Monday, February 27, 2006

Olympic "Sports"

There are two Olympic sports I actually get excited about- biathalon and curling. I watched a 12.5km biathalon, and it was very exciting; I'm not kidding. The lead changed hands a bunch of times because if you miss shots you have to ski around a little penalty oval, which allows other people to catch you. If you choke and miss a bunch of shots, you're pretty screwed. This particular race had a veteran from Norway take the lead after the last shooting stage despite starting 14th. A much younger guy from France caught him in the last 100m sprint. Great stuff.

And I like curling because it's completely unlike any other Olympic sport- it has a very physical component, but is much more about strategy. Plus it has a whole world of jargon that is completely impenetrable to the average viewer. I spent the first hour or two just trying to figure out what the hell the announcers are saying.

I was reading Tom Benjamin's blog, and he presented a definition of what a sport really is. I think it's a good question, because when you think about it, most Olympic "sports" aren't really sports.

My big thing is that a sport has to have an objective result. That is, using scientific or other measurement, the winner is determined. Tom calls it an "unambiguous result". That means all the judging events are not sports. Figure skating, gymnastics, snowboarding, ballroom dancing- not sports. I'm not saying they aren't worthwhile pursuits, or that they don't take an incredible amount of skill and ability. I'm saying that when the results of the competition are determined by a judge, it ain't a sport any more- it's a pageant.

A sport also has to have generally physically fit or strong participants. Bass fishing is out. Bowling and pool are out. Poker is out. I think curling is on the edge here. I'm not saying all the participants have to necessarily be fit (see David Wells), but being in shape has to be considered a distinct advantage. You can be a fat guy with a strong right arm and still bowl 300.

Finally, the participants should break a sweat during the course of the activity, and not due to the elements or stress. Not sweating because it's cold is the exception, so swimming, cross country skiing (although they sweat) and curling are in (barely). I think this means that auto racing is out, and maybe even golf.

I'm sure this will piss people off, because most of the sports that fail the first criterion are popular with women, but it is what it is. That's why they should encourage sports where being nimble and light is a benefit, like rock climbing.

Olympics are Over

I didn't post a single thing about Olympic hockey until now. Why? There's no nice way to say it, so I'll just come right out:

I don't care.

Yep. Call me a unpatriotic anti-hockey moron, but it's the truth. I watched precisely one game- the U.S. vs Slovakia, in which we lost 2-1. I don't really see the point in NHL players playing in the Olympics. They arrive the day before the hockey games start, and leave the day after they're done. They don't walk in the opening or closing ceremonies. The players are pretty much guns for hire. And not even all the best players come- see Scott Niedermayer et al.

The idea that NHL players will bring more fans to the NHL didn't work in 2002, and I'd be even more surprised if it worked this year, considering the Olympics got a ratings beatdown by both American Idol and Desperate Housewives.

And because they are guns for hire, the teams don't have any flow, any continuity of play. Certain players seem to click because they play with each other in the NHL, or on past Olympic or World Cup teams, but for the most part the play is disjointed and difficult to watch. Even after watching one period of the U.S. game, I was frustrated. You see great players like Mike Modano skating around in their own little hockey system, a different system than all the other players'. After seeing that, I still thought Canada would win gold, but I could see how they could be beaten- simply by playing a team that's all on the same page. And sure enough, they got shut out twice and didn't medal.

Bring back the true amateur players, and coach 'em up for a few months. Maybe they won't be the best players in the world, but at least they'll have a vague idea as to what the other guys on the ice are trying to do. Sure, I won't have heard of many of them, but how many non hockey fans could name more than 2 Olympians this year?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Switzerland? Finland? Slovakia? Has the world gone crazy? What happened to the Olympic powers, you may ask? Don't worry...they're going to show up starting tomorrow. Here's a preview of the first round match-ups.

Hmmm...I'm not sure what to make of this one. The way Finland has played stingy defense combined with the USA's tendency to not score goals could spell doom for an upset - but I guarantee that Team Stars and Stripes is happier to see Finland than Canada in this spot. Color me crazy - but I smell an upset. USA 4 FINLAND 3

Three words to discribe the Swiss run to Gold. IT IS OVER. This game isn't even worth breaking down. After two ties to Germany and Italy - Switzerland blew its load early. SWEDEN 5 SWITZERLAND 1

Oh man. I had picked this to be the Gold Medal game and in a way, I still think it's true. Whoever wins this game could march all the way to gold. All signs point to Russia winning a wild one here - Nabby has been hot, Brodeur is banged up, Canada has been pushed around and the power play has been mortal. But....I think Team Canada will finally become interested and will not allow themselves to go home early. They looked bored and now with Gold on the line - they show up.

