Sunday, 31 May 2009

This is REALLY not over.

A note to my boys...

Dear Pittsburgh Penguins,
There is a reason it's a best of seven series. It's not over. We still love you more than life.

p.s. Kris? Keep up the AMAZING work. You're my hero. You get lots of cookies.

This is not over.

Don Cherry says Pittsburgh should have won. I must be hallucinating. Maybe the refs slipped me some of their acid... because they sure as hell didn't see what *I* was seeing. Maybe they were distracted by the shiny bouncing mushrooms and the Puck Huffers' army of pigs.

More in a bit, when I've had a chance to process this game...

Okay. It's the morning after. Okay, not even the morning. It's the afternoon. There's only 3.5 hours until the puck drops again. (WTF? I couldn't even begin to think about playing again after that game if I was them. Gold Stars all around.)

My game notes... they're incomprehensible (complete with spelling errors), but I'm still too tired to try to relive this game. Commentary is in red.

First Period.
The first half of the first flies by.
Orpik lays Hoss out on his ass like a 5 year-old.
MAF is on fire.
Geno is pterodactyl-like. Flying like all over the place -
OMIGOD I CAN'T BLEIEVE he fumbled that!!!!!!!!!
Geno gets the puck into Detroit’s end.
Feds sees it coming, backs up, gets the rebound. He is forgiven for 2004.
Brad Stewart, +/- of 0.
Scores then turns it over to Geno for Feds goal.
Karma’s a bitch, eh kid?

Don Cherry Tries to BLIND the nation.

Cherry rants about drugs in hockey.
Then he goes on a rant about never giving up.
We’re tempted to actually listen... (nooooo do not submit to Uncle Don’s diatribe!)
me: bahahahaha Cherry is giving inspirational speeches about never giving up
Ali: that's so nice of him... lol
me: an ounce of heart is worth a pound of muscle. thanks.
32 hits, 17 by Pens.
70% of face-offs to Wings.
Shots : 11-7, Wings.

Second Period.
Crosby nearly scores like 15 seconds in pulling a Geno.
Scrambling around the net, no dice.
Whirlpool..... seriously we feel a little sea-sick from the cameras swirling around.
There are no end to end plays, everything is looping through the neutral zone. Dizzzyyyyy...
Nice TK backcheck.
Osgood doesn’t know where the puck is.
me: nice Letang! shit
Lauren: oh no! Letang better not be hurt or someone's getting an octopus shoved up his nose
me: but that was a great play!
Letang might be hurt? Hits his head. Sacrifice!
He’s on the bench cringing up a storm.
Wings penalty.
Babcock’s pissed.
Will Pens’ PP show up?
Letang’s on the ice for the PP. (Can't be that hurt...right?)
Amazing opportunity, but Ozzy’s net has a Death Star force field.
No one understands how the Pens don’t score.
CBC is using the word sick as an adjective.
Sammuelson “outmuscles” JStaal in the manner of a holding penalty or something. PP time!
Some asshole keeps waving his hands in front of CBC’s camera. Seriously, could ya stop???
Pens keep allowing SH chances: Bylsma pulls 87 and 13.
25-26-27 on the ice. Hee hee! Grit-city!
Detroit's got Sammuelson, Huddler and Franzen on the ice together? Weird.
Letang blocks a shot; he’s actually playing D tongiht.
Apparently so is Geno.
Malkin saves the day. Keeps the puck from Hossa.
Dear jesus this is ugly – all the stars are on the ice.

Satan gets a chance: How did that NOT go in?
Crosby proves why he’s a superstar. Sickest idividual play since "The Geno."
In fact, it looks like "The Geno: Redux."
Pens on PK.
All hopes on JStaal. Pleaspleaseplease?
Ericsson is way too effing cute to be a Wing. Can we get him please? (Seriously, can we?)
Flower meet Holstrom's ass.
bad move Cooke...
Ali: kind of looks like he's being hidden on the bench now... haha
Lauren: woah...nice block...Sid?!

LOVED that MAF makes two sick saves like 1/3 of a second apart on Zet and Holmstrom?
Puck off Flower’s leg into the neck. (fully meant net...)
Cleary gets credit for the boards bounce.

me: Come on Bill, do it
Lauren: HAHAH they just described Hal Gill's weight in tons
me: let's go into intermission up a goal
Lauren: "You're talking about 6'7" and 1/8 of a ton"
me: that was sick
me: FUCK

Ali: um. that sucked
Lauren: big time suckage
me: I cannot believe how many empty fucking seats there are in that arena

Ali: I was just thinking the same thing... it's unbelievable

After 2 - Faceoffs 26-11, Wings. Ew.
Pens out-shot Wing 13-11.

Geno-Kronwall train wreck.
Talbot is DENIED.
Tanger’s denied.
Puck on Ozzy’s back.
Z holds it there. Pens should get a penalty shot, but DON’T.
FUCK you Devorski. Do your god-damn job.

End of the game: 32-30 shots Pens.
Final Score: Pens, 1 - Wings, 1 - Joe Louis' boards, 2.

That was the biggest gong-show of a shit-show in the world.
Hello Paul? Lay off the acid next game and maybe then you’ll catch those pesky penalties...
Is the Red distracting you from the game? Are you a Bull? Toro Toro!!!
(It would explain the BS calls...)

I am fairly annoyed by bounces and officiating. The bounces are bounces, so I can't exactly blame the Wings for knowing how to use their arena to their advantage. Even Ozzy admitted that he's been the unfortunate victim of Joe's boards. Yeah, only he does have the advantage because it's his home arena. He does get to play at least 41 games a season there. But not calling that hold of Zetterberg's made my blood boil a little. Crosby looked pissed, but resigned. I was annoyed by how easily everyone just let it go. Sorry, but what's the use of six billion cameras and instant replay if the officials are effing blind and we can't use them?

Ugh. Game two at 8 p.m. ET.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Hockey Rant in Canada: Why The Penguins Will Win the Stanley Cup

Hockey Rant in Canada
Why the Penguins Will Win the Stanley Cup

This is primarily a rebuttal to Puck Daddy's assertion that, despite their hunger for redemption and for the Cup, the Pens don't have it in them to win the Cup.

He's on crack, and here's why.

He takes the time to list off the comparative competitive talents of both teams, which are quite well matched, all things considered, claims that the addition of one Evgeni Malkin is what will be the difference maker this year for the Pens, but that it won't be enough, even with an injury-plagued Detroit roster, because the weak link is Marc-Andre Fleury.

Now, I'll be perfectly honest: Fleury is not my favourite goalie. Nor is he, by any stretch of the imagination, the best goalie in the league, let alone in the entire world. But he is a good goalie and, on many days, he makes highlight-reel butterfly saves that land him in the "elite goaltenders" category. He has had regrettable moments, 'that goal' being one of them (if you don't know what I'm refering to, count yourself as lucky), but every player, particularly goalies, who make it to games of any consequence are bound to have moments they would rather take back, pucks they would rather have not fumbled. But, to get to those high-pressure games, you either need incredible talent or incredible luck, and the latter is, more often than not, a result of the former. And no one can deny that Marc-Andre Fleury has talent. You can make any argument you like about how, after going first overall in 2003, he has not lived up to expectations, but don't tell me that he's not a good goalie. He's made mistakes. Everyone's made mistakes. Everyone's memories are just more finely tuned during the playoffs, so mistakes made then are less easy to forget. And he fumbled a HUGE goal last year. But to fumble that goal, he had to make it to the Cup final first. As a starter.

