On the bright side, the Calgary Flames are still undefeated…

After a four-year playoff drought, the Flames aren’t figured to finish anywhere near the top of the new division that plays way too many games in the Pacific timezone.  And now I kinda know how a Leafs fan feels.  Alas, while hockey’s been big news in The Big Smoke for a couple weeks now (scalpers were obtaining a premium for preseason seats at the ACC–preseason!), I can’t say I’ve been following the Flames exhibition slate too closely.  Hey man, the Stamps are in first… and so are the Seahawks, for that matter. ;)

Turns out the Flames have gone 4-2 in preseason play, with their last exhibition game just underway tonight.  But I wouldn’t get too excited–four of those six contests were against the lowly Islanders and the Deadmonton Losers.  Which means we’ll probably finish poorly enough to avoid a top-five pick again.

Speaking of sixth overall picks, Sean Monahan had a couple goals against the Isles, but there’s been speculation he’ll be sent back to junior.  Which gives Flames fans what to look forward to, exactly?  The hope that those American kids they got for Iginla learn how to skate?  That the ghost of Miikka Kiprusoff’s GAA watches over Finnish countryman Karri Ramo?  That swapping dirty jokes in Swiss German with Reto Berra helps Sven Baertschi get his groove back?  I dunno guy, but I don’t think I’ve got too much to get excited about here.  Not when the title of the team’s top centre-iceman is a toss-up between Mikael Backlund and Matt Fucking Stajan.  Forget making the team, Monahan could be on the first line by Christmas!

Gone are the likes of Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester–okay fine, so I probably won’t miss Iron Hands that much.  But the legacy of Jay Feaster rests on the pile of picks and prospects he picked up in return, and unless Morgan Klimchuk turns into the next Joe Nieuwendyk in a fitting bit of kismet, well, it probably won’t be long before Brian Burke is running the show.  And then I’ll really feel the pain of Leafs fans.

Oddly enough, the Flames and Leafs semi-annual meetings occur on a pair of symbolic dates: Devil’s Night (Oct 30) and April Fool’s Day.  Which tells me that someone at the NHL office is still stewing over the Dion Phaneuf trade…

Uh, Go Flames Go?*

*I probably won’t start watching hockey until December.

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Not cheering for either team, but I’ll still watch the games… Because it’s the Cup!

(Now where’s my money, Bettman?  You don’t want me to send Agents Bouchard and Ward after ya, now do ya, punk?)

All corporate sponsorship aside, it’s safe to say I’ll be watching me some hockey tonight.  Still trying to figure out what the heck happened to Pittsburgh, the Miami Heat of the NHL, who were held to just two goals in four games against Boston in the Eastern Final, though.  And with their elimination, I threw my Jarome Iginla jersey in the wash.  If only he hadn’t vetoed that trade to Boston…  Matt Bartkowski would be wearing a Flames jersey (on the golf course) right now!  And, of course, Iggy would be in the finals.

Then again, if the Boston Bruins are the NHL’s Indiana Pacers (minus the “no homo” and “y’all motherfuckers“…  OK, basically without Roy Hibbert), you could almost argue that the Chicago Blackhawks are the Heat.  Chicago did finish with the best record in the league, after all, and won–or lost via shootout–24 straight games, almost equaling the Heat’s 27 game mark.  The Hawks boast some serious star-power in the likes of Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa, none of whom resort to shooting from the outside like Chris Bosh.  But hey, Boston was pretty much able to hold Crosby, Malkin, Morrow and Iginla off the scoreboard, sooo…

I guess what I’m saying is that I expect this, like the Pacers-Heat series, to be a hotly-contested, back-and-forth affair in which neither side is able to take two straight games.  But in the end, the better team wins.  Hawks in 7.

(Oh, and while we’re at it, Spurs in 5.  You heard it here first…)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: Hooray for NHL parity!

From: http://espn.go.com/newyork/conversations/_/id/9322234/john-tortorella-fired-new-york-rangers-head-coach

Now, I’m not saying the fix is in, but with the Kings beating the Sharks last night, there are five teams left in the NHL playoffs.  This final five (to be trimmed to four tonight) also consists of the last five Stanley Cup champions…

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But let’s get one thing straight: Boston is not eliminating Pittsburgh this year!!!

Nope, still not a Leafs fan…

On Friday, I was telling anyone who’d listen that the Leafs-Bruins series would end that night.  Of course, I was wrong.  Though the Leafs barely hung on in the third period, they still managed to hold off the Bruins to extend the series.  And while neither side brought their A game in Game 6, the Leafs were definitely the better team.  So they came back from 3-1 down to force Game 7.  Congrats.  But you’re not gonna see me out there freezing my balls off in Maple Leaf Square or anything.

