CBC lost 800,000 viewers. There are those at CBC who reckon that number will be up well over one million for this one. That’s because Canadiens aren’t hard-wired to watch hockey on a Saturday afternoon and, as it turns out, they won’t all watch it regardless of what time it’s on.

Nice, eh? The league gives priority times to a network that would probably draw about the same numbers as it would if it showed old strongman competitions or tractor pulls at the same time. Meanwhile, people in British Columbia get treated to Hockey Morning in Canada, all in the name of catering to American viewers. To add insult to injury, NBC had apparently originally planned to not air any of the games in Montreal during the playoffs, but has since backtracked on that decision.

And don’t think the people at the CBC aren’t incensed at how they’ve essentially been told by the NHL they’re second-class citizens. You’d think the NHL would realize the CBC recoups that $110 million it gives the league with ad revenues, but again, you’d be wrong. Cutting out that many viewers by putting the game on in the afternoon puts a serious dent in the rates CBC can charge advertisers, so it makes far less money. And if you think the NHL will make that up with increased revenues from advertisers on NBC, you’re dreaming.

And when it comes to league-wide hockey-related revenues, something that should get the league’s attention, just how many more $10 beers does the NHL think it’s going to sell by putting a game on at 3 p.m. as opposed to 7 p.m.?

When games are played in Montreal, traditionally Reseau des Sports gets first priority in terms of camera positioning, intermission guests and access to the teams. CBC is second and NBC is third. In all other Canadian cities, CBC gets top priority and in all American cities, top priority goes to NBC, with CBC second in the pecking order.

Some at CBC are anxious to see what the pecking order will be for Saturday’s game. Chances are, though, they’ll show up at the rink on Saturday to find out the league is rolling out a red carpet and hiring a marching band for NBC and they’ll have to be pleased with getting Ryan O’Byrne as an intermission guest.
I can't say I disagree with anything here. CBC has been partners with the NHL since the days of yore and they completely disregard them for a network that has proven countless times that it does not give two shits about hockey. But alas, that is Gary Bettman and his hard on for the United States. After all, since when has Gary Bettman ever cared about that huge island landmass northeast of the United States?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: No Habs No!!!

The Beninati/Reaugh Comedy Tour shifts to Montreal for a couple showings. How many times will Beninati be confused by/over-explain one of Razor's expressions? O/U is currently set at 5. Take your bets!

Philadelphia @ Montreal 7:00 (Versus - Joe Beninati and Daryl Reaugh, SR: Billy Jaffe) (CBC - Bob Cole and Garry Galley, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Is The Flyers Current Run Just Plain Luck?

For multiple reasons, I am not a huge stat person. For starters, I am not great at math and numbers. And secondly, a lot of stat geeks are obnoxious pricks who enjoy breathing down the noses and berating those who don't use who don't buy into their analysis, like the person who wrote this demeaning article. At the same time, though, when broken down and explained well, I can appreciate, understand, and enjoy a good point backed up by statistics. Take for instance this take on the Flyers by the blog, Brodeur Is A Fraud.

Here are the best and worst 14-game save percentage streaks during the 2009-10 regular season for each of remaining final four teams:

Philadelphia: .936 and .870
Montreal: .943 and .882
Chicago: .937 and .874
San Jose: .944 and .887

And the same thing for seven game series:

Philadelphia: .946 and .857
Montreal: .952 and .871
Chicago: .955 and .844
San Jose: .967 and .853

The similarity in range illustrates again how the margins are very small in goaltending. Over a short sample the skill element of goaltending can be completely lost in the noise of whether the opposing shooters are missing, the puck is hitting him through screens and traffic, or whether he happens to be in peak form or not. Most teams will have at least one streak of seven games or more where their team save percentage is .940 or better, yet analysts are repeatedly stunned when some lesser goalie hits that mark or a star goalie sees his numbers dive to sub-.900 levels over the course of a playoff series.

