Sunday, May 09, 2010

Not much to LOL about...

Game 5: Sharks 2, Red Wings 1.

This is why I didn't create LOLs for Game 4, in spite of the fact that it was a delightful 7-1 blowout. It was such a slender hope. If you read sports blogs at all and Red Wing blogs in particular, you've probably seen a lot of contradictory statements over the last little while. We've all been a bit torn between hope and odds the last few days. Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press had a representative sample on Friday:

Everyone knows that only two teams in NHL history have come back from 3-0 deficits. That doesn’t mean that the losing teams haven’t won a game or two or three along the way. That means that it’s nearly impossible to win four.

But give the Wings credit. It’s human nature to calculate the odds and respond accordingly. It’s not quitting. It’s simply realizing -- perhaps subconsciously -- that you’re just not going to come back. The Wings didn’t succumb to that in Game 4, and now things are a little more interesting. If they can somehow win Game 5, and doubt starts creeping into the Sharks' dressing room, things will get awfully interesting.

The talk at work-- with the few other hockey fans I've managed to find in my Toledo exile-- was much the same. "It's going to be so hard... but maybe..."

In the end, the hope was just a lovely dream we all shared for a few days. The San Jose Sharks are not the choky team we've seen in the past. They may not have completely made the transition from regular season success to postseason success, but they're well on their way. (Long-term followers of hockey might be reminded of the Red Wings circa 1995 or so.)

So, not much to LOL about in Hockeytown this morning.

That said, I do see a lot to be hopeful about going into next season.

Aside from having experienced elite players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, and Johan Franzen, and aside from Jiri Hudler coming back from the Russian KHL with his ability to score timely goals, the Red Wings have acquired a small cluster of gritty young checking forwards who stepped up to help cover for the season-long injury bug and keep Detroit in the playoff hunt. Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller will be all the stronger for the experience they got this year. Over the course of the season, their penalty-killing became visibly better. Justin Abdelkader is the sort of guy who provides instant energy whenever he's on the ice, and I look for him to prove himself invaluable next season.

And then there's Jimmy Howard. I can't say enough about how wrong I was about the guy at the beginning of the season. I thought there was no way he was ready for the NHL, and ranted about how we needed to trade him immediately if not sooner, and then he goes and proves me wrong with a Calder-quality season and a not-bad showing in his first playoff run.

There are still some lingering questions for the team, the biggest one being whether or not Nick Lidstrom will retire. His contract is up, and he's said he wants to take a few weeks to make his decision. His teammates are planning to work on keeping him around for another year. "I’m going to work him tonight, talk some sense into him," said Johan Franzen. And who can out-stubborn The Mule?

My gut feeling is that Lidstrom won't retire this year. I think he would have for sure if they had won the Cup, but since they didn't I can't imagine he wouldn't want one more go at it, with a healthy team and the rookies settled into their roles. Besides which, the way he's played, particularly in the Sharks series, shows he still has a fire and still has the ability to play at a high level. Maybe this is actually wishful thinking on my part, but I think Nick will know when it is time to hang up the skates, and this is not his time.

One question about next year has been answered already. Team owner Mike Illitch has said that they are in negotiations with the city of Detroit to lease Joe Louis Arena for one more season. I'm really glad about this. The location is ideally centered for the greatest number of fans, it's easy to get to from all the freeways, and it's so nice by the river on a mild day. I know it's a hole and it's crumbling and the floors are permanently sticky and the bathrooms are permanently kind of gross, but it's our hole!

So, like I said, not much to LOL about today, but plenty of hope for the future.

October, after all, is not that far away.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Games 5 & 7

Sometimes, the schedule is just too tight for each game to have its own entry. This is one of those times. But look how nicely games 5 and 7 blend together!

Photos courtesy of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.

Now... onto the semifinals! Bring on the Sharks!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 4

Because the less said about Game 3, the better.

So let's have some Game 4 LOLs! Not many this time, but I have to pace myself, after all. As the announcers remind us, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Photos courtesy of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

NHLOL: The Return!

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 2: Detroit 7, Phoenix 4.

I love this time of year SO MUCH.

Photos courtesy of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. Special thanks to Shane Doan for having possibly the funniest-looking post-goal face I have ever seen, and apologies to Edward Munch.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Five People You'll Meet At Hockey Games

As of this writing, the Red Wings have locked up a playoff spot. They could finish anywhere from 5th to 8th place-- and none of these are really to be preferred to the others in the first round, since none of their potential opponents are more or less threatening than the others. They've all got dangers and advantages that work out pretty evenly. The Western Conference is even tighter than usual this year. Battle is imminent.

The Wings have two regular season games remaining-- Columbus tonight and Chicago on Sunday. Columbus is not a playoff team this year and have nothing to play for tonight except pride and giving their fans a good send-off for the summer. (Neither of which should be underestimated, but I don't expect a compelling game out of it.) Chicago is a playoff team and could in fact be Detroit's first round opponent. That would mean as many as eight straight games against the Blackhawks-- groan. Nothing against the 'Hawks in particular, but that's an awful lot of games against the same guys right in a row. I expect they'll go somewhat easy on each other on Sunday. Everyone's going to be trying to avoid injury, plus they may well be trying to maneuver their spots in the standings so as NOT to play each other in Round One.