The fact of the matter is that I’m just not a Leafs fan.  I couldn’t possibly stand around outside surrounded by Blue and White with those guys holding up replica Cups without resisting the urge to chant “19-67!  19-67!” in a highly non-complimentary fashion.  And I’d probably be the only one cheering after that epic collapse from up 4-1 in the third period to losing in OT.  Well, maybe not cheering, but certainly not in break stuff mode, anyways.

Of course, as a Flames fan, I haven’t had a team to cheer for in the playoffs in a little while.  And while I can kinda relate to the way the Leafs played in Game 5–score two goals and hold on for dear life is classic Calgary Flames hockey–I can’t say they’ve won me over with tonight’s epic collapse.  This is the first time the Leafs have even made the playoffs since I’ve been living here, and I moved to Toronto in 2005.  Considering that I’m a Flames fan first and foremost from October until early April, a team with such a track record of post-lockout postseason non-participation is not going to earn my support.  Even if I live here.  But hey, maybe if they make it past the second round, one of these decades…

Mind you, I’ll be joining Leafs fans in cheering against Ottawa in Round 2.  Not that I have anything against the Sens, or the nation’s capital–hell, my folks live 10 minutes from the rink–but I’m wearing my brand-new Iginla jersey in support of the greatest black hockey player of all time.  (PK Subban?  Come talk to me in 10 years!)  Iggy’s on a mission from the hockey gods to take home the Cup, which is precisely why he vetoed that trade with Boston.  Cuz clearly, the Bruins aren’t going all the way this year.  I mean, they can’t possibly expect to play that poorly for the better part of three games and escape with a series win against any team that’s won the Cup since 1967. ;)

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY: Pieu

Pieu: A long piece of wood, metal or concrete used to reinforce a building, ie pillar, post.

As seen in: « Gracieuseté d’un employé du chantier de construction, une rondelle officielle de hockey à l’effigie du Canadien Montréal se trouve dans l’un des pieux du futur nouvel amphithéâtre, ce qui a provoqué de vives réactions, hier, plusieurs «craignant le mauvais sort». »

(Translation: “Courtesy of a construction-site worker, an official Montreal Canadiens hockey puck was placed in one of the pillars of the future new amphitheatre, which provoked strong reactions yesterday, several fearing bad luck.”)

http://www.journaldequebec.com/2013/04/30/une-rondelle-du-ch-dans-les-fondations-de-lamphitheatre-de-quebec

I take it that Kevin Lowe’s Country Bunker plays both kinds of music…

There were shades of The Blues Brothers in a recent Edmonton Oilers press conference, where the team re-introduced Craig MacTavish as its general manager.  Oilers president Kevin Lowe, he of the six Stanley Cups—and don’t you forget it—told the assembled media “We have two types of fans. We have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about.”  But not enough, apparently.  Also, Nickelback cover bands take note: If you play during the intermission of an Oilers game, Kevin Lowe expects you to pay for all the beers you drink. ;)

Suffice to say, fans in the since-rebranded City of Champions were not pleased.  As the Edmonton Journal reports, “There’s no doubt he offended many, including plenty who attended the Oilers game on Tuesday night, a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton’s six (sic) straight defeat.”  The game, while initially sold out, saw several spectators attempt to beat the rush once their luck ran out.  As per the Journal, “many of them … departed en masse as soon as the winning 50/50 number was announced midway through the third period. ”  Which makes me wonder how many Edmontonians would show up if they had a 50/50 draw at a broomball tournament…

After watching his team sink in the standings, and be booed off the ice in its own building, Lowe was forced to issue a video apology, stating that he cares about all Oilers fans—except maybe Steve Smith—before adding, “And lastly I’ll say, there’s one other guy, I believe, in hockey today that’s still working in the game that has won more Stanley Cups than me.”  Because in Kevin Lowe’s Hockey Bunker, Larry Robinson, Jacques Lemaire and Scotty Bowman are no longer working in the game.  Something tells me he might wanna change that broken record…

Hey, how many first-overall picks does it take to make the playoffs?  More than three—if they play for Edmonton. ;)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: Leafs make the playoffs… Start planning the parade!

From: http://www.thestar.com/sports/leafs/2013/04/16/maple_leafs_poised_to_clinch_playoffs_tuesday_night.html

And in other hockey news, the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to accomplish something that hasn’t occurred since Justin Bieber was a fifth-grader.  With one more win—and a Winnipeg loss—the Leafs will make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.  And if you think the Toronto media bias is blowing this out of proportion, wait till you see the reaction from Toronto fans like this guy:

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Now correct me if I’m wrong, but the Leafs haven’t even made the finals since 1967.  How exactly is that worthy of respect? :P

And this little Kipper stayed home!