With the Canadiens' shooting and save percentages taking a clobbering in back-to-back shutout losses to the Flyers, I think we have a new leader in the clubhouse for the luckiest team in the playoffs. With an 11.8% shooting percentage and a .933 save percentage Philadelphia is absolutely rocking the percentages. Take a look at the PDO numbers (shooting percentage plus save percentage) for the teams that are left:

Philadelphia: 105.1
Chicago: 102.2
Montreal: 101.2
San Jose: 98.5

The only way the Flyers can likely compete with the Western champ is if the pucks keep going in and staying out at ridiculous rates. If Michael Leighton can keep his even-strength save percentage in the .980 range then that should probably do it, but unfortunately the winds of chance tend to be fickle, as the Canadiens are finding out. We don't know how the bounces are going to shake out for the rest of the playoffs, but it's probably fair to say that barring some ridiculous streak occurring everything looks lined up for the end of a long Cup drought in Chicago.
At the same token, though, you do have to consider why these numbers are the way they are and the fact that some goalies take awhile to develop into solid NHL goaltenders. Heck, Dominik Hasek was a late-bloomer. Something else you have to consider is what shots the goalie is seeing. The Flyers defense has done an excellent job at preventing screens in front of Leighton and forcing shots that Michael Leighton is able to see and follow all the way through. In part because of his size, Michael Leighton is extremely good at making saves on the initial shot. He struggles a bit with rebounds and this is where it would be beneficial for Montreal (or any team that plays Leighton) to get in front of the net and try to pick up the rebounds (similar to what the Flyers are doing to Halak). But when the Flyers defense and Montreal's ineptitude on offense do not allow second chance shots, that will greatly eliminate the amount of goals against and increase save percentage, especially because Michael Leighton is such a big body and excels at first-shot saves.

So while I would hesitate to call the whole thing luck, it will be interesting to see what happens if Leighton lets in a goal or 2 in Game 2 and how him and the Flyers can respond. One thing is for sure, in this post-season, the Flyers have been ridiculously successful at scoring goals and keeping the puck out of their own net, especially with Leighton in goal. Will it keep up for Game 3, or will the Habs finally solve the Flyers defense? And can the Flyers improve their 5-on-5 play and continue to get quality chances on Halak? Game 3 is tonight.

VIDEO OF EPICNESS: Giants Stadium Press Box Goes Boom

With the opening of Meadowlands Stadium this fall as the new venue for the Giants and the Jets, it is time to say goodbye to the old Giants Stadium. And in saying goodbye to Giants Stadium, it is necessary to tear it down. The first thing to go: the press box. I am pretty sure this is the most epic demolition video ever.



Now that's cool. I am not sure if there are any houses or anything in the area, but I have a hard time imagining that when the press box finally hit the ground, it did not create quite the ruckus in the surrounding neighborhoods, if any exist. Regardless, that was seriously one of the most dramatic collapses I have ever seen. Well done to the boys who put that whole thing together.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lance Armstrong Is A Bit Miffed At Versus

Cycling is a sport too! Just ask Lance Armstrong, who was rather angry last night at Versus contractual obligation to cut off off last night when Versus cut away from the last mile of the Tour of California in order to show hockey "pre-game."

Last night, Armstrong tweeted: "Who's the dumbass @versustv that cut off @AmgenTourofCali coverage w/ a mile to go for pregame hockey?? #pathetic"

Now it is important to note that they encouraged all their viewers to go on their website to watch the end of the race, and they did stress this multiple times over a period of 10 minutes, so viewers could be prepared. And while I certainly sympathize for the 5 people that were actually watching that that could not see it on their computer for whatever reason, Versus does have contract obligations to switch to hockey at 7:00. In fact, in an irony, before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Versus ran overtime with the cycling race, showing post-race interviews, leaving Flyers fans fuming with a crawl saying that coverage of the game coming up next and no sign to when cycling would end. The cycling race did end before the puck drop and no one missed anything, but Versus surely got a lot of hate mail from hockey fans, and naturally, since the NHL is Versus' most precious commodity, they have started taken those contract obligations more seriously now.

Per Travis Hughes of SB Nation, there is potential for another overrun before tomorrow's Flyers-Habs Game 3 and it will be interesting to see how Versus handles the potential of another overrun. Do they stick with the contract, or will a network whose initial main draw was cycling and showing Lance Armstrong win his Tour de Frances go back to their roots and leave hockey fans in the dark? If that is the case, expect me to make some slight alterations to Lance Armstrong's tweet.

Jaroslav Halak Lets Marty Brodeur Feel Better About Himself

I am not sure if Ville Leino's goal from last night totally lets Marty Brodeur off the hook for worst playoff goal ever, but it certainly is going to rival it. Watch as Jaroslav Halak is flat-footed and completely misplays a seemingly harmless shot from Ville Leino that ultimately helped put the game away for the Flyers.



