Friday, November 20, 2009

Dees and Pees.

It's been awhile since my last in-game blog and to be perfectly honest, I didn't miss it much.

I don't own a TiVo so for me blogging during games has meant one of two things. I either have to strap myself to the keyboard and type faster than a court reporter while fighting off the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome for three hours, or I have to sit and watch the game with a notepad and jot down the events in scrambled shorthand. Since I never learned to write in shorthand the latter has meant I have to go back after the game and attempt to translate my own hastily written comments, which is about as easy as reading a prescription from a doctor.

Often I spend far too much time trying to make sense of lines that look like "Mike Ricchi shed to boards like dog pizza BANG!" Either way it isn't fun times, and it interferes with my in-game beer consumption.

This season I took the opportunity to purchase a little miracle of technology known as NHL Gamecenter which allows me to watch as many as four games at once, rewind to previous events in games, and even view archived games all on my computer. Since I'm living in Korea and have been weaned off of cable tv this is pretty much all I watch outside of movies, and frankly I doubt I'll ever go back to buying cable again. It isn't worth my money to watch the irritating crap-fest that American television has become over the last 10 years.

So without further adoooo...let's get it on!

Coming to you live from the spartan confines of my apartment located in the Daedok Techno Valley portion of Daejeon, Korea it's YOUR Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks! The Canucks are coming off of six days of rest and the Avs are playing their third game in four nights. This of course means the Avs may get punked like a Korean pop star in a Philly night club, but whatever, it's hockey!

Pregame: Oh good it looks like I'm going to get the Canadian feed for this one. If there is anything that is exciting about Gamecenter it is that I often have the opportunity to watch Canadian commercials, which feature the kind of dry wit that only Canadians can truly understand. Canadian "humour" pretty much involves staring at people and waiting for them to do something stupid, or politely prodding them into doing something stupid, and then pointing it out.

Fortunately I spent my college years watching every Kids in the Hall episode ten times, so I'm familiar with a facial expression Canadians all share which involves tilting your head slightly to the side and smirking matter-of-factly while pointing out obvious things like "I guess it would have been a good idea for you to leave the house with a coat, eh? I mean what with all the snow and such...let's see if we can dump some hot water on your hands and get some blood back into 'em."

Samantha Bee on the Daily Show has the best Canadian smirk on the planet. Dave Foley is a close second.

The National Anthems: Just wanted to take a moment to point out that Robbie Luongo is practically digging holes in his crease. Please feel free to reference my above comment about the Avs possibly getting punked like a Korean pop star in a Philly nightclub. Good choice of games here Aaron. Good job.

20:00- First Period- Ryan Kesler wins the opening draw against Paul Stastny. Just once I want Stats to unload on the opposing center Paul Newman style as soon as the puck is dropped. Can we make this happen? I know Stats is a nice guy and all but he can't really lose any more teeth at this point. Pretty please, can we get a little bloodshed off the draw?

19:01- After a minute of warming up with a deflection on net by Stats, the puck is touched up for icing in the Avs end by Kyle Cumiskey. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is beating Cumiskey down the ice this year. He's in the Scott Niedermayer echelon of good skaters.

17:30- Ryan Johnson with a solid shot on Craig Anderson. Andy shrugged it off to a defenseman, no big whoop. It's too bad Peter Budaj is so bad that the coaching staff is going have to play Andy until his hips are ground into a fine powder. I like Andy but the Avs have to do something about getting him some support. Budaj has less confidence than a skinny, pizza-faced, middle school student.

17:00- Tell me Tony Soprano wouldn't eat at an Italian joint named T.J. Galiardi's. I see a chain of successful restaurants in his future.

16:35- Somebody tell Willie Mitchell that a good way to avoid getting called for hooking is to not raise your hand like you may be doing something wrong. I don't care if Stastny's arm pit had a hammer lock on your stick, you will always get called for whining. Always.

Power play-Avs!

15:43- Goal! Little tipper by David Jones on a nifty slapper to the net by Wolski. How nobody has made any "David Jones's locker" jokes at this point in his career is beyond me.

Time for a commercial break.

So, you and your fleet of boat owning friends decide to head into the bay with with a bunch of rocks, sand, lights, generators, and palm trees and build a small island in the middle of the bay so that you can have your own private party island! Great idea gang...right up until an Exxon tanker ends up grounded on it the following week. Thanks Bacardi.