Great match-up. Slovakia is another team that surprised many in running the table in Round One. Will Vokoun get a chance to redeem himself or will the Czechs make a big mistake and play the rookie. I think they play the rookie....and they lose.

That would mean USA vs. SWEDEN and SLOVAKIA vs. CANADA in the Semis...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


The 2006 Olympics are here and the men's hockey is off and running. Easy wins this morning for Finland, Sweden and Canada. Italy put up a decent fight and played with lots of passion in front of the home crowd - but Canada's power play is going to be unbeatable in 2006. Canada can come at you with four amazing lines filled with size, speed and skill. Now that Hasek is down for team Czech, there's only two teams that can cut them down. Team Sweden and, I'm saying this now....beware of Team Russia. This team has the ability to skate in and stun the big boys. Nabby is well rested and is more than capable of going on a major run. Here's how I see the medal round playing out.

ROUND 1 - Canada over Kazakhstan. USA over Czechs (in an upset). Sweden over Germany. Russia over Finland.

ROUND 2 - Canada over USA (close one 7-5 Canada). Russia over Sweden.

GOLD MEDAL GAME - Canada vs. Russa. Canada wins 6-5.
Sweden takes the bronze.

You heard it here...from someone who has cash on Team Canada. They are just too good and too deep to lose.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Great Win

The Sharks had a strong first and blockbuster second periods tonight in beating Dallas 6-3. Cheechoo had two goals, and even more promising, the power play looked very good. They had a 5-3 power play that immediately preceded Joe Thornton's goal- he scored just a second or two after the 2 man advantage expired. And in other power plays, the puck movement was very good, shots came from the point through screens, and they cycled well.

The only down moments came in the 3rd when Dallas scored two goals in quick succession to make it 5-3 after the Sharks led 5-1 after two. I could sense the crowd reeling at the Tank, hoping the Sharks wouldn't find a way to lose or tie, the same way they've done too many times this season. But Toskala had a couple of strong saves right after the third Dallas goal, the defense started clamping down, and the offense was actually trying to manufacture chances, as opposed to waiting in the neutral zone, and dumping it in every time they got possession.

The Sharks have to be shopping Toskala at this point. He's played the last two games, despite Nabokov being re-signed to a 5 year deal. There's no doubt in my mind that management is playing Toskala so other teams can see what he can do. I think trading Toskala is a good idea at point, provided two things- 1) that we get real long term value in return and 2) he goes to a team in the East. The Kiprosoff deal is still hurting the Sharks, witness the Sharks loss to them on Monday when he made 28 saves.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

1-0 picking underdogs

First, a photo I took at last nights game. I tried to post it from my Treo by attaching it to the email I sent in, but that didn't work. Oh well.

Second, my Columbus pick was so good (they won 7-4 last night) that I thought I might retire from picking more games, but it's too much fun. I think I will try to make it a little tougher on myself and pick mostly even games or underdogs.

Doug or I will post something on the breaking NHL gambling scandal soon... I need to do some more reading about it, and new information seems to come out every day.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

That's the final

Despite the Sharks playing prevent defense the entire third period, they manage to win 2-1. The first 5 minutes were bad, and the next 15 were worse. Niko Dimitrakos managed to take a dumb penalty with about 5 minutes left. Once we killed the penalty (barely) Niko comes out of the box and prompty missed a lead pass that was right on his tape. We need to send him to Cleveland. I hope the Sharks can retool before Dallas comes to town o Friday.

2-1 After 2

Kyle Calder had a pretty nice goal from a bad angle to put Chicago back within 1. The Sharks still dictated play- they've outshot the Hawks 30 to 16. It's unnerving that SJ is only up by one considering the general beatdown.

End of the First

End of the first, the Sharks lead 2-0. Marleau had a beautiful goal. The uck squirted out to one side while there was a scrum in front. Marleau turned around, and literally with one foot on the goal line, roofed it. Only a few inches of space, and he hit it.