If you think that doesn't make him hungrier for a perfect series, you're high. To assume that having screwed up would not make someone with incredible talent determined to ensure that he doesn't repeat his mistake is a painful underestimation of both his drive to succeed and his determination not to become "that goalie who dropped two SCF series' to Detroit."

Don't underestimate the smiling boy in the goalie mask. As much as he may not be a honours graduate of the Ken Dryden Goalie School of Not-Smiling, he's still a goalie. Don't expect him to be the same guy we saw last year. Or do so, but do so at your own peril. Just because he's happy-go-lucky, doesn't mean he can't, and won't, keep you from finding the back of his net.

My second issue with Puck Daddy's whole argument is that he essentially says it's going to come down to goal-tending. "[I]t's between the pipes where I'm most weary," Puck Daddy writes. First, I can't help wondering if he meant wary, not weary, and secondly, I think this is probably the dumbest assumption that can be made about this series. This is not going to be a goal-tenders series. Goal-tending is, admittedly, one of Pittsburgh's easier areas to critique, but the reason it is, is because there's not much else you can critique other than a few defensive fumbles. I mean, even the Pens' power-play seems to have returned from it's sabbatical.

By saying that this series will com down to goal-tending, he ignores the main reason that Pittsburgh is in the Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh has been an offensive powerhouse so far, and they show no real interest in slowing that down. Bill Guerin's F-U Carolina goal in Game 3 was evidence that just because they're up 5-2, doesn't mean the Penguins are going to show their opponents any mercy by laying off their attempts to score. Guerin scores. Pens win 6-2. The goal was when I knew with about 98% certainty that the Pens were going to sweep Carolina in the Eastern Conferece Final.

This year's Stanley Cup Final series is going to be Sid and Geno and Guerin against Franzen and Zetterberg and Cleary and Filppula. It's going to be Nicklas Lidstrom against Sergei Gonchar. It's going to come down to special teams, and self-restraint and good defence. And good offence.

Pittsburgh's top 10 scorers have out-scored Detroit's top ten scorers 134-123 so far this post season. Sure, it's been different circumstances, but if we want to get into the secondary scoring debate, be my guest.

(Detroit has Cleary (14 pts) and Filppula (14), Pittsburgh has Guerin (14) and Kunitz (12).
Detroit has Lidstrom (13), Pittsburgh has Gonchar (12).
Detroit has Hossa (12), Pittsburgh has Fedetonko (11).
Detroit has Huddler (9) and Samuelsson (9), Pittsburgh has Talbot (7) and Cooke (7).
Detroit has Brian Rafalski (8) and Niklas Kronwall (7), Pittsburgh has Kris Letang (9) and Mark Eaton (7).

Sure, Pittsburgh's secondary scorers are, for the most part, a point or two behind Detroit's. But when Sidney Crosby and Geno Malkin have 56 points between them, compared to Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg's collective 37 points, Pens fan can rest easy, at least someone is scoring.

Pittsburgh has offensive talent, and they are going to use it. Detroit has defensive talent, and they are going to use that.

But Pittsburgh's defence ain't so bad. If Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik are in top form, Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang can keep their turnovers to a minimum, Hall Gill can refrain from scoring inconvenient own goals, Philippe Boucher can quietly avert the apocalypse, and Mark Eaton can score us a goal or two... well, I have a feeling the Pens won't be relying solely on Marc-Andre Fleury's goal-tending skills to keep Detroit's offense in line. There's a reason why the goalie is the last line of defence: because there are other ways to win a game than by not-losing it.

Detroit can't rely on good goal-tending, great defence and a few soft goals to win them this Cup, they will need to bring a lot more to the ice, and I don't doubt that they will try to bring it. But to say that this series will come down to goal-tending disregards Pittsburgh's most obvious strength: Evgeni Malkin sure as heck won't be handed the Art Ross Trophy on June 18th based on his good looks.

The Penguins can score. The Red Wings will shut down a lot of scoring opportunities, that's a given, but the fact that the Pens have out-shot their opponents in all but three playoff games (two of which they won by multiple goal margins anyways) indicates that if nothing else, Detroit's defencemen will be kept busy this series. While it's true that more shots on goal doesn't necessarily mean a win (the Pens out-shot teams in four games and still lost - granted, three of those four games were lost by a single goal to the Capitals...), the more shots you take, the better your chances of scoring, and the more you score, the better your chances of winning.

Pittsburgh can score. And they are going to score. Provided that Sid and Geno don't both break their ankles, none of the Wings stoop low enough to attack Gonchar with a knee on knee hit, and the rest of Pittsburgh's defence doesn't spontaenously combust during Game One, Marc-Andre Fleury's job will not be to win the Pens this series, it will be to do his part to make sure they don't lose it. Fleury needs to do his job, but he doesn't need to carry this team. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar will do that; it's their job as Captain and Alternate captains and they have shown just how ready they are to do that job all season and all post-season.

There is one last matter to address: injuries. Topping the list are Datsyuk, Listrom, Ericsson, Draper and Gonchar. As of writing this, Lidstrom and Ericsson are in. Gonchar seems to be stable. Chris Draper is out, for tonight at least. Part of me is actually a little bit wary of Detroit's injuries. Detroit is deep. They can afford a couple games without a couple guys and still be fine. Hell, they can go a couple games and probably have just as decent a shot at winning those games. I hope the Penguins remember that last year, Detroit had a few guys bashed up by the final... and look how that ended. Injuries in Detroit won't be the reason why the Penguins can win this, it will just make it a little bit easier on a few shifts. Detroit is going to be tough to beat, but I think that Pittsburgh is going to beat them.

The Pens may not have the best defencemen, or the best goalie, but they have the league's top scorer, a captain who routinely takes it upon himself to either open scoring, tie up games or win them, and Max Talbot.

I'll admit it: I have a soft spot for Mad Max. He's clutch. I'm sort of in love with his clutch. And then he says things like, There’s nothing I’d like more than to be able to shake Marian’s hand at the end of this series, look him in the eye and say, ‘You chose the wrong team.’ I can't help but feel like, even if the rest of them refuse to say it as frankly, all of the Penguins who played in the final with Hossa are thinking something similar. The fact that Max is willing to say it out loud just reinforces the fact that while this is a business and a job, there are still some incredibly personal motivations at work.

You can give me all the Detroit-is-better-because-they-play-like-a-well-oiled-machine BS you like. It won't change the fact that one of the ineffable things in hockey (and in life), one of the things that makes clutch goals or spectacular saves, one of the things that changes fates and turns games around is GRIT. You can't train that into a player, they either have it or they don't. A player needs skill to go far, but sometimes you see mediocre players make incredible plays, and when that happens, it's usually the guys with grit making it happen. It's guys like Max Talbot and Petr Sykora, guys like Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal, it's guys who just don't quit. They have talent, but more than talent, they have heart, and when their hearts begin to burst with want it elevates them to a level that even a sport psychologist can't create.

