Thursday, October 30, 2008

NCAA Hockey

If you go to Northeastern University, there really is not much to take pride in when it comes to athletics. The lone bright spot is the hockey team which even then is a middle of the pack team in Hockey East at the best of times. Then again, when you play in a league with annual powerhouses BC, BU, UNH and UMaine, middle of the pack does'nt seem half bad. Since I started there in 2000, the highest NU has climbed in the conference standings was 5th in '01-02 (a first round playoff defeat). So you can imagine my surprise when NU beat reigning national champs and #1 ranked BC (45/50 first place votes) two weekends ago to improve their record to 3-0-1. They followed that up last weekend with a 5-0 and 3-2 win AT UMaine, a very tough place to play where they had lost eight of their last ten games. So now they sit atop Hockey East with a 5-0-1 record (4-0 in conference play) and have climbed to #9 in the national rankings. Knowing Northeastern, this is not going to last so I thought I should take it in while I can...

Speaking of hockey, Tim Thomas has been playing out of his mind and led the Bruins to back to back 1-0 road wins against solid western conference opponents (Edmonton and Vancouver). Can he extend the streak to 183 minutes tonight against Calgary and close out the successful road trip in style? Certainly would be nice...

Monday, October 27, 2008


I was fortunate enough to get free tickets to Saturday's game against Atlanta through a friend who won them but could care less about hockey. Back row loge seats in the corner aren't the best but hey, the price was right! Proved to be one entertaining game and the best part of the evening actually had nothing to do with the game. At one of the many stoppages in play, the announcer started talking about a soldier serving in the army and images of him were being displayed overhead on the jumbotron. Not much of substance was being said at first... your typical thanks for serving etc. What got to me was the fact that the applause slowly built up and kept doing so until a few people started standing up eventually leading to the majority of the Garden being on its feet applauding this soldier for a solid 2-3 minutes. It turns out, he re-upped and is being deployed to Iraq this coming week and the Bruins were honoring the season ticket holder with a custom-made jersey. I couldn't believe the ovation he and his company received from the crowd, especially since most of it came before the announcement that he was even present at the game. Definite goosebump moment... made me proud to be a Bostonian and more over, an American. More info.

As for the game... well, it was definitely a rollercoaster ride. The first period was atrocious with the Bruins being completely outplayed. Atlanta outshot them 16-7 and it honestly seemed worse than that. Just no urgency and no one working to get their shots and making the extra play. The worst of it came in the final minute of the first period when it was 4-4 with Atlanta's penalty due to expire before the period ended. Now I can understand holding the puck in your zone and simply trying to play keepaway when there are only 10-15 seconds left on the clock. The Bruins decided to try this tactic while there were 40+ seconds left and at even strength... needless to say, it backfired and Atlanta potted the PPG with ten seconds remaining in the period. Simply pathetic... there was no effort from Boston to try to clear the zone never mind attempting to start something on offense. As stated elsewhere, its a bad sign when your checking line (Noke, Yelle, Thornton) is your best line for a period...

However, sometimes seemingly bad things can actually prove quite beneficial as was the case when the fourth line (14 total goals last season) potted the first goal for the Bruins. I can only imagine the (well-deserved) dressing down Julien gave his team after that atrocious first period but whatever was said certainly worked. Lucic took it from their and simply dominated the game, scoring three goals (his first career hat trick) and assisting on a fourth. His final tally came with under two minutes to go in regulation and was all effort as he fought for the puck along the boards before being sprung by Savard (who deserves much credit for his forechecking on the play). Lucic had the patience to wait for his shot when he saw Kessel was too covered and then he roofed the rebound to start the hats raining and take the much-needed two points.

It was a unique experience to be present for his first hat trick (and my first attended hat trick) and see the dozens of hats come flying down onto the ice. I had just bought a new Bruins hat and was contemplating adding my old Sox hat to the pile but the netting and 26 rows ahead of me changed my mind. Well, that, and the fact that I can't just throw away a good, broken-in hat... especially one that has witnessed a championship ('07 Sox). Hell, I still have the 'hat' (more like disgusting rag) I wore from '01 to '04 that was retired after the Series win. What made it that much more special was the fact that Lucic became one of my favorite players last preseason when I spotted him on his first shift of a game against Toronto. I immediately turned to my girlfriend and said he was going to be something special... he is quickly proving me correct.

Now the problem is... who's jersey do I buy? I fully intended to buy a black Bergeron before the game but they were all out and would need 2-3 weeks to restock. Now I am questioning that decision... with jerseys being so expensive it is always tough to come to a decision on who to buy. After the 2005 season, I had decided on buying a Brad Boyes (26-43-69 in '05) jersey but never ended up following through on it and its a good thing I didn't given the trade. Now I need to decide again and obvious choices are Lucic and Bergeron but I don't want to be one of the many people wearing the same sweater. So is it the standard 17 or 37 or do I go with the unusual 46...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series

With the Red Sox losing game 7 of the ALCS, a game they had no right even playing in, there will officially be a new World Series champion. The nice thing is, the two teams vying for this honor are actually two of the losingest franchises in MLB history instead of two franchises accustomed to perennial success. Now the question becomes, who to support in tonight's game 1?