The other goal was a little Joe Thornton tip from a Preissing point shot. The Sharks were clearly much faster than the Hawks the whole period, it's easy to see why they suck so much.

I'm mobile!

I'm going to mobile blog from the Sharks game. Updates to follow...

My First Pick

I'm not going to make as many picks as Doug in this space, I'm more into stats and other analysis. But I'm going to show Doug up here today, and actually pick an underdog. It's all well and good to pick Dallas, Ottawa, and Carolina, but today I'm picking:

Columbus (+110)

Yeah! Read it and weep. The Kings are on a long road trip, lost to Minnesota last night, a bruising team. They had to travel late to Ohio, where the Jackets have had an extra day to prepare. Rick Nash is on an absolute tear right now, and L.A. is plagued with injuries. The Kings are 3-0 in their last three meetings, but at least if I'm wrong, I went out like a man.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blackhawks are coming to town!!!

The Blackhawks stole a win in Phoenix last night 3-1. I hope Mrs. Gretzky didn't play the over! Bad news for the Sharks tonight is they like to play "win one lose win" with the boys from Chicago. This is bad news because the Sharks won the last they are due to lose this one.

Great news that Cheechoo got locked into a 5 year contract extension last night. He has developed into one of the best finishers in the game and would have commanded big cash on the open market. Signing Nabokov is the more puzzling move - he has been wildly inconsistent and in and out of Ron Wilson's doghouse. I thought Nabby was more tradebait than cornerstone in Doug Wilson's eyes. I'm pleased with the signing and I hope it will allow Nabby to relax. Expect Doug Wilson to move Toskala to an Eastern Conference team in need of goaltending. I would be shocked if he moved Vesa to Vancouver, Edmonton or Colorado - he won't pull another deal that could burn him in the end, i.e. Kipper.

THE GAMBLER 5-0-0 $500.00
Ottawa at NY Rangers
Man..I'm a house of fire. This one was an easy pick for me, it jumped right off the board. Ottawa owns the Rangers and shows up in the Garden for a big bounce back win. I still think the Rangers are pretenders and prime for a collapse near the end of the season. The walls could start to crumble tonight.

PLAY: Ottawa -165

Sharks are done

As Doug mentioned, the Sharks lost again last night to Calgary in San Jose. The Sharks currently have 56 points, 8 out of the last playoff spot. The number 8 team, Colorado, has 64 points in 55 games, earning 1.163 points per game. At that pace, they'll have 95.418 points in 82 games, so let's say 95 points for the sake of argument.

95 points for the number 8 seed is a lot. Last year (meaning 2003-2004), the #8 seed in the west, Nashville, had 91 points. The year before that Edmonton had 92 points and squeaked in. But as I've mentioned in previous posts, the West has the two toughest divisions in hockey this year, and the 3 worst teams as well, so the disparity will be large. But 95 still sounds like a lot, so let's drop that down 2 to 93.

The Sharks have 29 games left, and would need to earn 37 points in those 29 games to hit 93 points. That's 18-11, or better than .620 hockey. That includes 4 games vs. Dallas, and 2 each against Detroit and Vancouver. Assuming they go .500 against the three best teams in the West - a pretty charitable assumption considering they are under .500 against their own division - that means they need to play almost .700 hockey against Phoenix (0-4 this season), Anaheim (3-3), and L.A (4-1), among all the other West teams.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying the Sharks are done. How are they going to pick it up, when all the other West teams are picking it up too, jockeying for position in the playoffs?

But I still bleed teal, so I'll be watching the games. I'm going this week against Chicago and Dallas.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Another disappointment

Too little too late for the Sharks last night as they fell at home to the Flames. The game wasn't as close as the 4-3 final score indicated. I don't even want to talk about it....let's move on to something better like...

THE GAMBLER 4-0-0 $400.00
Say what you want, but picking winners is picking winners. Too bad I don't have real money on these babies.

Edmonton at Colorado

What a great season series, with the Avs leading 3-2. The Avs love to open it up and the Oilers are like the "Diet Avalance" following the same mold of wide open skating, scoring and little defense and suspect goaltending. The Oilers are coming off a late night shootout win vs. the Ducks. Having to fly to Colorado and get it up for the Avs will be too much to ask.