Mike Babcock may be able to manipulate his team in some incredible (positive) ways, but at the end of the day, he take his psych degree and can shove it where the sun don't shine, because you can't manipulate something that isn't there to begin with. You can't create passion, you can only channel it, hone it, give it a chance to produce something special. I'm not saying Detroit has no grit, or no passion, because we all know they have those things. I'm just saying that Pittsburgh has those things too, in spades. And Dan Bylsma has found some way to bring out the best in his team: in one hundred days Bylsma took them from being out of playoff spot to a second, consecutive Eastern Conference Championship. Something is working. And I don't think we've seen the end product. I don't think we've seen the Pens at 100%.

Tonight we will. Tonight we'll see what they are made of, and we'll see if they have what it takes to take this series. And I'm betting we'll see something that's only been hinted at so far: we'll see a team that may not be perfect, but can still be the best, despite its imperfections. Fleury isn't perfect, but he's good. And this series is going to be about so much more than goal-tending.

To twist a few of Puck Daddy's final words: This isn't to say that Fleury's going to win the series for Pittsburgh. But I can't see him losing it with this team.

Pittsburgh's got enough to win. As long as they believe in what they do have, and do their best to minimize the negative consequences of their imperfections, this series is theirs.

Puck Daddy claims that this series is "a bit of head vs. heart, logic against emotion" series, and that the sense of climactic inevitability of a Pens win is hard to ignore. He claims that it will come down to logic, and he claims that logic is on the side of the Red Wings. Actually, logic is not on the side of the Red Wings. And it sells the Pens short to say that they are merely playing with heart, or it gives the Wing too much undue credit to say that they can win simply by playing a logical, heady game. The Wings are an excellent team, but the teams they had to beat to get to the Final were no more difficult than the teams the Penguins had to beat. I'm the first one to admit that Carolina was a blow-out, but then Chicago only put up a little bit more of a fight...

To claim that the Pens have gotten to a second consecutive Stanley Cup final, simply by playing with heart, and that they will lose the Cup final when faced with 'logic', does one of two things, both of which invalidate his point: either it overestimates the value of playing a logical game, since no one else in the Eastern Conference was playing with enough 'logic' to beat the Pens' 'heart', or it seriously underestimates the value of the 'heart' the Pens have been bringing to the face-off circle.

In 1972, the Soviets nearly beat Canada in a best of 8 series. Canada went into the series thinking it was the best, only to be given a lesson in how the game could be played a different way. Canada was caught off-guard. The Soviets system was a system and therein lay its eventual downfall. In hockey, a system is fine, until your opponents figure out your system. Then you need the unexpected, you need to plays made on instinct and instinct isn't a coherent thought. Instinct is not logical, instinct is simply a feeling, and feelings come from from the heart. Or the gut. Either way, they do not leave room for rationalization, most often because there is simply no time.

There is no time for Sid to think, he just acts. And so does Geno. And so does Max. And sometimes they get lucky. And if they act enough times, and are lucky enough times, it stops being luck, and starts being something they can count on. They can count on doing the unexpected, and it's difficult to shut down what you don't know is coming.

That is why the Penguins are going to win the Stanley Cup. You can say all you want about goal-tending. You can compare points production and secondary scoring. You can pick apart defensive strategies. You can ignore all the times underdog teams with 'grit' and 'heart' have come back to win big games in the Olympics or the Junior Worlds, or the Stanley Cup finals.

Or you can cheer for the supposed 'underdogs' who really aren't really at any logical disadvantage. The Pens lost last year, but history only repeats itself when you refuse to learn lessons from it. Pittsburgh's learned its lesson, and now they're going to school the Red Wings in a little thing called redemption. Detroit is the safe bet for those who have no imagination, but for those of us who embrace change and evolution and the fact that the team that will hit the ice tonight is not the same team that faced off against Detroit last year, it's easy to see that Detroit's sense of security is misplaced. They do not have this one in the bag. They are going to have to fight for it. And they are going to lose.

Puck Daddy is right about one thing, though: come handshake time, everyone is going to be focussed on Marian Hossa, and I hope to God that Max has the nerve to tell him he chose the wrong team. Because he did.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Ante Up, Bitches: The Pens 2008-2009 post-season in semi-review

Before I begin with today's post, there are a few offsides...
to use TSN's phrase, one up, one down.
We're doing them in reverse order.

I'm going to depress you all for a minute. Sorry.
(Okay, I'm not really sorry, you should all feel depressed by this...)
Take a moment out of your day today to remember Luc Bourdon, who died a year ago today in a motorcycle accident outside his hometown of Shippagan, New Brunswick. Luc, a Canucks prospect who had been spliting his time between Vancouver and their AHL farm team, the Manitoba Moose, was 21. We miss you here in Van, Luc.

Here's praying we don't lose anyone this summer.

* * *

It's someone's birthday today!!!

(What's with all these May babies!?)
Happy Birthday Stevie!!!
Mase is twenty-one today. Woohoo! Probably doesn't matter a lick since there's about a 90% chance he's back home in Ontario where he's been legal since he was still in juniors, but still TWENTY-ONE!!! This means that I can split a pitcher with him and Kylie and RJ and Carl sometime when Carl gets back... and I look forward to getting this kid moderately pissed and seeing if Cabbie's Journey to the Cup videos do his sense of humour justice. My abs will probably get the best workout of my life laughing if he's as funny as he seemed in the goalies video.

In any case. He's 21. He's going to win the Calder. Maybe even the Veniza. Not a bad showing for twenty-one years on the planet. How about you play a playoff game on your birthday next year, Mase? A shutout would be kick-ass. We'd cheer for you against anyone, even the Pens if it was a SCF game. Just because it's your birthday. That's a promise. LOVELOVELOVE!


Now, down to business. I used to think that all the nonsense about the NHL's marketing department over-exposing Sidney Crosby for their monetary benefit was utter bullocks. (Bear with me Pens fans, I have a point, I promise.) Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe the marketing department has been messing with cosmic order to get what they want this post-season. Think about it for one second: the Pittsburgh Penguins' entire post-season has been an exercise in upping the ante.

Round One: The Inter-State Rivalry Showdown
The Battle of Pennsylvania
As if a Battle of Pennsylvania in last year's Eastern Conference Final wasn't good enough to get the state's blood boiling in renewed rivalry.
(As if it needed renewing...)
The two face off as 4th and 5th seed, the most evenly matched teams (theoretically) in the east.
A.S. tells me the Pens are going down.
I try not to laugh too effing hard.
Pierre McGuire does indecent things to Mike Richards on CBC, NBC and every other service provider airing these games.
'Service provider' suddenly becomes a double entendre again...
The Flyers force six games by showing up to Games 3 and 5 after making everyone wonder if Mike Richards really was the leader everyone *coughpierremcguirecough* is constantly framing him as.
There is never really any doubt that the Pens will come out on top.
Sid can take Richards. Easy.
We get our minds out of he gutter for long enough to watch the Flyers lose.
Apparently, you need skill, not just Mike Richards' leadership, to win.


Is there anything that can beat this series? We aren't sure. Until the Caps beat the Rangers. Then we know... there is something bigger than us in the universe.