For a while, it looked like he was headed to Toronto–as indicated by his play the other night (which prompted my most retweeted tweet ever)–but in the end, Miikka Kiprusoff will retire as a Calgary Flame, perhaps as early as next month.  The Leafs proved to be a rather aggressive suitor, as the franchise, which hasn’t made the playoffs since the ’04-’05 lockout, was understandably lacking a goalie with postseason experience.  But it seems that Kipper nixed any potential trade to Toronto in much the same fashion as Jarome Iginla broke Boston’s hearts about a week ago, preventing any possibility of him recreating this classic photo with Dion Phaneuf:

See, Kipper’s a classy guy.  He even wears a suit to the strip club!  Dion’s dressed in a tie-dye t-shirt, but hey, he was only 22 at the time…

Now, unfortunately for the Buds, they’ll be stuck with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens between the pipes.  They also couldn’t absorb Roberto Luongo’s cap hit, as the overpriced Vancouver backup reportedly told The Canadian Press, “My contract sucks.  Unfortunately, it’s a big factor in trading me, and it’s probably why I’m still here.  I’d scrap it if I could, right now.”  Suuure, you would just walk away from $6.7-million a year until 2018?  If so, I’ve got a chain of racist BBQ joints in Hamilton you might like to invest in…

But unfortunately for the Flames, they’ll be stuck with Kipper this season.  Don’t get me wrong, he was a great goalie, perhaps the best in franchise history, up until last year.  But since the latest lockout, he’s seemed disinterested and looked out of shape, getting hurt early and never getting back into the swing of things upon his return.  His season stats (6-10-2, 3.64 GAA and .868 save percentage) are simply shitterrific, amongst the worst in the league.  For the past few seasons, Saint Miikka almost single-handedly kept the team in playoff contention, but this year, he’s almost individually assuring us of the second-overall pick (cuz we all know Edmonton’s rigging the draft lottery until they get a new rink).  So, if he does decide to take his $5.83-million cap hit off the books next season (in which he’d earn a paltry 1.5 mil–Luongo 2020 numbers!), I shan’t be too sad to see him go.  It’s just somewhat unfortunate that he couldn’t end his career on a high note.  Then again, I suppose it couldda been worse–he could’ve retired as a Maple Leaf!  (Hell, I probably would’ve vetoed that trade too, and I actually live in Toronto now!)

Of course, between the Iggy trade and the Kipper non-trade, the Flames weren’t too active at the deadline, simply shipping Blake Comeau to Columbus for a fifth-round pick.  Guess I’ll be cheering for Columbus in the playoffs now, too; after adding Marian Gaborik, they could probably grab the eight-spot, which, unfortunately, would not allow them to oust Vancouver this season.  (Mind you, the Nucks seem poised to play L.A. again… :D )  But lest we forget, the Flames also picked up another first-round pick by dealing Jay “The Iron Pylon” Bouwmeester to St. Louis for a conditional (on the Blues making the playoffs) draft choice, along with a pair of prospects, one of whom actually plays goal.  Let’s just say that Flames fans will miss the league’s worst defenceman the way an uninsured American would miss a $6.6-million medical bill.  We’re also looking forward to seeing Reto Barra between the pipes next season, he of the 3.01 GAA and .906 save % in the Swiss Cheese Elite League, where most goalies have holes.  In a poll on the Flames official website, the 26-year-old backstop leads the other three recently-acquired prospects as the most highly-anticipated player, with nearly 35 per cent of the vote.

Hey, he’s probably better than Ben Scrivens…

Mr. T probably wouldda scored on Kipper, too!

While Miikka Outtashaprusoff did allow a couple soft goals to the Blackhawks in last night’s game, by far the most impressive tally at the United Center that evening came in between periods, when noted thespian Mr. T launched a puck through the net… from centre-ice!  (Somewhere around the 1:30 mark below.)

As the legendary actor told a sideline reporter before the second-period shootout, he only had one prediction: “PAIN. I pity that puck. I pity it!”  But not enough to avoid firing it through the net from the red line.  That said, it would appear he actually pitied the first two pucks, as it took him three shots to beat the canvas cut-out.

Of course, since T’s prior attempts, as well as those of a woman in stiletto heels, all missed the net, the Coke Zero illustration finished the evening with a lower save percentage than the veteran Calgary netminder—and just three other NHL goalies with more than three appearances this season. ;)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: The Sainte-Flanelle could soon have some divine competition!

From: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/television/2013/02/12/stephen_colbert_says_canadian_cardinal_would_make_bad_pope.html

Because when Stephen Colbert makes fun of Canada, it makes Canadian headlines.  In his latest bit, Colbert suggests the future Pope could not be Canadian, because he would say “eh” and carry a hockey stick.  He then concludes that God’s an American because the Bible is written in English.  Judging by the comments on several news sites, it’s somewhat surprising how many of my countrymen can’t wrap their heads around the concept of satire (though I do concede that maple syrup, hockey and “eh” jokes aren’t particularly clever).  Then, on the other hand, there’s this guy:

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I can only assume the above comment was satirical.  After all, Ivan is not a French name.  Now, if it was Yvon, I’d have to stop and think about it…