12:23- Wow, we're barely back and Jannik Hansen hooks Svatos to get the gate. If there is anything that the Avs are incredibly good at, it is being faster than every other team and drawing hooking calls.

Power play-Avs!

Hejduk. Shot. Whistle. Svatos. Shot. Whistle.
Stastny to Wolski for the slapper, rebound to Liles for the tip and Duschene scores while diving into the net!

2-0, Avalanche!

WHEW! The Canucks are lookin' a bit rusty dere!

I'm not sure if you've heard, but this Matt Duchene kid is kinda good. On the last cycle he touched the puck four times before diving in for the finish. The Avs may not make the playoffs this season, but methinks they won't be having too much trouble making the playoffs in coming seasons.

10:09- Ahh, the ol "broken glass, steal the momentum" trick eh, Vancouver? I'm on to you!

Let's fast forward to the 2nd period and a commercial break.

Ya know, if Tim Horton's came to Korea it might cause social upheaval. Trucker coffee and crullers? SPARKLE!

15:54- 2nd Period- Uh oh. After some scrambling in front of their own net David Koci gets rung up for striking a Canuck about the head and neck. Time to see if the Avs mediocre penalty kill can be less mediocre.

15:38- Andddd no. Christian Ehrhoff with a top shelf slapper from the point.

2-1 Avs.

Time for a DNP public service announcement.

If there is anything annoying about young players these days it is that many of them have pretentious names from the late-80's and early 90's. Case in point, Mason Raymond. I don't necessarily dislike Mason, aside from the fact that he's a Canuck, but I just dislike pretentious names. I can only imagine in 5 years we're going to have far too many Cody's, Sage's, Canoe's, and Tucker's in the league, and I can only hope these names will be offset by hardened hockey names like Brett or Jack. Please parents, stop naming your children like toys or pets.

Thank you.

Back to the action.

10:30- Power play Avalanche. The boys need to get some momentum back here. The Canucks are starting to wake up, and the Avs appear to be getting tired. Good chances by Tucker and Hejduk and some flailing by Luongo and we're back to even strength.

7:26- Good chance for Cumiskey but he missed the open net. The kid is feisty to say the least! I'm glad Sacco is giving him room to grow. I'm staring in your direction Tony Granato. Thanks.

The rest of the 2nd period- Ping pong hockey! Fun, fun, fun!

More commercials! Yay.

I'm trying to figure out if Courtney in the Fountain Tire commercials is hot. There's really no way to debate this with anyone unless a Canadian reads this post and has a strong opinion on the issue.

20:00-3rd Period- Gotta love starting a period on the power play. Willie Mitchell may or may not have put the puck over the glass in his own zone right at the end of the 2nd. Either way, it screws the Canucks so I'm happy.

Luongo getting shelled, Luongo getting shelled, annnd Luongo getting shelled. No goal. I'm getting the feeling like Robbie might have put up the force field. Not good.

17:40- The Avs may or may not have broken Sami Salo and Christian Ehrhoff on the same sequence. Two defensemen down could bode well for the Avs!

16:30- Whoa! Big rush from the Canucks with Anderson making some big saves! Batten down the hatches boys! Those injuries to Salo and Ehrhoff seem to have angried up the natives.

14:48- Oh man, I think I jinxed the Avs. I took a minute to argue with my brother about fantasy hockey and how it would be nice for Luongo to get some wins this week (but not against the Avs) as he's on my squad...and like that Christian Ehrhoff scores. Noonan! Not cool.

2-2. Tie game.

14:30- Mommy! Anderson just had a weak shot bounce over top of him and deflect off the far post. The Canucks are awake. In the words of Tommy Boy "Bees! Bees! They are eating my flesh! Run for your lives!"

14:10- Anderson is very slow to get up after the craziness. Please don't be hurt. Sweet Jeebus don't be hurt!

12:02- Finally play is stopped with Anderson diving on the puck. Stop the insanity!

Commercial break.

Oh good, Blackberry remade "All You Need is Love" by the Beatles. Puke. Whatever happened to the days of hiring people to make stupid jingles? Of course this brings up the question, who owns the rights to the Beatles songs now that Michael Jackson is dead?