Round Two: The Superstar Showdown
Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin
The NHL has been waiting for this moment since July 30th, 2005.
We're actually appalled by how psyched we are to watch this series, even though it makes us nervous.
We're the better team.
The Caps have good players, but they don't play as a team. Not enough for the post-season. Not enough to make it far in the post-season.
Then we drop Games 1 and 2.
Mer is stuck in effing O'Hare Airport unable to watch her favourite boys take back their dignity on home ice in Game 3.
Kylie watches the game in a hotel room and then heads to the airport.
Big time.
In OT.
Thanks to one ever-swooony Kristopher Letang. (OT game-winners by d-men are HOT!)
The Pens show Ovie and Green who's boss in Game 4 and again in Game 5.
Then the Caps decide to rain on the Pens' parade and take Game 6 in OT.
The series goes to seven games.
Game 7 is the most frightening thing in the world... until we're up 4-0 a couple minutes into the second thanks to Letang's SWEET slapshot.
All we want to know is what is up with Varlamov and why hasn't Boudreau pulled - oh, wait, there he goes...
Then we school the Caps in how to play a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pens win 6-2.


There's not much more you can ask for than to watch Sid and Ovie face off in Game 7 of a playoff game... is there? Oh, what? Watching brothers face off? That would be interesting... if the Canes can pull off their own Game 7 victory.

No one is more surprised when Carolina actually wins. We were kind of banking on having to beat the Bruins to get to the Cup final... suddenly the Cup seems so much more attainable. As long as the Pens can keep Eric Staal from scoring...

Eastern Conference Final (a.k.a. the WTFCF): The Staal Brothers Showdown
Team Eric vs. Team Jordan
This was supposed to be epic.
I, along with everyone planning on playing the Staal Brothers Drinking Game, was looking forward to this FAR more than we should have been, considering the beating we thought our livers we in for.
And then... nothing.
This was the most anti-climactic series in the universe.
We are wholly disappointed by the lack of brotherly bash.
Also, fairly unimpressed by the Carolina Hurricanes overall, but we'll not go into that since they just got swept in the Conference Final.
And I thought getting swept in round one last year sucked...
The Team Jordan vs. Team Marc games in the Rangers-Pens conference semi-final last year were about 100x more interesting that these four short games.
Even TSN was bored by the end of Game 2.
Not bored with the series, but they sure had laid off the whole Staal vs. Staal angle.
Game 3 was the most boring playoff game not involving the Detroit Red Wings.
Game 4 was just a little painful. We were kind of glad it was over fast.

...massive disappointment all around...
There are only two really nice things I can say about Carolina right now: you have the best anthem singer in the league, and your fans are amazing.


And then, just when you thought that the NHL's marketing department had run out of gimmicks to sell this year's playoffs... Pens fans everywhere get the first taste of sweet, sweet redemption...

Redemption, it turns out, tastes like a perfectly ripe revenge-strawberry dipped in chocolate, rolled in sugar, sprinkled with cocaine and served with 7$ champagne you drink illegally out of Uncle Stan's mug when you think your parents aren't watching...

Stanley Cup Final: The Rematch
Reigning Stanley Cup Champions vs. Last Year's Losers

And the series hasn't even started yet.

I wanted this.
Given the events of the past twelve months, I am simultaneously stunned and completely unsurprised that it's actually happening.
Sidney Crosby will not settle for anything less than the Cup.
I will bet anyone anything that he will, single-handedly if necessary, win the Pens the Cup.
(Do you really want to bet against someone who can call Pens goals like she's got Kris Letang and Max Talbot on cosmic speed-dial? Really? No, we didn't think so...)
Marian Ho$$a, on the other hand, is going to look like a fool.
We don't feel sorry for him.
Neither should you.
He's a greedy bastard who had no faith that a team that lost the Cup could buck convention, overcome adversity in the regular season, peak just in time to plough through the eastern conference to meet the defending Cup champions back in the final.

TSN summarized it perfectly: Marian Hossa is about to find out if the hockey gods have a twisted sense of humour.

I have nothing to say to him.
The score board will say it far more eloquently than I ever could.

I'm not going to call this series.
It could be over in five games.
It could go to seven.

Regardless, this year the NHL's marketing department will get its long-awaited story-book ending.
Just how far are the Pens going to go with this?
Sidney Crosby is probably too polite to say it, so I'll say it for him,
in the immortal words of Pierre Elliot Trudeau:

Well, just watch me.

We will be watching, Sid, everyone will.
Time to up the ante.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Seen In and Around Vancouver

It really is a little spectacular, isn't it?

The view from the third lookout on the Diez Vistas trail at Buntzen Lake in Port Coquitlam, BC. The trail head is about a 15 minute drive from my front door.

Every so often, I take a look around and wonder why I would ever want to leave this place? The past few weeks, I've been out and about looking for jobs, which is probably the most frustrating thing in the universe. The only upside is that I've been doing a lot of it on foot, and at a slower pace you notice things.

Things like this.
I love this building. It's at the corner of Hastings & Gilmore (I think?) and it just makes me smile SO hard. I love when buildings are painted with murals. I think it's the most incredible way to liven up an otherwise-nondescript edifice. Like this place in DC.


I've seen this in Calgary too, but I love seeing stuff like this anywhere.

RANDOM children's play car!!!
SO much cooler than a Jeep or a Barbie car!

There are somethings you'll only ever see in Canada, and possibly only in Vancouver.
Sweet 16.
We love you Captain Canuck.

And then there are silly things that make me giggle like a loon, because my country is simply...
This candy machine is in the coffee show where I used to work at SFU.

Plus, the reason I've stayed for so long? The reason why I live in Burnaby (breaking my long-standing anti-suburb stance)? That would be the fact that places like this are about a fifteen minute drive from my place. There is NO indication that you are anywhere remotely near civilization on this beach, except for the rukus-causing teenagers and the hibachis everyone's grilling their steaks on. It's a little piece of heaven on earth.

C. versus the goose. It wanted more of her Dill Pickle Rice Cakes.

And then there are just some things that make me go 'GAH!'
Honestly, this does NO justice to the sensation of driving home
through a canopy of dying sunshine in a temperate rain forest.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Best Thing You've Ever Read

The original can be found here, but this was MORE than worth copy & pasting.

This is not me, no matter how much I TOTALLY wish it could be.

Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,258
My Run-In With the Pittsburgh Penguins

Hey guys, I'm sure most of you Pittsburgh guys have seen some of your players around town but Sunday night here in Raleigh I saw a couple of them out and it proved to be a very interesting time. I thought some of the boys here would appreciate a tale like this but couldn't find the proper place to post it so I figured here would be as good a place as any. I swear that every word of this story is 100% true. It is titled “Penguins Bar Story” or “The Night Maxime Talbot called my friend a p*ssy”. Anyways on with the show....