So what's a fan to do while counting down the days until the playoffs, aka The Real Season, when I can bring you a new collection of LOLHockeys? Let's poke gentle fun at the fans instead! I bring you, "The Five People You'll Meet At Hockey Games." (With no apologies to Mitch Albom for ripping off his title, because it falls under free use/parody/satire. Neener.)

1. Captain Obvious: This is a subset of the Armchair Coach. A regular Armchair Coach will sit at home or up in the stands and tell the team what they should do (or alternatively, tell their buddies later what the team should have done). Captain Obvious isn't quite so smart. Rather than saying something the team could have done which might have made an actual difference, such as, "If they wanted to score quickly they should have put Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the same line," as Armchair Coaches might, Captain Obvious will say something more, well, obvious. Things like, "Shoot it!" to a guy who is already in the act of shooting the puck.

Real life example: "Man, they're down by one and there's only a minute left! They gotta score fast if they want to go to overtime!" Srsly? Thank you for that insightful commentary. Without it I might never have known that you have to tie the game before the end of regulation in order to go to overtime.

2. Captain Oblivious: This, like Captain Obvious, is a subset of the Armchair Coach. Captain Oblivious, however, will tell the players to do something which is impossible according to the laws of physics, such as saying, "Shoot it!" to a guy who is deep in his own zone, protecting the puck from three opponents as he helps kill off a 5-on-3 penalty. It kind of makes you wonder what game this person is actually watching, because their verbal diarrhea has nothing whatsoever to do with what's happening on the ice. I totally understand if they haven't caught on to the nuances of the game yet-- we were all there at one point-- but couldn't they at least pay attention to the physical properties of what they're seeing?

Real life example: "Hey, what happened?" Um, they just scored. That's why the red light is on, the goal horn is blowing, and everyone is standing up cheering.
I have a football example, too. There's this elderly woman who attends University of Toledo football games. She yells loudly and obnoxiously on every play--things like, "We need a sack!" and "Defense! Where are you?!?" when Toledo has the ball. She wears Toledo colors, but she so consistently yells against what the Rockets are trying to do that I think she may secretly be a Bowling Green Falcons fan. Anyway, suffice it to say that Captain Oblivious is not solely a hockey phenomenon.

3. The Drunk: Joe Louis Arena has a wide selection of alcoholic beverages available for purchase. Beer, mixed drinks, wine-- if you can drink it, you can buy it, pretty much. However, it's not exactly cheap! A beer costs $8.00 (or was it $7.50? Not a beer drinker here.), and mixed drinks cost more. Typically, someone will buy one or maybe two drinks for the game. However, there's always some people who manage to get completely shit-faced. Are they bringing in hidden flasks? Are they total lightweights? Or are they really paying that much to get that drunk? And how do they get back down the (steep, uneven) arena stairs after the game? It boggles, it does.

Real life example: It was apparently a group of guys celebrating their buddy's 21st birthday party. What none of them knew was that large amounts of beer would give the birthday boy gas. Really nasty gas. The guy next to me said he was surprised the stench didn't crack the ice, and I don't envy the drunk dude's friends who had to try to get his stinky self back down to ground level without falling down the stairs.

4. The Old-Timer: This is the guy (I have yet to encounter a female specimen, though they probably do exist) who complains that today's players are wusses, visors and helmets have ruined the game, and European players are all figure skaters. I could list example after example of European players demonstrating toughness, but I won't. I WILL, however, point out that the guys complaining are AT THE GAME. They PAID MONEY to get in. Why bother if they hate the modern game so much? They're like Statler and Waldorf, with none of the awesome.
"Why do we always come here?
I guess we'll never know.
It's like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show."

Real life example: Don Cherry. Enough said. (In fairness, even he seems to be backing off on the anti-European stuff, and he did push very vocally for the NHL to enact its new ban on deliberate hits to the head.)

5. The Business Opportunist: Some companies own season tickets in the lower bowl or rent out suites for occasional games. Sometimes the tickets are given as rewards to employees (and these are usually indistinguishable from regular game-goers), but other times they're used to impress potential clients or partners. Hey, they paid for the tickets, so they can bring whomever they want to the game, but it seems odd to see people in suits trying to maintain their dignity when they're surrounded by the sea of screaming fans in red and white. And who can conduct business in such a loud place anyway?

Real life example: The company my ex-husband was working for, way back in 2003, was being wooed by some vendor who bought a suite for a game. Employees and spouses/significant others were invited along. Blatant but legal bribery? Yep. Were we going to turn down the chance to see the game from a luxury suite? Hell, no. Plus, while the executive types were schmoozing, the rest of us got to witness Brett Hull score his 700th career goal. It was a classic Brett Hull one-timer off a perfect set up pass from Pavel Datsyuk, and Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks never had a chance to stop it. And IT WAS AWESOME.