First off, lets compare the historical stats... Philly has been around since 1883 and has lost more games than any other franchise (8942-10093 for 47.0%) and has one WS title to its credit (1980) in six attempts. Tampa has been around since 1998 and has by far the worst winning percentage (742-1037 for 41.7%) which is including their 97-65 dominance this season. (Depressing to think they entered this year with a 645-972 record for 39.8%... sub 40%!!!). Going into this postseason, I would have been fine with either of these teams winning (though I of course wanted Boston or the Cubs to win it)... after all, who doesn't root for the perennial loser to finally win big? It is practically bred into us that Americans have to support the underdog and Tampa is the extreme underdog considering their miserable history.

Then I thought about it all... they have only been around for eleven years! They have no right taking the title from a team that has existed for a full century longer than they have... one that has lost over 5 times as many games as Tampa has PLAYED! The fact that Philly has only one title to show for those 125 seasons just makes it that much more apparent that they are the more deserving franchise.

Delving even deeper into the comparison, one arrives at the fanbases of these two disasters to discover an even more telling statistic. Philly averaged 42K fans per home game compared to 22K but these figures alone mean little... after all, Boston only averaged 37K per game and no one can doubt their popularity in Boston or their fans' devotion. The reason is, Fenway Park is one of the smallest stadiums in MLB and the 37K average represents a 104% attendance rate which is simply astounding. With that in mind, it is the attendance rate that truly matters, NOT the raw attendance figures. This past season, Philly was fourth with 97.1% home attendance while Tampa was a pathetic 24th with 52.8%. [Top five: Boston 104, Cubs 99.1, Tigers 98.6, Philly, Yankees 92.3] Philadelphia fans also travel better than their Floridian brethren, coming in 14th road in attendance rate (72.7%) compared to Tampa's 24th (66.5%) [Boston once again came in first with 84.1% a full 2.5 higher than the second place Cubs] Now, I grant you that Tampa has been atrocious for their ten season existence, having never posted a win total higher than 70 (2004) but that by no means makes up for a division winning team (that led said division for most of the season) only filling HALF the seats! Had they not played the extremely popular (and well-travelling) Red Sox and Yankees for 18 of their 81 games at home, they probably would have been below the 50% barrier and exceeded only the Florida Marlins (hmm... anyone notice a trend here?) Quite simply, their fans just don't deserve the title anymore than their franchise does... hell, their franchise deserves a hell of a lot better fans!

The final reason I have for pulling for the Phillies... the ridiculously fake fans in Tampa. Suddenly everyone shows up for the playoffs and decides to support them only AFTER they have proved themselves. The team even went so far as to open up some 8000 seats that had previously been tarped over! [Their excuse for this was that they had bad sight-lines... big deal, so does most every seat at Fenway but those tickets still sell! My theory is they were tarped over to make inflate their attendance figures to barely respectable numbers a la the Oakland A's shutting down the second level.] Now everyone is a die-hard Rays fan who has followed them their whole life (even though they are in their 20s and 30s...) and bangs their cowbells while sporting their trendy 'Rayhawk'. What a joke! They are pathetic. They are just the latest in a long trend of bandwagon jumpers (the Red Sox sadly have far more than their share), something I absolutely detest. The majority of their fans have no clue about the history of their team, their league or anything else... they are just jumping on the hot new trend of the day, only to forget about it within a couple months once the next shiny object catches their eye. I actually had a Tampa 'fan' try to tell me their attendance wasn't that bad and that it mirrored that of the Sox in the 90s. When I informed him via email that we last had attendance lower than 18K (their highest value after their debut season) was in 1966 (1966!!!), he countered by sending me the attendance figures for each stadium during its first eleven years. Problem is, Fenway opened in 1912 so he is trying to compare Tampa's 1998 attendance with that of Boston's from 80+ years prior! Just absolutely laughable and goes to show the 'knowledge' and 'loyalty' of their fans.

With all that in mind, here is hoping the Phillies take the title and end the city's tormented sporting history (so long as the Flyers keep sucking!). I don't really like the city or the fans, but they are a far more palatable option than are the Tampa Bay Rays...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Call me Nostradamus... (Part 2)

So this came a little later than expected but work interefered (three weeks of travel)...

Without further ado, here are my predictions for the upcoming season in terms of goals, assists and points. Have to get them up before the season commences after all... if I can get around to it, I will include some more information on here.

Player........................G - A - P
Patrice Bergeron...........27-45-72
David Krejci................12-30-42
Petteri Nokelainen..........6-5-11
Marc Savard................22-78-100
Vladimir Sobotka............2-8-10

P.J. Axelsson................6-12-18
Milan Lucic..................18-30-48
Marco Sturm................30-27-57
Shawn Thornton.............2-4-6

Phil Kessel...................20-20-40
Chuck Kobasew.............24-18-42
Michael Ryder...............30-25-55
Blake Wheeler..............12-25-37

Andrew Alberts..............1-9-10
Zdeno Chara................15-40-55
Andrew Ference.............2-10-12
Shane Hnidy..................2-6-8
Mark Stuart..................2-8-10
Aaron Ward..................4-10-14
Dennis Wideman...........10-22-32

Totals: 247 - 432 - 679

Goalie........................GP - W - GAA
Manny Fernandez...........30 - 16 - 2.88
Tim Thomas.................52 - 31 - 2.55

Record: 47-29-6 100 points

Admittedly these are on the high side but a guy can always hope, right? Besides, a second year in Julien's system and the return of Patrice should help the team a lot in 2009...

(Note: apparently formatting on blogspot completely blows... will have to work on figuring that out...)