So Sunday night (May 24th), I was taking my girl out to dinner. We were going to this place called Bogart's because I had a coupon and it was the only way I could afford it but of course they were closed for dinner on Sundays. It wasn't too bad because we were in an area of downtown called Glenwood South, a trendy area filled with lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs that the city has poured a lot of money into over the past 10 years. It's paid off pretty well and it's where any and every celebrity who comes in to town goes for a night out. In the blocks around that end of Glenwood Avenue, you'll find every type of watering hole you've ever imagined from dive bars to yuppy hang outs to ritzy $20 covers to college and post-college hangouts to dance clubs to bars where the lawyers, lobbyists, and government officials hang out to sports bars to happy hours. You get the idea...if you're looking to bar hop, get a fancy meal, or just generally blow some money in Raleigh this is where you go. A lot of the Hurricanes come here; when I was in college Mike Commodore and Chad LaRose would always be at this Irish placed called the Hibernian, Rod Brind'Amour would hang out at a cigar bar called Havana's after his divorce, and all the puck bunnies would go to Lucky B's, a bar opened and owned by former Cane and Leaf Bates Battaglia.

But back to the story. We go a couple blocks up to a placed called Sushi Blues. It's a small, dark place with one main dining room that can fit maybe 60 on a good night. This being a Sunday on a long weekend in a city where the beach is 2 hours away, we pretty much had our pick of the place. There were three other couples and then a loud, boisterous group of guys, 9 of them, in the back wrap-around booth. We took a table in the middle about 10 feet from them. At first they were just being a little loud and some spoke in French. I didn't think anything of it, a lot of the software and computer companies bring in Europeans on exchange programs and they always flock to Glenwood. So after a few minutes they start throwing lemon wedges at each other and begin to laugh way too loud to be laughing when you're in a dark, quasi-romantic setting in a dining room that's maybe at a third capacity. I was like, what the hell, I just want to eat. At this point I hadn't paid much attention but the prospect of wayward flying lemon wedges made me pick my head up.

Holy shyt, I'm glad I did. Because one of them leans over to grab a wedge and, friends, it is none other than Sidney Crosby. I nearly choke on my Molson and whisper to my girlfriend, wide-eyed, "Kate, holy sh*t, Sidney Crosby is sitting at that booth behind us. I swear to God it's Sidney f*cking Crosby!" She says, “no way”, turns around to look, then says, “Oh my god, you're right! Who all is with him?”

Now for this part of the story, you need to know that I am without a doubt the biggest hockey fan in all of Raleigh. I played when I was younger, my dad is from Pittsburgh (well, Sewickley) and I grew up a huge Pens fan, I did an exchange program in the Spring of 2007 in Vancouver and went to all but 3 games in GM Place including the playoffs that half of the season, 90% of the books I own are hockey-related, etc, etc. I know my stuff. So now that I'm really looking at these guys, I pick them all out. On the back booth from left to right is Pascal Dupuis, Crosby, Mathieu Garon, Maxime Talbot, and Philippe Boucher. Facing away from me across from them in chairs from left to right are Kris Letang, Tyler Kennedy, Rob Scuderi, and Marc-Andre Fleury. I rub my eyes to make sure I'm really seeing what I think I'm seeing and take a swill of beer. I'm sitting 10 feet away from the best player in the world and three of my favorite current players (Kennedy, Talbot, and Boucher). This is crazy. Of all the places to eat on Glenwood, this is where we picked and they just happened to be there.

Well our food comes so I'm sitting and dividing my attention equally between eating, listening to whatever it was my girlfriend was saying at the time, and watching this group of Penguins. Their bill comes and they all give their cards to Talbot, who puts them in his napkin, gathers up the corners, gives them a shake, and instructs the waitress to pick three. I've read about this in the past, but didn't know that it actually still happened today. The waitress picks one and calls it out, “Kristopher?” They all laugh and he takes three checks and his card. Next she picks another, “Mathieu?” More laughs and three checks and a card to Garon. Finally she reaches for one more as Fleury says, “There's no way it can be me again”. The waitress pauses and finally says, “Philippe?” but pronounced “Felipe”. Uproarious laughter now occurs and even I have a chuckle. “FELIPPEEE!” comes the roars and laughter. He takes the remaining checks and says, “That's about enough for me, boys”.

As he's walking out, I stop him and say, “Hey, man I'm glad you're back playing. I was a big fan when you were in Dallas. Good luck getting your ring, you really deserve it.” He says, “Thank you, I really appreciate it” and extends his hand to shake. By this point all of them have gotten up and Talbot walks over so I say, “You too, Max. If you guys are going to sweep us at least finish the job and get your Cup this year. I'll be rooting for ya, anyway.” Talbot says, “Hey man, thanks a lot. Are you from Pittsburgh?” I respond, “No, but my dad is and he’s a huge Pens fan. He would flip his sh*t if he saw you guys.”

As the other 7 players at the table finish their drinks, our conversation continues. “Ha, cool man,” Talbot says, “Do you have a camera on you? I’m sure I could convince the boys to pose for a picture for an old fan.” I say, “Man, I don’t but I appreciate you offering. I’m sure you guys get bothered all the time for that.” He laughs and says, “Well, some more than others,” as he motions towards Crosby who, like the rest of the group, has now gotten up to leave. I say, “Ha, yeah. Well good luck, Max. Nice talking with you.” He says, “Sure, man you too,” and I go down the handshake line: “Good luck, Tyler”, “Good luck, Rob”, “Good luck, Sid”, etc. Lost in this account is the fact the players also acknowledged my girlfriend. But that’s unimportant to the story.

After they had gotten out of the door I look at my girlfriend and we both have the same look on our faces: That…was…AWESOME! After a few minutes of excitedly recounting to each other what we had just seen and how cool it was our food comes. I ask the waitress, “Did those guys tip well?” and motioned toward the table where they had been sitting. She says, “Yeah, about 50%. Most of the Bruins were cheapskates so I’m glad all hockey players aren’t that way.” As she leaves my girlfriend says, “They’re still out there. I wonder what they’re doing?...Hey, one’s coming back in. Maybe he forgot something. He’s coming over here!”

“Hey, man,” I hear from behind me, “where would you go if you were looking for good scotch.” I turn and it’s Talbot, asking me for advice on where to get sloshed! I tell him, “Sullivan’s right up the street has the largest selection in town, I’m pretty sure. It’s kind of an old guys’ bar, but it’s a nice place and you won’t find more scotch in one place. If you go left out of here, it’s two blocks up on the right.” He says, “Thanks buddy, I knew you would know. You’re more than welcome to come down for a drink after you finish up here, if you want.” I’m sorry, what? Did you just ask us to hang out with you? Hiding my shock I say, “Yeah man, maybe we’ll see you down there.” He thanks me, heads back out the door, and they head up the street.

“Brooks, we have to go!” my girlfriend half yells, almost before Talbot got out the door. “I know it’s expensive, but holy sh*t, half of the Pittsburgh Penguins just asked us to drink with them!” Expensive is an understatement. Only lawyers and professionals with 6-plus figure incomes drink there. A high ball of mid-grade scotch will run you about $15. It’s not cheap. But, what the hell, she was right. This is like something out of a movie, except that it’s actually happening. “I say, you’re right. Maxime Talbot basically just said, ‘Hey Brooks, you’re a cool guy, we should hang out.’ We’ll just go and get whatever is cheapest.”

We finish up and head over to Sullivan’s. I had never been to the bar there before. I had only been there once, for dinner after my college graduation a year before. But it was your classic old oak bar with shirt-and-ties huddled at a few tables probably discussing budgets or bills or how to impeach our governor, Jim Balsillie style. And then there were the 9 Penguins up at the bar with 4 bottles of $120 scotch being just as loud and jovial as they were at the previous place. These guys weren’t just looking to tie one on after a late dinner, they were looking to get hammered. Only this time, I didn’t mind. It was cool. We were cool.