11:13- Score. Canucks. Henrik Sedin. Since when does this guy score goals? He has 13, his career best is 22 and we're a quarter of the way into the season. To repeat my assertion from a previous article, hockey makes no sense anymore!

3-2 Canucks

10:20- Power play Canucks. Boo. Anderson was for some reason roaming like Patrick Roy which forced Hejduk to have to run Alex Burrows into the boards, making him have pain about the head and neck.

8:48- Oh man. Kyle Quncey dumped a Canuck in front of his own net, drawing a penalty before the first power play was over. What happened to this game?!

8:21- Score. A Bernier tipper off of a slap-pass by Ehrhoff. Four unanswered goals for the Canucks and the wheels have completely come off of the Avalanche bus.

6:26- Score. Canucks. And that should just about do it folks. That was an easy tip by Mathieu Schneider 5-hole on Anderson. The boys are tieeeerrrrdddd. Not fun.

In pure Peter Budaj fashion I would like to take responsibility for that loss. I jinxed the Avs. I feel shame.

Smirk away Canada. Smirk away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Predictably Irrational

Over the course of the last month my brother has been reading a book by M.I.T. economist Dan Arley entitled "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions". From his descriptions of the book it is a cold and creative analysis of why widely accepted market-based ideas don't seem to work in our current world where market-based capitalism doesn't seem to work for many people anymore.

I can't wait to read the book not because I have a fascination with the intricacies of markets, (I have little interest in becoming a tycoon, I just want to be able to pay my bills and my taxes, and maybe find an occasional bargain at the store) but because the title "Predictably Irrational" fits so well with what I go through every fall in regards to my fantasy hockey team.

I know, I'm deep like that.

This season hockey makes little sense to me. Play has gotten faster and seemingly more erratic. Certainly this has been great for the game, but for those of us who have a habit of living and dying with our fantasy (and real) teams there doesn't seem to be anything on which we can hang our hats.

Except maybe the Avalanche leading the Northwest and possibly making the playoffs, which has many an esteemed columnist scrambling for excuses.

Just ten years ago if you wanted a great fantasy hockey team all you had to do was analyze a particular team's defensive system, who was in that system, and whether or not a capable goaltender was behind that system, and act accordingly. Anything beyond that was gravy because the offense was simple: nobody did much scoring.

This season with the rash of injuries to top players as well as important role players, the shocking collapse of the Red Wings and to a lesser extent teams like the up and coming Blues, combined with half the coaches in the league deciding that platooning capable goaltenders is a good idea...well hockey has evolved from a simple equation into a calculus problem from hell.

Surely it is great to see the new generation of players finally getting their shot at the big time en masse, but for those of us who study the game (and aren't directly involved with the NHL) this has left us with plenty of homework.

Simply attempting to gauge the season-long production of upstart players like Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duschene is enough to make one storm their cabinets for antacid. Not to mention the strange and immediate fantasy influence of players like Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Rich Peverly, Evander Kane, and Nicklas Bergfors.

When I toss in the fact that anyone who puts on a jock next to Alex Ovechkin in the locker room is going to score somewhere between 60 and 10,000 points what I am looking at is the potential of a wholesale shift away from traditional fantasy thinking.

Or maybe I'm just having a bad season.

On draft day I was certain I had a team that would coast. I landed Robbie Luongo and Joe Thornton, both of whom were going to post stratospheric numbers, and buttressed them with the likes of Illy Kovalchuk, Milan Lucic, Johan Franzen, Jason Spezza and sure-fire, 100% guaranteed, puck stopping weapon of the future Jonas Hiller. I even landed great sleepers in later rounds like Alex Goligoski, Mike Knuble, and Derrick Brassard.

The 2009-10 Iron Mullets were rock solid! I had it MADE! I envisioned I would be lighting up my league's message board with insane Gandalf quotes every week:


Now, a little over a month later, and having seen my team torn to shreds by injury and under performance I have lost all confidence, and possibly my mind. What was last season's groin injury has become this season's torn ACL, or broken finger or foot. Or in the case of Paul Kariya and the rest of the Blues "chronic suckitis".

I've become the Red Light Racicot of fantasy managers, and I know two things:

Peter Budaj is still a bad goalie, and I have become predictably irrational.

Pass the antacid.