Interdivision games for the Sharks- not good

I mentioned recently that the Sharks have a ton of division games in late January and February, let's see how the Sharks are doing:

  • 1/21 at Kings : Win (OT) 4-3
  • 1/24 vs. Kings : Win 4-1
  • 1/26 vs Ducks : Loss 0-2
  • 1/28 at Coyotes : Loss 2-6
  • 1/30 at Stars : Loss (OT) 2-3
  • 2/1 at Ducks : Win 6-4
  • 2/4 vs Ducks : Loss 0-2
So that's 7 points in 7 games, basically .500 hockey. We have two more division games before the Olympic break, versus Dallas and Phoenix, and even if we win both, we'll only have 11 points in 9 division games. Given that the entire Pacific division is 4 games over .500 or better, playing roughly even hockey is not the way to gain ground for a playoff run. The Kings are seriously fading, but the Ducks and Stars are both playing well right now, and Phoenix has been suprisingly resilient this season. The Sharks have clearly frittered away a golden opportunity to make up ground in the West.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Calgary comes to town

The Sharks face off in another important Western Conference game against the hated Calgary Flames, who crushed our Stanley Cup hopes and dreams in 2004. This Flames team is a little different, with some new faces that has messed with the chemistry that made them such a dangerous playoff team. There are some good things going for the Sharks. The Flames are riding a three game losing streak and have lost eight straight regular season games at the Tank. Let's hope the boys can dish out some punishment tonight.

Nashville at Dallas
I'm on a roll baby. Let's not stop here. Speaking of rolls...The Dallas Stars were on a major one before the St. Louis Blues and their band of no names pulled their pants down. Dallas was clearly thinking about Nashville coming to town and let the aggressive young Blues team out work them. Dallas will pick up the pieces tonight at home vs. the Preds. Nashville hasn't won in Dallas since March 2003....and that won't change tonight.


Quick Pick for Sunday

Thank you very much, I'm on a roll. Follow me on this next pick.

Carolina at Boston
Take the Hurricanes today to bounce back after a no win situation in New Jersey. This team has been waiting in Boston overnight after the Bruins had to fly home after losing in Montreal - so they essentially become the home team. Carolina is too good to blow this chance to take a game from Beantown.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Selanne Sucks

Sharks are in another must win situation tonight against Anahiem....let's face it, every division game is a must win at this point. Sharks must win and hope Vancouver can get pull one over on the Oilers so we have some hope going into the Olympic break.

Sharks must stop Selanne, who's decided he can skate and score again. Thanks for showing up when you were in Teal - LOSER! Doug Murray needs to put Selanne on his ass and the Sharks must keep him from getting odd man rushes.

The Marleau line must provide a goal. The Ducks are going to key on the Thornton line, leaving our fate in the hands of Patty M. I predict a goal from Mr. Marleau in a breakout game.

Sharks 4 Ducks 2

THE GAMBLER - Season Record 1-0-0
If you're a gambling man, look for the Devils to have a let down after a very emotional win last night vs. Carolina. The Leafs are desperate for a win and will catch the Devils at a weak moment. Toronto will jump up early and NJ won't be able to recover. I also think Brodeur won't be between the pipes. I'll take Tellqvist vs. Clemmenson is the battle of the back-ups.

Here's some stats for you.

Toronto is 2-0 vs. the Devils this season
Devils are 1-4 in their last five trips to Toronto
New Jersey is 2-7 on the second game of a back to back
New Jersey is 1-4 if their second game of a back to back is on the road after a home game.
Toronto is 5-1 in back to back games this season

PLAY: TORONTO -105 (should be a barn burner - like 6-4)


I listen to some sports/hockey podcasts, one I like is the Cheap Seats. They talk about all sports, but have a nice concentration on hockey, even though every single sports story this week is on Jerome Bettis. After the obligatory Super Bowl talk, they had a nice discussion about Alexander Ovechkin, and they mentioned there's a video out there with some of his best highlights from the season. They mentioned, but I couldn't find it there. I found it on, you guessed it, Check it out, this kid is amazing.

Welcome Doug

That's Doug's first post here, welcome dude. Hopefully this will increase the frequency of Shaved Ice updates, and get some discussions going. One correction, the Sharks are 1-6 in shootouts this year. As Victor Chi noted in the Mercury today, Patrick Marleau is the worst on the team, going 0-5 in shootouts. The Sharks' best shootout guy? Nils Ekman, who is 2 for 6, a whopping 33%. The best in the NHL right now is Jussi Jokinen from Dallas, 8 for 8.