I said, “Kate, I’m nervous you go first.” She says, “No way, you were the one doing most of the talking. You go.” I say, “I know but what do I do. Walk up and tap him on the shoulder? ‘Hey Max, remember us? You said to come for a drink? Remember?’” I felt like I was in high school, trying to approach a prospective prom date. Super gay, I know. As I stood there and planned my move, Tyler Kennedy looks up and shouts, “Hey! Over here!” as he and Talbot motion for us to come over. So we do. As we get up there, Max asks, “What are you having? You both like scotch?” We both say yeah – who doesn’t like a good glass of scotch – especially one you don’t have to pay for. Over the next hour, Kate and I carry on lengthy conversations with all of them (Crosby included, who actually isn’t that bad of a guy) about everything from Pittsburgh, old Pens games I’d been to, hockey in general, how we got into it, Raleigh, and what we do for a living. At this point I decide that this is one of the best nights of my life, right up there with the time I lost my virginity, the Canes won the Cup, and even the best college parties.

And then it happened. It’s about 11:15 and the last call bell rang. I know it’s early and a holiday weekend but it was a Sunday night and we are in the Bible belt. The bottles of scotch were empty and the last of the scotch in the glasses was being downed. Kate and I walked around the group one last time and thanked them for letting us join them, wished them best of luck in the games to come, said how cool it was to meet them, and got some final hand shakes. The last three were Talbot, Kennedy, and Letang and those are the ones that we had talked to the most.

I said, “Hey Max, thanks so much for inviting us out, man, it was a blast.” He said, “No problem, buddy, it was a good time. It just sucks that last call is so early here.” I replied, “Well, you know last call in North Carolina isn’t until 2:00. They’re probably just closing up shop because it’s an old timers’ place and there aren’t a lot of people left.” There were only about 20 left in the bar, of which there were 2 bartenders, two cocktail waitresses, and our group of 13 (Chris Minard and Ben Lovejoy had since joined).

And then came the question from Maxime Talbot that turned the night from just a cool story and a great memory into an epic: “Well, where do you like to go on Sunday nights?” With those 10 words, Max went beyond seeking my advice on which local bars to go to and directly asked me to take him, Tyler Kennedy, and Kris Letang to a bar. I said, “If I go out on a Sunday night I go to the Goat. It’s a real dive, a hole in the wall, but it’s cool. It’s cheap, which doesn’t really concern you guys, but on Sundays they have $1 mystery beers so it’s like an adventure while you’re getting drunk.”

Friends, let me tell you about the Goat. It is as its name, and nickname, suggests: The Little Bar That Could. This place is well away from downtown, about 15 minutes, getting out in the suburbs about a mile past NC State University where I went. When I say it’s a dive, IT IS A DIVE. It’s a sh*thole, really. It’s small, if there’s 50 people in there it’s packed. The ratio stays equal but the girls are evenly split between cougars, fat chicks, and easy sluts. It’s smoky. They have those bar video game machines with nudie Photo Hunt that have just epic high scores. But for some reason, they have nice plasma TVs. Like, really nice. Too nice to be at a place like that. I only know about it because I lived in a house in a neighborhood across the street for a year in college and we could walk there, get housed, and then walk back. The clientele is a mix between college kids, locals, rednecks, hippies, and passersby. It’s impossible to get a feel for the crowd. It’s just the Goat.

“Cool man, you want to share a cab there?” You’re d*mn right I do, but I can’t leave my car on Glenwood. We’re talking $200 after they boot you and THEN give you a ticket in the most ridiculous back-ass-wards fashion. I said, “I would but I can’t my car here. My apartment’s on the way, we can take a cab from there.” They agreed and 5 minutes later, I’m driving towards my apartment with Kris in my shotgun seat, and my girlfriend making up the meat of a Penguins sandwich in the back seat. By the time we get there, Max and Tyler have to take a leak so we all head up the steps. I have my hockey bag in the floor in the living room with my stick out. I have devised this game where I shoot one of those basketballs for the hoops you hang on your door at my wall. But I have to hit certain specific spots. It’s like Horse. I explain the game to Letang and we end up playing. He beats me mercilessly.

We get a cab and go to the Goat. The details are foggy, at best, from this point on. We only have 2 hours at the bar but we make the most of it. There are two tales I can really remember. One was when we first walked in. I see two of my friends playing Photo Hunt, both are huge Flyers fans who at this point were cheering for the Canes because they were playing the Pens and I want to play a joke on them. I talk it over with Max, Tyler, and Kris and they’re all down. So I walk up to my buddies and start shooting the sh*t about the current series. I shift the conversation to Talbot and about what a great move it was for him to challenge Dan Carcillo in Game 6 of that series, knowing that would set him off. He’s one of those guys that thinks he can take on the world after a few beers. I motion for the Pens to start making their way over. Just in time my buddy says, “I would kick Talbot’s ass if I saw him”. Max gives him a little push in the back and says, “What did you say, P*SSY?!” My buddy turns and looks like he had just seen a ghost. I couldn’t play it off anymore and we all burst out laughing. I explained to him the night’s events and he apologized to Max profusely.

Second was when we were drinking some beers and watching Sportscenter. Barry Melrose came on and then they started showing series highlights which to that point included Games 1-3. I thought that was cool in itself; sitting in a bar having a beer with guys that were on highlights on ESPN. But then they started busting each others’ chops. They showed the end of game scrum in Game 2 with Tim Gleason filling in Kris. Max and Tyler were laughing and Tyler even said, “Wooo Tanger look at that! Thank you sir may I have another!” Kris just shook his head. He had a bit of a shiner still but whether that came from Gleason’s punches or Ryan Bayda’s elbow or stick I have no idea. Then they showed Kennedy’s goal and he turned to me and said, “Yeah, you like that sh*t don’t you?”

All in all it was freakin great, without a doubt the best night of my life. Even as we started drinking heavier and details got sparse, pieces are still slowly coming back which make the experience all the more awesome. We even exchanged phone numbers after with them saying they would call whenever they came into town. And Max said he would get me tickets for the next game in Pittsburgh. I see this as the beginning of a long, beautiful, totally hetero, totally lucrative friendship for me. That would be awesome.

I Need a Favor

My Dearest Blackhawks,
I need a favor from you; a big one. I try not to ask for huge favors because I never want to be a burden, but desperate times call for desperate measures. What I am asking of you will not only benefit me, but the thousands of other Blackhawks fans out there.

I need you to win at least one more game. I would love for you to take the series to seven games, but we’re not looking too far ahead here. Remember, one game at a time. If you don’t leave it all out on the ice tonight and the Wings punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals, I will miss Game One, which will begin on Saturday. Why? Well, because a friend from college is getting married on Saturday. How do you tell your friend that you are skipping her wedding to go to Detroit for Games One and Two of the Stanley Cup Finals? You don’t, unless you want to get bitch-slapped and de-friended on Facebook. Do you know what it will do to me to miss a game during the Cup Finals?! I missed one, ONE Pens game the entire season. If I have to miss a STANLEY CUP FINALS GAME my soul will die. Do you want that to happen?! You know you don’t.