I must express my disappointment that I am unable to find a video from the Versus feeds where Daryl Reaugh described the goal as "a goal wrapped up in Angora." Beninati then followed it up by asking what OMG meant by explaining to the audience that Razor meant to say the goal was "soft; extremely soft."

The Flyers now head north the Bell Centre where they will play the Canadiens in a critical Game 3 on Thursday night. A team that nearly choked their way out of the playoffs is now 2 wins away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. At the same time, Montreal is 3-8 in non-elimination games this post-season and 5-0 in elimination games so that hold saying about "don't count your chickens before they hatch" certainly rings true here. If there is one team that knows about overcoming adversity (aside from the Flyers), it's these Habs, and the Flyers best be aware of that and best make sure they improve their overall play, keep their foot on the gas, and not let up until the series is over.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18 Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Thread: Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun, 2 Game 2s on Versus Is Better Than One

For the 2nd (and last time this year), the Conference Finals of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs are being served once again as a double-header. Only instead of NBC showing one game and Versus showing the other, Versus has both games. Now the obvious question: what happens if Montreal and Philadelphia go to overtime? Will everyone miss out on Chicago and San Jose?

The answer: It depends. From a Versus press release Puck The Media.
If Philadelphia/Montreal goes past 10, San Jose and Chicago markets will be switched over to see start of Sharks/Blackhawks game and then the rest of the country would join the San Jose/Chicago game at the conclusion of potential OT Philadelphia/Montreal game.
In other words, fans in the CHI-SJ markets have nothing to worry about. Fans outside the CHI-SJ are hoping today is not the day the Flyers and the Habs decide to put on a multiple OT thriller.

Game 2: Montreal @ Philadelphia 7:00 (Versus - Joe Beninati and Daryl Reaugh, SR: Bob Harwood) (CBC - Bob Cole and Garry Galley, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Game 2: Chicago @ San Jose 10:00 (Versus - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, SR: Charissa Thompson) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert and Pierre McGuire)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Philly Fans Serenade The Habs With "Ole" Chants

Flyers fans at Game 1 at the Wachovia Center started 2 buzz-worthy chants, one of which is just plain dumb, the other which might be my favorite moment in sports chanting ever.

The dumb: Chanting "USA! USA! USA!" This is not the Olympics. This is not the USA vs. Canada, it is a club team from Philadelphia versus a club team from Montreal. Just because one club is from the United States and the other Canada, does not mean it is USA vs. Canada. After all, what on earth does chanting "USA! USA! USA!" do when the team you are supporting is more Canadian than the opposition who plays their home games in Canada? In fact, not only do the Flyers have more Canadians than the Canadiens, but they were the most Canadian team of the 16 teams to qualify for the playoffs. As far as Americans go, while the amount on the current roster is the same (4), the Canadians actually played more American players last night than the Flyers did. And I am not even sure what to call what happened with the Flyers fans and that CBC truck.

The brillant: "OLE, OLE OLE OLE, OLE, OLE! OLE, OLE OLE OLE, OLE, OLE! OLE, OLE OLE OLE, OLE, OLE!"



This live video was filmed during a stoppage in play, but for those who did not see the game, the "OLE" mocking was very prevalent throughout the 2nd half of Game 1.

All I will say is that is seriously epic and whomever started it is a genius. And how are Habs fans going to retaliate anyway? By mocking us? Okay, fine. But if they do, they might want to think about what their options are, as it seems like there is hardly an option that does not benefit the Flyers and/or make the Hab fans look like complete asses. Their options:

1. Chant "LET'S GO FLYERS" and clap 5 times.
2. Chant "CROSBY SUCKS".
3. Introduce everyone to the PECOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO POWER PLAY
4. Require every adult to vomit on the nearest child at regular 30 minute intervals.
5. Have security tase every fan who makes unnecessary advancements to get closer to the ice.
6. Speak English.
7. Publicly denounce the existence of Santa Claus.
8. Give Danny Briere a round of applause for choosing to sign with the Flyers even though the Habs offered him more money.
9. Jump in the penalty box and try to fight Dan Carcillo.

I just put Down Goes Brown to shame, didn't I?