I saw Jokinen in the shootout this past weekend against Detroit, and apparently he has done the same move a couple of times. He's a right-handed shot, and comes at the goal a little bit from the right. He goes across the goal like he's going to the backhand. He pulls it to the backhand, then quickly back to the forhand. At the same time he goes back to the forehand, he takes his left hand off of the stick, then uses his right hand to guide the puck back to the far right corner of the goal. Pretty cool, because the goalie goes from his left to right to follow Jokinen, and leaves that whole side open. Not completely unlike the famous Peter Forsberg move he did in the World Cup a number of years ago, so famous it even made a postage stamp in Sweden. Maybe I'll have the balls to try it in a game myself, but I'll probably trip and hit my head on the crossbar.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sharks Sterile in Shootout

I couldn't resist the title - but why is it so true?? Watching the overtime period in the Sharks 3-2 loss to the Wild tonight, it was obvious that Minnesota was just toying with the puck and begging for a shootout so the Sharks could implode....AGAIN. Not sure on the stats, but I'm guessing the Sharks must be 1-7 in the shootout this year.

Typical Sharks. A huge road win in Anahiem needed to be followed up by a win against a reeling Wild club - and they could not get it done. Now we sit seven points behind the Oilers. Am I the only one who fears the Sharks just won't make the climb??

Doug Wilson should deal for two veteran defensemen......wait, isn't that what the Oilers just acquired in Spacek and Tarnstrom. Where was Doug Wilson when the Blackhawks were giving away Spacek for peanuts? Patrick Marleau also deserves to have a RW that can put the puck in the net. Without that RW/LW sniper, opponents key on the Thornton line and don't have to worry about anyone else beating them. I'm tired of Niko. Owen Nolan anyone???

Carolina is banged up, with four starting D on the injury report (Tverdovsky, Ward, Commodore and Wesley) All might play - but they are hurting.
Carolina has a five game winning streak - but all games vs. non playoff teams
Devils are coming off a big home win vs. Ottawa
Devils are 6-0 at home in 2006.
Carolina won big in NJ earlier in the year.....Devils will want revenge.


Sharks win in Anaheim

The Sharks won last night against Anaheim, 6-4. The game wasn't televised, so I couldn't even TiVo it. I think it was on the radio, but I had a hockey game of my own, and there isn't really a TiVo for radio. Well, there is, but I'm not that hardcore. Kind of eerie that it's called the radio SHARK.

But I digress. Cheechoo had a hat trick, his second against Anaheim this season. To continue the thread I was talking about recently, The Sharks committed 10 penalties, and 2 in the last 10 minutes. The Ducks had 8, with one in the last 10 minutes. Found some cool stuff on The interface is kind of clunky, but you can get much more information than on I like the ESPN box scores much better though. Anyway, the Sharks have been shorthanded 253 times this season, the 2nd least. Only the Devils have been shorthanded fewer times. I say that's definitely a testament to the Sharks discipline. Perhaps my recent observation that the Sharks commit to many late penalties is just me being frustrated about bad losses. Can't generate a report that breaks down the penalties by period yet.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Two more tricksy goals

Found two more tricky highlight-reel goals, not on youtube:

Sharks lose again to Dallas, 3-2 in OT

First of all, let me say initially that I only saw the third period of this game. The Sharks seemed to be playing very listlessly the entire period, and managed to commit three penalties in the final 10 minutes, one of them giving up at 5-on-3 for 40 seconds. If I remember correctly from the telecast, the Sharks have given up 11 2-man advantage goals this season. That's a lot.

The Sharks have a terrible penalty kill, currently 26th out of 30 teams. To commit that many penalties late in the game against a division leader on the road is just stupid. I hope Ron Wilson is cracking some heads, because those are unacceptable mental errors. Looking back over the last few games, I see they committed 3 penalties in the last 10 minutes against Phoenix as well. The first of those resulting in a Coyotes' power play goal to make the game 5-1, putting the game effectively out of reach. The Sharks also had two penalties in the last 10 minutes in the win against the Kings last week, when the game was only 3-1.

I wish I had access to a full NHL stats database so I could compare the Sharks against all the other teams this season in this regard, but I can't, and it would take forever to page through all the box scores. Any ideas?