My lovelies from Chicago, you don’t want to do this for me or for your fans, you want to do it for yourselves and each other. You want to push yourselves further than you ever thought possible and relish the sweet taste of victory as you collapse into your beds in the wee hours of the morning, knowing that you've lived to fight another day. After the horn sounds at the end of the game tonight, you want to know that you left everything you had on the ice, that you played for each other, that you won together.

Around these parts, we like to make bets with the universe, so here is mine. I’ve been saying for awhile now that I need some Hawks gear, which obviously includes one or more player t-shirts. If you do me this one favor and win this game for me, I will purchase the shirt of whoever scores the game-winner. If one of you has a stellar performance but did not score the game-winner, I will buy two shirts. I will then wear it (them) with pride when I venture to the United Center for a Hawks game (roadtrip, anyone?!).

I know some of you are new to this whole playoffs thing, can’t even grow proper playoff beards and may be wondering, Can we do it? Do I have anything left? The Wings are the defending Cup champions. Can we dig ourselves out of this hole? Do you think Max Talbot was asking himself that when he tied Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs with 35 seconds left? Max Talbot, who was drafted in 8th Round, 234th overall. No, he was thinking about stepping up, putting his team on his back, and not going down without a fight. That’s what you need to do tonight, Chicago Blackhawks.

I am not asking too much of you. You have gotten yourselves this far because you know how to win. You know how to fight. You know how to play as a team. It's go time, boys. It's now or never. It's win or go home. Leave your clubs dusty for a few more days and shock the world.


I'm looking at you guys....

Late Edit

Khabby and Havlat are both out tonight.  That means I expect even more from the rest of you!


Tuesday, 26 May 2009

SCF CITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I speak for everyone when I say...
Hello Stanley darling,
We'll see you soon.

So, back, oh, about 32 days ago, I wished Kris Letang Bonne Fete! and postulated what he might want for his birthday...

In the end, that last part about making idiot bets with the universe, became me calling about a dozen goals in the last 11 games. I am in mild shock tonight. The Pens just SWEPT a team in the Conference Final. WTF? This is why it's the WTFCF. Nutso City. Handshake City.

It's Stanley Cup Final time.

We might have just hallucinated this.

I get to pour my heart into the Stanley Cup final for a third year running. Two heartbreaks. Maybe third time's the charm?
Dear Kristopher Letang,
Can you do me a favour and win me this one? I've been waiting for it forever. So have you. I want happy tears this year when the Cup is raised. Someday, I want to be able to able to tell you about how hard I cried watching you drink champagne out of the Cup.
l'amour fou,
This is the year. GO PENS!!!

Fantasy Lunch Date

Yesterday on Twitter, NHLDigest posed the question, If you could have lunch with any NHL player, who would it be and why?

My initial response was the obvious. I know, sad state of affairs. Since it asks why, I'll go ahead and tell you. I'm a girl and Mike Green is wicked hot. Yeah, I said it. As I've said before, I can't get enough of his sexy tats, bedroom eyes and faux hawk. Shut up. Also, he had a record-breaking season, as he now holds the NHL record for goals scored in a season by a defenseman. In addition, I'd like to talk to him about playing the guitar - he's teaching himself. Maybe he could teach me a few things. Minds out of the gutter...

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be difficult to choose just one. If this is my lunch date, why can't I choose more than one? I can, so I will.

I'd love to have lunch with Colby Armstrong, because, well, I adore him. I'd also like to have lunch with Sidney Crosby, so why not have a double lunch date with the two of them? I can't even imagine the hilarity that would ensue. I'd be willing to bet anyone any amount of money that my stomach would be hurting by the end of the afternoon from laughing at the two of them. If Colby could be serious for more than two minutes, I'd love to talk to them about hockey and growing up in Canada.

Next up: Pascal Dupuis. This lunch date is for purely girly reasons. It's no secret that I am a sucker for a man with pretty eyes. Pascal Dupuis' eyes take my breath away. Literally. There was this one time at Mellon Arena at the glass... Ok, I digress. I'm well aware that he's married with children, so I'd just stare into his pretty eyes while he talked about hockey, being Quebecois, or whatever he felt like.

Last but not least, I'd love to have lunch with Kristopher Letang. He's a favorite around here, so that should be no surprise. Not only is he all kinds of swoony, but I have a feeling he's really funny. He's the kind of guy that you'd want to start out having coffee with at about 11 AM, then head out to some place like the Point for a picnic lunch, then stroll around the streets of Shadyside engaged in conversation. I'd want to talk about hockey and him being Quebecois, but I'd also want to talk about anything he had going on in that pretty little head of his. He just seems like the sensitive type with a lot on his mind. I'm currently taking French lessons (per my tutor, I'm somewhere between beginner and intermediate) and he seems like he'd have enough patience to help me perfect the language. An afternoon with Le Swooon would be lovely, for sure.

There are plenty of NHLers that I'd enjoy spending an afternoon with, but these four make the final cut. Now it's your turn.  Which NHLer would you like to have lunch with and why?

Monday, 25 May 2009

С днем рождения!

I have no clue if that says what I want it to say, but Babel Fish is my best hope for Russian translation until I get to know some cute Russian boy willing to teach me, so hopefully it says...

It's Nikita Filatov's 19th birthday today!
This means he can now drink legally in Ontario, Saskatchewan, BC and the Maritimes (I think).

This is not going to be an epic birthday post. I wish it could be, but I haven't the time. I felt it necessary to post something though, since Filatov is my second favourite Russian player under the age of 25.

I could say that it's because he's a Jackets prospect, but it's mostly because of the WJC (shocking, eh?) and the fact that he looked so dejected after Eberle and JT nailed the coffin shut on Russia's gold medal hopes. The following face broke my heart, even as it was leaping because Eberle had just one-upped Max Talbot's 35-seconds-from-Stanley-Cup-elimination goal, by tying the Russia-Canada game back up with 5.4 seconds left in the 3rd. I wanted to rush down to the ice and scoop Nik up in my arms and cuddle him and give him cookies and cocoa until he felt better.

Check the OED under 'crushed'

Plus how can you NOT love this kid? He's probably the best-looking Russian in pro hockey. The most adorable in any case. And his English is better than most of the francophone Penguins' is. Thing is, even though he's too cute for words, there is no way I can find him remotely swoony, simply because that's just too creepy to consider. He is 19. That's seven years my junior. That's just a little too Mrs. Robinson, even for me (because le swooon was definitely a minor niner when I was in twelfth grade).

Put him on a line with Vermette and Brassard: most adorable line in the NHL.

Can Nikita Filatov be my little brother? He's probably the sweetest kid in the universe. I've never had someone I'd just met laugh at me for being a spaz and make me feel good about the fact that I looked like a giant dork. Also, there was a tidbit from the Syracuse Crunch blog, back in March that just endeared him to me forever:

Would it be possible for Nikita Filatov's mom, Yelena, to hang around [in Syracuse] for the rest of the season?

Let's see. She visits from Moscow to help her son recover from a bad sinus infection. Then she's in the stands for his first two games back, and Nikita scores in each of them.

"She helps me all the time,'' Nikita said. "When she's here, it's like more energy for me. I'm just 18. It's difficult for me to be alone.''

This reminds me so much of Mama and Papa Malkin's effect on Geno's game... I think we forget sometimes that hockey players are just boys who miss their moms and dads and who play better when those people who love them unconditionally are around to make them soup and cheer them on. The fact that Nik is so blunt about the fact that he misses him mom is probably the most honest thing an 18 year-old boy can utter. I mean, how much do you want to bet the fact that Sidney Crosby's living with Mario and Nathalie Lemieux since he was 18 has made it easier for him to focus on hockey? And he was just coming from Nova Scotia.

If you happen to be in Syracuse (God knows WHY you would be, but if, by some freak chance, you are) make sure you hit up a Crunch game. Or if you're in Columbus, see if he's been called up. I didn't get to see him play back in March because he was sick while I was there, but I did get his autograph. No clue where you get Nikita or Filatov out of this. I hope it's just lost in tranlation.
Hopefully my birthday wishes won't get lost in translation. Happy Birthday Kiddo! And go work your ass off in prospect camp and rookie camp and training camp so you can get the heck out of Syracuse and stay in Ohio, okay? Then, at least Lauren will have someone cute to cheer for (other than Vermette) when she is stuck watching Jackets games on FSN-Ohio. Plus, we all want to see you playing in the NHL full time. Good luck!

How To Destroy a Birthday Cake in Six Simple Steps...

So, this is WAY overdue, but since there is no hockey today, I thought it might be nice to go about 17 days back down memory lane... back to May 8th, back to Birthday Week, back to Pittsburgh...

journée numéro trois – le 8 mai a.k.a. Game 4

This one's heavy on photos. (Just in case you're wondering why it's taking forever to load.)

You wake up.
Kylie has to go to work.
You have a shower and go down to the porch to hang out in the sunshine to wait for Lauren.
In the process, you lock yourself out of Kylie's friend's apartment. A friend who left at 4 a.m. for a conference in Maine or someplace that needs flying to.
You have no jacket, no wrist warmers (which you never leave home without even in 30C heatwaves), no wallet, no ID, no money. No way of contacting Lauren or Kylie.
All you have is you moleskine and a pen.
But hey, at least you are wearing shoes.
At least you're fully clothed.
Worse things have happened.
(Like that time you nearly drowned in the North Sea on your birthday and then got mild hypothermia? That sucked.)

Lauren arrives a few minutes later. She got stuck on the turnpike or something. Pittsburgh traffic. You have a feeling you shouldn't feel like you completely expected it.
You head to the Igloo to meet up with Ali and girls coming in from Buffalo.
You may or may not swing by the Pens store and see if you can sneak in to catch practice...
No dice. Maybe next time.
Instead, you go to Starbucks and sit in a large circle listening to the coolest fifteen year-old you've ever met tell stories about her neighbour and his lame-ass friends getting drunk and singing Britney Spears.

"Would you make me a tuna sandwich?" he once asked. Not on your life!
But I'm sure some girls would line up around the block to do so. Girls are weird. Except these girls. These girls are more like boys, only without the fart jokes.

You find out that you can get your stuff out of the locked apartment at lunch time, and, as you meander up past the players parking lot outside Mellon Arena, you see Kris Letang walking out to his car. Ali points him out. It's obviously him with his silly, white backwards hat and the way he walks. You have no clue why, but you recognize the way he walks, the way you recognize the way he skates, the same way you'd recognize your father's gait from across Tienanmen Square in the middle of a million person riot.
You shrug and figure you'll catch him later.
You have no clue why you think this. Later WHEN? You do not live in Pittsburgh. You may never actually have a chance to snag him again, and yet you keep walking because really, the reason you want to meet him is to get him to sign your Team Canada jersey and that's in a bag in a locked apartment right now.

You get your stuff.
You drive up into some neighbourhood that none of you have ever heard of and try not to get yourselves horrifically lost trying to find the place where Kylie's Margarita's & Manicures thing is.
Seven girls get manicures and talk hockey for two or three hours.
The woman who does your nails says 'yinz' in a sentence the same way you say eh all the time without realizing how horrifically you are falling into a stereotype.

Somehow the day disappears amidst a million laughs.
You all check into a hotel down in Station Square. It's your least favourite part of town so far, a bit too touristy. That said, you still LOVE it. It has a path along the railroad tracks that run alongside the Mon.
You're going running tomorrow morning :)

By 6 p.m. you are all hauling your cute behinds down to Mellon Arena with the cool half of Pittsburgh.
Let the party begin.

I had this whole plan to bake Lauren a birthday cake. Didn't happen. Oh well.
Instead, Kylie picked one up at the grocery store between us all going for our charity manicures and heading down to Mellon Arena for Game 4 festivities. Some guy was kind enough to lend us his lighter.

Don't ask us what we were wished for. If we tell you, it won't come true.
I can't speak for Lauren, but you want what I was wishing for to come true!

Dig in! So, the whole 'eating the cake out of the box it comes in thing with no regard for plates or cutting it into pieces' thing? This was a tradition begun in my university residence. Only we did it with DQ ice-cream cakes. So we'd always end up with a pile of vanilla ice cream collapsing in on itself after we'd all gone for the chocolate and fudge parts of the cake... Ice cream cake would have been great if we'd had a refrigerator, but we didn't so normal cake it had to be.

No one has swine flu, right?

"Excuse me girls, what's in the green bottles?"
(It was Ale 8, Kentucky's version of ginger ale, courtesy of Ali!)

That last photo's blurry... but it was documentation of the following occurrence...
"You know who hasn't scored in a while? Max Talbot."
So he made a point of scoring us an insurance goal.
Chicka chicka yeah Maxime!

Now, all our photos of this were crud, so here are the professional shots Kylie found...

All in all, the best birthday party I've had in years. The last one I had that I remember being really happy for was my 22nd, wherein my Palmerston House-mates (particularly my friend Honor) and I drank several bottles of wine and watch the fireworks down at Ontario place from the balcony of the 16th floor flat I was subletting prior to moving to B.C.

This birthday was even better. I always seem to have moments of disappointment, where I am saddened by someone bailing, or by a plan going awry. Maybe it's because everyone made it there in one piece, and because our plans went off without a hitch, and because even the things we couldn't control worked out the way we wanted: I mean, the Pens won that night. We got to ride the post game high all the way back to our hotel where another surprise was in store (well, it was a surprise to everyone but Kylie and I.)

Val, in her supreme wonderfulness, sent us a few little things to celebrate (as she is responsible and has a life and couldn't join us in our ridonkulous escapades). She sent champagne and sparkling grape juice (for the wee ones), FAR more chocolate than we could eat, and some faboulous Wisconsin Hockey shirts, as modeled below.

Back row: Cari, Mer, Ali and Kylie; front: Lauren, Kim and Clare.

We are adorable. I love you girls.
(I think it's a little scary how much Clare and I look like we could actually be related in this photo...)

The day winds down amid much chocolate munching and plan-making for the following day.
Everyone is beat, but happy as they collapse into bed.

Another wonderful day in Pittzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Sweet dreams y'all, and thanks for the best birthday party ever.